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Summary:

The 13″ aluminum MacBook is an “almost” machine. It appeals to me in many aspects, being a roughly three-quarter-sized unibody MacBook Pro at a substantially lower price. But it falls just short of the slam-dunk it might have been. For me, probably the biggest negative is […]

The 13″ aluminum MacBook is an “almost” machine. It appeals to me in many aspects, being a roughly three-quarter-sized unibody MacBook Pro at a substantially lower price. But it falls just short of the slam-dunk it might have been.

For me, probably the biggest negative is the lack of a FireWire port. I think I could live quite happily with the glossy display that some object to, and while I’ve gotten comfortably used to the 1440 x 900 screen resolution in my PowerBook G4’s 17″ display (I knew that would spoil me), I don’t think downsizing to a 13.3″, 1280 x 800 screen would be a deal breaker for me. I’m still working fairly happily on the 1024 x 768 screens in my two old Pismo PowerBooks.

Consequently, I spent a lot of the day on Friday ruminating over whether or not to take advantage of Apple’s one-day $101 price cut on the aluminum MacBook at the expense of other things I should have been doing. In the “just do it” column were the arguments that Apple rarely has sales of any sort, and while a hundred bucks off wasn’t especially exciting, it would at least pay most of the sales tax, and with the Canadian dollar having dropped by more than 25 percent in relation to the U.S. greenback over the past year, I’m skeptical that Apple Canada will hold its current price points for much longer. It’s also the time of year that one starts thinking about income tax expense deductions.

However, on the downside, I have a provisional policy of not buying Revision A computer hardware, there’s the FireWire issue, the smaller screen issue, and that $101 really isn’t much of a discount off the C$1399 sticker price. It was almost enough to persuade me, but not quite. I’m looking to upgrade to a MacIntel machine, but I’m not desperate yet for a new computer. My old 1.33 GHz G4 machine is still anvil-dependable, very pleasant to use, and an astonishingly capable performer for its age, although it is struggling a bit to keep up with what I’m demanding of it lately.

There’s also the matter of Apple Certified Refurbished early 2008 2.4 GHz MacBook Pros selling for just C$150 dollars more than the Black Friday discounted unibody MacBook, and it’s equipped with both FireWire 400 and 800 ports, an ExpressCard 34 slot, a 2.1-inch larger LED backlit display with 1440 x 900 resolution (same res. as my current 17″ PowerBook), a more than 20 percent faster processor, a real discrete graphics processor with dedicated video RAM, and a backlit keyboard, all for C$650 less than the equivalent new model cost less than two months ago.

Another alternative I priced out was an old-school MacBook. Apple’s Black Friday discount on it was a paltry $51, and that didn’t seem like much of a deal at all compared with the unibody pricing out to $200 more, since the base model comes with just 1GB of RAM as opposed to 2GB, a 120GB hard drive instead of a 160GB unit, old-fashioned CCFL screen backlighting, and of course the white plastic enclosure instead of aluminum carved from a solid block of metal.

I could also get a Certified Refurbished early 2008 2.4 GHz Penryn MacBook with a a FireWire port, 2GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive for C$1054. The biggest drawback with the older model is its Intel GMA x3100 integrated graphics, rather than the unibody machine’s claimed 5x faster Nvidia 9400M graphics chipset, but I’m not a serious gamer and don’t do high-end graphics or video work, so that’s probably not a deal-breaker issue for me. What I really want is a unibody MacBook Pro, but it will probably be at least eight months to a year before refurbished examples of that currently future model become available, so a 2.4 GHz white MacBook might make a sensible tide-me-over machine for a year or two. Of course, that’s what the refurbished 17-incher was supposed to be when I bought it nearly three years ago!

So, in hindsight, what would you have done? Is a $100-off sale enough for you to jump the gun and buy an Apple notebook?

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  1. The answer is “no”.

    Apple’s “sales” are really not enough to raise more than a yawn out of me. But that’s just me.

  2. When I bought my iBook 4 years ago I didn’t give two **** if it was on sale or if I had to pay more. I must admit, I was 11 and probably kinda ignorant, but even at such a young age I could tell that the machine was going to be an amazing computer and 100% worth the money. Of course it’s given the ghost after 1460 days of consistent use, going to almost 10 different countries, and following to school with me every day. Now I’m typing this on a brand new unibody MacBook 2.4Ghz – original price :D

  3. I just bought a 2.4 Ghz MacBook. I had been mulling it over and didn’t wind up ordering it on Black Friday, but my student discount is only one dollar less than the Black Friday discount (which didn’t stack with my student discount).

    1. The sale today was an insult to educators!! Plain and simple..if you would’ve known better the education discount was actually better yesterday….

  4. $100 was simply not enough of a discount. I would have bought one if it were discounted $200. Apple would have made more money that way as well. It’s the same reason iPhone app developers are making more money selling their apps for $.99 over the ones that are selling their apps for $1.99.

  5. @ overprocessed:

    If by “make more money” you mean lose money on a sale due to the overhead costs than you’re right. But in this case, you’re wrong.

  6. It was enough for me. I’m enjoying my new macbook. BTW went from a 17 MBP and found I’m loving the portability of a 13 and carrying it everywhere.

  7. I just don’t get when people complain about how “expensive” Macs/Apple Products are… it’s like people complaining that Lamborghinis are too expensive. You’re paying for a high quality product….

  8. Derek K. Miller Tuesday, December 2, 2008

    The lack of FireWire on the new MacBooks dismays me, and my first-gen 2006 black Core Duo MacBook is still chugging along fine. I will place another vote for avoiding the first rev of a new Apple design: my 2006 MacBook has well paid for its AppleCare by needing a new battery (early), new motherboard, new fan, and new MagSafe cord, etc., all before its second birthday, and most in its first year.

    The Black Friday sale was not worthwhile for the MacBook. Maybe in a few revs.

  9. Unless you actually have firewire-only gear that you can’t live without, you probably won’t notice. I have a backup drive for time machine that was usb/firewire. I don’t notice a difference.

    The machine itself, however, is great. Much more durable-feeling than my plastic macbook (soon to be up for sale).

  10. Of course choosing a purchase is always going to be subjective depending on what your wants and needs are. However, a few points to take into account that most people seem to overlook:

    1. New Model.
    Like cars, I always think its a better investment to purchase a product as soon as its a
    new model – at the beginning of the product life cycle. Its newer for longer as it will
    be the same model for years.
    2. Quality.
    There are so many upgrades – the casing quality, brighter screen, trackpad, greener,
    lighter, etc. A lot of small things that add up to much better product that may not
    show up on a feature list. (always think this is one of the differences of Apple Vs PC).
    It ‘feels’ like a better product; and it is.
    3. Future Proofing.
    New technology like the display port, graphics card, headphone/microphone port, etc.
    Will spawn accessories and software not compatible with older models (e.g. New LED
    display).

    To me, these stack the odds in favor of the new model, but like I said it’s subjective. Regarding firewire, I’ve seen so many complaints – do all of these people have a firewire only video camera? In the top 10 selling camcorders they all have USB 2. You can argue that if they have both, firewire is superior. As a video editor, the upgraded video card outweighs this unless there’s no USB 2 output on the camera.

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