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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Notebooks > My next purchase: what to do, stay completely mobile?

My next purchase: what to do, stay completely mobile?
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OreoCookie
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Feb 13, 2010, 05:18 AM
 
I'm looking into replacing my main machine these days: just before Xmas, the backlight of my first-gen ProBook died. I've gotten a replacement, my boss' second-gen ProBook. Unfortunately this has a defective VRAM module and after some hours of use, I get distortions on my screen, ugh. Hence I'm looking into getting a new machine once the new ProBooks with Core i5s are released.

A little bit of background: For almost 12 years now, I'm using notebooks, my first notebook was my first Mac. With the exception of Aperture, I don't use apps that require a lot of cpu horsepower. However, my current machine runs out of RAM regularly, so I'd like to have at least 4, better 8 GB when I upgrade. I need a mobile Mac for sure.

Essentially, I have two options in mind:

Option 1: Get an iMac, keep my ProBook as a work machine and eventually replace it with a (used) MacBook/MacBook Air or so. I'd like to go for the quad-core model to get a substantially faster machine. I'd keep work projects up to date by syncing everything via Dropbox.

Advantages: I can upgrade the RAM easily to 8 GB or more. The iMac's screen is beautiful and I very much like the design. The main machine would be a lot faster.

Disadvantages: I'd have at least two machines. They take up more space and this solution is also more expensive. I've gotten used to having a notebook, e. g. typing messages and texts in the subway on my way to work or reading mails. I can no longer watch movies on my bed (I know I'm lazy).

Option 2: Get a 13" ProBook and max it out. This would allow me to essentially stick to the way I work now. I'd also get a high-quality TFT at one point for my desk at home (I already have one at work).

Advantages: I'm more mobile and everything is concentrated in one machine.

Disadvantages: The ProBook is slower than the iMac and harder and more expensive to upgrade. The iMac's RAM ceiling is twice that of the ProBook's. The ProBook's screen is not perfect to edit pictures.


Do you have any advice or personal experience in this area? What would you do?
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tonton
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Feb 13, 2010, 05:55 AM
 
My suggestion is not to make up names for existing products.

It's MacBook Pro, not ProBook.

It's iPod Touch, not iTouch.

It was a Titanium PowerBook G4, not a TiBook.

Other than that, is there no way to fix your 2nd Gen MacBook Pro under warranty? No Apple Care?

If not, get the new MacBook Pro when it comes out. Don't go for the iMac/MacBook Pro combination, as the disadvantage of juggling 2 machines is a HUGE disadvantage. Upgrading the MacBook Pro's hard drive and RAM is child's play. Get 4GB now, which is fine, even for Aperture, and upgrade to 8GB when prices go down for the 4GB sticks. Get a 7200RPM hard drive. The current generation MacBook Pro is awesome. You'll almost never NEVER want it at full brightness, it's just too bright. Color accuracy is fantastic, as well. If you still think the screen is too small in terms of pixel count, consider the 15".
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Feb 13, 2010, 07:25 AM
 
I concur with the second part of the previous post.

Surely it's possible to replace the ProBook's backlight? Not fun, but possible. Of course, if you have an authorized technician do it, they'll have to replace the whole panel assembly (unless it's not the backlight, but the inverter board), since Apple doesn't offer individual parts thereof, but there's services that will replace just the backlight for a fraction of the €750 or so a display assembly replacement would cost?
     
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Feb 13, 2010, 07:41 AM
 
I’d run with option two, keep things mobile. You don’t need a desktop.
     
moep
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Feb 13, 2010, 08:58 AM
 
I would suggest you get a 15" or preferably 17" i5/i7 Macbook Pro when released, max out the RAM and put a 200GB+ SSD in it. 13" is way too small for my taste, even when you are using it purely as a DTR with an external screen attached 100% of the time.

A laptop with fast SSD (OCZ Vertex or better, NOT BTO) will run circles around any iMac with a 7200 rpm HDD. "Fast enough?" won’t be an issue with that machine unless you are doing serious 1080p video editing or similar.

