Blog Post

MacBook Pro vs. MacBook/iMac vs. MacBook/Mac mini

I will be in the market for a new Mac in early 2007. I currently use a PowerBook G4-1.5GHz, 2GB ram, 15 inch screen; 80GB hard disk. I use this for tons of stuff, including but not limited to: podcast production (Audacity and iTunes); Office apps (MS Office; InDesign); blogging (Safari); web development (Firefox, PageSpinner, Photoshop); and email (Eudora).

I have three users set up on the machine: Admin (used only for installing software and system updates); Work and Home. I carry the computer between home and work every day and evening and keep everything separated from each other. One of the things I use in my current setup is the display spanning. I have an external 19 inch LCD at home and work and I love that feature.

For my 2007 computer purchase, I want a MacBook Pro. But is it really that good a deal? What if I got two computers instead of one? All machines listed here are using the Intel Core 2 Duo chip. All have a SuperDrive (the ComboDrive is not an acceptable option.)

Which option is the best bang for the buck?

Option 1. MacBook Pro
15 inch non-glossy screen
2GB Ram

Option 2. Macbook and iMac
13 inch glossy screen
1GB Ram

17 inch screen
1GB Ram

Option 3. MacBook and Mac mini
13 inch glossy screen
1GB Ram

Mac mini
Connected to my existing LCD monitor
512B Ram

Eventually I’d probably need to add RAM to the MacBook and iMac/Mac mini. Plus I’d need the $19 adapter for mini-DVI to DVI for the MacBook.

So up front is $2,499 for the MacBook Pro vs. $2,517 for the MacBook/iMac vs. $2,367 for the MacBook/Mac mini. Shipping costs will be higher for the two systems vs one. What are your thoughts on how I could move forward?

55 Responses to “MacBook Pro vs. MacBook/iMac vs. MacBook/Mac mini”

  1. NewbieMind

    Are you planning to do any video or heavy design work? If you are, then may I suggest another option?

    Option 4: Keep your PowerBook. It’s still useful for web browsing, MS Office, email, etc. Then buy a Mac Pro.

    My wife still uses her 12″ PowerBook 867Mhz for email, invoicing, MS Office, etc. She then uses our PowerMac G5 DP for music and video production. We bought a MacBook Pro 2Ghz over the summer and use it for mobile audio/video production.

  2. MisterKen

    Just went through the exact same process myself.
    Upgrading from an old G4 Powerbook and a dual chip Quicksilver desktop.

    Purchased the 2.33 GHz MacBookPro and hook it up to my 21″ Dell monitor at the office about a month ago.

    Worth every stinking penny. Faster than my desktop and it makes the old PowerBook look so slow. And when the UB’s come out…wow.


  3. Eduardo Marques

    Get a MacBook Pro and Apple Cinema Display 23″ for home. I’m doing that and I think it the best choice with you need power and big screen.

    I don’t need two computers so I think this is the best choice. I have portability and a big screen at home to see DVDs and other things! ;)

  4. I was planning on buying a 17″ MacBook Pro (MBP) for $3500, and waited for the CoreDuo chip. After comparing the MBP against the 24″ iMac @ $2500, and considering my needs, I opted for the less expensive iMac. More bang for the buck.

  5. Life style, someone said that, that is what it is all about. If you can afford to spend $2.4K, go for it, get the MBP. It seems the only reason to get 2 computers would be, the need to get the most bang from your dollar. Your are going to spend that much anyway, right?
    Now from a family perspective, 2 would be the smartest way to go.

  6. Elizabeth

    one thing…order from Apple online = free shipping

    I personally went from a 15″ PBG4 1.67GHz 1GB RAM and PowerMac G5 Quad with 2GB RAM and 23 inch display to

    MBP 2.33 15″ 2GB RAM 160 GB HD and kept the 23 inch display. I found that the MBP was so fast that I didn’t need the tower anymore! I would either go for that or the iMac/MB …def. not the mac mini

  7. One option not mentioned here: why dump the powerbook at all yet?

    I hung onto a 15″ 1Ghz with 768Mb Ram which gets used every day to work and back and syncs with a new Mini with 2 Gb Ram and a 20″ LCD at home. One advantage there is Office and Photoshop still launch and run a little bit faster on the old Pbook – another being some software, notably finance stuff in my case, still only runs on PPC.

