View Full Version : Upgrading computers...

2011-01-15, 16:09
So, my wife and I are looking into different options for upgrading our computers, and I thought I'd solicit advice here for the best combination of devices. We've each got a 5+ year old PC laptop, both of which are dying slow deaths. We've also got an iMac G4 in our living room that we use as a picture frame, streaming music, very light web browsing (it's not capable of much more), and sometimes editing a Numbers document (FYI - iWork '09 on an 800MHz G4? Painful.)

The reason we've been able to cope with such antiquity is that we've also both got MacBooks (one Early 2009 model, one Mid 2009 model) from our employers that we use most of the time since the PC's are so terrible, and I've got an original Motorola Droid (hopefully a CDMA iPhone 5 in June/July). We're doing pretty well using our work computers for some personal things, but it's getting pretty frustrating going back to our incredibly slow PC's for accessing old files, doing personal projects that take up a lot of hard drive space, etc.

Basically, I'm unsure of what would be the best mix - do we get one computer to share between us? How has that worked for others out there? Do we go with a laptop or desktop? Since we'll still have access to our work computers for the foreseeable future, how important is it to have something for each of us? But, maybe two machines is better? I'd really prefer to have FireWire to connect to some external drives or a DV camera, so I'd rather not just get a new MacBook to share... but... I dunno. I'm just unsure of which route to go. Here's the different options I'm mulling over:

we buy a 21.5" iMac*, and maybe an iPad 2 when they come out.

we buy a Mac Mini and attempt a retrofit into the iMac G4 body (I've read through all sorts of different threads/blogs about it and it seems possible, albeit pretty difficult. I've got an electronics-minded friend that could probably help me with the wiring, I think), and maybe an iPad 2 when they come out.

we buy a Mac Mini and 3rd-party monitor (I've only got a CRT lying around), and maybe an iPad 2 when they come out.

my wife purchases her MacBook from her employer at a reduced cost and I get a new MacBook Pro. And maybe an iPad 2 as well.

we buy two MacBooks. And maybe an iPad 2 as well.

Can you tell I'm kind of pining for an iPad? ;) I like reading in the morning with my cup of coffee, and the MacBook is all right for that, but I feel like an iPad would be even better. I'd rather not get Macbooks *and* an iPad, as that seems superfluous, so I'm leaning more for a shared desktop and then an iPad. But, maybe we'd really miss the power of mobility? We enjoy having our MacBooks now for that, and even though my phone gives us internet access everywhere, it doesn't provide us with all the benefits of having a portable, full computer. Do people out there with desktops miss having a laptop when they're on the road, or does an iPhone/iPad combination mitigate that?

Any input, advice, or stories about your own experience you could share that would help me come to a conclusion?

*(Funny story: during a visit to an Apple Store over the holidays, my wife mistook the 21.5" iMac for the 27" one and declared it was far too large, so a 27" iMac is certainly out of the question. Apparently, even the 21.5" iMac is pushing it. I can't remember the word she used to describe the 27" when she saw it, but it indicated a size larger than "gargantuan"... obscene? gross? I don't remember, but it was similar.)

2011-01-15, 16:34
John Holmsian? :p

But seriously, I vote for your first option...a 21.5" iMac (she'll get used to it, as a) it's really not that big and obnoxious and b) it's as small as they make them, so she'll kinda have to). The 21.5" iMac, despite being "larger" and with more screen real estate (pixels) actually sits, due to the 16:9 ratio, lower than my 20" iMac. It's shorter and a skootch wider, but the overall feel is "smaller".

Powerful, big hard drive, lots of RAM, etc. Great for your family projects and "real work". Just have the one, with everything on it.

With your work computers available - each of you with a MacBook - you may not even need a secondary, "satellite" device. However, I wouldn't go for a full-on laptop (as you already have them) and, instead, jump on the second-generation iPad whenever it comes out. You guys can take that on trips and it's much handier (and more fun) than dealing with a laptop. Plus, being an iOS devices, syncing, updating and all that is so much easier...dock it and do everything through iTunes.

If the iPhone didn't exist (and I just had a simple little "phone calls only" cell phone), that's the setup I'd have: a powerful, "real work" iMac on my desk, and a snazzy iPad to take with me (knowing that surfing, e-mail, music, reading, photos and that sort of stuff is all I'll be doing away from home).

Let your work/jobs worry about your MacBooks (just get in the habit of using them for work-related stuff only), and do everything home-based (projects, fun, personal, etc.) no your iMac and iPad.

2011-01-15, 17:31
Option A. You won't miss the portability with an iPad doing most of your mobile/light computing. It's what I do.

2011-01-15, 18:47
Not much to say, but I'm just glad to see that someone else is still rocking an iMac G4.

My parents are currently using it as their only computer, but I'll be getting it back to use just as you are.

If I were you, I'd get a new desktop and then an iPad when they're updated.

2011-01-15, 19:40
Considering all of what you said, I think that the first option

"* we buy a 21.5" iMac*, and maybe an iPad 2 when they come out."

might best suit you, if your wife can get used to 21.5 inches (resists temptation for joke). All kidding aside, if you think you need more computer (which kinda confuses me, since you already have a fair bit of power and capability with the MacBooks) I think that what you probably are pining for is a desktop. The iPad would handle the other end, when the MacBook is just too big. If you do go for this option though, my guess is that you will get another iPad eventually - if one of you has one the other will want it too. My wife has become completely addicted to hers since I gave it to her as a Christmas present, and I think that I probably will get one too.