If you care about speed and productivity there’s no way around a SSD in my eyes.
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tonton
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Feb 13, 2010, 09:12 AM
 
Moep, exactly how much would a 200GB+ SSD cost, then? I'll tell you. At least $600. And by "max out the RAM", I assume you mean get 2 4GB sticks? That's another $450. And you're suggesting the 17" MBP. Do you think the OP is considering spending $4000 as an option?
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moep
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Feb 13, 2010, 09:25 AM
 
Originally Posted by tonton View Post
Do you think the OP is considering spending $4000 as an option?
He asked for advice and personal experiences without mentioning a price range.
I bought the machine mentioned above early last year and absolutely couldn’t be happier with it. The 17" display also eliminates the need for an external display at each of the locations.
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OreoCookie  (op)
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Feb 13, 2010, 09:36 AM
 
First of all, thanks a lot for all the input so far.
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
Surely it's possible to replace the ProBook's backlight? Not fun, but possible. Of course, if you have an authorized technician do it, they'll have to replace the whole panel assembly (unless it's not the backlight, but the inverter board), since Apple doesn't offer individual parts thereof, but there's services that will replace just the backlight for a fraction of the €750 or so a display assembly replacement would cost?
Well, the idea was that I get my boss' machine (which is newer than mine) and he buys a new iMac. The repair was supposed to cost €500, the new machine cost 2.5x as much. It was deemed more prudent to buy a new machine. I'll try to get it fixed (I had to wait until the semester ended), but I cannot

What I didn't know was that the newer machine had the VRAM defect. If it didn't, I would have waited out quad core mobile Macs for sure. But now with the release of Aperture 3, I would like a machine that can handle at the very least 4 GB RAM.
Originally Posted by moep View Post
I would suggest you get a 15" or preferably 17" i5/i7 Macbook Pro when released, max out the RAM and put a 200GB+ SSD in it. 13" is way too small for my taste, even when you are using it purely as a DTR with an external screen attached 100% of the time.
I love the weight of the 13" model. I'm traveling at least 6 weeks a year or more (last year, I have spent ~3 months away from home). Portability is really important to me. On my desk, I have a 24" inch high-quality lcd. I'm planning to get one at home as well. I have had a 15" PowerBook and then 15" MacBook Pros, but I still lust for a machine that weighed as much as my iBook -- which felt a lot more portable.

You're right that I should have mentioned something about my budget. I don't want to spend more than 2~2.2k € on my new machine.
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Cold Warrior
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Feb 13, 2010, 09:38 AM
 
I think the unibody MBP is incredibly easy to open up and upgrade. If you haven't taken a look at the iFixIt upgrade guides, I'd recommend a quick look.

I like moep's suggestion except with this tweak if money is a concern:
- Use an affordable SSD, maybe 64/128 GB, and replace the DVD drive with a 500+ GB high-performance HDD.

We're making the (albeit safe) assumption that the ram ceiling is 8 GB for the next 13" MBP, but maybe it'll go higher.
     
OreoCookie  (op)
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Feb 13, 2010, 09:39 AM
 
Originally Posted by moep View Post
He asked for advice and personal experiences without mentioning a price range.
I bought the machine mentioned above early last year and absolutely couldn’t be happier with it. The 17" display also eliminates the need for an external display at each of the locations.
Personally, the 15" model is pushing it in terms of portability, the 17" is a big no-no. It won't fit my backpack and it's again heavier than the 15". I'm drawn towards the 13" model not because I cannot afford anything bigger (and I'd save up for the 17" ProBook if I was convinced I wanted one), but because I like the size of it.
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OreoCookie  (op)
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Feb 13, 2010, 09:46 AM
 
Originally Posted by Cold Warrior View Post
I think the unibody MBP is incredibly easy to open up and upgrade. If you haven't taken a look at the iFixIt upgrade guides, I'd recommend a quick look.
It's a second-generation MacBook Pro, not a unibody Macbook Pro. Upgrading the harddrive was a tad tedious.
Originally Posted by Cold Warrior View Post
I like moep's suggestion except with this tweak if money is a concern:
- Use an affordable SSD, maybe 64/128 GB, and replace the DVD drive with a 500+ GB high-performance HDD.
I've purchased a 640 GB drive already, because I outgrew a 250 GB drive. I don't mind losing the DVD drive, though.
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tonton
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Feb 13, 2010, 09:52 AM
 
I chose the 13" over the 15" because of the size factor as well. I couldn't be happier. The 15" really would have been too large for me. As it is, the 13" is perfect for sliding into my small shoulder bag (I don't do backpacks or briefcases) and I don't really feel the weight difference from my bag's usual contents. The 15" would require that I get a bigger bag, and I think I might start to feel the weight a bit. And it wouldn't fit on my lap in the bed or on the sofa or on a coffee shop table nearly as well.

