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View Full Version : New small form factor notebook for school, few questions.


Maciej
2010-08-17, 21:28
Some of you may have read, I'm considering a new 13" notebook for lugging around school. As per "need now, buy now" I'm getting close to pulling the trigger but I want to do a due diligence.

Speed isn't really an issue, I probably won't be doing much besides word processing, presentations and data crunching. And of course watching goofy videos when I should be working. Having said that, the C2D while ancient should get the job done, and the 320M sounds capable. Can't be much slower than the lab computers..

Are there any differences between the 13" screens used in MB and MBP?

In terms of durability, which would you go with? I'll probably be beating on this thing, moderately - biking and lugging it around various science labs. I don't want it to dent much, and also don't want cracks - I think I can live with scratches. So, plastic or aluminum?

Ports can be an issue, but from the looks of it not much science equipment interfaces via FireWire. Actually, I probably won't need to interface much at all. Most everything that needs a computer has one, only issue could be presentations. mDP -> VGA or DVI should be sufficient, afaict.

I wish the MB had an illuminated keyboard for dark rooms, but that's one of those things that will vary rarely come up, from the looks of things.

I don't really want to be a target for theft, so I prefer to go low profile (or as low as possible that Apple gear allows).

Noticed that we're still at the beginning of an upgrade cycle, so I'm not really worried, but I did see some discussion about a new MBP, so should I wait for the next press conference?

Refurb or new (with iPod deal)? Already have iPhone and iPod classic (80gb).

What do you say, MB or MBP? Any other comments? Anything I missed?

torifile
2010-08-17, 21:44
During this time of year, I always recommend buying new because of the iPod deal. Sell it to recoup some of the costs. As far as MB or MBP, I can't really say what the difference between the 2 13" models are.

pscates2.0
2010-08-17, 21:54
I'd go with the MacBook. It's rugged, it's affordable, it seems to more-than-meet the requirements you lay out. But I'm cheap and practical, and always gravitate toward the low-end/entry-level side of things, knowing that, in three or so years, processors, graphics, OS requirements (and improvements in display and battery tech) will prompt an upgrade. And it's easy to "lose" $849-999 (refurb MacBooks or iMac) than to sink $1,200+ into something and know you've just kissed $600 or so of that completely goodbye.

Again, that's just me and how I tend to go about it. I went "Cadillac" once, and realized, two years in, that it was just crazy for me to drop that kind of money on something that improved so quickly. Part of the reason I held onto the thing for so long (five solid years) was "guilt", or some sort of warped desire to "get as much use out of it as I possibly can". :D

At this point, I'd just rather drop $800-1,000 on a current-gen (or one-revision back) refurb every three years, give or take, and buy what I know will cover me for that time and a reasonable, realistic three or so years out.

I think the MacBook is a solid, proven and practical computer. I know about seven people with one, dating back to that first round in 2006 or so (and I also know a couple of people still rocking the 14" iBook G4, after all these years). New or used (but if that iPod promo doesn't mean anything to you, save yourself $150).

The MacBook Pro is almost too pretty or something for me to comfortably want to drag around a school environment. If FireWire isn't an issue - and it sounds like it's not - I think the smart, practical choice is the MacBook, for what you do. And the RAM and hard drive are easily upgradeable, should you ever have to.

EDIT: I just read torifile's post, where he suggests the exact opposite. :D Oh well...flip a coin! :p

torifile
2010-08-17, 22:02
'scates, I actually agree with most of what you said. It all comes down to cost when we're talking new or used and the iPod promo tilts the balance in the new computer's favor. But I'm a fan of the aluminum unibody enclosure. Never been a big fan of the polycarbonate body. Go for the low end MBP.

pscates2.0
2010-08-17, 22:07
Yeah, if he can sell it to even it all out, that might be the approach to take. I always forget about that iPod stuff, not being a student (and never being in the market for an iPod).

Robo
2010-08-17, 23:31
First of all, do the iPod deal, and sell the iPod (unless you want it). That part's easy.

