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General questions about MacBooks


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#1 of 40 OFFLINE   Jon_Are

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Posted July 15 2007 - 02:00 PM

My daughter is heading off to college next month and I'm going with her to help her purchase a laptop in a couple of weeks. She's convinced she wants a MacBook.

Never having owned a Mac, and never having owned a laptop, I know very little about either.

Some very basic questions:

The battery: How does it charge - is there a separate charger? If so, is the MacBook unusable while the battery is charging? In other words, do we need an additional / spare battery?

The software: What Office-type software will it come with? Is it sufficient? I have a full-install version of Microsoft Office 2007; will I be able to install it onto the MacBook?

Accessories: Anything additional that is a must-have? Obviously a case, but how about those cooling pads I've heard of? Needed? Or waste of money? Anything else I'm overlooking?

I guess that's enough for starters. Thanks for any assistance.

Her budget, by the way, is <$1300.

Jon

#2 of 40 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted July 15 2007 - 03:03 PM

She wants it for the free iPod! Posted Image

Jon, browse through the recent threads, particularly the "before I take the Mac leap" to lots of sundry comments.

But I don't think you can get what she wants for $1300. I suggest the base-model MacBook (the lowest end) with .Mac and AppleCare upgrades. That's $1400 + tax, but with edu discount ought to be closer to $1300. But you still (likely) need MS Office for Mac ($150 student discount), a case ($50 - $100). But maybe their edu discount will be really good. You could forgoe the AppleCare extended warranty, but I'm conservative and I'd get it for a college student who's likely to be less than gentle with the computer. And the .Mac acct will keep her critical data (emails addresses, passwords, documents) backed up in case of problem. Which I think would be a reasonable thing to buy for a student.

i've got a new MacBook Pro, the higher end Mac portable. I'd say for a college student, particularly one who isn't a power user, a Mac is a good way to go. My wife, who uses both PCs and Macs, is convinved Macs are easier to use. I'm a near expert PC user and find the Mac switch challenging, but it's becoming a fun system to use.

Issues:
Office 2004 is available for $150 (student pricing). Office 2007 will be out this Fall, most likely. Check with the school for recommended software. I assume she'll need Office, but better check.

She cannot use MS Office for Windows, unless you install BootCamp and/or Parallels. To do this requires an installation of MS Windows. Unless she needs Windows for school programs, I suggest just buying her Office for Mac and moving on.

It charges with the included power cord. You don't need a cooler -- if it overheats it's busted and needs repair Posted Image Extra battery -- I say wait and see how she uses it. If she's wishing for longer battery life, then get it.

Otherwise, the Mac comes with everything else you basically need: iTunes, iPhoto, Mail, Address Book.

A case is necessary if she will tote it about campus. For a student, consider a knapsack/satchel/backpack that she'll use in general for books, etc. that the MacBook will fit in. My professional satchel has a pocket that my MacBook pro fits in perfectly -- no need for a new case and I can use it when I'm traveling for work and pleasure.

Possible Upgrades:
External LCD Monitor. The MacBook has a 13" screen that's relatively low res. But it can hot-plug into a monitor. A basic 19" or 20" LCD from BestBuy or Dell will run $300 - $400, be good quality and half the the cost of an Apple.

Keyboard and Mouse. Laptops keyboards are not ergonomic esp for desk work. But would she use it? Or just write the next four years' term papers on the laptop keyboard?

Alright, I've rambled too much.

Final suggestion: Be sure to get your edu discount when you buy!

#3 of 40 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted July 15 2007 - 03:08 PM

The computer will charge and run simultaneously. The same power supply that gives the laptop AC power charges the battery. No spare battery needed unless you know you'll be without an outlet for awhile.

Microsoft makes Office for Macs, but I'm assuming you have a PC version. The Mac will run PC software, but at this time only via either Boot Camp or Parallels (and a full install of Windows). This is probably more than you or she wants to deal with right now. A good solution is installing Open Office or Neo Office, both of which are FREE and will open and save standard Office files. If that isn't good enough, you can still get Office for Macs.

If the laptop is going to be her sole computer at school, I would highly recommend getting a stand like the iCurve (or whatever the latest version is now) and a separate keyboard and mouse. This will spare her much pain when she's staying up late writing papers and such. If you can swing it, a separate monitor wouldn't be a bad idea either. No point in giving her carpal tunnel and eye strain before she's got her degree. Posted Image
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#4 of 40 OFFLINE   Jon_Are

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Posted July 15 2007 - 11:50 PM

Thanks, guys.

A separate keyboard and mouse: Just any ol' USP keyboard and mouse will work? Or does it need to be iBoard/iMouse (if ya know what I mean).

$1300 really won't do it? The base model is $1100, not counting the student discount.

I've already abandoned the idea of using MS Office.

Hadn't thought about an external monitor. This would just plug in via USB?

How many USB ports are there? Already I'm thinking I'll need at least three (mouse, monitor, keyboard).

Finally, what's an .Mac account? I assume some sort of online back-up? How much does that run?

