Charles W Moore Going Intel with a Unibody MacBook

2009 – After equivocating for nearly three years about what hardware would become my vehicle for transitioning to the Macintel experience, I’ve finally made a decision. Last Thursday afternoon I ordered a 2.0 GHz Late 2008 Unibody Aluminum MacBook from Apple Canada – an Apple Certified Refurbished unit for Can$200 (14%) off the price of a new one. It hasn’t arrived yet – the FedEx tracking site says Thursday – but so far on reflection I’m happy with my decision.

Late 2008 Aluminum MacBookIt is going to be quite an adjustment going down to a 13.3″ display from the 17-incher that I’ve become used to over the past three years using my G4 PowerBook for production. I would love to be able to afford a new 17″ Unibody MacBook Pro (although I’m not at all convinced about the non-swappable battery), or even a 15″ MacBook Pro, which has the same screen resolution as my old 17″ PowerBook, but the latter is selling refurbished on Apple Canada’s website for Can$1,899. The bottom line difference with taxes included would have been about Can$750, which was more of a premium than my budget could reasonably stand right now.

Other alternatives considered were a refurbished 2.4 MHz MacBook (Can$1,599), a new 2.0 GHz MacBook White with Nvidia graphics (Can$1,149), and a 2.4 GHz early 2008 15″ MacBook Pro (Can$1,449), but in the end, the refurbished 2.0 GHz Aluminum MacBook seemed the best value all things considered, although it does impose some compromises, including the smaller display, lack of FireWire, and no ExpressCard expansion slot. Still, I decided to go with the future rather than hanging on to the past.

The most power and features for the money, of course, would have been with the “old school” MacBook Pro, but based on what I’ve been reading on forums in sundry reports, there is no way I want a machine with Nvidia 8600 graphics, notwithstanding Apple’s two-year extended service policy on units with that frequently troublesome component. I keep my computers longer than two years.

Given my budgetary realities, the choices left were among the three MacBook models – and whether to buy new or refurbished. The base, plastic MacBook is definitely a lot more appealing now that it has the same video support and standard RAM as the Unibodies, plus the added advantage of being the last Mac laptop standing with a FireWire 400 port, but the refurbished Unibody was only Can$50 more, has an LED backlit display, a 40 GB larger hard drive, and that case carved from a solid block of aluminum. I’ve already had a white iBook, which the MacBook White greatly resembles in appearance, and the design and engineering gorgeousness of the Unibody won me over.

If I get nearly as good service from this MacBook as I have from the 17″ PowerBook, which was also an Apple Certified Refurbished (ACR) unit, and the ACR iPods I bought my daughter and wife, I’ll be more than satisfied. All of those machines arrived basically indistinguishable from new and have performed flawlessly.

With ACR you get a full one-year Apple warranty, the same as with a new machine, and eligibility for AppleCare, so there is little downside risk to buying refurbished from Apple.

A great thing about buying Apple hardware is that it’s pretty hard to go wrong, whatever you choose. If I find the 13.3″ screen just too confining after the expansiveness of 17″, there is always the option of driving an external display, and the 13″ unit, which actually weighs less than the erstwhile 12″ PowerBook did, will certainly be nicer to pack around than the big 17-incher.

As I file this article on Tuesday morning, the FedEx tracking site says my computer has been stuck in Calgary, Alberta, for the past couple of days after having been shipped very promptly out of Rancho Cordova, California, crossing the country to Memphis, and then going more than three-quarters of the way back across the continent to Calgary. FedEx estimates that it will be delivered here (back across most of the continent again and even farther east) by Thursday evening. I’m skeptical, but we’ll see. It might get to Halifax, Nova Scotia by Thursday, but that last 150 miles often takes longer than the transcontinental leg (or legs). I’m trying to practice the tao of patience now that I’ve made my move at last.

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