Advice on a Mac Laptop Purchase


I'm excited to finally be changing over ALL of my computing to Apple by completing this last purchase.

Before I take the plunge, I want to gather advice from the experts here on the forum as to what I need to purchase and what to concentrate on when upgrading specs. I am somewhat limited with my budget, so that's a consideration (trying to keep this at or below $1500 -- and if that's short-sighted, now's the time to tell me. Somehow, I think I'll be alright, though.).

Here's what I'm hoping to get from a laptop purchase:

My home iMac will still be my main computer, so the laptop will be for ";on the road"; types of endeavors. I want to be able to use Sibelius 6 with VDL 2.5, but am not as concerned with ";performance"; as I might be if this was going to be my only computer. It would be nice to be able to interface our malletKat through it, but not essential.

Any thoughts on screen size?

No heavy video editing or gaming will be done on it. Honestly, just a lot of web browsing, email, some iTunes and tweaking of Sibelius files.

If I'm missing something or am not answering an obvious question or two, I'd appreciate that feedback as well.

Thanks all! Looking forward to your responses.
[cricket...... cricket.....]
Who let those darn crickets in here? :-)

I'll chime in here.  If it's just going to be for traveling, and you're not overly concerned with screen size or maxing out the processor/RAM, I think you'd be fine with either the Macbook or lowest 13"; Mackbook Pro.  If you're trying to keep it under $1500 (with AppleCare) the Macbook would be the way to go.  If you didn't get AppleCare, you'd be able to get the lowest MBP and come in under $1500. 

I think you'd definitely want to upgrade to 4GB of RAM, since I know I get up to 2.5GB just loading indoor shows now. Knowing that you also run band scores, I think that would be  essential for you.  Something else to consider, if you'd be ok opening it up and doing a little transferring of files, would be going to a site like and upgrading to a 7200RPM hard drive.  If you intend on running larger scores, I think upgrading to that speed hard drive would really help.

I have a friend who runs full percussion scores on a Macbook just fine (with occasional hiccups here and there at really dense moments of polyphony), so you could rest assured that you might be ok with that.  I'm using the 2.53GHz dual core MBP with 4GB of RAM and an upgraded 500GB 7200RPM HDD and for the most part it has been able to handle percussion scores without any problems.  Haven't started doing much band stuff yet, but I'm sure it'll do fine there as well.

In the end, you'd probably be fine with that Macbook with 4GB of RAM.  The new Macbooks more sturdy than the generation before them, so  they're becoming more comparable to the MBP, though they are still plastic, not aluminum.

Hope this helps - at least a little bit anyhow.

Good call on the upgrade to the 7200. I actually did that myself with a friend of mine and wasn't hard at all. It voiced my warranty, but it had expired a year ago anyway. I was going to use MacSales as well, but doing it myself saved me like 200 bucks (and was done in about 20 minutes).

Eric, you've seen my MBP and also seen how much I love it! It has surpassed my iMac in use for sure. Being able to hop over to the local coffee shop and still be able to do all the sample stuff is fantastic.

Do it man, peer pressure, do it...
I was more or less referencing as a source fir the drive, not necessarily to perform the upgrade. The nice thing about them is that they have their HDD packages that include a drive enclosure, allowing you to use your swapped out drive as an external, thusly putting it to good use.
I'll jump in here as well, if for no other reason than to crush a cricket or two.

The RAM and HD are givens. They will need to be upgraded if you want to do more than office work. And I can vouch for OWC/macsales, good sales support and customer service.

I don't think that replacing the HD will cancel the warranty though, and AppleCare is a must for the laptop. What AppleCare won't cover is the replacement HD if it goes bad.

[quote author=ted_boliske link=topic=3556.msg18694#msg18694 date=1267112589]
I don't think that replacing the HD will cancel the warranty though, and AppleCare is a must for the laptop. What AppleCare won't cover is the replacement HD if it goes bad.

I thought it voided your warranty when you open the device and service it yourself? Doesn't matter for these devices anyway, I'm out of warranty on all items except my iPhone and ";soon to be mine"; iPad:)

That use to be the case, but now replacing/adding RAM or replacing a HD doesn't void the warranty. They've made the process very user friendly and easy as hell. You just can't use the warranty claim on things you've replaced. I replaced the HD in my son's MP. It died but AppleCare was/is still valid. The HD was covered by the manufacturers warranty and they replaced it free of charge except to ship it back to them.
I replaced my drive with a 500 GB drive and they didn't care when I brought to the Apple store to have something looked at.

If you don't plan on gaming or doing 3D, then the 15"; with the 9400 graphics instead of the 9600 is fine.  I don't like small screens personally.  Local Apple stores and the online store have refurbished ones a few hundred off, with the same warranty.  That's what I usually buy.

The 5,400 rpm vs. 7,200 rpm is not that big of a difference- maybe fractions of a second in most cases.  Compare that to a SSD drive and it's a massive difference- a program opening in 1 second vs taking 20 seconds for something like Logic.  A laptop with a SSD will ";feel"; way faster than an 8-core desktop in everything except final rendering.  Of course, not all SSDs are fast.  The ones you get from the Apple store are no good.  An intel or OCZ drive is super fast... and super expensive.  But an $1,100 laptop with a $400 SSD upgrade will run circles around a $3,000 laptop with a 7,200rpm drive.
Hey all! Thought I'd chime in.

I bought a 13in Macbook Pro (unibody) back in the beginning of the school year.

I of course got the 4gb ram but I only have the stock HD.

I will say this. It is the best, fastest and smoothest laptop I've ever used. I'm a big fan of apple in general, but unlike other laptops I've had (cough powerbook g4, macbook (white)) This baby is AWESOME. I've played many games on it and the FPS is fantastic.

Even on a slower HD, the 64-bit apps start up lightning fast! Also, the machine shuts down in about 5 seconds.

If you're using loads of samples, I'd def. go with the SSD though. VDL performs well once they are loaded, but after getting used to my raid config on my Mac Pro, It takes about double the loading time (makes sense I suppose, 2 HD's should load them faster than one lol)

Also, the 13in size is also great! I can carry the thing around all day in my backpack without even noticing it's there. The 13in is noticeably bigger than the 12in powerbooks but WAAAAY lighter.

I would highly encourage buying a hardshell (I think I have the ";incase";, but i forget) After 4 years with my powerbook it got a remarkable number of scratches on it. At bare min. I would get the foam caseing for it. I've had no trouble with overheating and I get lots fun comments like ";how did you get an orange mac????"; ;)

Sorry about the randomness of this post, I just got up and I'm quite out of it. Where's that coffee.... ;)
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