Is it new MacBook time yet?

I have a  feeling, like a disturbance in the Force. It’s the feeling I get when it’s time for a new Mac.

I’ve been a Mac user for a long time… since my first year of undergrad, when my dad splurged on the best Mac ever made, the SE/30, for me. I’ve had, including the SE/30, two desktops and three laptops since then, as follows:

Machine Purchased Duration Fate
SE/30 September 1990 5 years Given to younger sister; recycled
Power Mac 7200/90 ca. October 1995 ca. 5 years Given to father; recycled
PowerBook G3 (Pismo) August 2000 2 y 11 mo Given to younger sister; then to cousin
PowerBook G4 1GHz July 2003 2 y 9 mo Given to younger sister
MacBook Pro 1.83 GHz March 2006 2 y 10 mo to date Current

So there have been a lot of machines and my laptops have been lasting a little under three years; why? Two words: case problems and capabilities.

The G3 was great; had no problems with it other than having to replace the power adapter four times. But when we moved out west to Seattle we decided that we’d keep in touch via videoconferencing, so upgraded to a machine that could handle video on iChat. The G4 had terrible case problems–a hinge stuck, then broke the bezel when it got forced open–and also had power adapter problems. We fixed the case and upgraded to a MacBook Pro when they first became available.

The MacBook Pro has been great; except… well, it got dropped. It landed on the side where the power connector was, which dented the case near the power connector, making it difficult for the MagSafe to function properly. It charges but you have to fiddle with the connection, and lately it’s been turning itself off. Plus, I haven’t been able to prune the data on the hard disk enough to keep more than 3 GB free at any given time, meaning the machine is prone to slowing to a crawl.

The cost to me to repair the case and the power board was quoted by the Apple Store as a minimum of $500, and I’m thinking very hard about doing that. But I’d also want to replace the hard drive, and that starts to bump up the cost close to the lowest-end MacBook.

Yes, MacBook. For the first time, I think that my needs are converging on Apple’s consumer line rather than the Pro line. The MacBooks are much more capable than they were three years ago, and I’m no longer doing the sort of programming that made me want a faster machine then. And I’m not sure that spending an additional $600-$1000 would give me a comparable increase in value. There are numerous side-by-sides that attest to this (Gizmodo, MacRumors, Engadget). The main issue appears to be the screen in the MacBook, and I’m going to have to go in and look at it to decide if that’ll be OK. (I don’t watch DVDs on my laptop much anymore, but I might be watching more TV there.) There’s also no FireWire support, and no card slot to plug in an expander–a problem if we want to keep using our ca. 2000 digital video cam. And there doesn’t seem to be a way around that, so we might have to keep the old Pro around just to do video.

We’ll have to think a little more about it, I suppose.

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