My Turn

The Best Really Low Budget Macs

- 2001.04.26

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

After reading Charles Moore's piece, The Best Low Budget Macs, I was inspired to write an article covering the best Macs that are really low budget.

Firstly, I think any Mac is a good, useable computer - it just depends on what it is to be used for and knowing the machine's limitations. Expecting the venerable old Mac Plus to perform like a new iMac is obviously ridiculous, and moreover, is missing the point.

So let me get to the point. All Macs (new and old) have something wonderful in common - an ease of use via an operating system and hardware that compliment one another perfectly. It is such a seamless integration that the resultant "addiction" to Macs is not only understandable but natural.

I have used many PCs, as well, but PC use does not seem to produce the same kind of addiction we Mac users experience. I mean, I have ten or so old Macs, and I wanted each one for it's own uniqueness in form-factor and style. Style is not really an issue with PCs, as they all seem fairly generic, whereas there is a huge style difference between my Mac Classic and my Quadra 605, for example.

OK, so here are my choices for the best really low budget Macs, in no particular order:

  1. Mac Plus: The first Mac that I (and many of us) used, still useful for word processing, desktop publishing, and email.
  2. Classic II: the ultimate (and by now very inexpensive!) refinement of the original compact Macs, barring the Color Classic and Color Classic II (which are pricey and hard to find). With the 68030 CPU, more is possible with the Classic II than with the Plus. PowerBook 100[Alternative: SE/30, which takes up to 128 MB of RAM and has a PDS expansion slot. ed]
  3. PowerBook 100: Still my favorite PowerBook. With it's light weight, small size, and good looks (especially compared to the rest of the 100-series), the PB 100 is a great mobile writing/email machine . . . and cheap! Of course, the PowerBook 100 uses a 68HC000 chip, whereas the rest of the 100-series use a faster 68030 CPU, making them more powerful, while still not expensive.
  4. Mac IIsi: Underrated, expandable, cooler looking than the rest of the II-series, and cheap!
  5. LC III/Performa 450: This is a really great 68030-based desktop Mac. Highly useful for word processing, email, even light duty Internet. The LC III+/Performa 460 is even better, but not as cheap!
  6. Quadra 700 and Quadra 900: The first '040 Macs. Also, the first tower-style Mac cases. Upgradeable, expandable, still highly useful, and cheap!
  7. PowerBook Duo 200 series: These were really innovative. The idea of having a laptop which could also function as the brain of a desktop system was brilliant. These capable machines can still do a lot, and the black and white screened models can be gotten for very little. Add a DuoDock and an monitor and it makes a very nice little system.
  8. PowerBook 520 and PowerBook 540: '040 power in a killer case design - and since they're not color (like the 520c/540c), they can be had for less, while still having nearly as much to offer. I have a 540c, and it's my main laptop. It's great for email, word processing, and light duty Internet. Plus, all of the 500-series can be upgraded to PowerPC, too.
  9. LC 520 and LC 550: These all-in-one Macs offer a 14" color display, CD-ROM, and an attractive form-factor. These are still great and highly useful.

Well, that's how I see it, anyway. Of course, these are all pre-Power Macs, and that's why these are really low budget Macs. However, they are all still very useful Macs and especially worthy of consideration for those on a tight budget.

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