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Help me decide on a computer!


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First, lets get this out of the way: I'm an apple person.

That said, my trusty 4 year old 15" behemoth of a macbook pro has just pooped out for a final time, and I'm in the market for a replacement.

I have a $1500 computer budget from my department, which I'd be willing to expand to up to around a total of $2200 from my own funds. Thus far in my academic life, I've done everything on a single high-powered laptop. Though I've never tried out such a system personally, I see the potential merits of pairing a desktop with something like a MacBook Air or iPad. It would be nice to not have to lug around a 10lb computer everywhere. But I'm unsure about the functionality of the iPad as an academic device. And it occurrs to me that switching to a 2 computer paradigm has a number of problems (twice as much liability, not as much bang on either computer for my computing buck).

A top of the line 13" MacBook Pro does not weigh that much, and has a heck of a lot more functionality than a bottom of the line iMac or Mac Book Air.

What's your computing paradigm?

I'm considering any number of variations on the following options:

A) 13" MacBook Pro. (Top of the line for around $1500)

B ) 21" iMac Desktop + basic 11" Macbook Air (~$1000-$1300 + ~$1000, less if I go for refurbished for either or both)

C) 21" iMac Desktop + iPad with detachable keyboard (~$1000-$1300 + $500)

If money were no object, I'd go for B. The MacBook Air is such a sleek and powerful object. Yet, unlike the iPad, it's an actual computer with more than adequate functionality for writing, editing, etc.

I feel like the best all-around solution is A. But though a $1500+ MacBook Pro is going to be one sweet performance machine, its also quite a liability. I'll be carrying it around everwhere. Multiple times a day. For several years. I can't afford a solid state hard drive. And, even though I am a very careful person I don't like the idea of carrying around my whole life on one machine that could easily be damaged or stolen. I'm literally going to be carrying this computer with me everywhere for several years.

What do you all think?

About my anticipated computing lifestyle:

I'll be starting a PhD program in the social sciences in the fall. For my first two years, I'll be commuting by bike to campus 4 days a week, where I will not have a regular office or other secure place to store a laptop. My computer work lifestyle will involve library research/writing, classroom note-taking, using STATA (for the most part this will take place on the lab computers at school), and writing/working at my home office. For most of these tasks, a small laptop with word processing and reference management software would be adequate.

I did consider just investing in a top of the line 11" or 13" Mac Book Air. But I don't think that computer would be adequate for all my needs. In my non-student life, I like to do a lot of video/photo editing and need something that's a bit of a workhorse.

Edited by SocialPoststructuralist
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