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Your First Mac - Part 2

July 22, 2013 - Dave Hecei
macbooks In my last article, I tried to convince you that an iPad would make a great first computer, or an alternative to buying a new Mac. The latest iPad can do most of what a PC can do, especially when you combine it with a portable Bluetooth keyboard. This is especially true if you just want to cruise the Web, handle your E-mail, play some fun games, engage in social networks (i.e. Facebook, etc.), and take and/or work with digital media. But there are those who need a full computer so let's figure out what Mac will work best for you.

When buying any new computer, Mac or Windows PC, there are two camps. In one hand you have notebooks and the other you have the desktops. Apple currently has only two lines of notebooks – the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. In the desktop line there is the Mac mini, the iMac, and the Mac Pro. The first thing you have to decide on when buying a Mac is laptop or desktop.

Going Portable

The MacBook Air is now considered the consumer product, which is not where it started out in life. The Air is in a class called Ultrabooks. These are super light and super thin notebooks that don’t sacrifice speed for size. The Air is available with either an 11-inch or 13-inch display. What helps make the Air fast is the use of an SSD for storage (SSD stands for Solid State Drive).

There is a slight drawback in making such a thin and light notebook computer. The Air does not have an optical drive (DVD/CD drive). With the advent of the Mac App Store, iTunes, Netflix, etc., the optical drive is a thing of the past. If, by chance, you do need one, Apple sells the SuperDrive, an external USB DVD/CD reader recorder.

The MacBook Pro is the more ‘high-end’ Mac laptop. The Pro is still fairly thin but does come with all the ports you would need plus a built-in optical drive. The 13-inch Pro has only integrated graphics, currently the Intel HD 4000. The 15-inch Pro has both HD 4000 and GeForce GT 650M discrete graphics. The idea is that the Intel graphics use less power and allows for more battery life. It can automatically switch between them when you either want to save power or work hard.

To make choosing a MacBook even harder, Apple also makes the Pro available with a Retina display. Retina is Apple’s trademark for their displays that have very high pixel density. The standard 15-inch Pro has an LED backlit display that displays 1440 by 900 pixels. The 15-inch Pro with Retina shows double pixels in each dimension. This works out to be 2880 by 1800. This is a whole bunch of pixels.

Now we need to figure out which Mac is best for you. I won’t go into a huge debate over what each can and cannot do, but will just jump right to the conclusion page. If you want to get a Mac for the least amount of money or you’ve tried the iPad but it just didn’t do enough, then the 11-inch base model Air is right for you. Since the Air was just updated with new Intel chips and even faster SSD storage, the Air can do pretty much anything you’d want to do on a Mac. If you combine it with a desktop monitor, keyboard, and mouse you have a nice desktop too.

The new 13-inch MacBook Air is what I would recommend for most everyone. It combines the ideal size with great power together with up to 12 hours of battery life. This Air has all the same ports as the 11-inch but adds to it an SD camera card slot.

If you want a small notebook but want the best screen available then the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is for you. This model is not as thin and the Air, but it is close. Just like the Airs, the Retina Pros are missing an optical drive.

For the working professional, and I’m talking content creators, video editors, animation artists, and photographers, there is the 15-inch Pro with Retina Display. This model is super fast with an amazingly sharp display. It is also priced accordingly starting at $2199 for the base model and $2799 for the high-end model.


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