    So all bases are covered and my upgrade budget is good and ready for whatever comes up next year. Just a thought.

  8. Brandon Eley

    You might consider getting a used iMac G5 and a pimped out MacBook if you really need two computers. I’m not sure why you need two computers – maybe one as a family machine and one for you to take here and there? That’s our setup.

    Anyway, You can find an almost-new iMac G5 2.13 Ghz on eBay for around $1000 with a 3-year Applecare (with 2.5 years left). I’m about to buy one for our family computer. It’s a great deal and is still screaming fast compared to my wife’s 1Ghz G4 Powerbook 12″.

    I have a MacBook Pro 2Ghz (Core Duo) and it’s fast, but I don’t really use all it’s power. I like having the RAM, but don’t really need the graphics card. I think i I upgrade soon I might get a black MacBook unless I just can’t give up the screen resolution.

    Anyway, if you *need* 2 computers, go with an iMac and MacBook. If you need a heavy duty workstation you might consider just getting the MacBook Pro.

  9. I ended up borrowing from my 401k and got the Mac Pro since I’d gone with the MacBook Pro earlier this year. No regrets. I learned a long time ago to get the most possible computing power I could. The wait for the Mac Pro was definitely worth it.

  10. I got my MacBook Pro only a couple of weeks ago, and it is pretty darn slick. I have to say, I’d be just as happy with a black MacBook if I had a sufficiently powered desktop at home. I don’t think the iMac is that machine. Even though I prefer the portability of the MacBook, I’d rather have my MacBook Pro than two underpowered machines, as Richard Neal suggested.

  11. I also would recommend to just buy a full blown black MacBook. You don’t need the bigger GraphicsCard or Firewire800. You don’t want to sync your documents between two computers, don’t you?
    You can attach a second screen to your MacBook (a feature the Mac Mini is missing!). If you’re on the road you will prefer the smaller MacBookk in favour of the bigger MacBook Pro. You will love the black one because it looks smarter and stays black even after a year. The white MB will turn beige or dirty after some weeks of usage.
    The iMacs have desktop harddrives which are faster then the Laptop harddrives (the Mini is also using this). The bigger 120 GB Disk of the MBP is slower then the 80 GB harddisk of the MB…

    So my advise: black MacBook with 3 GB RAM, ext. harddrive for backups, USB-powered ext. harddrive for the road (I have my complete iTunes-Library on a 80 GB USB-drive)

  12. To my mind, there are a few lifestyle factors that come into play here. First – even if you had a computer set up at home, would you still take your notebook back & forth every day (and would having to transfer files between them bother you)? Second, do you mind being desk-bound at home? Also, will the loss of screen real estate bother you if you go with a MacBook or a 17″ iMac? Personally, I have a 15″ MBP and a desktop PC, and the latter is completely redundant because I never feel like being tied to a desk when I could be on the couch with my laptop. But if you’re more disciplined than I am, and it sounds like you are, maybe you’d do just fine with a MacBook and a Mini.

  13. Refurbished iMac Core2Duo 20″ – $1299 (Just have to watch for them)
    White MB C2D @ Amazon – $1199
    With the iMac you get comparable specs to the MBP (less VRAM, slightly slower processor, but faster Superdrive). Also, with the MB you have a lighter, smaller machine with better battery life. This is basically exactly what I did and I think it’s great (Okay, I splurged and got the refurb 24″). Two computers for the price of the MBP but you don’t really sacrifice much. I mean, for most people the MB can handle everything you’re really going to do on the road anyway. If you’re at home, use your desktop. And as far as refurbs go, maybe other people have had different experiences, but everyone I know who has ever bought a refurb from Apple has been completely satisfied. That’s my 2 cents.