2011-01-15, 19:48
Wow, four consecutive votes in agreement...has that ever happened here?! :eek: :)

I do think 2010 (and now 2011) will be the years so many people discover they truly don't need a full-on notebook, if they've got a nice, solid desktop at home. The iPad will really hit new heights this year, I'm betting.

2011-01-15, 20:24
I'll do the usual 'scates pitch: buy refurb. It's well worth it.

2011-01-15, 20:47
:D I didn't want to be accused of being a broken record. Thanks!

Depending on your buying timeframe, it should be noted that the iMac is 172 days into its current cycle (with a 226-day average between updates). (http://buyersguide.macrumors.com/#iMac) That's two months away, although that average isn't anything hard and fast to go by, I realize. But still something you may want to keep in mind...

But torifile is right...if you were looking to buy right now, there is indeed a current-generation refurb 21.5" iMac going for $1,019 ($180 off the new price). (http://store.apple.com/us/product/FC508LL/A?mco=MTkwMjE3NjU) That's the iMac my Mom(!) bought a few months ago, and it's quite a machine (complete overkill for her, but she shouldn't have to buy anything for a solid 3-4 years now, at least...it'll take a long time for that one to feel "long in the tooth" for the things she does).

However, if you were planning on waiting until spring, Apple may release an updated iMac by then? According to that AppleInsider story I mention in another thread (http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/12/15/redesigned_macbook_pro_imac_may_come_in_first_half _of_2011.html), it could be an interesting release:

A new report out of the Far East claims Apple plans to launch redesigned MacBook Pro and iMac models in the first half of 2011.

Taiwanese industry publication Digitimes reports that sources from "upstream component makers" indicate that Apple will introduce the upgraded models in the first half of next year. [Story was published December 15, 2010 - Paul]

The upgraded iMac is expected to feature "a new panel size and a price point for the mainstream market," according to the report.

Other details were sparse in the Digitimes report. However, next year's Macs are generally expected to utilize Intel's Sandy Bridge processors.

May or may not mean much to you, just putting it out there. I wasn't sure when you guys were planning on making a move. The current-generation one is a rocket, and I can vouch for that (I get on it every time I'm at my Mom's, and I don't wait for anything). If you're coming from an iMac G4, you're gonna notice a difference! :)

That's a lot of machine for $1,000...fast processor, gorgeous display, lots of RAM, big hard drive, dedicated 256MB graphics, SuperDrive, iSight, etc. Not much to do but take it out of the box, get your old stuff migrated over and enjoy. If I was needing an iMac (and not interested in waiting around another 2-4 months to see what might happen), that's the one I'd order tonight.

Augment that with a new, second-generation iPad this spring and you'd have quite a powerful, modern little set-up!

2011-01-19, 22:13
Wow, I hadn't anticipated all the agreeing as well! An 21.5" iMac it shall most likely be. :D

I was going to wait until this spring and Apple's move to Sandy Bridge before I made any moves anyway. As I said, we've already got MacBooks that we use most of the time: it's mostly the non-consolidation of pictures, music, and video that are frustrating at the moment, and I can definitely live with a few more months of that (I've certainly made due for a while now). I figure I'll either buy a new Sandy Bridge iMac with an edu discount, or a get a great clearance price on the "last gen" models. Do people still advocate getting AppleCare? I'm definitely leaning in that direction, just 'cause it's worth it if something big fails, especially in an iMac where it's pretty inaccessible (yes, I know about the iFixit guides, but still...)

Not much to say, but I'm just glad to see that someone else is still rocking an iMac G4.

My parents are currently using it as their only computer, but I'll be getting it back to use just as you are.

Oh, yeah, I love the G4. I actually only bought it 3 years ago because it was relatively cheap and I loved the design so much. I work with youth, and when I brought it into work they were amazed at its design, and refused to believe that it was 7+ years old. And, as a picture frame, light web browsing, and music streaming machine it's pretty great (the audio quality from those speakers are pretty darn good). To be honest, if I see a great deal on a Mac Mini, I might get one of those too just to try the mod of it into the G4 body. It would just be really awesome to preserve the design for as long as possible. (Another far-fetched idea I had as well - take out the iMac's G4 LCD and convert that top frame into an iPad holder/dock. With that articulating arm, I think you could still use touch-based things a little bit without it being too awkward)

(As an aside - All kidding aside, if you think you need more computer (which kinda confuses me, since you already have a fair bit of power and capability with the MacBooks) I think that what you probably are pining for is a desktop.

Using our MacBooks isn't an issue of power or capability, but rather one of ownership: we don't own either, and don't/can't put too many personal files on them, or install too much extra software, etc. So, I can't put my music library on my MacBook, or the thousands of personal photos I have, and even if I could, there isn't HD space with all my work files too)

Thanks for the advice, everyone! I'll pass along an update/unboxing story when we eventually get it.

2011-01-19, 22:53
Re: AppleCare, I always get it. The one time I didn't (the horrifying thread is here at 'Nova) it bit me on the butt really good. I know it's a no-brainer on notebooks, but the nice thing about the iMac is that it's about $100-200 cheaper than the MacBooks ($169, vs. $249 and $349). And, yes...being the welded-shut design that it is, pretty much any sort of "roll up your sleeves" home repair is out of the question.

I'd recommend it. As you know, you've got that entire first year to purchase it. That's what I tend to do. Buy AppleCare on the 11th month of owership, covering me the next two years (and saves me a little upfront, on a day when I'm already laying out four figures for a computer).

2011-01-23, 02:45
RE: AppleCare. Try eBay. Seriously. I got the $249 AppleCare meant for 13" MacBooks (Pro & Air) for about $100.