(Oh, and she's already got an iPod, but I guess you can always use another Posted Image

Thanks again,

Jon

#5 of 40 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted July 16 2007 - 12:45 AM

Any USB Keyboard and Mouse should work. An Apple specific keyboard will be easier to adjust to, though, as it will have a few Apple-specific keys in the Apple order. (Apple has an Apple-Command key instead of the Windows key, no "Menu" key, and these keys are in a different order.)

An external monitor plugs in to the video connector (DVI port) of the MacBook, just like with any other computer. The MacBook will recognize the monitor and switch to dual-monitor mode automatically.

The computer probably has 2 USB ports, but you can buy an inexpensive USB hub ($30 for a 4-port, typically) or use a keyboard with USB ports to work around that. I've got a 7-port hub in my system right now.

I can't say $1300 is impossible, especially without knowing the edu discount. The key bit is the AppleCare warranty adds nearly 20% to the cost of the computer, so you may need to decide if that's important versus staying in budget.

Learn about .Mac. My understanding is that it gives you: a .mac email address, iWeb hosting (personal website), iDisk (online storage to transfer files around from home to wherever), and an automatic backup of certain key data like passwords, addresses, email, etc. This is an annual fee. I don't use it. My wife keeps it for email address. It sounds handy for a student who might never think of backing up data, otherwise. You get a 2-month free trial with the computer. I think it's $70 new, $99 a year second year and on.

#6 of 40 OFFLINE   RichP

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Posted July 16 2007 - 03:42 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon_Are
I've already abandoned the idea of using MS Office.

This is a very bad idea. Odds are she will have to turn in papers and projects in Microsoft Office format. Additionally, handouts and shared documents will be traded in that format as well. It would be penny-wise but pound-foolish to not get Office 2004 for Mac. As decent as OpenOffice is, it is not 100% compatible, obviously being a Microsoft product, Office 2004 is.

To spend $1200 on a computer and skimp on < $200 for what will most likely be the most important software on there would be foolish IMO.

#7 of 40 OFFLINE   Jon_Are

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Posted July 16 2007 - 12:24 PM

Quote:
I've already abandoned the idea of using MS Office.

Quote:
This is a very bad idea.

Thanks, Rich; now I see that it is. I was under the impression that the only way to get Office on a Mac was to install Windows and Boot Camp. I didn't realize that there is an Office specifically for Macs.

As it turns out, she knew all this already. Posted Image

I'm also sold on the external mouse, keyboard and monitor.

Still wondering about a carrying case, though.

Jon

#8 of 40 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted July 16 2007 - 02:35 PM

Does your daughter have a backpack or satchel for school? The MacBook is small and might fit well in there with her books. You could cheaply make a foam sleeve for it to give it extra protection.

My limited knowledge of cases are the business-traveler cases; not what the female college freshman wants or needs Posted Image

#9 of 40 OFFLINE   DavidJ

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Posted July 16 2007 - 02:57 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveF
Does your daughter have a backpack or satchel for school? The MacBook is small and might fit well in there with her books. You could cheaply make a foam sleeve for it to give it extra protection.

My limited knowledge of cases are the business-traveler cases; not what the female college freshman wants or needs Posted Image

A lot of students at the university where I work use Tucano's Second Skin and then put their computers in satchels or backpacks either designed for computers or not.

#10 of 40 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted July 16 2007 - 07:40 PM

Most foam cases are fairly inexpensive (~$30) so I recommend using one inside of a backpack (that's what I do).

Most important thing before plunking down your hard earned cash: find out if your daughter's school has academic pricing from Apple. It will be 10-20% off of the list, which you really can't get anywhere else. 10% is the standard, with more possible if the store does a power-buy. My college store did on the top of the line Macbook Pro (2.33 Core 2 duo last year) which retailed for $2499 but sold at $1999 + free iPod.

Also, if your daughter's college store has academic software pricing, you can usually find MS Office Student Edition for around $100. If you really want to see something cool, check out the academic pricing for Adobe products. Think 60-75% off retail. She may not have use for it, but you might Posted Image

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#11 of 40 OFFLINE   Jon_Are

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Posted July 16 2007 - 09:43 PM

Quote:
You could cheaply make a foam sleeve for it... My limited knowledge of cases are...not what the female college freshman wants or needs.

A cheap, home-made foam sleeve? Yeah, I'd agree that you're not tuned into a female college freshman's wants Posted Image

Regarding academic pricing at the college...I assume you have to purchase it directly from the school, then? That is, I can't waltz into an Apple store and order up an item while getting this pricing?

Jon

#12 of 40 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted July 16 2007 - 11:06 PM

I wasn't tuned into the wants of young women when I was their age -- forget about now Posted Image

With student ID, you should be able to waltz, tango, or foxtrot into an Apple Store and get the discount -- I got my corporate discount at the local Apple Store, taking in my work badge.

You can also get the discount from the online Apple Store.

#13 of 40 OFFLINE   Michael_K_Sr

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Posted July 17 2007 - 02:51 AM

Quote:
You could forgoe the AppleCare extended warranty, but I'm conservative and I'd get it for a college student who's likely to be less than gentle with the computer.

I can speak from experience after purchasing AppleCare on my mom's iBook that the extended care service does [b]not[b] cover physical damage of any kind.

