Is this the right time to buy a laptop?

Since my previous post asked if that moment was the right time to buy a new, assumed to be Mac, laptop, this one will ask whether now or the next few weeks might be a good time to buy a previous generation MacBook Air or a soon to be previous generation MacBook Pro.

With the new MBAs now shipping, retailers including Apple, are discounting remaining stocks of old models. Here are two tech website articles on the topic: … p.for.930/ …

And this will get you to Apple’s refurbished MBA prices. Note discounts running as high as 33% for a 2011 model. … acbook_air

This link will get you the the refurb MacBook Pro prices, which run as high as 25% off. … acbook_pro

For the MBA, the new models seem to offer these pluses:

Much longer battery life, up to 12 hours.

Faster Flash drives if you have a lot of disk I/O

WiFi-AC, which is the future, and some new Bluetooth capabilities.

The negatives:

The computational power is about the same. A more powerful CPU is balanced by a slower clock to save battery power.

This is the early production run for the new model, so there may be glitches. Also, it’s not yet available in refurb, so no discounts.

That said, if you don’t need a longer battery life or faster disk access, you might get more bang for you buck with an older model. Just make sure you’re comparing equivalents. The base 11" in the old had 64 G of storage. The new base 11" has 128 G for the same price.

Also, you have fewer choices with refurb. Personally, I wouldn’t buy a new laptop with less than 8 G of memory. Only one of the current refurb MBAs has more than 4 G.

Me? Right now I’m planning to wait for the refurbs of the new model in a two or three months. I don’t have to upgrade my MacBook that quickly.

–Mike Perry

what sort of warranty do refurbs have ?

Full apple warranty. I’ve only bought refurb and have had no issues.

Agreed. Most of the Macs I’ve own over some twenty years have be refurbs and I’ve never regretted it. That’s why I may wait to get this new MBA as a refurb.

Apple is close-lipped about its business, but I suspect refurbs have multiple sources.

  1. Some are simply new but provide cover for selling models a little cheaper to the frugal who refuse to pay full retail. You lose a couple of dollars of pretty packaging and save $100 or more.

  2. They allow Apple to sell discontinued models and clear out their inventory. That’s what is happening now with MacBook Airs. If you don’t need the long battery life of the new models, you can find some excellent deals.

  3. Sometimes a product has an issue coming down the assembly line. Those pulled need special treatment anyway, so why not give them plainer packaging and sell them cheaper?

  4. Store returns. Someone who’d worked at an Apple Store told me they used to be able to sell returns locally at a discount. Now they have to return them to Apple. Refurbs gives Apple a way to recycle those returns. That’s also why, occasionally, someone will get a refurb with more than what they paid for. The standard model might ship with 4 Gig of memory, but they get a refurb that has 8 Gig because a customer bought it that way. Rather than create a separate refurb store sale item for that one computer, Apple sells it as a lesser-equipped model.That’s when a refurb can be a really good deal.

–Mike Perry, Seattle

As an iBooks publisher, Apple apparently considers me an iOS/OS X developer. That means I can watch taped versions of the presentations that have been going on at WWDC this week. The one I just watched, “Maximizing Battery Life on OS X” proved quite interesting. Here’s the link:

The video describes how both Intel, with the new Haswell chip set, and Apple, with the next version of OS X, are saving battery power, mostly by some very clever turning off and on of parts of the chips. The new features will actually save a bit on the electric bill for your desktop Mac, but their real advantages come with laptops running on batteries. Combining the two improvements is why the battery life of the new 13" MacBook Air is about five hours longer than that of the old model.

That itself is probably reason enough to consider getting the new MBA rather than the old, since it will be able to take better advantage of these OS X improvements. But those who use Scrivener a lot on the road may have an additional reason. Part of the presentation uses typing as an illustration of how easy it is to save power. Even at 50 wpm, there’s an abundance of time to idle the CPU between keystrokes. It’s a bit of a paradox. The faster chips have become, the more power you can save by idling them.

We’ll have to wait for all these features to come together, including a Scrivener optimized for the new energy savings, but it just may be possible that, using Scrivener with the screen brightness turned down and WiFi off, the battery life of these new 13" MBAs may approach 20 hours. That may matter to you since, in ordinary use, it might mean two to three days of use without recharging.

Of course, if you’re like me–I use my laptop mostly in libraries on AC–you’ll have to come up with other reasons to go for the latest and greatest.

–Mike Perry

Dealmac, the tight-fisted Scrooges of the tech world have posted an article suggesting that, despite the deals that Apple and others are offering on the old MacBook Airs, the new models may be a better deal. You can find their article here: … 52187.html

Here’s a summary:

Check out the article for the specifics, including how to save money whatever path you take.

–Mike Perry