Stop the Noiz

Buyer's Remorse: Trading Up a Week-old MacBook

Frank Fox - 2008.03.07 - Tip Jar

Like I've said before, I'm a cheapskate. I was going to buy a MacBook and be happy with it.

I did, and I was.

I got a new 2.2 GHz MacBook. It was snappy. Everything opened quickly, the two-finger scrolling on the track pad was great, and the screen was bright. Granted, my last laptop was a 900 MHz G3 iBook, so of course this was going to feel a lot faster. On the other hand my main desktop computer is a 2.66 GHz Mac Pro. It's no slouch, but the laptop feels every bit as fast for opening a folder or signing onto the Web.

Since I hadn't had a laptop for months now, it did feel a little heavy having to cart it around. Overall, I was excited and happy with my purchase.

Then, after installing my other software and updating Leopard and all the iLife software, Apple suddenly released new models for both the MacBook and the MacBook Pro lines. It hadn't been even a week, and I was suddenly using last year's model.

Was I mad! The computer was still awesome, but I did wish I'd waited a week before buying.

The Exchange

Because Apple is secretive about new releases, I began looking to find out what Apple's policy on new purchases is. The thing I found was that Apple has a 14-day guarantee. I hadn't even had it for a week, so I should be covered.

Now the slightly bad news: I called Apple support the next day, and while the support person was sympathetic, he hadn't been told what Apple's policy was going to be. The story is that Apple springs these things on its own employees. He said to wait a few days for Apple to release a statement.

I figured the clock was ticking, so I tried my local Apple retail store. I called, and they told me that I could either take it back (and pay a restocking fee) or get refunded the price difference (basically my model is now the low end). I decided that for the price of the restocking fee, I'd rather get the newest model.

It was weird: I was completely happy with the computer, and at the same time I was returning it to get a new one.

All weirdness aside, I went to the store and made the exchange. Except for waiting in line, I was all done in 10 minutes. It was exciting to have another new MacBook to open and use. I can't say that I notice much difference, but I hadn't really used the last one long enough to get used to it.

Temptation

While at the Apple Store, I finally got the see the MacBook Air. I would almost have made the switch. The MacBook Air is amazing. They were near the cash register, so I kept looking at them while I was waiting in line. They looked as thin as paper from where I was standing. When I got to pick one up, I noticed that the weight difference between them and my new MacBook was significant. Neither requires weight training to lift, but the Air requires no effort to hold.

I've thought about the other compromises: no DVD, few ports, and a slightly slower processor. Except for installing some software, I never did use my CD/DVD drive much on any laptop. I mostly use the USB port for plugging in a flash drive or a mouse. As a laptop, I don't want a lot of cords plugged into it, anchoring it in place.

I also know that between 2.2 and 2.4 GHz there is not much difference. I could probably live with a slightly slower processor for most things (1.6 and 1.8 GHz in the MacBook Air). I have the desktop computer for any heavy work. Those two extra pounds would really add up if I had to carry it through airports and hotels on a regular basis. Apple obviously did their homework before releasing this computer.

Good-bye SuperDrive?

I think Apple has a strategy with the MacBook Air. It probably doesn't require extra cost to make, and the missing DVD will make the perceived specifications less than a comparable MacBook Pro. It could be a transition product that will eventually replace the whole MacBook line.

At the same time, Apple is happy to sell you digital copies of movies, so you no longer need a physical DVD drive. The MacBook Air is the perfect transition product to get consumers used to the idea that laptops don't have to come with a DVD. It will go from a "high priced low spec" machine to the new entry model for an all digital market. This will disrupt the rest of the computer market, who treat these kinds of computers as executive perks.

Bottom line: Apple has a friendly enough 14-day return policy. The new MacBooks are great, but the MacBook Air is a compelling product. I think I will remain happy with my MacBook purchase for a long time.

Overall I think Apple is creating new products to widen their appeal and is less concerned about contriving sales through dissatisfaction with older models. The only Mac I want to replace is my kids' G4 Mac mini, and only because my son loves games. (You're happy with your Mac until you change your work habits or the kinds of things you want to do.)

Quick, go buy a Mac before the new models come out. You never know when Apple will release the next round. LEM

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