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Switcher Hangout The place for switchers to discuss their new machines, and how to work with OS X. General support can be had here for newbie stuff, like "How do I restart my new iMac?" :)

Need advice on which Mac to get?


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Gigashadow

 
Member Since: Jul 21, 2011
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Hello I'm new to the forum.

I need a PC for my university work which requires me to use some graphics-intensive software (both Mac and Windows), It would also need to be good enough to play modern PC games. I've been considering getting a 17 inch Macbook Pro (with a couple of upgrades) for a few months now however the recent updates to the Mac Mini and Macbook Air line have given me an alternative. I'll outline the considerations:

Macbook Pro 17 inch

Macbook Pro - 2099
+ RAM Upgrade - 160
Total: 2259

Pros:

-One system that I can take with me to other locations easily so I can access all my programs whenever without compromise.
-The Quad-core CPU and GPU mean its more future proof than the alternatives.

Cons:
-One system means if something goes wrong, I'm left without a computer.
-A 17 inch Macbook Pro isn't something I would take with me for general use, only when I needed access to specific programs would I take it with me.
-Slower hard drive.

Macbook Air

Mac Mini (high-end model) - 699
+ CPU upgrade to dual core i7 - 80
+ RAM upgrade - 160
+ 750GB Hard Drive - 120
Macbook Air (high-end 11 inch) - 999
External Superdrive - 66
Total: 2124

Pros:
-Two separate systems meaning if one needs repairs I still have another.
-The Macbook Air is a far more portable system for general use, I would take it with me far more often than I would the Macbook Pro.
- The Mac Mini has a faster hard drive.

Cons:

- The Mac Mini's CPU and GPU is not as good as the Macbook Pro's, it should be enough for what I need right now but what if future programs and PC games start using Quad-core processors more than they currently do?
- The Macbook Air is only good for general use, I couldn't take any of my university specific programs with me on campus, I could only use them when at home (though I still live at home I don't like having to travel there from campus more than once a day). Bringing the Mac Mini isn't out of the question but I would need access to a screen. (not sure if I could use the Macbook Air for that purpose).
- Both require the SuperDrive.

Note: To give context, I already own a high-res monitor, mouse and keyboard.

You see I've thought about this thoroughly but its still a tough one.

Any help will be greatly appreciated, thanks in advance.
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davyvfr

 
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Member Since: Feb 18, 2011
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Mac Specs: Macbook Pro 2012; Intel i5, Intel HD 4000, 500gb HDD, 13'' screen

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I see, why not get a 15" MacBook Pro and then an Ipad 2 on the side or perhaps an Air? Plus, you won't be able to play games that well at all on a Mac Mini or Air. Crysis will run at about medium settings on the Air. I really think the 15" will do well. You own a monitor, so you can connect it to that. It has a really good GPU and should be able to handle everything. Down the road put 8gb in and perhaps a SSD and you'll be good for years.

Onlive Gaming is the Future!
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Gigashadow

 
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An iPad 2 wouldn't help my productivity and I wouldn' t play games on the Air. The new high end Mac Mini has an AMD 6630M GPU so I would expect its performance to be significantly better than a Macbook Air.
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J-L

 
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Personally if I were you I would reconsider some of the specifications of the machines.

First off the high end 15” MBP has the same specs as the 17” just a lower resolution screen.

Also if you really want the extra speed of 7200rpm HDD you could always go for the 500 GB version as it does not cost any extra and if storage is a major concern I would suggest getting an external HDD in this case so you have a backup therefore should something arise you are covered.

Another point to going for the 15” is that you would be able to take it along with you if you had to.

With the Mac mini the cpu upgrade is not really worth it as the performance difference (200 MHZ and an extra 1 MB to your L3 cache) is going to have very little impact on what you actually see and given the price I can not say I would recommend it.

Even with the i5 dual core it has hyper threading so overall you have 4 cores (2 physical and 2 virtual)

HDD again the speed is up to you and if it is only for the extra storage you can easily get yourself much bigger externals for the price.