Second of all, I have no idea where you live, but I'm going to assume you're buying from the US store. Don't be offended if I'm wrong. :o

If the student price for the MacBook was still $899, it might be a harder decision. But it's $949 now, meaning the Pro-model "premium" isn't even $200, it's $150. That $150 gets you:

A thinner, lighter aluminum and glass enclosure
An illuminated keyboard
Double the RAM (4GB vs. 2GB)
A built-in SD card slot
Possibly a better display, I really don't know either way on that one (chucker?)
FireWire 800, which may be a non-issue for now, but it's not like it hurts
Did I mention the much nicer enclosure?

The only thing you lose is the upgradeable hard drive (and, admittedly, a little of the bubbly MacBook's charm).

When there was a $200 price difference, and the models were totally equally spec'd (with the same amount of RAM), I could sort of recommend the white MacBook, for a certain type of person. But for only $150 more, and already including the RAM option that you'd probably want anyway, the MacBook Pro is sort of a no-brainer.

They're both fine computers, but I'd spring for the MBP if you can possibly afford to (and since you're asking, I'm guessing you can). I think you're far more likely to regret not dropping the extra $150 (every time you're in a darkened lecture hall, for instance) than you are to ever regret it.

Robo
2010-08-17, 23:49
As for this:

Noticed that we're still at the beginning of an upgrade cycle, so I'm not really worried, but I did see some discussion about a new MBP, so should I wait for the next press conference?

You've already sort of answered that question:

"need now, buy now"

:D

That said, sometimes Apple updates Macs twice in a calendar year, if one of the updates happens early enough, but it's really impossible to tell if that's going to happen here. It doesn't seem like updates are imminent, with leaks springing up left and right; beyond that, who knows. Apple also typically introduces an impressive redesigned Mac in October, but I wouldn't bet on the MacBook or MacBook Pro seeing that treatment this year. The MacBook Air, perhaps.

Which, actually, might be worth waiting for, if it were to come with a price drop. (It sort of saddens me that, yet again, the MBA is seemingly perfect for an AN user, and it's not even considered because of price.) But again, it's a total crapshoot as to whether or not that will ever happen.

I'd just get the MBP, unless Apple sends out invites in the next few days or something. (They've introduced new versions of iLife and iWork and a new iMac in August before, so...*crosses fingers*)

Maciej
2010-08-18, 13:34
Only problem I have is selling the iPod, I've never done that before. I don't have a rockstar ebay account, and I'm leery that I'll be able to get full value for it on craigslist. What do you guys think?

torifile
2010-08-18, 14:07
Only problem I have is selling the iPod, I've never done that before. I don't have a rockstar ebay account, and I'm leery that I'll be able to get full value for it on craigslist. What do you guys think?
Craigslist is the way to go. I know that you've got to deal with a lot of crap for craigslist but I'd just as soon keep anything than try to sell it on ebay these days. Where are you? Do you have a decent CL in your area?

Maciej
2010-08-18, 16:03
I'm in Milwaukee, I've craigslisted stuff before, but I don't know if I have the patience to deal with all the inevitable low-ball offers. Ultimately though, I think I can get someone to come close to the $200 on craigslist, what do you guys think? What would be a good target to shoot for?

Maciej
2010-08-18, 19:35
Gosh darnit. I'm getting ready to bite the bullet, but I'm nervous about seeing what kind of MacBook Air updates might be around the corner. A new Air might be an intriguing option...

Having said that, I'm currently settled on a 13" MBP, but I don't feel very good about selling an iPod Touch. I guess I'll give it a try and see what will happen. Can I get the back to school deal in-store, or only online?

Then again it is very possible they'll have an event right after the "back-to-school" deal expires... I hate being in this position.

pscates2.0
2010-08-18, 19:58
I don't think it's wise to spend this kind of money ($1,200+) on something you're this conflicted and torn about. That's your gut - or inner voice - trying to tell you something. Otherwise you would've bought already and not had all these thoughts. :)

What sort of time frames are you looking at? What do you currently have, and when do you truly need something new/better? If you can wait (if you're curious about the Air), then do so. But sometimes you have to just go with it.

