To Pro or not to Pro?

At my day job, we are getting new computers for everyone, and I weaseled my way into a position to have some input on the process. I have heard nothing but rave reviews of MacBook Pros and I was sure this would be my chance to get one. There are other people in the company that have MacBook Pros and certainly do not use them as well as they could (one guy only uses his for Entourage and Internet Explorer:Mac)! As I sat down to start pricing it out, I knew that I would only be able to get the base model. So, I compared the MacBook Pro with a souped-up white MacBook to see if it was really worth it to get a Pro.

The first thing you need to do when preparing to purchase a new computer is determine how it will be used. That will go a long way in determining if it is worth it to buy the more expensive model. Besides the basic email and web surfing, I need a computer that can handle a large library of photos, music, and video. In addition, I will do a fair amount of video calling using Skype or iChat. I also use Delicious Library for managing all of my books and gadgets. I will do some video editing, but certainly not a lot.

Many of these needs are satisfied by any of Apple’s computers. I am not a photographer or videographer, and my livelihood does not depend on the speed and ability to handle 15 programs open at once. At the same time, however, I do a lot of presentations and I can’t have my computer freezing up because I have too much open.

When compared side-by-side, there is not much difference. Here are the things that are exactly the same:

  • Processor: 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 3MB shared L2 cache
  • 2GB (two SO-DIMMs) RAM standard expandable up to 4GB
  • Hard Drive (they both can have 250 GB hard drives at 5400 rpm though the MacBook starts out at 160)
  • 8x double-layer SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
  • Built-in iSight camera
  • Mini-DVI video out
  • Built-in AirPort Extreme (802.11n)
  • Built-in Bluetooth 2.0 (2.1 on MacBook Pro) + EDR
  • 10/100/1000BASE-T (Gigabit) Ethernet
  • Combined optical digital/audio out, combined optical digital/audio line in, microphone, speakers
  • Two USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 400 port
  • Glossy screen

That is a lot of important stuff that is the same. What is better on the MacBook Pro?

  • NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB of GDDR3 SDRAM compared to an integrated graphics card on the MacBook
  • Resolution 1440 x 900 pixels
  • Full-size, illuminated keyboard with ambient light sensor; Multi-Touch trackpad
  • One FireWire 800 port, one ExpressCard/34 slot
  • One inch thick
  • Up to 5 hours wireless productivity (vs 4.5 hours on MacBook)

I am sure this list of things that are better is debatable, but I think most would agree with most of the items.

What is better on a MacBook? (Again, these are probably debatable, especially the screen-size.)

  • Smaller screen means I am not opening up a monster on my lap in a meeting
  • Lighter weight (5.0 lbs compared to 5.4, not much lighter, but still) because of smaller screen
  • Personally, I like the keyboard better

I will be purchasing iWork ’08 and a MobileMe subscription. When I priced these computers out, the price came to $2197 for the MacBook Pro and $1547 for the MacBook. The biggest thing that stands out as making the Pro better is the video card. However, I just don’t know if that video card is worth the $650 price difference. Multi-Touch would be nice, but again, not worth the price tag. Would I pay more for battery life? Maybe, but I don’t think the battery life is drastic enough for it to be a major player. In addition, even if I upgrade through Apple to 4GB RAM, the MacBook is still $450 less than the MacBook Pro. That may be a better place to spend my (employer’s) money.

So, unless there are some compelling reasons that you have, I don’t see how it is better to get the Pro for my needs. What do you say? Would you persuade me one way or the other? Also, are there any other killer features that I may have missed?

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