How to Buy a New Mac Pro

by garth on October 6, 2006

Scott Bourne recently published Aperture Trick #59 on building a dream MacPro for use with Aperture. To summarise:

  • Spend big on the graphics card;
  • Scrimp on the CPU if you need to;
  • Buy at least 2GB RAM;
  • Buy third party memory if you’re buying a lot; and
  • Spend big on the graphics card.

As I’ve found with my 2GHz/2GB/X1900 Mac Pro, this advice will also result in a kick-arse gaming machine. Oops!

I’d like to contribute some additional advice for people who, like me, have spent most of their computing lives on PCs and who don’t yet know the ins and outs of buying and caring for Macs. It’s not so much what to buy, as how:

  • Buy from a good reseller;
  • Talk to them often;
  • Bring them repeat business; and
  • Buy AppleCare.

In more detail:

Buy from a Good Reseller. I bought my Mac Pro from Total Recall Solutions in North Sydney. Lara helped me fine-tune the configuration and quote, saving me a few bucks. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a great start way to start a relationship. That’ll help more than you think, as you’ll need to…

Talk to your Reseller Often. You’re switching. All your friends have PCs. Those of them that you’ve persuaded to switch are also brand new. So, who’s going to help you out?

So far, Lara at TRS has:

  • Helped me fix some initial problems with application crashes;
  • Ordered me a rare Avocent KVM capable of switching DVI at 1920×1200;
  • Sold me Parallels and helped me nut out its problems;
  • Put me in touch with another of her customers that had managed to get Boot Camp working despite his X1900;
  • Helped me find a retractable iPod charge and sync cable that actually works; and
  • Sold me Aperture and swapped tips.

You might have time to browse web sites all night. I don’t. I’m delighted that I can lob a quick phone call or email at Lara and her co-workers and get a tip on how to solve some minor problem that Google can’t.

My more astute readers will have spotted that some of the items above involve add-on purchases, and might be wondering why I didn’t buy everything online. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve discovered that it’s a great idea to…

Bring your reseller your repeat business. I always give my reseller a chance to match online prices on new Mac-related kit before I buy it. Most of the time, they either beat the price or come within cooee of it, even if it wasn’t on their price list the day before. Overall, I think I’m ahead on price and way ahead on support. (They’re not doing too badly out of me, either.)

There’s one more thing you can do that can substantially help your reseller help you:

Buy AppleCare. Your Mac is going to cost you a bundle. Should something go wrong, it’s going to be expensive and time consuming to fix. If you don’t buy AppleCare, you’ll basically have to send your box back to Apple to get it looked at and fixed, and your puny warranty will have you buying expensive bits only shortly into the machine’s useful lifetime.

If you buy AppleCare, on the other hand, there’s someone paid to take your calls and authorise your reseller to swap parts at Apple’s expense. Your reseller can get the parts and swap them while you wait, minimising your downtime and hassle.

* * *

I realise this advice isn’t as attractively geeky as tips on shaving GHz in exchange for GB, but how you buy your Mac can have as big an effect on your productivity as what you put in it.

Spending time on a professional relationship might feel weird to some geeks. It would have felt weird to my younger self. I’ve found, however, that buying from a good reseller and keeping in touch with them has contributed more to my satisfaction with my Mac than a mild CPU upgrade would have.


Alastair 10.06.06 at 8:06 pm

Good stuff Garth. If I had the dosh to drop on a MacPro I would be totally there. Until I do I shall live vicariously through you. So keep up the MacProBlogging.

Second the recommendation for TRS. I had my PowerBook repaired there once. They weren’t quick, but it was Xmas and they took prettymuch exactly the time they said it would. So no complaints.

BTW AppleTalk is a good alternative to Google for online Mac advice. Just be careful trading there.

How does the AppleCare go with third-party RAM?

Please please please review the Avocent KVM. I’ve got my eye on one, as soon as I’ve got a Monitor that is worthy.

And just to round off a set of mostly unrelated comments: get Comment preview. Thanks.

Richard 10.07.06 at 11:27 pm

Mate, even I – the quintissential ‘late adopter’ – can strip & assemble a PC like an SLR nowadays. When I2 release iBase & Analyst’s Notebook for Macs then I might be converted. I’m a driver, not a mechanic… but servicing a Holden is a lot cheaper than servicing a Maserati.

Stilgherrian 10.23.06 at 8:22 am

Garth, I must reinforce your suggestion that you keep sending repeat business to your helpful Apple dealer. The dealers’ retail margin on Apple hardware is only 6%. They rely on the profits from software, accessories and third-party items to stay in business. And, since supporting users really isn’t their problem, there needs to be some incentive for them to keep answering all your “lame questions”.

Of course if they’re not helpful, screw them. There’s plenty of dealers around… ;)

Ian 07.04.07 at 9:31 am

Could you please point me to the tips for getting my Mac Pro w/ X1900 video card to work with Boot Camp? I’ve looked all over and can’t find the solution. The Boot Camp install goes fine up to the reboot to install Vista, then I simply loose all video out. I can’t select the install disk because I can’t see anything! It’s very frustrating. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Ian 07.04.07 at 10:28 pm

Fixed it! I used the DVI-to-VGA adapter (even though I’ve heard that can cause issues, too) and my monitor had no problem receiving the VGA signal.

Michael 02.13.09 at 3:24 am

That’s correct, the Apple product cycle can be predicted to some level and it’s important to check first, if your desired Mac might get an upgrade soon.

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