It’s over 4 years since I bought my first Mac: A lovely white iMac Core Duo 20″ (the first Intel iMac IIRC). It’s served me well over the years, but in the last few months it’s really started to slow down. I’ve finally snapped and am in the market for a newer, faster Mac.
But what new Mac to buy? I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts/questions, partly to help me think things through, but also to ask you, the reader, for your opinions. Also I hope this post might be useful for others looking to buy a new Mac.
My current old banger
My trusty iMac 2GHz Core Duo 20″ (2GB RAM) that I bought back in May 2006 is finally getting long in the tooth, I fear. The poor dear now grinds to a halt in daily use. Here’s what I tend to have running, on average:
- Firefox with 10-20 tabs
- Safari with a couple of tabs
- Photoshop CS3
It just about copes with that (although it can take a second or 2 to switch between apps). But then if I need to open a couple more apps, like
…then it really starts to slow down, with plenty of beachballs.
Then if I fire up WinXP in VMware Fusion 3 to test a website in IE… forget it! Might as well go and make a cup of coffee while it boots the VM.
I suspect the main culprit with this old iMac is the 2GB RAM limit. Even before firing up VMware, I’m at about 70% RAM usage according to iStat Menus. Fire up VMware, and stuff starts paging like crazy.
(At the back of my mind, though, is this thought: My iMac was nice and fast when I bought it, so why is it so slow now? I’m still running pretty much the same stuff now as I was back then. I suspect a lot of it is down to VMware Fusion 3 being more power-hungry than my original Parallels Desktop 2, combined with software generally becoming more bloated over time, but I’m not sure.)
For the record, I’m a web designer/developer and use my Mac all day, every day for browsing websites, blogging, coding, browser testing and Photoshop work, plus the usual office type apps.
Out of space in more ways than one
On top of the slow Mac issue, I’m shortly getting booted out of the office to make room for offspring #2, so I’ll be ensconced in front of a little sewing machine desk in the bedroom. The missus doesn’t want me to take up much space in there, plus a big iMac screen would be quite imposing in the bedroom. Also it’d be good to be able to work elsewhere in the house sometimes (such as late at night when she’s trying to get to sleep).
Laptop here I come?
So this all points to *gulp* a MacBook Pro. I say *gulp* because those things are expensive! And I suspect I’ll need the 17-inch model too, since it will be my main machine and I tend to hammer my main computer fairly intensively (lots of apps & windows open). And I think I’d really miss the iMac’s 20″ screen if I went down to a MBP 15″.
I need something that will last 3-4 years
Although my iMac is pretty damn slow now, it’s lasted me over 4 years, which is pretty good going. I’d like my new Mac to last the same amount of time. I simply can’t be bothered with the hassle of researching and buying a new computer every year or 2.
Glossy or antiglare?
Another issue I’m thinking about is whether to go for the glossy or the antiglare (matte) screen.
Is it worth spending the extra A$70 for the antiglare display? Is the glossy really hard to use in bright light (e.g. outside, or near a big window)? Is the glossy actually better than the antiglare in terms of picture quality? (On a related note, how do users of the new iMacs – which are all glossy screens – cope with glare and reflections?)
More worryingly, I’ve read reports that the glossy screen can cause headaches and eyestrain with prolonged use – not good for someone like me who uses their computer 40+ hours a week. Hmm.
4GB or 8GB?
Since I want this thing to last as long as possible, I’ll probably go for the faster Intel i7 and 7200RPM drive options. (My budget won’t stretch to SSD, sadly!)
But what about the RAM? After my woes with running out of RAM on my iMac I’m sorely tempted by the 8GB, but will I really need it? It costs a heck of a lot more – A$560 more, in fact. Will 4GB be fine?
Also, what if I wanted to upgrade to 8GB later? Presumably I’d have to buy 2 x 4GB modules (since the 4GB MBP comes with 2 x 2GB modules, and only has 2 slots), and throw the old RAM in the trash / sell it on eBay. (Sounds expensive.)
New or refurbished?
There are some tempting refurbs on the Aussie Apple Store, although it seems that you don’t get much choice. For example, right now there’s a 2.53GHz Intel Core i5 with glossy display, or a 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with antiglare. (Bizarrely they’re pretty much the same price – isn’t Intel Core 2 Duo pretty old tech these days?!) Still, I could probably save at least A$400 by getting a refurb vs the equivalent new model, so it’s tempting.
AppleCare, or live dangerously?
I got AppleCare for my iMac and did actually use it a couple of times (when the iMac’s hard drive and GPU failed). It definitely saved me money and hassle in the long run.
AppleCare for laptops is a lot more expensive though (A$579). What’s more it looks like, ironically, the MBP is a lot *easier* to open than my iMac was (just take the bottom plate off), which means it’d be easier to replace components myself if they fail.
I expect I won’t bother for now, but maybe buy it separately once the year’s warranty is nearly up.
Forget the laptop – buy a new iMac instead?
Ideally I really would like an iMac again. Lovely big screen (although glossy might not be ideal), nice and powerful, and much more bang for the (Aussie) buck! However it would mean that I’m basically stuck in one place (i.e. the bedroom). And if there’s one thing I’ve learned recently, it’s this: If you have kids, and not much space, it helps if you can move your office around easily!
I’m also a bit concerned about using a laptop constantly for 4 years. Will the keyboard drive me crazy? Will I be a hunchback at the end of it, or are laptops not as terrible ergonomically as they used to be?
So, what do you Mac users out there think? Desktop or laptop? Do you prefer glossy or matte? Is 8GB overkill, most of the time? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please sound off in the comments below! Thanks