For both of these systems, I would say that if you want to upgrade the RAM do it yourself, I do not know about the MBP but for the mini it is incredibly easy and if you order from somewhere like crucial you will probably get it for about half the price that apple are charging.


Overall though I would have to say that I would go for the MBP, as if you are doing serious 3D intensive work and you want to play the latest modern games at a decent FPS (frames per second) then its GPU beats the Mac mini hands down.

If there is one thing you take from this it should be to check out the education prices of the Mac, if you can wait until you go to university you might get a bigger discount or you could just get the standard school discount, you could even get the MBP and the Mini for a about the same price as you were thinking, then you would have the best of both worlds.

Student Discount - Apple Store (UK)
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Gigashadow

 
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My main concern with the 15 inch model is that it only has two USB ports. I don't think I have the room to power a hub and run most devices off it.
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Gigashadow

 
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The Pro is striking me as the safer route though, I could always save up for an Air down the road.
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iHarrison

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gigashadow View Post
My main concern with the 15 inch model is that it only has two USB ports. I don't think I have the room to power a hub and run most devices off it.
Well, you only get one more with the 17" model...

It's never a good idea to run too many USB devices off the power of a laptop anyway, as it destroys the battery life (both short-term draining the charge faster, and long-term by over-taxing it & making it wear-out sooner) - I dare say that's why Apple won't put any more USB ports on MacBooks, even though there's enough space on the chassis to hypothetically double (at least) the number available without making them look cluttered...
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Gigashadow

 
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The ports would be used mainly at home where it can be plugged in. Considering the USB devices I use, three would be the comfortable minimum, my current (rather old) laptop only has three and it would be a real pain if I only had two.
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StMFA

 
Member Since: Jun 06, 2011
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Mac Specs: 2011 27in iMac i5 3.1GHz, AMD 6970, iPhone 4, Wi-Fi iPad 2

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Don't completely dismiss what I'm saying here, but have you given a second thought to getting an iMac? The performance on these is actually phenomenal. You could always get one of these and a new MBA/refurb MBA.
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Gigashadow

 
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I considered it but I don't have the room, I have a 22 inch monitor taking up most of my desk already. The reasoning behind the Mac Mini was that, if strictly necessary, it could still be taken elsewhere (on the condition I could access a power socket and monitor). An iMac won't go in my bag. I admit the power is tempting, even more power than the Macbook Pro but even the highest end model is less.

I wouldn't want a refurbished Macbook Air. The newer models not only have sandy bridge processors but also a backlit keyboard which is a big deal for me.
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StMFA

 
Member Since: Jun 06, 2011
Location: NYC
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Ok. My opinion then is get the 15in MBP, with upgraded RAM, and perhaps an SSD. You can always get an external for backups/file storage.
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iHarrison

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gigashadow View Post
The ports would be used mainly at home where it can be plugged in. Considering the USB devices I use, three would be the comfortable minimum, my current (rather old) laptop only has three and it would be a real pain if I only had two.
I see what you're saying, but it does seem the best option then - for both portability and space-saving - would be to get the high-end 15" MBP (but, as another poster said, upgrade the RAM yourself) and a compact 2-4 port USB hub.

Said hubs can be attached by a cable, so you wouldn't need to have it jutting out the side of your laptop. You could even tuck it behind your monitor when you were using the MBP on your desk.

I know you've got limited space, but even a Mac Mini wouldn't take-up much less space, and would only portable in the "use at A or B" sense, not "use it from A to B"; also the top specs for a MM are much lower than those for a MBP, not to mention the fact that desktops are less rugged than laptops & don't like being moved about too much...
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Gigashadow

 
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I was thinking of using something like this:

Henge Docks Docking Station for 17 inch MacBook Pro from 2010 onwards Series: Amazon.co.uk: Computers & Accessories

Easy to dock and helps keep it away from harm.

I've had bad experiences with USB hubs in the past, various peripherals (such as an Xbox 360 controller) simply didn't like them.

One possibility is Thunderbolt, it could allow for extra USB ports possibly in the future though I'm not sure.
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