Posted by Charlie V.
Today more than ever, Apple has one of the most innovative and diverse line of consumer Macs. While choice is great, in this case, it demands the need for close comparison shopping, and requires that you estimate how you’ll use your Mac in the future. Thinking ahead about your life with your new Mac before buying could be the smartest pre-purchase decision you make!
The first question is hopefully an easy one… “Desktop or notebook?” Do you have the need for a portable computer from time to time? Are you always in the same place when using your computer? Do you usually have a lot of peripherals plugged into your machine (i.e. printers, scanners, barcode readers, Audio equipment, etc.)? Does your job demand a lot of screen real estate (i.e. more than a notebook can deliver)? Do you use a lot of graphic and processor intensive applications? Answers to these questions will hopefully lean you towards one or the other. However, our friends at Apple have made this choice even more difficult with the new super-powered line of aluminum Macbook and Macbook Pro’s. With new NVIDIA graphics chips, and Apple’s release of a 24″ LED display just for notebook users, the ‘desktop experience,’ can easily be produced from a portable machine!
The next question to ask is, “What must my new Mac have?” One word of caution before jumping on a new notebook or any other Mac for that matter, is make sure it will have all of the ports and functionality you’ll want out of the box! One example is Apple’s deletion of the FireWire port on the new 13″ Macbook (FireWire 800 is still available on the Pro models). You may already use FireWire for a fast external HD or plugging in a DV camcorder, so unless you also want to buy all new gadgets, FireWire is a must! Also, the omission of an optical drive in the Macbook Air could be a deal breaker for those who have to burn and read discs often, and don’t want to carry around an external drive (as it would defeat the purpose of being ultra-portable).
I have also found that spending a little more money up front can save you a lot of time and money later. For example, choosing a higher-level processor on your new Mac will not only boost daily performance, but increase the shelf life of the machine. Also don’t underestimate your RAM and hard drive needs. 1GB of RAM is my new minimum, and 120GB of storage is less than some people’s music and picture libraries! Lastly, if there’s a graphics card upgrade available for the Mac you choose, get it! Many people underestimate the importance of their graphics chip, and this hurts both performance and ability. Many times, $150 will give you a desirable graphics boost (although graphics chips can run in the thousands of dollars on Mac Pro models!).
And we cannot forget price. Just for fun, I encourage you to visit the online Apple store and configure a 3.2 GHz Intel Quad-Core Mac Pro with 32GB of RAM, 1.2 TB of super fast 15,000 RPM HD’s, an NVIDIA Quadro FX5600 graphics card powering two 30″ cinema display, two internal SuperDrive’s, and an internal RAID (whew!). Not only would you have the most powerful consumer desktop on the market today (this thing would out-perform many businesses servers!), you would be spending a whopping $25,000+! Instead of showing up for a funeral in an F1 car, shop wisely without overlooking other options. Today’s iMac’s are extremely quick and capable machines, and you’ll be out of the door at least $1K cheaper than a Mac Pro (and the gorgeous display is included!). As someone who always used to buy Pro model desktops, I learned that if I wanted to upgrade as often as I do (every few years), I was really throwing my money away. With a new 24″ iMac at home, I can still edit movies and music, and still crash airplanes in my X-Plane flight simulator with stunning clarity. There hasn’t been one moment where I wish I had a Pro desktop since my iMac. I’ve learned there’s a reason why Apple puts the word ‘Pro,’ in certain product names, it’s their demographic!
So have fun shopping for that shiny new Mac. One of my favorite things is opening up my new Mac, as Apple even makes the packaging an elegant experience. Enjoy!