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Book Excerpt: to Switching to the Mac

Buying a Mac By Gary Rosenzweig

Que Publishing occasionally provides DMN with excerpts from its latest books. This is from --Guide to Switching to the Mac

So you've decided to buy a Mac. Congratulations! Macs are great computers and your Mac will soon be a valuable tool for work, recreation, and communication. Perhaps, however, you're not sure which Mac to buy.You are not alone.There are many choices.Most people who switch to Mac have this same question. Which one? You've got three major choices in a desktop machine: the Mac mini, the iMac, and the Mac Pro. And you have three choices in a notebook: the MacBook,MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air. So which one is right for you? In this chapter we'll sort that out. The Mac Product Line Let's take a quick look at the Mac product line, without going into specifics.That will be difficult because the current Mac models are always changing. By the time this book gets into your hands, the chances are pretty good that one or more of these products will be updated. So we'll look at each according to what is available in mid 2009.The spirit of each product is likely to remain the same, even if some of the details change. First, let's review each model.Then in the next section,"What Do the Options Mean?"we'll look at the specific features, like memory and hard drive space, and what they mean.

If you haven't yet bought a Mac, and are not sure which model is the right one for you, you should read this chapter immediately. However, if you already have a Mac, you may skip right ahead to Chapter 2,"Examining Mac Hardware." 1 | Buying a Mac The iMac The flagship Macintosh product is the iMac.This is the descendant of the product that saved and revitalized Apple in 1998. It is an all-in-one machine, which means that the computer and the monitor are in a single body. The original iMac used a CRT monitor. But in 2002, the iMac G4 moved the line to an attached flat-panel LCD.

FYI--MONITORS There are two types of computer monitors: CRT and LCD. CRT, which stands for cathode ray tube, is the large bulky monitors that look like picture tube TV sets. They are rarely sold with new computers any more, but you may still have them in your workplace. The new monitors are all LCD, or liquid crystal display. These are flat panels and are included as the screens on all iMacs and MacBooks sold today. Although they were originally more expensive than CRT monitors, the prices have come down far enough to make CRTs obsolete.

The third incarnation, the iMac G5, put the entire body behind the LCD display.This variation remains more or less how the iMac looks today (see Figure 1.1).

Figure 1.1 The iMac with a dual-core Intel processor,aluminum body, and LCD screen, circa January 2009. Photo Courtesy of Apple, Inc.

The iMac comes with a keyboard and mouse.The optical media drive plays and creates CDs and DVDs.You also get a set of USB2 expansion ports, a port for an external monitor, a speaker jack, and an audio line-in jack. The Mac Product Line 7

FYI--OPTICAL DRIVE An optical drive is also called a CD-ROM drive or a DVD drive. CD stands for Compact Disc, and DVD stands for Digital Video Disc. The drive is capable of reading CDs with data on them, called CD-ROMs. It can also read DVDs with data on them, which store about six times as much data as a CD. To the eye, CDs and DVDs look the same. Your optical drive can also play music CDs through your computer's speakers, and video DVDs on the computer screen. You can create your own data, music, or video CDs and DVDs with the help of software that comes with all Macs.

The iMac comes in two screen sizes: 20-inch which has a native resolution of 1680×1050 pixels and 24-inch with a native resolution of 1920×1200 pixels.The larger the screen resolution, the more content you can fit on the screen. If you plan on using graphics programs or developing websites, you want as large of a screen as you can get. But if you plan on just visiting websites and writing documents and email, you can use a smaller screen. You can get up to 8 gigabytes of memory in an iMac, but the base models come with only 2 or 4 gigabytes. For typical users, the memory that comes with your Mac is probably fine, but graphics professionals may want to consider adding more.You can always purchase and add more memory later on.

The Mac Mini
The Mac mini is the headless iMac.There's simply no display. Instead, you get a very compact box that contains the computer and optical drive.To bring costs down further, it comes without a keyboard or mouse. So you can reuse an old USB keyboard and mouse, buy one from Apple, or get a third-party keyboard and mouse. You can buy a USB keyboard from Apple for $49, the same one that comes with an iMac. New iMacs ship with a small keyboard without a numeric keypad, while older ones had the keypad.You can find both from Apple for the same price. Apple also sells wireless Bluetooth keyboards that will work with your Mac mini for $79.You can also get cheap third-party USB keyboards for as little as $10. Cheap mice also run around $10, or you can buy an Apple Mighty Mouse for $49. If your old PC used a USB mouse, you should be able to use that mouse with your Mac mini. A PC USB keyboard might not work, however, because it is most likely missing the allimportant Apple command key. Figure 1.2 shows the Mac mini, circa January 2009. One of the reasons it can be so small is that the power supply is external, much like the power supply of a laptop. So in addition to the Mac mini itself, you've got an additional piece of hardware sitting on the floor by your power strip.

Buying a Mac

Figure 1.2 The Mac mini is tiny.Not much bigger than this book, actually. Photo Courtesy of Apple, Inc.

The Mac mini is the smallest and the most often overlooked model. However, it is also the only model to have fan clubs. People who like the mini love it.There are online communities devoted to doing things like installing the Mac mini in home theater systems and cars. The mini weighs in at less than 3 pounds, and is only 6.5 inches square and 2 inches tall.

The Mac Pro

Figure 1.3 The Mac Pro is the one Mac to rule them all. Photo Courtesy of Apple, Inc.

The king of all Macs is the Mac Pro. Descended from a long line of towers and top-of-the-line professional machines, the Mac Pro takes the shape of a large aluminum box that opens to give access to expansion card slots, disk drive bays, and memory slots. Figure 1.3 shows the Mac Pro, probably the largest and heaviest Mac ever made.  

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