Which MacBook Should I Get?

Andrew Portess (also known as ‘portessa’ in the chat room, and also a member of Geeks and Lockergnome.net) asks:

Since Mac OS X Leopard came out, I was sold on the idea of getting a MacBook Pro and unfortunately, I still haven’t managed to afford one yet. Considering that the MacBook Pros have just been refreshed, now is most certainly the best time to get one.

Ideally, I would love to get the 15-inch Core i7 model which, here in the UK, retails at £1,799. The base 13-inch model (based on the Core 2 Duos) is just £1,119 if you add the 500GB hard disk to boot. In terms of my budget, the £680 difference is quite a big jump (and could buy a very decent family PC), but that would eventually be mitigated. I just can’t help but wonder if it’s really worth it, though; given the major differences in the models is just the processor, graphics card, and screen.

When you also take into account how quickly Apple rolls out new Macs, as well as how quick technology moves in general, trying to decide what is a better investment becomes that much more difficult. To put it in a more general way, when buying any computer, at what point do you say “enough is enough” – and what’s the best way to make your money go further? I suppose the deciding factor is in how I plan to use the computer. I do play games, but my primary focus is in creating music, which isn’t very graphic-intensive in comparison to gaming.

At the moment, I am doing both these things on what is technically a laptop I bought for my Mum when *cough* Windows Vista was released. It’s true to say that even the base 13-inch model of the new MacBook Pro trumps my Mum’s laptop in every single component – and the performance gains I’m sure to get are likely going to be a vast improvement on what I am used to. I would love to hear both your, and the community’s, opinion on what model I should get. If you are getting one of the i7 MacBook Pros, I would also be very grateful to see some performance tests.

I swear, I get asked this question every day – which is one of the reasons I’m answering in a public capacity.

It’s kinda funny, though; you seemingly question the value of a newer processor, graphics card, and screen. What else is there to be concerned about in a notebook computer? :)

“Making music” may not be graphics-intensive, but it likely will be processor- and RAM-intensive. For that reason, coupled with your love for games, I’d recommend an i7 (or AMD-equivalent) in just about any current-generation notebook computer you care to pick up. I’d also suggest going for as much screen real estate as you can realistically lug around.

You already realize that Microsoft Windows can be run inside a Virtual Machine (VMWare or Parallels) or through Boot Camp – which effectively makes it a PC in every single respect. If your favorite audio editing tool is Windows-only, you’ll still be in luck with a MacBook Pro. I bet you’d have fun with GarageBand, though.

I’m not going to tell you to buy a Mac outright, though – that choice is ultimately up to you (and you’ll have to live with your decision, not me). I will, however, suggest you look at these features when you’re shopping:

  • Case Structure – It’s extremely tough to beat the MacBook Pro’s unibody design.
  • Service Plan – It’s extremely tough to beat the track record of AppleCare.
  • Battery Life – It’s extremely tough to beat a MacBook Pro’s battery life of ~10 hours.

Bottom line? Macs make awesome PCs. Even though…

  • MacBooks don’t come with Blu-ray drives (instead, you can download HD content from the Internet, which most people do these days, anyway).
  • Some MacBooks don’t contain removable media card slots (although, you can get an ExpressCard media reader at any point).
  • MacBooks don’t have removable batteries (but this new series had taken measures to optimize life away from the power cable).

You can certainly save a *tiny* bit of money by going with another vendor, no doubt – but are you giving anything up by taking that route? You’re the one asking me about a MacBook Pro option, and I’m just laying out the facts for you (or anybody who takes the time to read this article).

Am I an “Apple Fanboy” just because I value quality hardware? Sure. Okay. Whatever. I can save you money with any choice via http://coupons.lockergnome.com/ – so I really don’t care what YOU buy – just be happy with the purchase, please? Get the hardware features you need AND love (and don’t break the bank in the process).

…but never fall victim to FUD.