MacBook or iMac?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Should I spend my money on a 13 inch, 2.0 GHz, MacBook or a 20 inch, 2.4 GHz, iMac?
I occationally handle large image files, but most of my time is spent with smaller projects. I have a second monitor, so the relatively small sized MacBook is no big hinder. I'm guessing the portability might come in handy though.

Gary Long's picture

I don't know about the MacBook or the 2.4 GHZ iMac; I have a recent 2.66 GHz 20" iMac and the screen display is not good. The colour fades from top to bottom. My local dealer put in a new screen and it was just as bad; Apple replaced the computer; still the same problem. I've learned to live with it. Check carefully before you buy!

Wynnefield's picture

Hi Frode,

I got a 17" Macbook Pro for my birthday this past Summer, and I have never been happier. The portability is great to have, allowing me to meet with clients at Starbucks or B&N (since we have an AT&T Internet account at home, the Internet access is free). I have a spare 24" WideScreen I use as as extra monitor too. Once I moved from a single to double monitors at my last job, I have a difficult time going back to a single screen.

If you need the portability, the choice is obvious. If not and you will always be working from the same office, I might go with the iMac (and still use the second monitor ... heeheh).

Good luck.

Wynne Hunkler
Principal | Wynnefields Creative
Visual Communications

Miss Tiffany's picture

Santa sent me the new macbook filled to the brim with hard-drive space and memory and it smokes!

Dan Gayle's picture

iMacs are good. Macbooks are good. Macbook Pros are better.

jupiterboy's picture

What's the word on the glossy screens?

Miss Tiffany's picture

The glossy screen hasn't interrupted me yet.

Si_Daniels's picture

> and it smokes!

I thought they solved those battery problems. ;-)

Pause's picture

If absolute performance isn't a factor then go for the laptop: portability's a huge boon.

Depending on how good your current monitor is, if your budget'll stretch to a large high-quality external display to go with the laptop then do that, too (and a nice aluminium Apple keyboard while you're at it). I went for a 27" Dell 2709W wide-gamut monitor, as I work with photographs frequently and it fit my price-performance criteria, but if colour accuracy's critical then consider an S-IPS panel or similar (which will be considerably more expensive).

Given a choice, I'd prefer a MacBook + monitor combo to just a MacBook Pro, due to the huge screen 'real estate' when the MB's hooked up, but I'll concede that the non-aluminium MacBook's display panel is downright awful – hopefully the al MacBook's a bit better in this respect. So if you're planning on using it as a straight laptop for most of the time, it may be worth spending the extra on the Pro.

Edit: Oh, forgot to add, buy as much memory for it as possible from Crucial, OCZ or similar (it's too expensive from Apple). You'll need to get a 'Santa Rosa' MacBook (2.2GHz) to take advantage of 4GB as the older MacBooks only recognise 3GB of it, so watch out for that. This'll make a big difference if you work with the Adobe apps frequently, they'll take as much memory as they can get!

eliason's picture

I had some reservations but I like the glossy screen. Off, it looks like it would never work well; on, the crisp contrast looks great.

Kooldez's picture

I have a 2.0 Macbook, and i would advise it over an iMac. The performance is great and portability is a plus; One thing though is the 13 inch screen (even the 17 inch pro seems a bit limited) ... When things heat up i prefer to hook it up to a larger monitor or an HD Display because of the very limited screen real estate (it gets pretty hectic when using multiple apps like illustrator and photoshop along with indesign for example).

Apple makes a $20 mini-DVI to whatever connector for the Macbook (it's the only v-out port on the Macbook), i got three variations of that connector for my work, movie time, and audio, and they work great.

Oh, and one more thing - keep your beer and snacks away from the laptop ;)

aluminum's picture

If you really like coffee shops and have lots of on-site client work/presentations = MacBook, else, iMac.

"Macbooks are good. Macbook Pros are better."

I'd say they are beefier, not necessarily better, given that 'better' is relatively subjective as to what you plan on doing with it.

I think most folks are fine with MacBooks and would end up overspending on a MacBook Pro for features that they likely wouldn't fully leverage.

Jos Buivenga's picture

I bought a new MacBook Pro (mainly for the bigger screen) a few weeks ago and I use it together with a second (23" ACD) display. Portability is important to me and this setup also allows me to work on 2 screens. The laptop screen for glyph editing and the larger screen for some metrics windows. The glossy screen is great. Better than the matte MBP I had before this.

Typedog's picture

Macbook hands down

speter's picture

The glossy screen is great. Better than the matte MBP I had before this.

I'm interested to hear this. I've got a matte MBP now, and the things that scare me about the new models are the keyboard and the screen. So, you don't pick up reflections of things behind you? What's your opinion of the keyboard?

Quincunx's picture

Actually, you get used to the glossy screen in no time. I never notice reflections that much. And in bad lighting conditions also don't affect the glossy screen as much. Or when there is a light behind you reflecting in the screen; with the glossy it's just that but for the rest the screen stays normal, with the matte screens the light reflection becomes a large bloom-like effect, making your screen pretty much unusable.

Plus; the colors and contrast are / look much more vibrant with the glossy screens.

On the keyboard.... not noticably different, they are basically just the same, only the way the case sits around them is different.

Jos Buivenga's picture

What’s your opinion of the keyboard?

The new keyboard has a bit more "resistance" when typing, but I like that. On the whole it feels more robust and I like the fact that the keys have some room around them.

bobbybobo's picture

I have a matte iMac at home and a glossy at the office.
The glossy one hinders me with reflections from behind. The matte doesn't.

DrDoc's picture

When things heat up i prefer to hook it up to a larger monitor or an HD Display because of the very limited screen real estate (it gets pretty hectic when using multiple apps like illustrator and photoshop along with indesign for example).

Spaces helps with that a bit (when I'm doing heavy stuff like that I'll give each app its own space), but it's still not as good as an extra screen.

pattyfab's picture

I got the MacBookPro 17" refurb with the high resolution screen (matte) and love it. I am baffled by Apple's decision to go with all glossy, that would be a dealbreaker for me. This machine is going for only $1999 on the refurb site (slightly more with a bigger hard drive):

I think if you already have a large monitor you might as well get the laptop for the versatility, but go with the 17" if you can swing it.

aluminum's picture

Everyone has complained about the glossy screen but everyone seems to come around once they use it for a bit.

Sebastian Nagel's picture

getting headache from the glossy screen of the iMac Alu, so i switched back to my old white one ...

Quincunx's picture

> Everyone has complained about the glossy screen but everyone seems to come around once they use it for a bit.

Yes, I actually know a few people that don't want to go back to matte screen once they got used to the glossy one.

Ty Wilkins's picture

I recommend the Refurbished iMac 24-inch 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo.

pattyfab's picture

Always go refurb. So much better priced and all the same guarantees and warranties as a new machine.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Where would I look for refurbished macs? Anyway, the local Apple reseller offers last years Macbooks quite cheap, so I was thinking I'd might by one and spend some money on ram/hd upgrades.

Quincunx's picture

Yes, that's a good option as well, going for the "old" Macbook (the non-aluminium one). Those are usually rather cheap at the moment.

eliason's picture

Where would I look for refurbished macs?

Refurb Macs from

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I guess those'll come out even with the shipping fee and tax. Norway isn't the center of the world, after all.

aluminum's picture

"Where would I look for refurbished macs?"
your local apple store

Typedog's picture

Buy a G4 titanium a bit old, but powerful. They should not be expensive. Like mentioned above you can not go wrong with a refurbished Mac. Good Luck!

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