Hey, Mac Users! Pick out a computer for me!

Hypothetical situation: you are a college student who does the occational web design work, and a smidge of graphic design work. Nothing big and professional, just for your theater group and what have you. You use the web a lot, but mostly for email and this infernal board, you’re phone bills get too expensive if you randomly surf the web. You’ve decided to go the way of the Macs. There is a possibility you could get your scholarship to pick up the bill. What mac would you choose? A Powerbook for portabilty? A sassy new G4 for the speed and power? An imac notebook for portability? Do I really need anything more powerful than an imac?

Talk to me, Mac user-Dopers.

It doesn’t seem to me that you would require anything that an iMac would not provide. You can read all the technical specifications of the hardware you are considering here. From that page, you can also get information on all of the purchasing options offered by Apple Computer. My primary piece of advice is that you should immediately purchase additional RAM if you decide to buy an iMac. You will find your iMac to be capable of a lot of really cool stuff, but you will quickly become frustrated by the limitations of having too little RAM.

Buy the iMac G3 350 which is surprisingly cheap and will most likely meet all your needs. I’m giving you this advice as a Mac user and a Hewlett-Packard employee.

Dear Swiddles,
As a power Mac user (certified by Brainbench.com)I would suggest depending on financial situation. For Web design, and graphics in general, any will do at this point. If money is not an issue, I would suggest a dual processor G4. The 500MHz ones with at LEAST 128MB Ram. Nothing less than a 20 gig drive. If money is an issue, go with the iMac. They are simple, reliable, and cheap. Check out the site, you can “custom” build one to fit your needs and it’ll price it up for you. I figure anywhere from $1k for the iMac to $2.5k for the Dual Processor G4. Don’t bother with the powerbook, or iBook if you’re going to be working with graphics, it’s too small of a keyboard to deal with IMO, too cumbersome when you want to sit back and relax in front of a nice stable monitor, but if you’re looking for or need the portability, than go with it. The G4 iBooks are good, but the iBooks in general tend to cost more than the desktop macs.
My Op in a nutshell.

Carefully consider whether you need the portability of a laptop before parting with the extra bucks for one. It’s nice, but I think many people find that they don’t haul the laptop around enough for it to have been worth what it cost them.

Otherwise, I’d suggest an iMac; from your description, it’ll do everything you’re looking to do. There’s nothing to prevent you from selling it to someone else and buying something more powerful in a year or so, if you decide you really need more machine.

My one most important piece of advice beyond that would be to get as much additional RAM as you can afford, even if it means skimping in other areas (drive space, etc.) The base configuration of 64MB is nearly useless, and I’ve found that the 96MB in my 266Mhz iMac is barely enough for many of the things I want to do. Unfortunately, unless they’ve changed the design recently, maxing out an iMac with RAM is not an operation for those who’re afraid of screwing something up or who aren’t pretty good at hardware maintenance. Adding RAM in the one slot in the iMac that’s intended to be user-accessible was a daunting undertaking (and I’ve added RAM to practically every Mac model from the Mac Plus through the 8500/9500 series); it would have helped if the instructions hadn’t failed to mention the necessity of removing a particular screw, but even without that problem it’s not a trivial undertaking. The second slot should really only be attempted by trained personnel. What that means in practical terms is that you should buy from Apple direct or from an authorized reseller and have the RAM preinstalled.

One thing that I found frustrating about the iMac, as a long-time Mac user and owner of one other Mac and a PC at home, was the absence of any easy way to transfer information from my old Mac to the iMac; the old machine didn’t have an Ethernet card, and the iMac doesn’t support SCSI or LocalTalk and has no floppy drive. I thus had no elegant way to move stuff from the old Mac to the iMac. Fortunately, most of the important stuff on the old Mac was on an external SCSI drive, which I was able to hook up to my G3 PowerBook from work, connecting it to the iMac via an Ethernet crossover cable and copying the files that way, but it wasn’t easy. If you expect to need to exchange files with others, you might want to investigate what mechanism is most likely to work for you – certainly, you can e-mail or FTP things, but once you get above a certain amount of data that becomes unworkable. Other options include investing in a FireWire CD-RW drive, a USB Zip drive, or a USB SuperDisk drive – the right choice would depend on what the people you’ll be exchanging stuff with are using.