Going back to my original advice/approach, somehow paying $849 for a current-gen refurb MacBook doesn't carry this sort of "ohmigod...WTF do I do?!?" weight to it, does it?

Sometimes there's something to be said for buying less than what you can afford, buying just what you need for the job at hand and not spending $1,200 or more if you can spend $300-400 less. It's really neat, the sense of calm and ease such a decision can bring.

"Hey, I didn't just cornhole myself...".

And then you're not stuck with having to sell an iPod and all this other stuff you're obviously feeling some concern over. You should've listened to me last night and ignore these other goons :p because they've got you spending $400-500 more than you need, winding up with an iPod you don't need or want (and aren't sure how to go about selling it), etc.

But the money you save would buy you all the RAM - and then some - the MacBook could ever hold (since the 2GB vs. 4GB was one of Robo's reasons).

You, in the very first post in this thread:

Speed isn't really an issue, I probably won't be doing much besides word processing, presentations and data crunching. And of course watching goofy videos when I should be working.

Now tell me why you need to spend $1,200+ for that? And "because it's aluminum" and/or "has 'Pro' in the name" doesn't count... :devil:

Maciej
2010-08-18, 20:13
Shit Paul, you're like the good angel on my shoulder. *shut up!*

In all seriousness though, I'm very partial to the MB. I don't really care much about the FW port or the SD card. Only reason I'm leaning toward the MBP is the 8GB ram limit... I might just forget about that.

Robo
2010-08-18, 21:06
IMHO Paul is misrepresenting the issue by making it between an $849 refurb MB and a "$1200+" MBP. This is an apples-to-oranges comparison, and it also assumes that you somehow won't get the $100 student discount on the MBP.

You have two decisions you have to make. The first is whether you want to just save $80-$100 now, by buying a refurb of either model, or if you want to pay more initially but have the near-sure possibility of making the difference back and then some after hassling with the rebate and craigslist. That decision is separate from your second decision, which is between the MB and the MBP.

No matter which route you decide to take, the price difference between the MB and the MBP is $150-170. It's not some $400-500 difference, in any case.

I forgot to mention earlier a few other, minor differences between the models. The MacBook lacks an IR receiver for Apple's remote, and it also doesn't have the battery life indicator on the side. It's unlikely either of those are deal-breakers, but still. As I said earlier, in my opinion the sleeker aluminum case, illuminated keyboard, and RAM upgrade is worth the extra ~$160. Everything else is just a bonus. :)

torifile
2010-08-18, 21:13
Because you will make up the difference when you sell the computer? It's a nicer material to have on a computer since it won't discolor and dissipates heat well? The MBP is worth the premium, at least when comparing new computers.

Don't sweat selling the iPod. Count on getting about $50 less than retail and you'll sell it quickly and won't have to deal with it for too long.

pscates2.0
2010-08-18, 21:40
It might be years away. Somebody buys/likes it, and it fits the bill. I don't buy things based on what I *think* I might get for it, 3-5 years down the road - and a processor and/or OS generation or two away.

But I'm also not a "churner" type of user, constantly buying, upgrading, stepping up, trading up, moving on, etc., so I'm going to have a different take on it than some. There are folks who buy and own more stuff in six months than I do in five years!

I don't know where Maciej falls...is he a conservative, infrequent buyer who intends to hang on to this product for 3-4 years, or is he going to turn around in 16 months when the newest, latest whatever is sporting the newest, best specs and try to get his August 2010 investment back?

:confused:

So that might factor in a skootch, because let's be sensible: 4-5 years from now, nobody's going to give a damn about any of the materials or specs on any mid-late 2010 notebook (not like it would 12-18 months from now). Would any of you on a 2005 laptop you see?).

It might all kinda hinge on what type of buyer/user one tends to be, iPods and RAM aside.

