Eyeing a new Mac?

On June 4, 1996, in Opinion, by Tim Robertson

Have you been thinking perhaps it is time to buy a new Macintosh? Wondering if now is a good time to buy, or should you hold off for a little longer, hoping that prices will fall even further? Let’s see if we can’t answer some of those questions for you.

New or Used.
My Mac gets many letters each month asking if it would be wise to buy a used machine rather than a new one. Well, the answer is a simple one. Is the used Macintosh a PowerPC or not? If it is, and the machine works well, then by all means go for it! If, however, it is not a PowerPC, then the answer is no. Why buy a computer that will be unable to run the next MacOS? (System 8, code named Copland). Unless your computer has the PowerPC chip, then System 8 will not work on your computer. Not even installing a PowerPC add-on card will help, so says Apple. So, if you are a Macintosh fanatic, and must have the latest, greatest OS out there, then the PowerPC is the only purchase you need to look at.

Deals abound
There are indeed some good prices for Macintosh computers right now, both from Power Computing and Apple. But which is right for you?

PowerMac or Performa?
This is a deceptive title. Any new Performa IS a PowerMac. The only real difference is the memory expansion option, Hard Drive size, and what each computer comes shipped with. A PowerMac only comes with the box itself, no monitor, printer, or software included. (Other than the system software, that which makes a Mac a Mac!) PowerMac’s may be the way to go if you already have a monitor, modem, software, and so on. This way, all you have to do is pull out the old box, and connect everything you already own to the new box! And prices on a brand new, out of the box PowerMac are dropping everyday. In fact, you can buy a new PowerMac 7200 for under $1,000! (75MHz, 8MB Ram, 4x CDRom, 1 MB VRAM, 16-bit sound, and more)

But perhaps that is not enough for you. Apple has stated that all new Mac’s will soon ship with a minimum of 12MB of memory. So it would be wise for you to buy a Machine that either has 16MB of memory preinstalled, or purchase additional memory when you buy the new Mac. As system software memory size increases, your 8MB of memory goes south fast. The more memory your system takes, the less there is available for applications. More memory is good. Less memory is bad.

Something else getting larger is applications. Once, you could fit a whole Word Processing program on a floppy disk, with room to spare! Now, software such as ClarisWorks take as much as 15MB of hard drive space! A simple look into my Applications folder shows some of the most popular programs getting much larger: Adobe Acrobat, 2.3MB, American Heritage Dictionary, 4.8MB, Microsoft Word, 10 MB, America Online v2.7, 10MB, Netscape Navigator, 2MB, GraphicConverter 2.4 , 3MB, Color It!, 4MB, Adobe Photoshop , 8MB, Adobe Illustrator, 8MB, and the list goes on! So Hard Drive space should be a big factor in your buying decision. In fact, if you are surfing the web much, you should be aware that Netscape Navigator is starting to hog MUCH more drive space in your Preference folder. (Open it up, take a look!) So I would not recommend a Hard Drive smaller than at least 700MB, but a 1.2 gig would be better. Again, bigger is better.

And now is really a great time to buy. If you are content in using a pre-PowerPC unit, you will find some great deals. A good example is the Performa 636CD from MacMall, selling for $999. This is a good, solid computer, and very reliable. Again, however, you will not be able to run the next Mac OS. This is a good price, and you will find many others like it, but for your money, and the future of your computing, a pre-PowerMac is not a good idea.

My Search
As you know if you read my “Speedy” column, I bought a new Mac myself. Before I bought, I spent many long nights poring over material, searching for the best computer for the money I had to spend. I already had a monitor, but it was too small. I also had a modem, but that was too slow! So I knew I needed to also buy both of those items, and that is where I started my search.

First, I knew I wanted a PowerPC model. No way was I going to buy anything else. I know System 8 is still a ways off, but I do not want to miss out on it. Sure, they will release some parts of it for the pre-PowerPC users, but I want the real thing, baby!

Next, I wanted speed. Here I looked at the possibility of getting a 75MHz processor or higher. But with the rapid increase in processor speeds as of late,(200MHz by this Christmas!) I decided I really wanted a triple figure number. (100MHz or better) So I started looking over the latest MacWorld, MacUser, and the hundreds of mail order catalogs I get every week. I found many great deals, but each had one problem. Memory.

Most new Mac’s still only have 8 Megs of memory. With Apple set to ship new models with at least 12 Megs, why settle for 8 now? Truth be told, I really did not want to buy extra memory and take apart my new Mac before I even used it. So I decided that my new Mac would have 16MB standard.

Now, wanting at least a triple digit MHz speed machine with at least 16MB of memory, most Mac’s were slipping out of my price range. Oh, sure, I could buy one, but then I would have no money left over to buy a new modem or monitor. And I really needed both. So I started looking at the Performa line.

Performa Purchase
For the money, and for what you get, a Performa is a great buy. Most of the software they come bundled with I will never use, or already have. Apple’s bundled software is good, but Power Computing’s Macintosh line has a much more attractive assortment of preinstalled software. For the money I had, though, and for what I wanted, a Power Computing machine was not realistic for me.

I had read some bad reports about problems with the latest 5200 and 6300 Performa line, and that was where my search had narrowed down to. But which Machine? Let’s see, I wanted 100MHz, 16MB of Ram, a 700MB or larger Hard Drive, a 15″ or bigger monitor, and a 28.8 modem. With all that, there was only one Performa for me.

Performa 6300CD.
This was the model I had settled on. It had everything I wanted, and more. But I had read some negative reports in the press about the 6300CD, and was a bit leery. So I had decided I would rather buy my 6300CD from a local vendor rather than a mail order catalog, so that if I did have any trouble with it, I could have it taken care of much more easily and quickly. Who wants to have to box, ship, and wait forever for your Macintosh to be repaired or exchanged from a mail order company? But sometimes, the mail order prices are impossible to beat. Also, if you live in a rural area where the nearest Macintosh reseller is over 50 miles away, this is realistically your only choice.

Terry, a great guy at AMS computers here in Battle Creek, took a look at how much the Performa 6300CD costs at the warehouse type dealers in the area, and matched the price. So I decided that, for less than $2500, I would spend my money at a local business right here in town. I also compared the price from AMS against the advertised prices of the mail order business, and found that after shipping, I would only be saving $100 or less by ordering from there. Is it worth $100 to buy local? Your answer may differ from mine, but the answer for me was yes. Sure, $100 is a lot of money to me, but for the convenience and piece of mind, it was money well spent.

So if you are looking at a new Macintosh, I hope this helps you make a more informed decision. I will let you know how the new Performa is holding up in future issues, but so far, no trouble at all, even after installing System 7.5 Update 2! I have stated that I think Apple should become a software only company before, and I stand by that. But they do make a very good computer:-)

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