New macbook, which one to buy?

Hi all!

My precious little ibook G4 of 4.5 years has slowly started dying and I think I should get a replacement. It will last me a few more months I’m sure, so I’ll have the time to save up for a macbook (yay). But they have three different types… I don’t know which one to get… I have to start saving for it, but do I save for the low-end macbook or the high-end? Argh!

Dear Scrivener users, please advise!

Yours truly,


The low-end Macbook is a real bargain–great hardware, low price, just happens to look like last year’s model. The aluminum model looks great, but for a writer, it doesn’t really offer any killer features.

However, when it came time to spring for a new laptop, I went with a different option: a marked-down Macbook Air. I really don’t care about features, period, but I do care about the weight of my backpack. I got the Air for $1150 from MacMall. The battery life is mediocre; other than that it’s a great machine.

Tannie, I also have a G4, the desk model that resembles a lamp, and I absolutely adore it as well, but I feel your pain. Lately mine has been exhibiting definite signs of senility. The other three members of my family (husband, son and daughter) all have MacBooks. My daughter’s is an aluminimum, 12-inch one (they don’t make them that small anymore) that she got in 2004 or so, and is besotted by, but alas, it too is showing its age. My son–a college student who lives away from home–has a regular MacBook, vintage 2007, that has been dropped on its head a few times and survived (that and God knows what else). I just got my husband the latest version of the classic MacBook for Christmas, 2G, and he thinks he’s died and gone to heaven (he was previously working with my daughter’s virii-ridden Dell laptop).

One thing I might suggest–don’t get anything that’s just come out. Give it a year or so for them to get the bugs out. This would include the MacBook Air, IMHO. (I think Keith said as much about his purchase of a MacBook Pro some time ago).

I think the MacBook Pro’s are great but they are a LOT of machine, so it depends how much computer you need. If you are getting by okay on a G4, I’d imagine you don’t need something with that much capability.

What I did for my husband and what we plan to do for my daughter (who is getting a new aluminum Mac as a surprise graduation present in a few months–thank God she eschews Scrivener and will not read this :laughing: ) is to buy a refurbished model. They are several hundred dollars cheaper than the new macs and just as good–they come with a warranty and you can purchase the extended version, same as for the new macs (and I NEVER buy those rip-off extended warranty plans, EXCEPT for macbooks and ipods). I got my husband a white 13" 2G macbook for $799 and it’s a beautiful thing. The only thing you don’t get with the refurbished is the fancy box it comes in, but you get all the software (and sometimes more) that you get with the new models, plus the charger, etc.

It’s what I plan to splurge on for myself if I ever sell this book–somehow can’t quite justify it otherwise. In the meantime, I and my little lamp-G4 will struggle on (it helps that I can sneak into my husband’s office, which adjoins mine, and use his laptop when he’s not looking).

Have fun shopping!

A rule of thumb which a lot of people swear by is “Buy the mid-range one.” The low end may be good at the beginning and save you money, but as time goes on and what you want to do on it — 'cos what it will enable you to do is much more than your current laptop, and you’ll probably start using its facilities — you may well discover a need more than that low-end model does; on the other hand, the top-end model may offer little more of real use for the extra money … Two examples:

My wife bought a low end MacBook when they first came out, and it has served her well and she loves it; on the other hand, in the meantime she has moved on in the things she does and spends a lot of time editing video and it’s not up to it … she said the other day that she wishes she had bought a MacBook Pro like mine in the first place, but she wouldn’t have been happy lugging the 17" MBP around. She’s just bought a 20" aluminium iMac on eBay to handle the video editing, but of course it won’t go with her to New York, New Zealand …

On the other hand, the original black, top-of-the-range MacBook … fundamentally, if I remember rightly, you were paying for the black case; the white mid-range one, upgraded to similar technical specs at purchase was cheaper than the black one.

So it does depend on what you are using it for and going to use it for, but do take future possibilities into consideration. Mind you, that said, the bottom line and what you can commit yourself to financially is of the essence.

And just remember … whatever you buy, a few months later you’ll wish you’d held off so as to be able to buy the upgraded model they have just released for the same or a lower price! :slight_smile:


You may want to think about when you buy, in addition to what you buy.

There is a site I like which keeps track of Apple’s development cycle (how often they release new products) and estimates when the next version of a given product is likely to come out, and recommends based on that whether it’s a good time to buy or whether you should wait. Link: It’s frustrating to buy a laptop and then watch them roll out a better version of said laptop 3 months later, for the same price you paid! And then the model you bought starts to sell for a reduced clearance price…

It may also be worth considering that Snow Leopard is due relatively soonish - some people are talking about a possible June release. So you might want to wait until you can buy a laptop that comes loaded with it, rather than buying a Leopard machine and having to upgrade.