I just hate unnecessary overkill, I guess. I know how it sucks to get grabby and spec-drunk and "overdo" a four-figure purchase... :)

Robo
2010-08-18, 21:59
Personally, I don't even think about the resale value of my things when I buy them. Maybe that makes me short-sighted, idunno. But I have a tendency to find reasons to hold on to my old stuff (when I'm not moving across the country and "starting over"). Like I'm not planning on getting rid of my Day 1 iPad, ever. :)

As our differing opinions have demonstrated, this is really a personal decision. Is the aluminum enclosure, RAM upgrade, illuminated keyboard, SD card slot, FW800 port, IR receiver, battery indicator, higher RAM limit, size and weight savings, and better resale value worth the extra ~$160? That's something no one else can decide for him.

But it is. It totally is. :p

Maciej
2010-08-18, 22:03
IR receiver might be useful, what is the state of the art for clickers used for presentations? Bluetooth or IR?

pscates2.0
2010-08-18, 22:04
Robo, I'm sure they are in the "pure numbers" aspect. But what if he uses or exploits none of those things in any significant, meaningful way? You know...kinda the way I never used FireWire 800, video-out, spanning or the card slot on my PowerBook G4. Looking back, I should've bought a 12" iBook G4 in October 2003 (or even a 12" PowerBook G4).

I made a goober purchase. I could've kept $1,000-1,200 in my pocket and still had all the power and "performance" I ever needed. :(

That haunts me to this day. :D

Maciej
2010-08-18, 22:05
Wait, that reminds me. Does the MB only support copying the display to an external monitor, or will it expand the desktop?

pscates2.0
2010-08-18, 22:08
I'm 98% sure you get the spanning/extended desktop function with a MacBook.

torifile
2010-08-18, 22:39
You guys are both doofuses for not thinking about resale value of your old gear. :D ;)

Seriously though, you can't go wrong with either machine. WRT to the clicker thing, the Apple remote is more than adequate for flipping through presentations but I prefer the keynote remote app on the iPhone. Either one would work with that app.

I think that you'll appreciate the illuminated keyboard more than you realize if you're going to be taking notes in any darkened rooms.

Robo
2010-08-18, 22:45
I made a goober purchase. I could've kept $1,000-1,200 in my pocket and still had all the power and "performance" I ever needed. :(

That haunts me to this day. :D

I've noticed. :D

But the difference here isn't $1,000-1,200. It's ~$160. Again, I think it's far more likely that he'll regret not having spent the extra money than that he'll look at his MBP, years from now, and feel like he should have not had all of its niceties over the years in exchange for a couple extra Grants in his pocket. I mean, really.

I'm normally a believer in base models, because individual options always seem so expensive when you're adding them a la carte. But the MBP is an exception. It's less like a bunch of expensive a la carte options and more like a really excellent trim package that almost everyone gets because it adds a lot of value for not much money. It's the "volume seller," in auto parlance. The MacBook is like the sub-base "Special Value Model" without air conditioning. :p It's a fantastic computer if you can't spend any more, which as a poor student writer I can totally understand, but if you can swing the extra ~$160 it really is sort of a no-brainer in my opinion. You get a lot for not a lot.

But we'll just have to agree to disagree. :)

Partial
2010-08-18, 22:49
I'm in Milwaukee, I've craigslisted stuff before, but I don't know if I have the patience to deal with all the inevitable low-ball offers. Ultimately though, I think I can get someone to come close to the $200 on craigslist, what do you guys think? What would be a good target to shoot for?

You'll probably be able to get 150 off CL. Not sure about the 200. What are you going to school for and where at? I know you mentioned knowing some PAs at Marquette so I'm guessing there? I've had the original MacBook (not the new one with rounded corners) and the unibody MBP 13". No comparison. Go with the pro. How much is it going to be? If you need one I could give you mine for 800 (you can check it out and stuff) but honestly you're probably better off using the iPod deal.

Robo
2010-08-18, 22:50
I think that you'll appreciate the illuminated keyboard more than you realize if you're going to be taking notes in any darkened rooms.

^^^ This. I think I mentioned that, up-thread. The illuminated keyboard is one of my favorite Apple niceties. :)

pscates2.0
2010-08-18, 23:10
You guys are both doofuses for not thinking about resale value of your old gear. :D ;)

I've been called worse, so I can live with "doofus". :p

Seriously though, you can't go wrong with either machine.