  14. Other question is why a MBP and not a MacBook?
    The only difference is the graphic card (that you don’t use), and, ok, the screen size. But for 1,000$. Looks expensive he?
    For the same price, you can buy a brand new TFT widescreen that looks gorgeous!

    I’m in the same case actually.
    I’ve a PB G4 1,5Ghz 12′ (from April 05) and I will change it in 2007. No doubt about it.
    But I will wait the new line of Apple laptops (with new design, I hope). But I still wonder which line I will buy.
    I love my PB 12′. So convenient to travel, same size that an european standard sheet (A4), it fits everywhere. You never hesitate “should I take it or not?”. The only big issue is its weight. So, I hope they will release a new 12′ much more lighter :-)
    And I will buy a widescreen TFT for home. Because portability is essential for me.

  15. Go with the MacBook Pro… the MacBook is nice, but similar configured MacBook Pros run much smoother… only do the dual setup if you plan on using the two computers as much as possible. I did the same thing and I hardly ever use my iMac.

    It’s much easier to have all your documents, music, and everything else in one location instead of syncing them up all the time.

  16. I just got a new MacBook Pro yesterday, and I LOVE it. I was working on a MacBook in the interim (between my crappy old PC & my new beauty), which with 2GB of ram was a really nice little machine. It just doesn’t make a great design machine.

    Going from a MacBook to a MacBook Pro was a world of difference. I’d say MBP all the way baby!

  17. I’d get the imac+macbook. I have a 24″ imac at home w/ a macbook pro for mobile use and as my backup. I dont use the MBP to its fullest though. In hindsight, I would have been better to save the moolah and get a macbook. But, if I was stuck with a 17″ imac instead of the 20 or the 24″ that would change everything. I’d get the macbook pro. Screensize is a huge deal to me.

    It’s up to you though. If you really want the macbook pro, it’s a fantastic machine, and you dont have any of the pain of having to maintain two systems.

    I’d highly consider buying from Amazon rather than apple though. Amazon’s shipping is free, no tax and amazon is offering rebates on all apple systems. The rebates and other savings might make it possible to get the bigger/better imac.

  18. I have the same setup as you. I got my Powerbook back in July 2005.

    I would go with the MacBook Pro. Your other solutions are not a good solution if you do any traveling. You don’t know what you’ll be using the computer in the next two years, and not having a laptop could be more expensive solution in the long run.

    Since you had your computer for a least a couple of years, think about what limitations of not having a laptop will be. Are you comfortable about not having a real mobile solution?

    My only regret when I purchased this laptop is that I didn’t get the laptop with the superdrive solution. I thought it was saving money, not thinking of the advantages of doing backups when I am on the road.

  19. Here are some thoughts…

    Mac mini is Core Duo, not Core 2 Duo.

    I think you would be good with a MacBook (instead of MBP). You don’t seem to need* dedicated graphics or FW800. You already have a larger screen to use with it. The iMac is just a MacBook with a graphics card and more storage. I would actually say stick with one computer for simplicity (keep all your files in one place) and then use the extra money for an wireless keyboard and mouse (for ease of use at home) and two external hard drives – one for archives and one for backups/copies. Keep your working files on the MacBook and archives on the external. You’re all set.

    Also, if you’re set on getting two computers, why not get a Combo Drive in one as long as you have at least one SuperDrive? Seems that you could do all your burning in one place.

    * – of course, “need” doesn’t always factor into Apple purchasing decisions as much as “want”

  20. Currently, the Mac mini only has a Core Duo chip, even though Apple upgraded them in September.

    I’d definitely suggest going with the MacBook Pro. There’s pretty much no advantage to having two underpowered computers rather than one fast computer. Even though the Mac mini/MacBook option is cheaper, as you said yourself, you’d add RAM to them eventually, and even if you got the cheapest RAM out there, you’d still have to spend a lot, because the MacBook’s 1 GB is spread across two DIMMs.