Alright, so I did some homework. I think the portability factor is pretty nifty, I worked on a project with a chick who had a laptop last semester, and being able to write a paper in the library, where you can hop up and grab research whenever nessisary was INCREADIBLY handy. I think for a college student, it’s a good trade-off, tiny screen, cramped keys for being able to work wherever. For $1794.00, I could get this lovely candiate. Not bad, and I’d be supporting a local business, which is always a good thing.

Any serious misgivings about the ibooks? You both seemed pretty keen on them, how much of a sacrifice on speed am I making? And (forgive my Mac ignorance) can I trade document files with PCs? If I need to print a document on the library’s (IBM compatible) computer, will I be able to do that?

Depends on your software, but usually yes. Both Word and WordPerfect are available for Macintosh. Macs can read PC-formatted floppies too.

I’m less knowledgeale about the printers, but most newer printers are Mac-compatible. Would you be trying to connect to the printer directly or over a network?

BTW, I bought my home Mac from Small Dog too, and was happy with their service.

No serious misgivings here missy. Just make sure you get at least 128MB Ram. Less, and you’ll have some serious graphic design issues on that thing.
When you want to save your files to be later used on a PC, there is usually an option in most programs (ie. Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, Adobe Photoshop…) to save for PC. With Word, you can save a file as a word document, and just add the extension “.doc” at the end, it should open fine on a PC with the same or later version of Word.
With images, just add their extension as well “.gif, .jpg, .eps, .tif, .bmp…”.
PC files need the extension to recognize the type of file it is. You will need PC formatted disks though, (which you can create on the mac) to transfer the files with.

It sounds like you might like the iBook, then!

One of my friends, an old-timer Mac user, just got an iBook, and she loves it. The first thing to do is to get more RAM RAM RAM!

Also, you will need a USB Zip drive. Those will run you about $100. I exchanged files between my iMac and PC all the time, using Zip disks. No problem.

You will like the Mac world. I got my first Mac late last year, and I LOVE it!

I myself tinker with graphics and web pages, and I deal with PC files all the time since all my friends have PCs. My setup works fine: an iMac DV SE.

I use ZipIt!(a zip utility) and TTConverter (font conversion app) to deal with PC files. SoundApp can play PC sound files. The only thing I haven’t been able to open was an .exe file here and there, but in some cases, I was able to open them with other apps. This, BTW, is way more cross-platform capability than you’ll get out of a PC with Macintosh files.

Check this page for other iMac specs and links other Mac model specs.

Argh, that bug I was talking about reared its ugly head again.

I meant to say:

I myself tinker with graphics and web pages, and I deal with PC files all the time since all my friends have PCs. My setup works fine: an iMac DV SE.

I use ZipIt!(a zip utility) and TTConverter (font conversion app) to deal with PC files. SoundApp can play PC sound files. The only thing I haven’t been able to open was an .exe file here and there, but in some cases, I was able to open them with other apps. This, BTW, is way more cross-platform capability than you’ll get out of a PC with Macintosh files.

I can’t imagine having to be somewhere where I might need a computer and not having THE computer, MY computer, my ONLY computer, right there with me. PowerBook.

You definitely don’t want to suffer with the limitations of the PowerBook screen and keyboard when you are doing serious work, especially graphics work. That is why you do, of course, plug in an extended keyboard, a nice mouse, and a 19 inch trinitron as your primary monitor while using your built-in TFT PowerBook screen as your secondary monitor.

I have found mine to be a very modular, adaptable, and flexible little companion and except for running the PC version of Red Hat Linux under emulation, I haven’t had any complaints about performance, and mine is a 300, slower than the slowest you can still buy new. And it predates USB and Firewire, so a modern one should be yet more flexible and adaptable. I like coming home and telling it “I’m home” and it knows “OK, no file sharing, TCP is by modem, ditch NetBIOS, turn on MP3 conversion protocols, the 15 inch Trinitron is an auxiliary monitor to the left of the TFT and should be set to 1024x768 at millions of colors” and the next morning telling it “I’m at work” and it knows “OK, AppleTalk file sharing on, NetBIOS file sharing on, log on to NT domain, turn off MP3 crap, the 17 inch Trinitron is to the left of the TFT and is the primary monitor and should be set to 1152x867 at millions of colors”.

Be that as it may, if you aren’t going to need a computer in at least two distinct and obvious places, you could save a lot of money getting an iMac or a decent amount of money plus gain in performance by getting a desktop G4.

