Friday, September 4, 2009

Okay, it’s time to upgrade. (Part II)

wuySo here are my thoughts:

The most obvious option is what Eddie has already suggested: something that will last me another six years. Given the fact that desktops are, in my experience, more reliable than laptops, that would probably be a Mac Pro. It has all the power I could ever want (for the moment), but uses less electricity than my G5. It has room for four internal hard drives, which will make for easy RAID building; and plenty of room for expansion (Firewire 800, PCI Express 2.0, up to 32GB of RAM, etc.).

The big down side is the price: a Mac Pro costs $2,499 or $3,299 with no upgrades, plus whatever else I’d like to spend on a new display (and no, my old display won’t work with its new-fangled ports, so I’ll need to upgrade that, too). It’s really not a bad deal, for what you’re getting, but do I really need that much? If I were constantly doing graphics or video, sure; but as a developer, I’d actually probably be better off with something simpler—if for no other reason, so that I can have a realistic idea of how fast my programs will run, for the average end user.

The next option is a MacBook Pro. It really is the perfect marriage of power and portability, and the 13″ model—which would be fine, with a big, external display—starts at $1,199. It would be wonderful to be able to just up and take my work with me, at a moment’s notice, but my experience with laptops—as mentioned—has not been good. They seem to break down a lot more often than their desktop counterparts, and as long as I’m paid by the hour, no computer means no income. Even with Apple’s amazing warranty service, minimizing downtime is very important (although admittedly, I would still have Anila as a backup machine).

The third option, then, would be an iMac. Believe it or not, this is the direction I’m leaning. It’s the same price point as a MacBook Pro, but it has up to a 24″ display included. By saving a grand or two on my computer this year, I can start putting some money aside to upgrade again, in 2-3 years instead of six. I’ll have a decent machine now—and one that’s much more similar to what my users have, than a Mac Pro—plus, by halving my upgrade cycle, I’ll have one that’s faster than the Mac Pro, sooner.

Of course, the iMac would require me to make some sacrifices. I’ll have to get some new external drive enclosures, and keep most of my files outside of the system itself. It also has a 24″ display, which is considerably smaller than the 30″ display I would buy, with the Mac Pro (and I don’t think my desk can support both, so if I wanted to get the 30″ anyway, I’d need a new desk). But all in all, the iMac is definitely high on my list. It’s still going to be a few months, before I can get the fundage together, so we’ll see where this goes.


  1. Well, it doesn't make much since for me to be counseling you on what computer (especially when it comes to Macs) to get, but it looks to me like you're doing a nice job of weighing the various options. Of course, I could introduce you to an intelligence analysis technique that would give you a more systematic, reliable, and valid way of assessing the alternatives, but I digress. ;-)

    You know, the Mac Pro is what the multimedia and creative folks are using at work. But, they do spend a LOT of time editing/rendering video and developing graphics. I imagine that even the most base model of Mac Pro would might outlast Anila's lifespan, but who knows?

    I can see the definite downsides of having an iMac for your particular situation, but as you're probably aware, we've been thoroughly pleased with ours.

    As for the MacBook Pro, I can't say much for them other than they look really nice! :-D With only a 13" display though, how much work would you really be capable of doing when you unplugged from your workstation with the ginormous external display?

    If you're anything like me, have fun going to the Apple store (either in person or online) and drooling over the choices until you've picked one!

  2. Good feedback, Ed. I think claiming that any computer will outlast Anila’s lifespan, though, is somewhat questionable. My three main machines have been Luka (in use 1992-1998), Mr. Bojangles (in use 1998-2004), and Anila (in use 2003-?).

    In other words, six years seems to be about the right time to upgrade. We certainly can’t foresee what the computing world will be like, in six years, but I can’t imagine Apple won’t have come up with some major new upgrade that will invalidate Anila’s successor, by 2015 or so.

    With respect to your 13″ comment, that’s what our current MacBook has. As rarely as I have to go on the road, that might not be much of an issue.

    Anyway, like I said, time will tell. I’ll keep you posted, once we finally make a decision! :-)

    Thanks again!