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A friend of mine/MacGroup member came by the house last night and told me that she was thinking of buying a new Mac soon. I asked her about her current setup and needless to say it was over 5 years old (she admitted to still using a Floppy based sneaker net between Macs 🙂 ) and she was starting to feel the pains of not being able to run certain new Apps that she would like to run, so it's time. Now the big question: Which Mac?

 

 

1) Go with a notebook

Although desktop iMacs offer more bang for the buck in terms of price/performance, I'm still recommending to most people I know to get a notebook if their budgets will allow. Why? Simply because they are portable. Unless you fancy yourself the kind of person that goes to a desk works on a computer and then leaves that desk to do other things, then you'll probably get more enjoyment out of a notebook computer. You can use it in any room you like and take it with you when you travel. They cost more and are more fragile, but I love having a MacBook Pro as my primary Mac. 

 

2) Get an external display

OK, this is really part 2 of tip #1, but if you do go with a Notebook Mac and you're thinking there are times when you'll want to work at your desk with a nice large display, full size keyboard and mouse, then I would say go with an external display, keyboard, mouse and leave it at your desk. You can plug your MacBook in whenever you want and have that desktop computer feel if you want it and when you want it.

 

3) Go low end or high end

This is the age old debate. Do you buy the bare minimum configuration because it will be obsolete in a few years anyway? Or do you buy the high end configuration/model so that it lasts you longer? To answer this you would have to decide what kind of person you are. Some people upgrade more often (like whenever a new model comes out). Therefore it's probably a waste for those people to buy on the high-end side. Others like to hold on to their Macs as long as they can. Those people should probably buy the higher end models so that performance is still good in a couple of years for the more demanding Apps and OS's that may be coming down the road.

 

4) Buy as much RAM as you can

I still say that RAM is probably the single biggest performance boost that you can have without having to buy a new Mac more often. The more RAM you have the more Apps you can run at the same time and the larger the files are that you'll be able to handle. In the past I would have always told you to buy your RAM from another vendor and either install it yourself or have a pro do it. However, in recent times Apple's RAM prices have fallen more in line with 3rd party vendors. I still say price compare before you buy, but with my last Mac Pro purchase I went with 12GB of RAM from Apple because it was only a few dollars more than buying it elsewhere. Also if you go with Apple RAM they can never blame the RAM as the problem if you start having issues with your computer.

 

5) Yes, get AppleCare

AppleCare is like car insurance. You hate buying it but you're glad you have it if something happens. Don't read my analogy the wrong way though. AppleCare is NOT insurance. It's an extended Warranty. If you drop your MacBook and the screen cracks as a result, you're on your own. AppleCare doesn't cover user accidents. It covers defects and problems with the computer for an extra 2 years beyond the standard 1 year warranty. It's a gamble, but it's paid off for me more times than what I've paid for it. 

 

Bonus Tip

Since #2 was actually part 2 of number 1, here's another tip: If you don't have to have the latest and greatest Mac, you can often save money by buying the model that was just discontinued. For example, Apple usually comes out with new Macbooks and iMacs every year. If you time it right you can save a few hundred dollars by buying the model that was just replaced the minute the new ones are announced. It will still be new in the box and have the same warranty as if you had bought it a month before. It just won't be the current model (anymore). 

 

 

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  • I’m about to buy my first Mac so some more info to think about, thanks

  • Thib

    A few more tips I have:

    1. Buy refurbished from Apple if they have what you’re looking for.

    2. In order to save yourself some taxes, you can buy from an out-of-state online retailer. I’ve bought my Macs from J&R (New York) and from Small Dogs Electronics (Vermont) while living on the west coast. No taxes, and free shipping!

  • I still use my Mac Pro desktop with two monitors, two Dual-layer burners, four internal and three external Hard Drives a LOT more than my laptops.

    When a new Mac Pro comes out, I don’t scream “Oooh oooh! I’ve got to upgrade!”

    Six weeks after I bought my MacBook, I was complaining about stuff the new ones had that mine didn’t. Still, I was able to crack it open and pop in a 500 GB hard drive without paying Apple’s prices.

    Get what you need.

  • Joe

    In addition to the above tips, look for rebate deals from third parties. You can often get $50 – $200 cash back plus free printer, free softeware (after rebate), and so on.

    Try:
    http://lowendmac.com/deals.shtml
    or
    http://www.macprices.net/

  • Mike B

    MY LAST 5 MACS –IMAC AND MACBOOKS HAVE BEEN REFURBS FROM APPLE. YOU GET FULL WARRANTY PLUS THE COMPUTERS WERE CAREFULLY EVALUATED WHEN THEY WERE FIRST MADE AND THEN AGAIN BEFORE THEY WERE SOLD AS REFURBS WITH THE SAME WARRANTY AS A NEW ONE. J&R AND SMALL DOG ARE VERY REPUTABLE BUT I CANT BE SURE THAT APPLE REFURBS THEIR COMPUTERS. ALSO, LOOK AROUND THE WEB FOR DEALS ON MOBILE ME, APPLECARE, IWORK, ETC. GOOD WAY TO SAVE SOME BUCKS ESPECIALLY IF THE APPLECARE AND MOBILE ME ARE OLDER VERSIONS!!

  • Rick Lepsetz

    One thing to consider about Apple Care. If you pay for your Mac with a credit card, sometimes that credit card company will double the initial warrenty- giving you 2 years of coverage instead of one. Find out if your company does that because now if you pay for Apple Care you’re only getting one more year of coverage than you’d have had by not buying the extended warranty and just relying on the credit card company’s coverage.