My Turn

The Low End Mac Value Equation

- 2006.05.11

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 .

Regular visitors to Low End Mac try to get the most out of their Macs.

Many of us strive to hit that sweet spot where the computer isn't too old or too new but just right. There are many different kinds of users, hence many different needs. And it's not always easy trying to maximize your computer dollars.

Are you a student? Or maybe you're a power user. Do you need to run the latest applications? Or do you just need to do a little word processing and email?

You need to find the perfect machine for your needs.

The Value Equation

The things to factor into the value equation are balancing your productivity with value and need.

What I mean by productivity is the level of hardware you need to achieve your optimum productivity level. For example, if you're a graphics designer, your productivity will drop drastically if you're using a computer that can barely run your programs. You lose time, thus losing money and productivity.

Value is also important. Are you going out and paying full price for the latest, greatest Mac that's more than you really need? Or are you being thrifty and finding a good computer that can do exactly what you want while saving you money?

Third, need is how much you can really use and benefit from when buying a new Mac. No more and no less than what you need.

The Student

There are different choices for different students. I've found that a 600 MHz iMac fits many students needs very nicely. The G3 iMac is ideal for students for these reasons:

  • Price. Today, an iMac G3/600 can be found anywhere for US$200-300. I know, I just bought one for $201.50.
  • Productivity. This iMac is great for word processing and email, and it's not too old to run most current programs.
  • Space. Many students don't have a whole room to themselves and are short on space. The all-in-one iMac is perfect.
  • Coolness factor. The iMac is available in many colors. Many students find this attractive and can pick a color that suits their personalities.

The Pro

...there's a sweet spot that's not quite cutting edge but still gets the job done and saves money.

Whether you are graphics worker, a designer, or any kind of user that demands extra power, there's a sweet spot that's not quite cutting edge but still gets the job done and saves money. For most, this computer is the 1.8-2.0 GHz Power Mac G5 Dual from 2003.

This was the first G5 and is still relatively new. It has the power to run many demanding applications. It has dual processors and lots of expandability. It's slightly behind cutting edge, so it lands in a very nice price range.

  • Money. You can usually pick one up for about US$1,500-2,000.
  • Power. Enough to run most of today's tough applications. This can run Aperture, and even Final Cut Studio 5.
  • Upgradeability. As with most any recent power desktop Apple has made, they have ample room for expandability, so this computer can take you farther with having to only upgrade, instead of paying full for a new computer.

The Mobile Office User

Many office workers have a hard time choosing a laptop. Many different PCs are being promoted as the perfect mobile field machine, but do they have what it takes? The 15" Power Book G4/1 GHz does. This model is perfect for many of today's busy office users.

They want something portable.

They want something that gets along well with other computers.

They want something fast that lets them get their work done quickly.

They want something works well with their networks and surroundings.

They want something that's cheap and takes minimal expenses to keep it running.

They want something that is professional and very portable.

Overall, they want a Mac!

The PowerBook G4 fulfills all these requirements and more, making it a great choice for the mobile worker.

What About the Rest of Us?

Everyone is different and has different needs; no single computer will fit everyone's demands. You have many alternatives, and in the end it all boils down to your decision of what you really need.

There are many different factors in choosing your new Mac, and it can be intimidating trying to make the right choice - but that's why you're reading this, isn't it?

Share your perspective on the Mac by emailing with "My Turn" as your subject.

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