Choosing A Mac

I’m starting college this fall at Lafayette College, Pennsylvania and now that I have my visa and my ticket, it’s just a question of getting the details sorted (and packing). I know I’m going to need a computer, especially since I’m planning to major in computer engineering, but I’m not getting one here (here being India), because if anything goes wrong, support could be a pain in all the wrong places. I’ve already decided that I’m going to get a laptop, mostly for portability reasons (I’d like to bring it with me when I come home). And I’ve also decided to get an Apple. Why? Because I’ve always been fascinated by Apple, but never had the chance to handle one, and more importantly, Apple now uses Intel processors. This means that I can Windows (if I need to), but also that I can run Arch Linux without much of a hassle. I also get large student discounts of $100 to $200 depending on what I buy.

Apple has two lines of laptops: the MacBook and the MacBook Pro, each with 3 models. From the beginning the top MacBook Pro was out: it was simply too expensive. I seriously considered the middle MacBook, which would cost me $1199 and had good features. With a 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 1GB RAM and a 120GB Hard Drive, it’s better than any computer I’ve ever used. And it looked great too. But there was a hitch: the screen was 13″. While that isn’t particularly small for a laptop, I wasn’t sure if it would be enough for me. Considering that this machine would be my primary (and possibly the only) computer for the next four years, I couldn’t buying something that I wouldn’t be able to use full time without regrets.

While I was considering this, Apple upgraded both the MacBook and MacBook Pro lines. I liked the bottom MacBook Pro a lot. Not only did it 15.4″ LED display and backlit keyboard, it sported 2GB RAM and a very attractive Nvidia 8600 GT video card. But was it worth $1799? The bigger screen was definitely a big advantage over the MacBook, and the better RAM and video card made it reasonably future-proof. In the end I decided to go with the MacBook Pro. It did cost a lot more, and buying it will probably mean no snacks for a long time, but since I’m making an investment for four years, I had better make a good one.

My plan was to manage my first semester with campus computers and buy around December or January. That would let me save some money from campus jobs so that it wouldn’t be completely out of my parents. It would also mean that I would get the new version of OS X: Leopard preinstalled (it’s due for release in October). But no sooner had I made up my mind, Apple came out with an offer I found very hard to resist: A free iPod Nano with every Mac bought with a student discount. Problem was, I had to buy before September 16. I really wasn’t looking to get an iPod, at least not now, but it’s hard to pass up free stuff. Unfortunately, if I wanted to get my Nano, not only would I have to pay almost as soon as I started college, I would also have to pay later to upgrade to Leopard, not something I wished to do.

It was time to do some serious thinking. I could stand to save $200 but if I was forced to upgrade later, it could cost me a lot more. So I search around the web and gather some data. First the free Nano wasn’t a free Nano at all, it was a rebate for $199, same price as a Nano. Secondly, for only $50 more I could get a full-fledged iPod, and still avail of the rebate. Third, the Leopard upgrade would probably cost $129, but with my student discount, it would only cost me $69. Fourth, there are some rumours that a new iPod might be announced soon and this offer is something like stock clearance. While a new iPod might be great news to some, it isn’t too much of a deal for me. I will be using it primarily for listening to music, keeping my contacts and calendar with me wherever I go, and occasionally for file storage. Since I won’t be watching videos or storing tons of pictures, I really don’t care for bigger screens or anything of the sort that might be introduced later. Ultimately it all came to a question of calculations:

If I took up the offer I would end up paying: $1799 +$249+ $69 – $199 = $1918, for a MacBook Pro, iPod and Leopard. If I waited a few months, and eventually got a Nano instead of a full iPod, I would still spend: $1799 +$199 = $1998. That’s a saving of $80 at the risk of a slightly outdated iPod and an early buy. Even if I have to pay the full $129 to upgrade to Leopard, I still save $30, and that sounds like a good deal to me.

If you’ve been wondering about similar deals, or about which Mac to get, I hope this has helped. I should mention that I’m still not sure whether I should get a 4GB Nano for $199 or a 30GB iPod for $249, but either way it’s a decent saving.

5 thoughts on “Choosing A Mac

  1. Hey!

    I’m about to get a Macbook pro as well over here.
    I’ve been dong translation jobs for a little while in order to save up. Man i’ve been dreaming of a Mac for 3 or 4 years!!

    As for me i hesitate between the mid Macbook pro with 2gb of RAM and the one with a 17 inches screen.

    i’d love to get the big one but I dunno whether it will be as “portable” as a 15’4 screen laptop.

    So funny I was also considering to buy an iPod as well!!!!
    In fact I would use it to store all my music. Like a special hard drive for music. consequently i would buy one of the stereo thing on which I would clip the ipod. and use a remote control to pay my albums.
    The only thing I I do wonder is:
    Can Airport Express/Extreme allow me to control my iPod music from my Macbook?

    Say the ipod stereo is downstairs, I am upstairs on my macbook pro …
    -Can I choose what music should be playing on the ipod? will it be listed in my itunes software?
    -And would this music be played just on the ipod stereo or can it be played thru my macbook as well?

    I think I gotta as a Mac genius about that 🙂

  2. I don’t think it’s possible to control an iPod wirelessly like that, but I think there are speakers systems to which you can wirelessly stream your music from your computer.

  3. first of all, congrats on making it to the us of a… and secondly though i haven’t personally handled mac, i think its a great series of computers. i recently bought a hp one for my btech and probably the next one i buy would be a mac… n thnx 4 da info…

  4. If you are going into computer science, be sure to checkout what type of discount you can get by signing up for a student membership to Apple’s developer program. I haven’t checked recently, but they use to allow you a one time purchase of equipment at a huge discount.

  5. GuillaumeB,

    If you plug your iPod into your new Mac you should be able to play your music wireless on AirTunes via iTunes, even if it has a completely different playlist than the one on your Mac HD. My friend does it on my Mac and with her iPod all the time; when we are too lazy to plug it into the stereo directly. Also, it’s nice to play music through the iTunes interface, rather than navigate through the iPod screen.

    I have both an Airport Express and an Airport Extreme:
    Airport Express supports AirTunes, I do not know if newer versions of Airport Extreme do, mine does not.


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