Rumour sites have their limits, of course. And if you need something now, it’s not too sensible to deprive yourself just for the sake of having the newer, shinier version. But if you don’t have any particular rush or deadline, I think you can (sometimes) get better value for money by keeping development cycles in mind.

Personally, I want to replace my Macbook, but this one serves me well enough for now that I’ve decided to wait until I can get one from the next model line.

I went through this before Christmas, and got lots of extremely helpful advice here. In the end, I bought:
~ the white MacBook [size=85](I have a couple of odd metal allergies and, while Apple had astonishing amounts of info on the composition of the case, they couldn’t guarantee that it didn’t include, for example, palladium, so they suggested that the white one would be best)[/size]
~ 160GB hard disk
~ AppleCare.

I’m very happy with my purchase, although I don’t love my new machine the way I did my iBook G3. I have got used to the keyboard, but I still think that the screen size/shape of the MacBook is all wrong, and the snooze light is rather frenetic compared to the gentle snoring of the iBook (which was as soothing as watching the breathing of a sleeping baby). Other than that, my new white MacBook is a very good machine, and I am pleased with it. They’ve changed the spec since then, of course.

My 1.42 gHz Mac Mini G4 is showing signs of imploding. I’ve got a 20" HP display and an old Macally iKey I love, along with a top of the line MS mouse. I’d like to add mobility so am considering a refurbished white MacBook, add as much RAM as it will hold, and then use it with the display, keyboard and mouse as my desktop workhorse. I’d like to hold off until Snow Leopard comes loaded or at least as a free upgrade.

Two concerns: Anybody know whether the MacBook can handle being one pretty much all the time? And is it as wonderfully quiet as the Mini?


Just in January I sold my 4,5 years old iBook G4 and got the cheaper one of the aluminum MacBooks. I was hesitant at first, because the iBook was a real workhorse - no problems at all, great machine. But the screen was getting dimmer and the overall computing power nowadays was, of course, ridiculous compared to my iMac Core Duo.

I considered the white MacBook first. Just because of my budget. But in the end I decided to spend a little more for the alu version. So far I’m glad I did so. It’s really sturdy. But the thing that really stands out is the glass trackpad. It’s just a joy to use, and because of the multi finger gestures I actually ditched my notebook mouse. Concerning heat - in normal use it doesn’t even get warm. Only intense graphics let get a bit warmer, but still not more than the iBook.

Of course, the white version has 13 inches as well (great for Scrivener, really) and a comparable keyboard, but if you don’t need FireWire I’d recommend this machine.

Do you mean can you run a 20" display and an external keyboard off the MacBook pretty much constantly? Yes, I run a 22" external display and a BT alu keyboard with a white MacBook with no difficulty. Mostly it’s very quiet, much better than my much older Windows XP tower, though I’ve never used a Mac Mini so I can’t compare. Much quieter than any Windows laptop I’ve owned, in fact. The only things that seem to get the CPU hot and the fan stirred up are a lot of printing or a misbehaving programme. I have 2 GB of RAM. So far (fingers very crossed), no harm to the MacBook or its (closed) display.


I too am getting ready to replace my old MacBook. I was thinking about another MB, but people tell me to step up to a MacBook Pro. I hate to sound stupid, but what exactly is the difference? What does MB Pro have that would justify the additional cost?

  • 15,4" display (and a better one than in the MB, according to reviews)
  • FireWire (800)
  • Faster CPU (entry Pro model has the same as in the high end MB)
  • Additional GPU

For details you can easily compare the current specs for each device on

I wouldn’t go Pro simply because of the weight …

Thanks for the info. I believe I will take the step up.

If you can afford to get any of the metal laptops, do that. :slight_smile: I owned a white plastic version from 2007 and recently upgraded to an aluminium MBP and the build quality on the latter is in a completely different league. It took me a bit to get used to the keyboard for some reason, but once I did, I can easily state that Apple Extended aside, it is the best keyboard that Apple has ever made. It has good tactile balance meaning I never typo because of mechanical “misunderstanding”, something that happened constantly with the plastic MB, for me.

As someone else already mentioned, the trackpad is quite a leap from the old versions as well. The glass surface is nearly frictionless, and the area is so huge that it allows a great deal of precision as well as speed. At first I was not fond of the button-less button design, and I feel that they have the action set just a touch too stiff. At least for me, it seems to take a lot of pressure to click and drag with one finger, so I end up doing that with two fingers anyway—which kind of defeats the whole design purpose as I understand it. It works if I start the click at the bottom and drag up, but if I need to drag something from the top of the screen down to the bottom, it requires an incredible amount of force since the hinge is located somewhere near the top. A nice side effect of this (and the glass coated screen) is wear and tear. After several months of heavy usage, there are no bare patches on it as it would on a plastic trackpad. In fact, the entire machine save for the keyboard (which is still plastic) looks as if I just pulled it out of the box. No friction bare spots where my palms rest, no scratches.