True. A lot of this is going to hinge on his finances, buying/upgrade patterns, his intended uses, etc. Those are things he'll have to assess and apply from his end, ultimately. Things only he has true info and insight on.

But, yeah...you're getting a modern Mac with Snow Leopard, iSight, fast processor, iLife, etc. It's tough to "go wrong" when you look at it through that particular prism!

Capella
2010-08-19, 09:52
Wait, that reminds me. Does the MB only support copying the display to an external monitor, or will it expand the desktop?

I have the MB (9400M model) and a mini-DP to DVI adapter, and I frequently connect it to a 20" Asus external. I've got it configured to put the dock and menu on the external and I put my primary apps there, while I put secondary apps I check out less often on the MB screen. I even do it over in Windows while gaming so I can have the video game on the external and my social apps (or walkthroughs, I won't lie) on the MB screen, and even then there's no performance issues.

I'm gonna go with the minority here and say that there's really no reason to avoid the MB. I was a bit worried about winding up with "inferior" hardware, because yeah, the illuminated keyboard and the aluminum chassis are both really hot. But I went with the MB because I genuinely couldn't swing the extra money, and you know what? I haven't regretted it once at all.

Maciej is just planning to do standard wordproccessing, surfing, etc? Then the MB is more than good enough and the extra RAM and FireWire and stuff won't matter. If I can spend half my time over in Windows playing video games (although granted I am not playing the latest and greatest) on the MB hardware with last gen's graphics card and 2GB of RAM, and be totally fine with this, then notetaking with slightly better hardware can't suck either.

(As for the illuminated keyboard in dark rooms, I would just like to say that yes, I am a shitty hunt and peck 2-fingered typer who looks at her keyboard half the time, and I have taken notes in a dark lecture hall or carried on IM conversations at 3AM with my room totally dark, and I have never once needed it. So nyah.)

Basically: if the iPod isn't important to you, and you don't really need the MBP features (rather than just want them), then go with a refurb MB instead of a new. For what you're gonna be doing, it's not gonna matter, and 'scates is right that in 3-4 years it's not gonna be a noticeable difference.

chucker
2010-08-19, 11:19
The only thing you lose is the upgradeable hard drive (and, admittedly, a little of the bubbly MacBook's charm).

AFAICT, upgrading any unibody MBP's hard drive is a documented procedure (http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/macbook/macbook-unibody-faq/macbook-macbook-pro-unibody-how-to-upgrade-hard-drive.html), so the "upgrading the MacBook's hard drive is easier" argument died when they introduced the unibody MBPs.

pscates2.0
2010-08-19, 13:42
I posted about that the other night, but then I got confused and became unsure what Robo was saying (and, therefore, what I was trying to say back). :D

But, yeah...all the current MacBooks (minus the Air) allow for easy, user-upgradeable hard drives. It's in the manuals and everything. Take off the back screws, remove a little retainer clip, pull the drive out, slide a new one in and reassemble. Can't imagine it taking more than 10 or so minutes.

Maciej
2010-08-20, 16:08
Anyone have a ballpark figure for what I could expect for resale value on a one year old base level 13" MBP, if I were to pick one up today? I've never resold a mac so I haven't got the slightest clue about depreciation.

torifile
2010-08-20, 23:32
Anyone have a ballpark figure for what I could expect for resale value on a one year old base level 13" MBP, if I were to pick one up today? I've never resold a mac so I haven't got the slightest clue about depreciation.
It's tough to say for sure but since they have significantly slowed down updates to these machines, it'll probably hold its value well. I figure you could get at least $900 for it but that's just a wild guess. But looking at the refurb store, the previous base model is going for $929 + tax and it was released 14 months ago.