And yes, the unibody MBP is VERY easy to open up and upgrade, as I said before. Cold Warrior's suggestion to get a small SSD and replace the Superdrive with a HD for general storage is a good one, but I really like having an optical drive for ripping CDs and DVDs and installing software.
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Feb 13, 2010, 10:20 AM
 
Stick with a MBP. A new model is just around the corner.

There are tasks you'd better do on a desktop, but it doesn't sound like what you do wouldn't be just as nice on a MBP. I also find it a huge advantage to not have to split up stuff between multiple computers and worry about syncing etc. It's extremely convenient to always have all your stuff with you. And obviously the best computer is the one you have around all the time.

You can always get a large external screen and KB/mouse for when you use the MBP at your desk. And if you're worried about screen quality, by now you can already buy the same panel as in the 27" iMac for less from other manufacturers. Dell just launched theirs, but IIRC it's got a CCFL backlight rather than LED.
     
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Feb 13, 2010, 10:27 AM
 
Originally Posted by Cold Warrior View Post
I like moep's suggestion except with this tweak if money is a concern:
- Use an affordable SSD, maybe 64/128 GB, and replace the DVD drive with a 500+ GB high-performance HDD.
Excellent suggestion.

The SSD will make for excellent perceived overall performance. And I'm not sure about you, but I find the DVD drive about the most superfluous component of my 15" MBP. So if you want you can get both the fast SSD for the OS and apps and still use a large capacity HDD for extra storage.

And if you get a new unibody MBP don't worry about upgrades. Never has it been easier to upgrade a portable Mac before. The unibodies are great for tinkering.
     
OreoCookie  (op)
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Feb 13, 2010, 12:07 PM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
There are tasks you'd better do on a desktop, but it doesn't sound like what you do wouldn't be just as nice on a MBP. I also find it a huge advantage to not have to split up stuff between multiple computers and worry about syncing etc. It's extremely convenient to always have all your stuff with you. And obviously the best computer is the one you have around all the time.
I agree, that's why I've had laptops up until now. However, the bigger iMacs have four cores instead of two … that's really tempting me.
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
The SSD will make for excellent perceived overall performance. And I'm not sure about you, but I find the DVD drive about the most superfluous component of my 15" MBP. So if you want you can get both the fast SSD for the OS and apps and still use a large capacity HDD for extra storage.
I don't mind the tinkering, but I'm sure I'd void the warranty if I replaced the built-in DVD drive with a harddrive. (I had the courage to swap my iBook's harddrive twice, ugh, that was a difficult operation.) That'd be a no-no, I'd like to have AppleCare for the time being.

I wonder what kind of video card options the new models have. Has anyone heard any rumors?
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Feb 13, 2010, 01:19 PM
 
Originally Posted by tonton View Post
My suggestion is not to make up names for existing products.

It's MacBook Pro, not ProBook.

It's iPod Touch, not iTouch.

It was a Titanium PowerBook G4, not a TiBook.
Are you a card carrying Apple Nazi ?

-t
     
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Feb 13, 2010, 03:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
I wonder what kind of video card options the new models have. Has anyone heard any rumors?
Some are saying that it'll be Nvidia's newest card (I can't remember the name, anyone?). Personally I think it'll just be a small evolution of the current card, if anything at all.

I have the current 15" MacBook Pro and it's a pain in the butt if you ask me for traveling and school. I don't mind the physical size, but it's pretty heavy to carry around all day with a load of books or luggage. I think a 13" MBP with a bunch of options is a good fit for you if you travel that much.

The only caveat that I have is that Aperture 3 seems to have fairly sluggish performance even on my MBP with a 7,200 RPM drive. If you use Aperture quite a bit, I might look at getting an iMac instead and holding off on replacing your portable.
     
turtle777
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Feb 13, 2010, 04:28 PM
 
Nobody suggested the iPad yet ?

-t
     
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Feb 13, 2010, 05:08 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
Nobody suggested the iPad yet ?

-t
I will.

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seanc
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Feb 13, 2010, 06:09 PM
 
I'm assuming your second MacBook Pro doesn't have an 8600m GT in it - because if it does, replacement is an Apple/nVidia recall job.

If you've not got the money to upgrade for a while, I'd take the screen assembly (by which I mean the entire lid with screen in it) off of the second MacBook Pro and shove it on the first; assuming the issue with the first MacBook Pro's backlight isn't a logic board issue.

In terms of new hardware, I'm out of touch; I also have a strong dislike for the new trackpad and lack of separate button.
     