I'd also recommend some sort of stand like Road Tools' CoolPad. The increased ventilation under the case will help keep things cooler.

Keep in mind that the MacBooks have a video port that Apple refers to as a mini-DVI port. This means that whatever monitor you'll buy, you'll need to get either a mini DVI to DVI or mini DVI to VGA adapter. Both adapters retail for $19.

The MacBooks have two USB ports. If you want more, you may want to look for an external display that has a USB hub built in.

#14 of 40 OFFLINE   Brian W. Ralston

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Posted July 17 2007 - 06:12 AM

I know the opinions on Applecare are varied. But for a laptop, I recommend to all of my friends that they buy AppleCare. You don't have to do it right away. As long as you do it within the first year before the free warranty runs out, you are good to go. But...Laptops go through a lot more wear and tear than a desktop that sits in one place forever. For a desktop I would say, don't bother. For a laptop...definitely get it. I have used my Applecare on my MAC laptop 4 times and have received a new mouse touch pad, new video card, new motherboard and a new power supply over the 3 years the computer was covered. A friend of mine has used the Applecare service quite a bit on his new Macbook already. Sometimes, you just get a bad one and invariably, those things start to go bad right after the free warranty runs out.

Without Applecare, you will find dealing with Apple on future hardware issues to be frustrating...with it, they will treat you really well.

So...get the computer now without Applecare to keep the initial cost down. But, eventually buy the Applecare months later before your regular warranty runs out.

Also...if the macbook has Bluetooth, you can get a wireless apple bluetooth mouse and keyboard and free up using the USB ports.

And...take advantage of the academic discounts you can get at the college computer store. They really are the best and cheapest way to get into the MAC. Just get it when she gets there. I don't know if Apple will give the educational discount in their stores any more. You can do it online though through the apple.com educational stores.

Software is incredibly cheap via academic pricing. MS Office for Mac is a must in my opinion. Roxio's Toast Titanium is something to consider eventually as well. It will allow her to burn CDs and DVDs (music, data, video, etc...) much better than the OSX built in capabilities. (maybe this could be a birthday or xmas present later).

Mac Case is a GREAT sleeve protector that works well and I believe they have lifetime warranties on their workmanship. And they will protect the macbook from surface scratches and give it a little padding when you put it in any backpack or other case. or, she can just use it alone as a little case when going over to a friends house to do work.
Regards,
Brian W. Ralston

#15 of 40 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted July 18 2007 - 01:35 AM

Perhaps your daughter might like a Lap Desk? After a month of computing in the living room, laptop on a couch pillow, this is now on my birthday list. Levenger sells some attractive products for the would-be academic or literati Posted Image

#16 of 40 OFFLINE   Jon_Are

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Posted July 30 2007 - 02:23 PM

Just a quick update -

We (she) pulled the trigger today, picked up a nice MacBook (2.16 GHz, 1Gb memory, 120 Gb hard drive).

Got the educational discount, no problemo. Holding off on the AppleCare for now (will re-evaluate during the coming year).

Set-up was a joy (aside from loading her iPod contents into the new iTunes, grrr). It was quickly apparent what a solid, enjoyable piece of equipment this is.

Oh yeah, she also got a 30Gb video iPod for $49 and a free printer.

I'm due for a new computer myself soon. Never before seriously considered a Mac. Hmmmm.....


Thanks to everyone for all the help,

Jon

#17 of 40 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted July 31 2007 - 02:07 AM

Posted Image Posted Image

#18 of 40 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted July 31 2007 - 04:02 AM

Congratulations! Boy, this Mac thing is like an addiction! I need to stop reading the "My New Mac" threads because it's making me want to buy a desktop to compliment my Macbook Pro. Doesn't help that my Windows machine is dying a slow and painful death. Today I was running a full system virus scan, went out of the room for 2 minutes, came back and the machine had shut off. No idea why, didn't have time to reboot as I had to go to work (had planned on letting the full scan run all day). Takes 4+ minutes to boot up properly (this includes letting Sophos AV load up fully because until it does, starting up other programs is an exercise in frustration), and 3-5 times longer for similar programs to start up comapared to my MBP (either in OSX or in XP via Bootcamp). Even IE7, Firefox and Safari take forever to boot up on my XP desktop.

If Apple really does update the iMacs soon with the brushed aluminum and obviously faster hardware, I will be very tempted to upgrade. I wish the iMacs could use dual monitor (can they?!?!) because I have a great Dell 20" LCD (1600x1200) that I'd hate to go to waste.

Of course, I could pay a little more for Mac Pro...but I don't want to go down that route!!! Posted Image

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#19 of 40 OFFLINE   KCAir

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Posted July 31 2007 - 04:44 AM

I took the Macbook path a year ago... and I have never looked back. The dark line between the PC and the Mac has been erased. From my perspective there is no reason to wait.

#20 of 40 OFFLINE   Michael_K_Sr

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Posted July 31 2007 - 07:02 AM

Quote:
I wish the iMacs could use dual monitor (can they?!?!)

Yes. You just need to buy a mini-DVI adapter. They support resolutions up to 1920 X 1200 on an external display when using DVI.


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