If you have the opportunity for someone else to pick up the bill consider the G4. Yes it’s probably a bit more powerful than you need but look ahead to future needs. Graphics work can be very intensive and if you continue your interest you will need more processing power (well it’ll seem like NEED at the time).

Having said that if we’re just basing it on your current needs then an imac will probably do the job.

Good luck with your journey into solid, powerful and faster computing.
sniff I miss my mac…

How much of a noticeable difference is there between a 300 MHZ processor and a 366 MHZ? Anything that I’d kick myself for afterwards? Yea, faster is ALWAYS better, but if I get the beefed up RAM, (128, I think) how much will 66 MHZ hurt me?

Not much of a difference. You won’t notice it.

Whenever you have a choice between more RAM and a little more speed, go for the RAM. Always.

My funding came through. I can pick out whatever computer I want. Pinch me, my life doesn’t get this good!

I am seriously looking at an ibook. I want an investment, and while the snappy look is a plus for me, I’m really looking for a tool that will last me until my undergrad studies are over. I was pretty sold on the ibook, until I read some reviews at PC Magazine, which cited the lack of floppy drive, the lack of PC Driver, the smallish (12 inch) screen, and the crappy speakers. Additionally, it talked about the inability to swap the CD-ROM with a DVD or CD-R, which is REALLY what I want. I’m dying for a CD burner. However, I want to keep my total purchace under $2700, with printer and tech support and all that jazz. I want to boost the RAM to 124. I like the fact that the ibook is made to been beaten up, but is it worth the durabilty of the exterior case for inferior upgrade capibilities? Or should I ask for a little more money to get a Powerbook?

Yea, I know. But I ** like ** to overthink big decisions. It allows me to relax with the right decision.

Well, you could look for a used PowerBook G3. Mine came with Apple’s DVD-ROM card and drive, it has a floppy drive and all the usual connections that the iBook doesn’t have (SCSI, LocalTalk, etc.), is at least as durable as the iBook, has a decent screen, and a 300/333Mhz machine with 64MB RAM and an 8GB drive will run you between $1500-1800 from SmallDog; you can boost the RAM to 192MB for under $200, add a SCSI CD-RW for $250-300, and have enough left over for an Epson Stylus Color 740 and a cheap scanner as well. One drawback is that they’re significantly heavier than the iBook; carrying mine around is more of a strain than I’d like.

If you can find someone with a dead Powerbook 590, or 5300, you can trade it in for a “low-end” 400 Mhz Pismo Powerbook for $1700.00 until the end of August.

The screen is too damn small to do any web design or graphics work, and an external monitor would take a big chunk out of your budget.

Get a G3 powerbook. It’ll definitely be worth the extra cash. And, if you don’t buy from apple, you shouldn’t have to lay down too much extra.

From what you’ve described, you don’t need the 400 MHz that seems to be the minimum that apple offers. 300 MHz should be more than fine for your needs. I’d highly reccomend the 14.1" TFT screen. It’s quite nice, especially for web design when you have multiple apps open. Load it up with RAM (as others have mentioned) and make sure it supports at least USB and preferentially firewire as well. I’m not sure if a CD-RW internal drive exists for the powerbook, but I’m fairly positive that a zip drive does.

For the record, I run a 233 MHz G3 powerbook, 96 MB RAM, and work with Adobe photoshop 5.0, netscape 4.7, and BBEdit simultaneously. I have no complaints about the processor speed, but would like a little more RAM. I’d imagine that you could find a system comparable to mine, used, for 1.5k or less.


Hot damn. Glad I am a lazy ass and haven’t officially asked for the computer yet. The new ibooks are out, the base model has a 366 mhz processer, which is what the special edition had before. And the special edition has 466 mhz, and a DVD player. Couple of questions for anyone who is still reading this thread:

1.) Is the extra 100 mhz and DVD worth $200? I know I’ll use the DVD, but I dare say it’s not going to be for school stuff, which is why I am being given this computer. So I feel funny asking for the beefed up version so I can watch movies in the library when bored.

2.) Both models come with 64 MB SDRAM, but it can be upgraded to 128 MB for another $200. Is it worth it?

So is it worth it? Will I notice the extra 100 mhz or the extra 64 MB SDRAM? I have no problem asking for the bells and whistles if I will notice a decided difference, or if it makes the computer more usable in 5 years. But if I really won’t notice, I feel guilty about accepting such a big gift, I really don’t want to ask for a big gift I won’t use.