I’ve gone through a fair amount of Mac notebooks.
I think I had 5 of the aluminum Powerbooks over the years — if you really used them as a portable device, they would either fail from usage or get too banged up.
A few years ago I decided to just ‘screw it’ and get the cheapest iBook around. While a powerbook never lasted more than 14 months without needing repairs, the iBook lasted well over 3.
A while back, a friend made fun of me for accepting that there was an “Apple Tax” — the cost of upgrading each year or so because iPods don’t last long ( seriously – those hard drives just FAIL after a year or so )
I realized I was ok with this, and after modeling some expenses vs. usage, I’ve been a firm believer in buying the ‘cheapest’ mac portable around for a while… and this is my rationale:
1. The low-end Mac portable is $1300 (current model) or $1000 for the last generation.
2. The next ‘size’ up for screens are $2000.
3. Applecare past the original 1st year is $350
4. Most people tend to buy a laptop for 3 years.
5. The differences between models are honestly negligible for 90% of users, and can mostly be offset by dropping in $100 more in RAM
6. If you buy the cheapest model *without* the warranty, you can buy the new ‘cheapest model’ in 18 months — that machine is often cheaper and faster than the last machine you purchased – and faster than the last ‘highest model’ .
My point is this: if you spend $1300 on a macbook today, you can probably buy a $1200 macbook in 2010. Since you budget these machines to work for 18 months, you don’t need the warranty. Then in 2011 you will have a machine that is 1 year old and (likely) faster than machine you would have purchased today for $2350+ ( If you’re budgeting the machine for 3 years, you need the warranty ). Stated differently: $2500 will buy you 2 low-end macbooks with no warranty over the course of 3 years; $2350 will buy you 1 high-end macbook that needs to last 3 years.
For me this has been a no brainer.