Help me pick a system, please!

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Howdy everyone!

I need some help... and I've not seen a group of forum folk so patient to help us potential switchers. Here it goes:

I've been a die hard windows user for the last 15 years. An apologetic MS user that realized every computer is essentially a tool to help one get the "job" done, even when that is coupled with many(many) hours of frustration. I've plodded along for the last few years thinking that frustration is just a part of "normal" PC operation and was actually a "feature" of the security and a slick XP OS.

Just in case your wondering; I haven't live in a hole for the last 15 years. I'm well aware of Mac and all things tech. I just assumed that the Mac fanboys and gals were overly zealous of their OS and system of choice. In short, I bought into the Mac myths hook, line and sinker. Silly me.

Currently, I'm a Firefighter by day and Web Design and Developer by night... so to speak. I actually spend a LOT of time designing and developing. So much so that I actually started a teeny-tiny-one-person-full-service-awesomely-friendly-radically-personal-web design and development company!

Anyway, I'm like a lot of people that are faced with a big decision right now. Here are some of the questions I asked myself to be as fair and logical as possible:

Preface these questions with: I need a new computer, so / and

... do I switch to the Mac instead of "upgrading" to Vista? I need a heck of system to run Vista. The minimum requirements for Vista ready PC put me into a system with a hefty price tag. So I compare Macbook to Dell XPS.

What we see in the comparison is "basically" the same systems with roughly the same price. Its boils down to a personal choice between Vista vs. OS X for all intents and purposes. I'm talking hardware and the software that comes pre-installed. The Get a Mac ad with the stuffed PC is so very, very true here.

Winner: Mac

... Adobe CS3 will run natively on the Mac, just as it does on the PC, should I switch? I can dual boot windows for Browser checks. I also have some really great and inexpensive web design tools built specifically for the Mac at my disposal. I.e. Cssedit2, Textmate, etc.

Winner: Mac

... I'm coding with PHP/mySQL but I want to learn Ruby on Rails, either system understands text, should I switch? The Mac has Unix with PHP and several other goodies built right in. While the PC is a GREAT tool for .net, I have very little interest in that web solution. I'm not a corporate web dude, and I'm not tied to any particular medium. So I have conversations with my clients regarding server side web technology and show them (on paper) the difference in MS and Open Source(free to use).... need I say more?

Winner: Mac

Bottom line: I'm switching! ... but I don't know which Mac to get.

I have a laptop and a desktop PC right now. The Desktop is 3 years old and has been reformatted three times. (I have to reformat every year or so) I run Avast anti-virus and use Firefox exclusively. The laptop is a Toshiba that was bought last year and its still good to go. I plan on scraping the Desktop.

I'm not a gamer period. I don't have time to play games on my computer. In fact, I've never installed a game on my PC's.

I'm a multi-tasker and I run three to five applications at once.

I think the best solution for me is to get a Mac laptop. I will run it on a 20" LCD with a wireless mouse and keyboard when I'm at home. I'm open for a discussion if you think otherwise.

I currently don't see a huge difference between these two Macs to justify a $700 price difference: 13" white MacBook vs. 15" MacBook Pro

Here is the blog post that has made me really question the difference between the MacBook and MB Pro.

So far I've noticed these differences between the MB and MB Pro:

1. 20G smaller drive (I can Upgrade this on my own, que no?)

2. Slightly smaller display (I will plug into a bigger display at home, which leaves a smaller footprint when I'm on the road)

3. Integrated graphics (Not sure what this means for me as I don't play games, and especially after reading this and this)

4. no backlit keyboard ( not a big deal to me )

5. DVI adapter not included (whats $20 dollars between friends? )

6. PCExpress slot ( Do they make anything for this slot anymore?, I have a Blackberry that I can tether if I need to. )

7. Aluminum shell (I've heard this is a bit of problem with wifi and my house is all wifi, all the time)

8. Ambient light sensor ( cool wizbang feature that is not useful to me)

9. Auto-dimming display ( read above )

10. Higher-resolution display ( really not sure what this means for me when I'm at home? )

11. Matte display option ( Not a big deal to me, as I'm in the sun enough as a Firefighter. Furthermore, I'm not going to be working on my computer in the sun during July in AZ)

What do you all think? I would really like to hear your opinions and any advice. I'm leaning in heavy favor for the White MB 2.0, but I really need help with #3 , #10 and anything else you've got that I've missed. Wow, that was a mouthful... que no? Thanks for any help!
 
