Buying Tips - Mac Desktop & Notebook

Ben Greiner -

Updated 05/24/2010 to reflect Apple's latest products. However, where noted, benchmark scores are not up-to-date.

 

General Buying Tips

The workstations listed below are good starting points for discussion and for budgeting purposes. We have a comprehensive worksheet, detailing specific questions to ask before purchasing a new workstation. Pricing comes from Apple Enterprise (better than retail). Keep in mind these are minimum recommendations — users who need more initial power or plan to keep their computers more than three years should consider upgrades beyond what we've presented. Contact us for details and to confirm our recommendations are right for you.

 

Desktops deliver the most power for the money. Compare the Benchmark scores to better understand the difference. Choose notebooks only if you need the portability. Depending on what type of display you will be connecting, a $26 Mini Display to DVI adapter may be required. All Macs can power at least two displays.

 

Think a new computer costs too much? Estimate how many hours per year you use it, calculate your cost per day over 3-4 years, then decide if the value it provides is worth the price it costs to perform your job. For example, a Designer Desktop if purchased for $2,808 and used (conservatively) 4 hours per day, 40 weeks per year for 3 years is only $1.17 per day.

 

All the machines listed below are EPEAT Gold rated and are priced with the following three items:

  1. AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi card with 802.11n
  2. Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  3. AppleCare Protection Plan (3-year warranty)

 

Table Summary

Role

 

Display

Video RAM

Processor Speed

Benchmark

RAM

Max RAM

Hard Drive

HD Speed

Price

Non-Designer

Desktop Alternate

256 MB

2.53 GHz

2 Cores

3,563

4 GB

4 GB

320 GB

5400

$854

 

Notebook

13”

256 MB

2.4 GHz

2 Cores

3,245*

4 GB

4 GB

250 GB

5400

$1,210

 

Desktop

21.5”

256 MB

3.06 GHz

2 Cores

4,297

4 GB

8 GB

2,000 GB

7200

$1,422

Designer

Notebook

15”

512 MB

2.66 GHz

2Cores†

3,764*

4 GB

8 GB

500 GB

7200

$2,393

Video

Notebook

17”

512 MB

2.66 GHz

2Cores†

3,764*

4 GB

8 GB

500 GB

7200

$2,573

Designer

Desktop Alternate

27”

512 MB

2.8 GHz

4Cores†

8,325

8 GB

16 GB

1,000 GB

7200

$2,342

 

Desktop

512 MB

2x 2.26 GHz

8 Cores

11,803

8 GB

32 GB

640 GB

7200

$3,303

Video

Desktop

512 MB

2x 2.66 GHz

8 Cores

14,458

8 GB

32 GB

2x 1,000 GB

7200

$5,733

 

* Benchmark score is not up-to-date as of 05/24/10. 

†The i7 processor has the ability to virtualize its cores, doubling the number of processing threads.


Non-Designer 

Non-Designer computers are great for just about anyone who doesn’t need to work with the Adobe Creative Suite on a daily basis.

 

Notebook

13-inch Glossy MacBook - $1,210.00

Benchmark = 3,245*

  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x2GB (4GB Max)
  • 250GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
  • Superdrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9400M
  • Built-in 7 hour battery

 

Desktop

21.5-inch Glossy iMac - $1,928.00

Benchmark = 4,297

  • 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 8GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 4x2GB (8GB Max)
  • 2TB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm (get the largest hard drive available because it’s very difficult to replace the hard drive in an iMac)
  • Apple Magic Mouse
  • Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (English) + User's Guide
  • SD card slot
  • 8x double-layer SuperDrive
  • 21.5-inch glossy widescreen

 

Desktop Alternative

Mac mini (No keyboard, mouse or display) - $854

Benchmark = 3,563

The mini is basically a notebook without a display, keyboard or mouse. If you already have these items then a mini might make sense for you. In addition, the mini is easier to repair than an iMac. 

  • 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x2GB (Max)
  • 320GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
  • SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)

 

Design Professional

If you rely on the Adobe Creative Suite to perform your job, and often work with large images and many fonts, then you need a more powerful workstation than your non-designer coworkers. 

 

Notebook

15-inch Glossy MacBook Pro - $2,303.00 ($45 additional for Antiglare Display)

Benchmark = 3,764*

  • 2.66GHz Intel i7
  • 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x2GB (8GB Max)
  • 500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm
  • MacBook Pro 15-inch Glossy Widescreen Display
  • SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
  • Backlit Keyboard (English) / User's Guide
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9400M + 9600M GT with 512MB
  • SD card slot
  • Built-in 7 hour battery

 

Desktop

Mac Pro - $3,258.00 (No Display)

Benchmark = 11,803

  • Two 2.26GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
  • 8GB (4X2GB) (32GB Max)
  • 640GB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512MB GDDR3
  • One 18x SuperDrive
  • Apple Mighty Mouse
  • Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (English) + User's Guide

 

Desktop Alternative

27-inch Glossy iMac Alternative - $2,342.00

Benchmark = 8,325

The iMac is a tempting, low-cost alternative for designers, especially if you need a display. However, we still like the Mac Pro because it's much easier to replace parts than the iMac, and the Mac Pro can grow to double the amount of RAM than the iMac. Overall, the Mac Pro will run faster and last longer because of this flexibility.

  • 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7
  • 8GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 4x2GB (16GB Max)
  • 1TB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm
  • ATI Radeon HD 4850 with 512MB GDDR3
  • Apple Magic Mouse
  • Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (English) + User's Guide
  • 8x double-layer SuperDrive
  • 24-inch glossy widescreen

 

Video Professional

Video (and audio) experts need even more power and storage than Designers. Try to skimp here and you’ll spend a lot of time looking at progress bars.

 

Notebook

17-inch Glossy MacBook Pro $2,573.00 ($45 for Antiglare Display)

Benchmark = 3,764*

  • 2.66GHz Intel i7
  • 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x2GB (8GB Max)
  • 500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm
  • SuperDrive 8X (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW
  • MacBook Pro 17-inch Hi-Resolution Glossy Widescreen Display
  • Backlit Keyboard (English) / User's Guide
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9400M + 9600M GT with 512MB
  • Illuminated keyboard
  • Built-in 8-hour battery

 

Desktop 

Mac Pro - $5,058.00 (No Display)

Benchmark = 14,458

  • Two 2.66GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
  • 8GB (4X2GB) (32GB Max)
  • Mac Pro RAID Card (RAID 0 for Speed, 2TB storage)
  • 2x 1TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s
  • ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB GDDR5
  • One 18x SuperDrive
  • Apple Mighty Mouse
  • Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (English) + User's Guide
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