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December 10, 2020

A Writer Buys a Computer

Julie Ross Myers

I don't carry inventory of salable goods, but I do sell my services. In order to do so, I need a computer that works well with a variety of software.

I'm trapped by Apple

I bought my first Apple computer in 1984. Back then, only creative types had Apples. I learned to love the brand because it created durable workhorses that easily lasted a decade. I felt way cooler and smarter than my IBM crone friends. Now Apple is a massive conglomerate and I'm puny nothing.

My late 2013 iMac is obsolete because it can't be upgraded to the current operating system, Big Sur

Apple deliberately makes its own products obsolete. It juggles the nasty anger caused by this against the convenience of a highly integrated OS. Believe me, I no longer have warm and fuzzy feelings for Apple. But my phone and Apple devices work seamlessly together. I don't want to give that up.

I'm too lazy to learn a new system like Windows even those its tech is good and cheap

Lesson learned: spend the least amount possible

Even if the hardware holds up, it will obsolete within 7 years. If I spent $3600 on an Apple computer and it lasts 83 months, I am "renting" it for $44 a month.

This is new thinking for me. In the past, I always splurged on Apple products. I spent everything I had under the assumption my investment would have the lifespan of canned ham. Now the bean counters have ruined things. Apple has become just another greedy corporation instead of an upstart rebel.

Is the new M1 chip worth it?

Early reviews about the M1 chip have been positive. But, Patrick Morehead points out the M1 chip is far from perfect.

The new M1 MacBook will not run native MacOS applications built in the past ten years. This is because the Apple M1 processor doesn’t speak the same underlying software language as the Intel-based Macs. The new M1 MacBook Pro needs to use binary translation to convert Intel instructions to Arm instructions through an app called Rosetta 2. If you experienced the nightmarish PowerPC to Intel Rosetta 1 software transition, you have an idea what you’re getting yourself into. I’m told the Rosetta experience should be better than last time, but I’m not seeing it yet.

Patrick Morehead

But Reddit users say they have no issues running Intel apps. So I'm willing to take a chance, as long as I don't spend too much on unproven technology.

Yes, I went through the Intel Rosetta transition. And it was a nightmare. Chrome is already problematic on my iMac, although I use it because I instinctively despise Safari.

M1 offers more performance with fewer features

Samuel Axon sums it up nicely.

Apple sees this initial volley of Apple Silicon devices as the bottom end of its lineup. So we’re in a very odd situation right now where if you want the cutting edge of performance, you have to choose low-end Mac configuration options. If you want lots of ports and RAM, you have to stick with Intel for now. That's very likely going to change with the introduction of more expensive Macs with a faster, hypothetical M1X chip or something like that—but we have no idea yet when that’s going to happen. We only know that, eventually, it will.

Stephen Axon

The MB M1 laptops don't have enough storage and ports

They tap out at 51GB SSD. Plus a M1 machine only has 2 ports, which means if I add a display, I'm left with one port to charge devices plus handle an external drive. Nah, I pass. Except I can't because the only other alternatives are:

  • Buy a Mac Mini M1 which is great except that it doesn't have easy support for video conferencing
  • Buy an Intel and load it up with options, making it way more $$$ than the M1 machines

Okay, so what did I buy?

Apple allows you to compare base models but not configured products with various options. Another way they are less than friendly. So, you've got to get it down on Excel.

Let's compare pricing

Apple used to allow side-by-side comparisons of configured computers. No more. Chalk another one up to the beancounters. Now you have to configure laptops different ways and keep track of it all in a spreadsheet. By the way, this is Apple Education pricing.

What I have now
21.5" iMac Quad Core Intel i5
16GB memory
1TB fusion drive
Intel Iris Pro
27" iMac Pro 10-core Intel Xeon W processor
1TB SSD storage
32GB 2666MHz ECC memory
5K display
Extended Keyboard / Trackpad
Lightning to USB cable
4 Thunderbolt 3; 4 USB$5049
Apple Care$169
Arrives Jan 12$5557
13" MB Pro quad-core Intel Core i7 (upgrade) 
32GB memory (upgrade)
1TB SSD storage (upgrade)
True Tone Retina
4 Thunderbolt 3 ports$2599
Apple Care$269
LG 4K monitor$700
AV adapter$49
Arrives Dec 24$3437
27" iMac 10-core Intel Core i9
32GB memory (upgrade)
1TB SSD storage (upgrade)
5K Retina
Magic Trackpad
SDXC, 2 Thunderbolt, 4 USB$3229
Apple Care$159
Arrives Jan 14$3388
21.5" iMac 6-core Intel Core i7 (upgrade)
32GB memory (upgrade)
1TB SSD drive (upgrade)
Retina 4K display
Magic Keypad
2 Thunderbolt, 4 USB, SDXC$ 2749
Apple Care$169
Arrives Feb 9$3108

13" MB Pro M1 chip with 8‑core CPU
16GB unified memory (upgrade)
1TB SSD storage (upgrade)
True Tone Retina
2 Thunderbolt ports$1759
Apple Care $249
LG 4K monitor$700
Arrives Jan 19$2708
Mac Mini M1  8‑core CPU, 8‑core GPU
16GB unified memory (upgrade)
1TB SSD storage (upgrade)
No built in mike/camera for video calls$1239
Apple Care$89
LG 4K monitor$700
Track pad$50
AV adapter$49
Arrives Jan 15$2227

It seems Apple has installed its M1 chip on its base model computers because these are the smallest investment. It's a proof of concept to see if people want the M1 and if it works. I need more features than the base 13" MB Pro. So, I'll limp along until the new M1X models come out in 2021.

Meanwhile, I spent $300 on a new trackpad and keyboard in space gray.

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