The Amazing Politics of Buying Macs

Since getting my first iBook in 2003 I have been an Apple convert.  They own my soul, perhaps I don’t want children because they would have my first born anyways.  However, I can’t help but be mystified by the specs and politics of buying a Mac.  There is a mythology that you have to drop at least a grand to buy a decent machine.  It’s consistently been $1000 for a basic Macbook, and around $1000 for a refurbished Macbook Pro with a 13in screen and last years specs.

Now the Macbook is completely off the market which is a blessing due to the terrible case issues.  However, now the intro computer is the Macbook air which has limited HD space due to requiring a solid state drive.

The cost of a new basic Mac laptop has been the same since I’ve been buying them.  The spec structure has also been about the same.  The 17in pro version of the machine has always had a processor, hard drive, and ram about double the speed of the 13in version.  In 2-3 years the stats of the most expensive new mac will be the stats of the basic version.

My current Macbook pro was released in 2010, it has a 2.8 dual core processor and 4gb of ram, with a 500gb hard drive.  My machine is still faster than the intro 13in Macbook pro, and is close to equal in stats as the upgraded 2.8 GHz dual core processor Macbook pro.  It’s almost like my computer was made in the future and is just now catching up to present day.

The 2008 15in Macbook pro has similar stats, sporting a 2.4ghz dual core processor, 200gb hard drive, 2gb of ram with the ability to upgrade to 4gb.  The machine can be bought used for around $600.  For $200 it can be upgraded to be just shy of my current machine, that’s $800 for a used Macbook with comparable stats to a new $1200 Macbook with a smaller screen.  The graphics card and the ram speed will be a bit slower, though likely the difference is negligible compared to the price tag.

To spell this all out, I’ll make a little chart!

2012 13in Macbook Pro basic 2010 17in Macbook Pro 2008 15in Macbook Pro
2.4GHz dual core processor 2.8GHz dual core processor 2.4GHz dual core processor
4GB 1333Mhz Ram 4GB 1066Mhz Ram 2GB 677Mhz Ram, upgrade to 4GB $80
500GB Hard drive 5400rpm 500GB Hard drive 5400rpm 200GB Hard drive 5400rpm, upgrade 500GB 7200rpm $60
$1,199 ~$2400 new, $800-$2200 used/refurbished $600 used, $750 refurbished, $750-$900 with upgrades

Other than a loss in the ram speed, and probably a small loss in graphic processing, these machines can be made pretty much equal, with vast differences in cost. The risk is ensuring that a used mac purchased outside the Apple Kingdom is in good working order. The upgrades are not difficult to do with a touch of hardware savvy, and aren’t necessary right away.

The USB, Airport, and DVD specs have remained virtually the same since 2007.  There have been advances and upgrades in Firewire technology, though I have yet to make use of my mini super Firewire port, and instead have needed to spend $80 on a converter cable.  Since 2006 Mac OS and processors have been intel based with no signs of a major shift occurring anytime soon.

Most legitimate sellers of used Macs provide a 30 day dead on arrival policy.  That’s enough time to inspect the machine, check the display, battery life, and initial health of the battery and other components.  With a bit of research, and some online tutorials on replacing internal components it is possible to get a used machine with virtually the same stats for about half the price of a new Macbook.

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