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Here's a cut and paste of my personal opinion from an earlier thread:

"This is the decision I was going through a few weeks ago. Todd (who has been very helpful) went over some of the differences. I was originally going to go for the regular MB (the white or the black), as the MBP is so much more expensive that the specs on paper didn't seem to warrant all that extra cost for my needs.

However, I urge you to go to the Mac store and check out both computers in the flesh, as that's where I found the differences that DID matter to me.

The MB is smaller, and has a smaller screen. Even with the resolution set as high as it will go, the viewable area lacks a lot compared to the MBP. This is most evident when viewing websites, though can be annoying when doing word processing, or if you do any photo editing. For instance, i'm not sure my whole post would fit on the MB screen...it probalby would, but without room for anything else (vertically) in the window. Also, the MBP comes with the option for a glossy screen, or the matte finish. The MB only comes with a glossy screen. Some people (including myself) prefer the matte screen, so that's a small factor to think about.

The keyboard on the MB is different as well. The keys are raised, and they are separated from one another. I preferred the feel of the MBP keyboard, which has recessed keys that don't have any spacing between them. Personal preference...but something that you'll want to check out for yourself. Also, the MBP keyboard lights up in dark rooms. The MB keyboard is not backlit.

I also noticed a big difference in the speakers. The MB speakers are hidden under the plastic, and the sound comes out through an open slot that lies where the 2 parts hinge together. Honesty, the speakers sound terrible. The MBP sound quality isn't anything to write home about either. They ARE laptops after all, but the MB sound quality is horrific, IMO.


All in all, I dragged my girlfriend to the Mac store while we were in the mall shopping and we wound up spending about 45 minutes in there going back and forth between a few different machines they had (all the different macbook models). I went in there planning on buying a White 13" MB. Within 5 minutes my girlfriend made up her mind as to weather or not the 15" MBP (which I was considering) was worth the extra cash. By the time I left, I decided to hang on to my money and wait a few months until I had the cash for the MBP.

Notable areas where the MB comes out on top are battery life and operating temp (as felt from the outside). The MB (based on me looking at the battery life meter while messing around with them & talking to the Mac guys about it) should get about 45 minutes more battery life out of a charge than the 15" MBP. It also feels a good deal cooler than the MBP when running. It says nothing about internal temps, but if feeling the heat makes you worry...something to think about.

I mean, keep in mind, these are laptops. So when I complain about screen size, or keyboard feel it's all relative. What one person sees as lacking in a computer, the next guy thinks is just fine. On paper they don't look all that different. But when you're actually typing on the things, and you pick them up and feel how they're built and look at the screen in front of you...the MBP is quite a bit nicer. Do you NEED something like that, do you NEED to spend the extra cash? It doesn't sound like it. Is it enough of a difference to make you want to? I'd definitely check both out in the flesh before deciding.

Hope that helps.

-Nick
"

Here's the thread:
http://www.mac-forums.com/forums/showthread.php?p=299696#post299696
 
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I have the MBP and I love it, I choose it because the 13 inch display was too small for me, and I like to play world of warcraft, so I needed the graphics card. I'm also in tucson, so I'll send you a PM with more info.
 
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Thanks Nick and Sachsr1! I see what your saying... I probably need to spend some more time at the Mac store, and Sachsr1 was kind enough to tell me about another place in Tucson that sells Mac goodness.

The NEED portion of your post is really what I'm asking. I don't play games at all. So I'm really stuck on whether I NEED a graphics card. and is that Gcard worth $700?

Or do I scrap the whole laptop idea and buy the iMac?

Bottom line: I can't find any information that pertains to the usefulness of graphics cards for 2D graphic apps... maybe I need to look harder.

Edit:
As it turns out, I needed to be more OS neutral in my google search. Although these links lead to PC websites, I find the information to be interesting. Knowing that photoshop was the biggest resource hog of my current PC. I decided to google: 'Graphic card photoshop'

I also found this highly interesting: http://www.barefeats.com/mbcd8.html

The consensus is that regular 2D apps (photoshop, Fireworks) will NOT utilize a graphics card GPU for calculations. The best thing you can do to optimize your machine for Photoshop, et al. would be to:
1. Get the biggest CPU possible
2. Max out RAM
3. Possibly have a scratch disk.

So... what exactly am I gaining with the Pro?
 
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Well you get a bigger CPU, but the macbook and the MBP both can only address about three 3 gigs of ram.
 
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15" MBP 2.2ghz SR!
Your edit supports what I was going to say... I've seen more than enough people here say that their MB's run great with 2D applications... 3D is where the MBP becomes necessary. Here is another useful comparison http://creativemac.digitalmedianet.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=43717

I think you've answered you're own question for the most part. As far as needs, the MB seems to fit all of them, especially since you'll be connecting a larger display. The screen size is really what pushed me into the MBP lineup as, like you, I don't need the better GPU. Now, deciding on an iMac instead... lol, can't help you there.

PS - Welcome to Mac Forums! You'll find some very patient people here.
 
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So... what exactly am I gaining with the Pro?
IMO...nicer keyboard, bigger display (+option for matte screen), faster processor, better sounding internal speakers, RAM is upgradable to 3GB instead of 2GB, bigger HD (though you can upgrade the MB), an extra firewire port, express card slot, better resale value.

If you don't need the better specs, and the cosmetic differences don't matter to you, the MB will probably make you very happy. But definitely spend some time with both machines at the store. It's a lot of cash to drop without seeing both of them in the flesh and comparing them a bit. Personally, I think the MBP is a nicer machine. I like the MB machines, but i'd buy a Powerbook before I bought one of those.

-Nick
 
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I dont understand all this disdain for the Macbook?

It's smaller than a MBP, which for some people is a good thing. If I wanted a large display I would have gone for a MBP. Some people on here want another 12" screened Mac laptop. The screen is good, good DPI and the shinyness makes no difference to me.

The keyboard is a little different to some laptops having some spacing between the keys. But it's as easy to type on as any laptop I've tried.

Performance seems great, I have the 2GHz black model.

No laptop speakers are ever worth bothering with, some cheap headphones will give you better sound.

Those saying you need a dedicated graphics chip to run Photoshop are deluded. It works perfectly fine.

The only thing where the Macbook loses is firewire, MBP has Firewire 800. Macbook has Firewire 400. However I would imagine there's very little support for 800?

To put things into perspective I have a 12in/12out 24-bit 192Khz Firewire audio interface that is designed for Firewire 400. If you needed more audio channels than that you wouldn't get a laptop anyway :)

Get a Macbook or Macbook Pro, both are many times nicer than any Windows laptop you will ever buy, even Sony Vaio.
 
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imac G3 450MHZ 512 RAM DVD
Just throwing this in, if you progress into 3D design or use the 3D features built into CS3 extended a graphics card will really be a big help, its the same with video editing

My personal opinon is, if I were going to buy a new computer, they aren't cheap and I wouldn't settle for the intergrated graphics because I never know what I would be doing in 3 years time.

This is just me, I don't like to lock potential doors of progress

A high res screen is always going to me an advantage in the way of multitasking (I see you doing it a lot)

Both of the laptops can support dual monitor which will be a great advantage to you, it will increase your workflow volumes but because both laptops can do it you've got no real problem.

If you aren't sure about anything, remember, don't feel locked in! You can always pick a windows build, linux or BSD its all up to you
 
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Thats an interesting link, yes

Its up to the original poster to decide, though, I would still go for the pro if I had the money because of the high rate of software support for a dedicated GPU, i'm not interested in video personally but doesn't final cut pro not support the intergrated graphics?

Its nice to see some benchmarks
 
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i'm not interested in video personally but doesn't final cut pro not support the intergrated graphics?

Not officially, but the ini file can be changed so it does install.
 
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Sooper Fast!
The PC user inside of me wants to say something, while the Mac user says shut up and let it go...

plus I don't feel like typing a book.
 
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I dont understand all this disdain for the Macbook?
No disdain. But the MBP is a nicer machine, which is the reason why the base spec MBP is almost twice the price of the base spec MB. ;) The MBP is just that, Apple's 'pro' line of computers. They aren't needed by everyone, but are nicer machines than the MB line.

The MB's are fine machines; they're at least $900 cheaper than the MBP's, they have better battery life, and they're more compact. They are a better value. But for someone who has the money to spend, and wants the better machine, it makes sense to want to feel out the purchase and see if it's worth the extra cash. Some people believe it is, some don't.

-Nick
 
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You don't need an expansion port.

You don't need a dedicated video card.

You don't need a larger screen.

You don't care about the matte screen option.

The difference between the 2.0 and 2.16 or 2.33 isn't astounding by any stretch.

I can't see any reason for you to drop the extra $700 on the MBP.

I'm sure you could come up with something useful to spend the saved $700 on. Heck, you could almost buy an iMac.
 
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The benchmarks don't hold out though:

http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/macbook.ars/5

The Macbook is barely any different to the Macbook pro.

People still use G4 Macs and the Macbook smokes them.
That's an interesting link...but it's comparing an older base spec MBP to a current gen MB, which is upgraded from base spec.

The current gen MBP's (in base spec form), have the same processor as the MB tested there, but they also come stocked with twice as much RAM as the machine tested there.

I'd also be curious to see a G4 powerbook compared to the current machine, as opposed to an iBook.

-Nick
 
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You don't need an expansion port.

You don't need a dedicated video card.

You don't need a larger screen.

You don't care about the matte screen option.

The difference between the 2.0 and 2.16 or 2.33 isn't astounding by any stretch.

I can't see any reason for you to drop the extra $700 on the MBP.

I'm sure you could come up with something useful to spend the saved $700 on. Heck, you could almost buy an iMac.

Right on! I can't figure out the HUGE price difference and it bugs me... deep down.

Nick:
Nicer machine? In my opinion, a "nicer" machine has loads of performance and hardware upgrades! Surely you can see that the difference between the MB and MBP is almost aesthetics alone.

For $700 to $1000+ more, IMO, it should resemble something they ship to the NSS on a NASA shuttle. In other words, a pro machine should open Photoshop, run Action Script, and generally operate at speeds that are twice to three times as fast as the consumer machine. Perhaps my expectations are too high? I will certainly listen to a valid argument to the contrary.

Many have argued on other threads and forums that the MBP's are a "bit" to "ridiculously" overpriced. I fit squarely into the "re-donk-ulously" overpriced for what you get crowd. Especially when you consider some of the problems with the MBP.
 
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Buy a MacBook and fill it full of RAM. You'll thank yourself, especially if you do as much multi-tasking as you say. I made the mistake of skimping on RAM on my Mini (same specs as 1.83 MacBook), so it is dog-slow. My MBP, however, is crazy fast, as is my buddy's 2.0 MacBook w/2GB RAM.
 
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Much of the disdain for the Macbook is in the name, people like buying "pro" versions and convince themselves they need the best money can buy, even if they're just surfing the Interweb or reading mail.

I see it on the pro photography forums I read. People convincing themselves they need a Canon 1D MKIII just to shoot photographs of their new born baby.

By all means, if you have the money to spend then get whatever you like. But if you have priorities then choose carefully.

Integrated graphics are still hardware graphics, the graphics core is just integrated into the rest of the control logic. For 2D and video it's perfectly fine.

The integrated graphics can't compete with the Macbook Pro, but they're still faster than the Radeon 9200 used in previous Macs.

I have an old Fujitsu Siemens laptop with integrated graphics, I had this running as a MythtV frontend last night, streaming DVB (digital TV) from another PC. It worked faultlessly, the CPU in this laptop is a 2Ghz Celeron. So those saying a Macbook can't handle Photoshop need their head examining.
 
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Right on! I can't figure out the HUGE price difference and it bugs me... deep down.

Nick:
Nicer machine? In my opinion, a "nicer" machine has loads of performance and hardware upgrades! Surely you can see that the difference between the MB and MBP is almost aesthetics alone.

For $700 to $1000+ more, IMO, it should resemble something they ship to the NSS on a NASA shuttle. In other words, a pro machine should open Photoshop, run Action Script, and generally operate at speeds that are twice to three times as fast as the consumer machine. Perhaps my expectations are too high? I will certainly listen to a valid argument to the contrary.

Many have argued on other threads and forums that the MBP's are a "bit" to "ridiculously" overpriced. I fit squarely into the "re-donk-ulously" overpriced for what you get crowd. Especially when you consider some of the problems with the MBP.
Oh...no doubt that the price jump is huge. That's kind of the point of threads like this one...whether or not it's worth the extra money for what you get in comparison to the MB.

I'm by no means suggesting that the MBP is the only machine to buy. But, yes, they are better computers. How *much* better? Not much at all, if you're looking at performance alone. The differences are small upgrades across the board in every catagory, as opposed to vast performance upgrades, for instance. But it does add up to a decent sized list. Most of it may seem superficial to one person, but to the next person be a list of must-have features. If the price difference was waranted to everyone, Apple would sell no Macbooks, and we wouldn't have this thread.

I mean, my computer is a G4 Mini, 1.42GHz, which I bought on ebay for $350. I could've just as easily just bought a new Intel machine, but I didn't think the extra money was worth it (not a big difference in price here!). Some people would think that's silly. On the other hand, when I bought my car, I paid the extra cash for the more powerful motor, nicer wheels, better suspension, leather, ect. That stuff isn't small money, and a non-issue to most...but it's all about what you want and what you're willing to pay for it. The oil I put in my car costs $6/quart, but when I go out to dinner, i'm fine with just drinking water usually. Noone ever said peoples' reasoning makes sense to others. ;)

-Nick
 

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