It is very quiet unless it needs to be loud. If the system starts to overheat it has two fans which will get quite loud and cool the unit out rapidly. I’ve only had this happen once or twice. In general, even if I’m doing something fairly intensive between Photoshop and Aperture, the thing runs as if it were idling. It is extremely cool and quiet. Compared to the plastic MB, it doesn’t even feel as though it were on. I cannot remember the last time I heard it over background ambient noise like the buzzing of a fluorescent or a refrigerator in another room.

Thank you all for your replies!

A Macbook Pro is out of my league financially (well, possible, if I wait a year or something…) and originally I planned to go for the cheapest of two alu-models (the middle model of the macbook range).

However, with a little research I discovered that the ‘highest’ model of the macbook range costs as much in the UK as the middle one in the NL. And guess who has sort of a trip to London planned for somewhere in June (ha!).
The middle will also do, so I haven’t 100% decided to go for the expensive one. The backlit keyboard does sound sexy though :wink:

It’ll be the first Intel mac I’ve ever bought, so that’s a first. I’m using an Intel iMac at work, so I have some experience with how smooth the new models work (and aaaaaaaah, I don’t use it often cause I’m only there 8 hours per week, but such a joy to use that machine, anyway, I digress)

Not only does the Pro cost a bit more than I can afford, I also really like a smaller laptop. I currently use my iBook as my main machine (just can’t do the desktop thing…) so I do want a bit of power but 15" would definitely mean the thing gets much bigger than me! I’m only a small person…

Now, time to increase my Macbook fund!




Give some serious thought to sticking with your plan to purchase the midrange model while in UK. Then use the “savings” to buy a few upgrades that you will probably want to consider. I would recommend the following in this order.

  1. The max RAM you can fit in the machine.
  2. External HD for time machine
  3. Heavy duty case with structural side walls (I real like my Tom Bihn, but I don’t know if you can get them there).
  4. Wireless keyboard and mouse. Mine have grown on me.

I am sure there are 101 opinions on the above list, but more memory will make up for processor pretty quick. The HD will almost certainly “save your bacon”. While I am sure you are small, slip on the walk and a sit on your cary case can really ruin your day. I use my MBP as a desktop replacement so I always recommend externals and the Apple wireless are worth the look.

Anyway, have fun with both the trip and selecting your new mac.

Good thinking. I do already have a disk for time machine (it’s attached to my mac mini which is my server basically, I backup to it manually, but also use one of it’s external disks for time machine).
More RAM is always good :wink:

Will do. It’s basically a birthday present for the boyfriend. He’s never been to London (or the UK far that matter) and I couldn’t believe that! I’ve been enough times to feel comfortable, but he has never been… I mean… what? We live in Amsterdam, so close to London, how could one not have been to London! Ah well, he’ll like it :wink:

Thanks :slight_smile:


I have a MBP last year model.

I bought my wife the low end Mac Book.

My thoughts. Its nice. Its fast. Its cute.


One main feature that either you will use all the time or won’t matter at all to you.

Backlight Keyboard.

The low end Mac Book is the only one out of the Mac Book and Mac Book Pro that does NOT have the backlight keys.

If this feature does not matter then the other differences are just variations of power, speed, and capacity.

But the Backlight keys can be adeal breaker because it is a feature you cannot upgrade like you can do with HDs or RAM

Something else to consider is the new models are made to take advantage of many of the new internal functions that will be available in Snow Leapord (10.6) (like offloading CPU load to the GPU).

The GPU upgrades in the new model are quite leaps that you may not notice when not gaming or doing heavy GPU applications BUT when Snow Leopard comes out the speed increase from offloading CPU load to the graphics card GPU will be enormous and quite noticeable in all cpu intensive applications.

Now if you have the money the Mac Book Pro serious (New Aluminum Models) really buffed up the Graphics card department. They come with Two Graphics cards instead of one.

So you have the option to have the full power of the high end graphics card for GPU intensive applications like gaming or video but sacrifice Battery life


you can switch over to the built in graphics card and increase battery life by turning off the high end graphics card and just use the internal one. (I think a repboot is required).

This is a very nice option and of course when Snow Leopard comes out the performance abilities will probably be very tremendous when offloading the CPU load to the GPU(s).

So if you have the money. Any Mac Book Pro.

If money is a little tight.

I would go with the Mac Book ALuminum.

I would say the medium model for the backlight keys because that feature is really nice especially in low light conditions and it is really the big difference in the low and medium models.

tannie, so…have you bought one yet? I got my first aluminum Macbook (2G RAM, 160 Gig memory) in February and have been the happiest person in the world ever since. Then I became even happier when I got Scrivener…as far as I’m concerned, I’ve got it all! :laughing: