During the recent holidays, I have been repeatedly asked for advice on purchasing a new Mac, especially from potential switchers, who want to continue to run some of their Windows applications. I have quoted below my answer to this question as posted on another forum.
While only you can decide what’s best for you, money can be saved with some careful research and planning. Here are some suggestions that may be of help.
1) Choose among the four basic flavors. The MacBook and MacBook Pro are notebook computers, with the MacBook Pro having greater “horsepower” than the lower end MacBook. The iMac is a desktop all in one computer with the CPU and drives housed in a single case with the screen. And the Mac Pro is the top of the line tower configuration, and much more expensive than the iMac. There is also the budget priced Mac Mini, a small form factor system unit to which you must add a monitor, keyboard and mouse, however, this unit is not suitable for running multiple operating systems, especially if using graphics intensive applications.
2) Purchase your Mac with the base memory (ram) configuration. Memory can often be purchased at dramatic discounts by buying at after market outlets. Just make sure you purchase the correct memory and amount of ram for your machine. One online supplier that makes this easy is Other World Computing, though MacMall and MacConnection also sell Apple memory. One example of the savings is to configure a new iMac with 4gb instead of the 1gb standard will cost you about $799. If you purchase the machine with 1gb and then purchase 4gb from OWC for $99 (the current price as of this writing), you will have saved $699!
3) The next decision is where to purchase your computer. Again there are a number of places to purchase online, just make sure you do your research and purchase from a reputable dealer. MacMall and MacConnection are well respected online sources for everything Apple. Note that MacMall will even install and configure your Mac with Boot Camp, Parallels or VMware Fusion, and XP or Vista, so your Mac will be ready to go when you receive it. You can also of course purchase from Apple, at a retail store, or online. If you are a government employee, visit the Apple Government site for deep discounts on computers and lesser discounts on other Apple products. If you are a student, teacher or staff member of a registered educational institution, check the Apple Education site for similar discounts. If you have a frugal budget, you may also want to consider purchasing a refurbished computer from Apple.
4) No matter where you make your purchase, the AppleCare extended warranty is a must have. Not only will this provide unlimited software and hardware support (including free telephone support) for three years, but it will vastly improve the resale value of your computer if you choose to sell your computer within the warranty period.