Maciej
2010-08-22, 10:57
Another quick question. Does Optibay void the Apple warranty? I'm guessing yes but couldn't find anything definitive on MCE's site.

pscates2.0
2010-08-22, 11:09
I would assume so. You're replacing an Apple-provided component with a third-party solution that Apple themselves don't even offer as a BTO option in their notebooks. I can't imagine Apple, warranty-wise, being okay with that, knowing the damage some people might cause. They're not going to put themselves on the hook in that way, opening themselves up to all kinds of weirdo warranty and repair claims. :)

The MCE site says it's a user-upgradeable feature (except for the 12" PowerBook G4, which they recommend professional, experienced installation). The fact that Apple's own notebook RAM and hard drive upgrades, despite made easy, come with this warning on the manual:

WARNING: Apple recommends that you have an Apple-certified technician install replacement drives and memory. Consult the service and support information that came with your computer for information about how to contact Apple for service. If you attempt to install a replacement drive or memory and damage your equipment, such damage is not covered by the limited warranty on your computer.

...tells me they're going to take the same stance with an "unauthorized", third-party product like MCE's Optibay.

MCE does offer "authorized" installation centers, however. So maybe they've gotten around it somehow? I think this is one of those things that is easily answered with an e-mail or phone call to MCE! Then you'll know for sure (which you'd want to, prior to committing). :)

MCE Tech Support (M-F, 10am - 5pm PT):
(949) 458-0800
support@mcetech.com

MCE Customer Service (M-F, 9am - 6pm PT):
(800) 500-0622
customerservice@mcetech.com

Maciej
2010-08-23, 17:50
What is the minimum install size for SL? Around 5 gigs, but I'm wondering if anyone knows how much space I'll lose to formating. How about CS5 Design Standard? I can't seem to find this information on the amazon listing.

Nogs
2010-08-23, 21:29
From adobe.com (Which works surprisingly well on the iPad):

http://www.adobe.com/products/creativesuite/designstandard/systemreqs/


8.2GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system or on removable flash-based storage devices)

Maciej
2010-08-23, 22:23
Glorious, thanks Nogs.

Well, I decided to get the MBP, and throw a small SSD in it. If I run out of room (doubtful) I'll consider getting an Optibay. The Vertex 2 should arrive on Wednesday, along with my Timbuk2 bag. Wednesday night I should be able to roll through the local Apple store and pick up a base level MBP and 8GB iPod touch, hopefully. *crosses fingers*

Ultimately I decided that since it would cost me about $100 to upgrade the RAM to 4GB in a MacBook (according to OWC) I'd just put that toward upgrading to a MBP.

Thanks for everyone's suggestions m discussion!

Maciej
2010-08-26, 18:09
What's the deal with people trying to scam me on Craigslist... Not even creative.

pscates2.0
2010-08-26, 22:11
CraigsList is an unholy nest of vipers. Anyone who's had good luck and success with it is undoubtedly in the minority. :p

Every time I've had to go through it to buy, or sell, something...it's wall-to-wall jackasses, lowlifes and God-knows-what-else. You have to weed through about 38 shitheads to find one halfway normal, honest person who actually is planning to do what he/she says. The rest? They should be locked on an island somewhere and given 25 bullets, a couple of pizzas and some sunscreen.

YMMV.

torifile
2010-08-26, 22:22
I think CL is a very local experience. In the past 2 weeks, I've probably saved a few hundred dollars on furniture, found some great movers and rented out 3 offices on CL. Over the course of a year, I sell TONS of stuff without any problems. I don't know what I'd do without it. :)

pscates2.0
2010-08-26, 22:25
Well, obviously Durham is inhabited by a better class of people than the nimrods who orbit the Chattanooga CL. :)

I've had a few decent experiences (maybe three?), but compared to the aborted sales, no-shows, scammers, time-wasters, people jerking my chain and outright liars/horseshit artists, it's a drop in the bucket. Never have I wanted to choke my fellow human beings as much as dealing with the typical CL respondent. :(

I'm better off putting whatever I'm wanting to sell out beside the freeway and requesting a $5 donation and hope someone takes it on themselves to pay full, reasonable price. :D

...and no matter what kind of ad you run, and where you place it, you hear from whores.

"No, I'm trying to sell a router...I don't want my knob polished. But thanks...".