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Feb 13, 2010, 06:22 PM
 
Keeping two systems in sync is pretty easy with modern software (IMAP, Xmarks, Dropbox, etc). But if you don't need the desktop, stick to one powerful laptop.

Originally Posted by Cold Warrior View Post
We're making the (albeit safe) assumption that the ram ceiling is 8 GB for the next 13" MBP, but maybe it'll go higher.
How would they go higher? Intel is pretty clear:
1-Gb, and 2-Gb DDR3 DRAM technologies are supported for x8 and x16 devices
Using 2-Gb device technologies, the largest memory capacity possible is 8 GB, assuming dual-channel mode with two x8, double-sided, un-buffered, non-ECC, SO-DIMM memory configuration
     
OreoCookie  (op)
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Feb 13, 2010, 06:24 PM
 
@seanc
No, unfortunately, it isn't, it has an ATI Radeon X1600.

@turtle
I would consider an iPad if there were a text editor for it. Seriously
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imitchellg5
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Feb 13, 2010, 08:47 PM
 
Isn't that Pages?
     
seanc
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Feb 13, 2010, 08:56 PM
 
No, I'm pretty sure he means something like TextEdit or BBEdit.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Feb 13, 2010, 09:23 PM
 
I'm pretty sure he means something like LaTeX.
     
seanc
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Feb 13, 2010, 09:34 PM
 
Quite possibly - I've never used LaTeX.
     
Simon
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Feb 14, 2010, 02:36 AM
 
He's definitely thinking about LaTeX. There's nothing better for scientific writing.

( Last edited by Simon; Feb 14, 2010 at 02:47 AM. )
     
Simon
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Feb 14, 2010, 02:40 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
I agree, that's why I've had laptops up until now. However, the bigger iMacs have four cores instead of two … that's really tempting me.
Understandably. You simply have to ask yourself how often that will be of greater advantage than having four logical (two physical) cores with you at all times. There's no doubt the iMac will offer a CPU advantage over the MBP. The question though is if you wouldn't be better off with less that's always available compared to more that's only available at certain times.

I don't mind the tinkering, but I'm sure I'd void the warranty if I replaced the built-in DVD drive with a harddrive. (I had the courage to swap my iBook's harddrive twice, ugh, that was a difficult operation.) That'd be a no-no, I'd like to have AppleCare for the time being.
This should be a reversible change. IOW if you ever need to send it in, just remove the SSD carrier with the SSD from the optical drive bay, re-install the optical drive, and done. As long as you don't break anything you should be fine.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Feb 14, 2010, 04:27 AM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
He's definitely thinking about LaTeX. There's nothing better for scientific writing.

IIRC, he mentioned two other options over in that other thread.
     
Simon
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Feb 14, 2010, 07:40 AM
 
Umm, options for editors. But the underlying typesetting system is always TeX and its cousins (LaTeX, PDFLateX, XeTeX, etc.).

IIRC his preferred editor is TextMate and for setting he uses XeTeX. I usually use TeXShop and typeset with PDFLateX.
( Last edited by Simon; Feb 14, 2010 at 07:49 AM. )
     
amazing
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Feb 14, 2010, 12:30 PM
 
Get yourself the minimum hardware necessary for when you're commuting and put the bulk of the budget towards more horsepower on the desk with your present display.

For example, you wanna think about a Dell mini 10v hackintosh ($240 over here) for the commute, or an iPad. Just remember that the iPad is going to be a mugging magnet while commuting...just saw an article on how UK burglaries are down because home consumer gadgets can't be flogged for anything worthwhile nowadays (they're so cheap, even burglars can't make a living that way...) So, the burglars are turning to mugging.

Depressing thought, that...
     
turtle777
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Feb 14, 2010, 01:52 PM
 
Originally Posted by amazing View Post
just saw an article on how UK burglaries are down because home consumer gadgets can't be flogged for anything worthwhile nowadays (they're so cheap, even burglars can't make a living that way...) So, the burglars are turning to mugging.
This doesn't make any logical sense whatsoever.

At least not in the context of the iPad being a mugging magnet.
Or do you suggest that a $ 500 iPad is the most valuable thing people would own ?

-t
     
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Feb 14, 2010, 05:20 PM
 
Perhaps, if you're talking about something conspicuous that you own that would be with you while traveling, the iPad is expensive gear since most people probably don't carry $500 around with them at all times. No more of a mugging enticement than a laptop, but probably more than a iPod or iPhone.

