I’m about to pop my Mac cherry. It’s time for an upgrade from my old Toshiba Portege m200 tablet that I’ve had for about 3 years. I’m trying to decide whether to go with the Pro or non-Pro version of the MacBook, weighing the pros and cons of each. This is yet another case of a long-time Windows user switching to a Mac. The last Apple computer I had was an Apple II E. For a variety of reasons I’m switching, but the Paralells virtualization software is a driving force that got me to actually make the decision.
I like a small laptop. I have a 24 inch widescreen monitor on my desk, which I use most of the time if I’m working at home. Over the past few years I’ve come to really appreciate the small form factor of my current laptop. It’s a 12-inch display and it’s light (just over 4 pounds). That 12-inch display packs a 1400 x 1050 resolution, so that’s sweet for a laptop that small. Part of the reason I really value the small size is that for the past 2 and a half years I’ve been commuting an hour each way via train to work every day. I often work on the train, so being able to easily carry around my laptop and pull it out without breaking a sweat has been important to me. That said, I’m not going to be commuting any longer, so maybe the small lightweight aspect isn’t as important to me anymore.
In terms of MacBooks, I’m deciding between the 13-inch MacBook and the 15-inch MacBook Pro. The 17-inch MacBook Pro is out, I’m not even considering something that big.
Should I get the best?
As a tech junkie it’s always hard for me to not buy the hottest thing available. In the computer world you always pay a premium for the newest, fastest machine. But you know you’ve got the most badass thing you can get. My roommate works for Google and gets a free MacBook Pro for work. I have the opportunity of getting a better one 🙂
I have an itch to get the fastest machine I can get with the most RAM I can get. So now I’ve got to control my desire and hold off on buying a $3,200 laptop (most expensive MacBook Pro config I could get) until I consider whether it’s actually worth it.
As I see it I have 3 options:
- $1,756 – 13-inch black MacBook @ 2 Ghz
2.0 Ghz, 2 GB RAM, 120 GB drive
The best non-Pro MacBook available. 2 GB RAM through Apple is only slightly more expensive than doing it through an external vendor, so it’s worth the convenience.
- $2,393 – 15-inch MacBook Pro @ 2.16 Ghz
2.16 Ghz, 3 GB RAM, 120 GB drive
Includes $355 RAM upgrade from Crucial (one two-gig stick).
- $2,893 – 15-inch MacBook Pro @ 2.33 Ghz
2.33 Ghz, 3 GB RAM, 120 GB drive
The fastest processor with the most RAM I can get. Includes $355 RAM upgrade from Crucial (one two-gig stick).
[Note: these prices include an educational discount I get for being an employee of Stanford University, and they all include the extended AppleCare plan.]
I’m currently leaning towards option #2, but trying to determine if it’s worth $640 more than option #1. There’s a part of me that wants to jump at the 2.33 Ghz version just because, but is that really worth an extra $500? I can buy a lot of booze for $500.
I’ve got a 600 GB external drive, so I’m not putting a priority on the internal drive space. I’ve got 50 GB on my current Windows disk that I’m going to transfer over with Parallels Transporter. So I figure I can deal with a 120 GB disk just fine.
Each of those options has the most RAM you can stick into the machine. The 13-inch MacBook can only have a max of 2 GB. The 15-inch Pro can have a max of 3GB. Something sneaky is that you can’t order the 2.33 GHz machine with one one-gig stick of RAM (but you can for the 2.16 GHz machine). I can get a 2GB stick from Crucial for $355. This means if I get the 2.33 GHz machine, I end up with one one-gig stick that I don’t use. Versus the 2.16 GHz machine allows me to only order one-one gig stick, so I’m not paying for something I’m just going to throw away (I’ll pretend I’d try to sell it on ebay, but I know I’m too lazy). Another option would be to just get 2 GB of RAM instead of 3. I’m definitely going to get at least 2. My current Windows laptop has 1 GB and when I run Flex Builder in Eclipse, Flash 9, Photoshop, and Illustrator all at the same time it gets a little unhappy. So if I want 3 GB of RAM that pushes me toward the 2.16 GHz MacBook Pro. Is it worth it? I don’t know, I suppose I could always upgrade later.
I like high resolutions, even on small screens. The 1400 pixel wide resolution on my current 12-inch screen is awesome. I’m young and have good eyesight at close range, so I like the screen real estate and don’t have trouble reading the small text. The 13-inch MacBook has a resolution of 1280 x 800. The 15-inch Pro has a resolution of 1440 x 900. And obviously the Pro version’s screen is physically larger. This pushes me toward the 15-inch Pro.
I have a 24-inch monitor that requires that my laptop be able to output at least 1600 x 1050 (which my current laptop was barely able to do, with some tweaking). Both MacBooks can output to high enough resolutions for external displays. The non-Pro can output up to 1920 x 1200, which is enough for me. The MacBook Pro can output a ridiculous max resolution of 2560 x 1600, far more than I need. This one’s a tie.
I was talking to someone at 360Flex and they told me that the non-Pro MacBook can only mirror the screen when using an external display, not extend the desktop. Maybe this used to be true and got an upgrade, because looking at the specs on Apple’s site it says that both the non-Pro and the Pro can do mirroring and extended desktop. While I don’t use my external monitor and my current laptop screen at the same time very often, I do occasionally, and I certainly want that option. I’ll assume the Apple specs don’t lie to me, so this one’s a tie.
So I guess I’ve got to decide if the better display, the slightly faster processor, and the extra gig of ram are worth $640. Or maybe I’ll impulsively buy the fully pimped out 15 incher. If anyone has any thoughts that might help me decide, let me know. And if anyone knows the cheapest (but still reliable) way to get a single 2GB stick of RAM for a MacBook Pro, hook me up.