So, my flat-screen/round-base iMac (the first flat-screen iMac, ordered within hours of being announced) died last year. And my iBook (the last update before they switched to intel processors – which I received barely in time for NaNoWriMo 2004) is growing weary under the weight of being my full-time work computer. It crashed a couple of times during NaNoWriMo 2008, literally going completely to off without warning, and has been slowing down & giving trouble more and more lately. I need to take the strain off it – perhaps if I put it back to light use, primarily for word processing and web browsing, it will survive?
So last November, I started shopping for a new Mac. The decision between a Macbook Pro and an iMac has been (still is, to an extent) a difficult one. On one hand, the Macbook Pro costs more while giving less (less screen being the biggest point against it, but less processing power, less HDD, less powerful graphics are all factors, too), but on the other hand, a laptop is portable & is what I’m currently used to for my primary computer. Portability is important to me, and if my iBook actually does die, the only portable I’ll have is my several-years-old Walmart-black-friday-sale HP laptop which has pretty much been relegated to staying plugged into the TV full time so we can watch Hulu & Netflix on TV – this has been its only task for so long that I recently cleaned off so much dust from its screen that it had literally been opaque and unusable with dust. Anyway… I’d get another lower-end laptop, like I have in the past, and probably be served well by it, but Apple didn’t put a single firewire port on the current generation of Macbooks.
I need firewire. The audio and video equipment I bought last year for my business all connects via firewire. I have at least two external HDD enclosures that connect via firewire. (Although apparently I have one that can do both FW & USB.) So the decision, last Fall when I started shopping, was between the Macbook Pro and the iMac. Preferably the 24″ iMac – more screen real estate seems very, very welcome after my primary computer for the last 4+ years being a 12″ iBook with a fixed resolution of 1024×768. The Macbook Pro was looking to be over $2k by itself (all prices excluding tax & including education discounts) well-configured. I could configure an “okay” 20″ iMac for under $1.5k and really wanted the 24″ iMac which brought the price up between $1.8k & $2k. A lot of money. An opportunity cost. But the iMac line hadn’t been updated in a long time, so – because that’s how Apple does it – the value of the iMac line was going down all the time. I knew Apple would update the line with new hardware, keep the prices the same, and the old models’ prices would drop… soon. So I decided to wait until either: Apple updated the iMac line & I either couldn’t resist the exciting new updates or the old models became more affordable, or my iBook died & I literally had to get a new Mac ASAP just to keep working.
Apple updated the iMac line 9 days ago. I spent a full day studying the new models & reading forums to try to get a handle on the differences between the old models & the new models, thinking about pricing & money & configurations & how differences would effect the work I do and would like to do. (ie: I do a lot of audio work, but haven’t been doing video because my computer nearly buckled under the strain of it – I would like to be doing a lot more video) I considered rumors going around. Before the new hardware was announced, there was speculation that Apple would announce new hardware on March 24th. Since which time, new iMacs, new Mac Pros, new Mac Minis, new iPod Shuffles, and updated Airport & Time Capsules have come out, and Apple has officially stated that on the 17th they’ll be showing a preview of the iPhone 3.0 software. Maybe there’s still going to be an announcement on the 24th – speculation points to a software announcement (my research & brain says probably Final Cut Studio 3 will finally be announced/released on the 24th, if anything – which is why I didn’t add Final Cut Studio 2 to my cart last night), but there’s no way to know except to wait. There’s the possibility that it will be something to do with Snow Leopard, their next OS upgrade, but that’s not expected to ship until summer.
My determination on the new hardware was, mostly: if I can get a good deal on previous-generation hardware, I’ll still be satisfied. The new hardware is better in a few small ways, but none of them are knock-your-socks-off ways. If I ordered a new iMac, I could configure it with a 1Tb drive, for example, or put an optional ATI Radeon HD 4850 512MB into it for another couple hundred bucks. Apparently the mid-line card (ie: the one I could actually afford) is simply the old top-of-the line card with a new name – I haven’t been paying attention, lately, but it seems nVidia is trying to confuse people my intentionally re-branding their video cards in confusing ways and re-releasing them. Regardless, I’ve been watching for a refurbished previous-generation iMac in a configuration I’d be satisfied with for the last week or so, while watching for new announcements/rumors. Apple changes the options in their refurbished computers listed online as their stock changes (it literally changed while I was posting this, from the 4 iMac configurations listed last night to 7 different configurations right now – there’s a pretty reasonable 20″ model for about half what I paid on there, right now…), so it’s good to have a level head, know what you want and what you’re willing to pay, and keep yourself updated.
Last night they had a configuration I wanted at a price only a teeny bit higher than I would have liked (but certainly in range of what I’ve been considering), and I applied for their 12-months-same-as-cash offer … and was approved. Which is weird, if only because I reported my income at the new, lower, effectively-single-income level & they ran a credit report on me… Still, I was approved & could either order immediately or hope the card arrives within the 30 days I had to make the order & still get the same-as-cash offer. So I ordered the following:
Refurbished iMac 24-inch 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
24-inch glossy widescreen display
500GB hard drive
8x SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GS with 512MB memory
Built-in iSight Camera
The processor is slightly faster than the current top-of-the-line iMac, I’m about to go shopping for 4GB of RAM for it (if I can’t find it for under $50-$60, I’ll just wait and use the 2GB it ships with until the price drops), 500GB should be enough room for a while, especially if I can get the HDD out of my dead iMac and into an enclosure, and that graphics card is the old top-of-the-line; it’s the one I would have wanted in a new iMac. I tossed a Mac Box Set Family Pack (Leopard, iLife ’09, & iWork ’09 for up to 5 Macs – the new one will have Leopard, but not the ’09 packages, and the other 2 Macs in the house don’t even have Leopard yet) into my cart & some new headphones for my iPhone (I broke mine a year ago, yesterday), so they’d be 12-months same-as-cash, too, and according to apple.com, the whole thing is already “prepared for shipment”. In a few days I’ll have a new work-horse in the house. A tax-deductable one, since I literally only expect to use it for work, right now. It’s very exciting.
And, yes, I know I just wrote around 1300 words that could have been summed up in a sentence or two. Something like: “My old iMac died last Fall and I decided to wait for the iMac line to be refreshed, which they did about a week ago, before making my decision. Last night I ordered a refurbished previous-generation iMac which is comparable to the new top-of-the-line, but $500 cheaper, at $1599.”