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Feb 15, 2010, 12:41 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
...I still lust for a machine that weighed as much as my iBook...
The 14" iBook at 5.9 pounds actually weighs more than the 5.5 pound 15" MBP. Even the 12" iBook is only 0.6 pounds less than a 15" MBP. The 13" MBP saves a pound but (for me) the extra screen real estate, pixel count, horsepower and available matte display make the 15" size much more desirable.

And IMO the laptop/iMac combo is not a good solution.

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OreoCookie  (op)
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Feb 15, 2010, 02:10 AM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
Understandably. You simply have to ask yourself how often that will be of greater advantage than having four logical (two physical) cores with you at all times. There's no doubt the iMac will offer a CPU advantage over the MBP. The question though is if you wouldn't be better off with less that's always available compared to more that's only available at certain times.
That's exactly the question I'm trying to answer. In a perfect world, I'd get an iMac and an AirBook …
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
This should be a reversible change. IOW if you ever need to send it in, just remove the SSD carrier with the SSD from the optical drive bay, re-install the optical drive, and done. As long as you don't break anything you should be fine.
I didn't know the optical drive is that easy to replace, cool!
Originally Posted by seanc View Post
No, I'm pretty sure he means something like TextEdit or BBEdit.
I need a text editor to write my tex files and latex to compile the code. Although TextEdit wouldn't cut it. As Simon pointed out, my poison is TextMate + xelatex
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OreoCookie  (op)
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Feb 15, 2010, 04:05 AM
 
Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
The 14" iBook at 5.9 pounds actually weighs more than the 5.5 pound 15" MBP. Even the 12" iBook is only 0.6 pounds less than a 15" MBP. The 13" MBP saves a pound but (for me) the extra screen real estate, pixel count, horsepower and available matte display make the 15" size much more desirable.
I've owned three 12" iBooks, one 14" iBook (it was a replacement for a lost 12" iBook), had a 12" PowerBook at work, a 15" PowerBook and I'm now on my second MacBook Pro. I know the difference in weight and size doesn't sound like much, but from personal experience, I know from first-hand experience that it is significant to me.
Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
And IMO the laptop/iMac combo is not a good solution.
… ok. So far the large majority of people has advised me with a single-computer fully mobile setup.
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OreoCookie  (op)
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Feb 15, 2010, 04:06 AM
 
Originally Posted by Big Mac View Post
Perhaps, if you're talking about something conspicuous that you own that would be with you while traveling, the iPad is expensive gear since most people probably don't carry $500 around with them at all times. No more of a mugging enticement than a laptop, but probably more than a iPod or iPhone.
I don't see either why I should be particularly careful with a $500 iPad compared to a $3000 laptop.
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Feb 15, 2010, 04:29 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
That's exactly the question I'm trying to answer. In a perfect world, I'd get an iMac and an AirBook …
Exactly the same here. But that solution is a) more expensive and b) requires me to worry and/or pay for syncing. Bottom line, I'll take the second best thing. Enter the MBP plus screen/KB/mouse.

I didn't know the optical drive is that easy to replace, cool!
Well there are such kits available. You can of course also go the duct tape + short adapter cable route, but if you're worried about warranty etc. (which I'd be too) you can get one of these cariers that should make this a simple and entirely reversible swap.


MaxUpgrades.com: MaxConnect Optical Bay kit for MacBooks & MacBook Pros Unibody Models


MCE OptiBay Hard Drive for MacBook Pro, MacBook, PowerBook G4, and Mac mini
     
OreoCookie  (op)
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Feb 15, 2010, 12:29 PM
 
Thanks a lot. I feel ready to order now. Well, almost.
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Feb 15, 2010, 12:51 PM
 
Originally Posted by SierraDragon View Post
The 14" iBook at 5.9 pounds actually weighs more than the 5.5 pound 15" MBP. Even the 12" iBook is only 0.6 pounds less than a 15" MBP. The 13" MBP saves a pound but (for me) the extra screen real estate, pixel count, horsepower and available matte display make the 15" size much more desirable.
Having owned both a 12" PowerBook and a 15" PowerBook, and now on a 13" MacBook - the latter is the ideal combination of screen space and portability.

The difference between the 15" and the 13" amounts to taking a good, hard look at the machine every morning and deciding whether it would be needed, and having it along anyway.

This has been pretty much completely usurped by the iPhone, though - to the point where I'm seriously thinking about a Mac mini for the desk, and an iPad for the road. That may have to wait for a while, though.
     
   
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