Note: Amazon offers new & used products from many dealers. New products ordered directly from Amazon typically include free Super Saver shipping. If an Amazon page shows another dealer, click the "used & new" link to find an Amazon-direct page.
If you already have a monitor, a Mac-compatible USB keyboard, and a USB mouse, a Mac mini is your most affordable path to a modern Macintosh.
Note: This newest Mac minis have no optical drive. Amazon offers the earlier Mac Mini MC270LL/A (used) with a CD/DVD drive.
The Mac mini's HDMI port supports up to 1920-by-1200 resolution, and the Thunderbolt port supports up to 2560-by-1600 resolution.
The latest iMac has an LCD/LED monitor, an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM and a FaceTime camera in one tidy package, plus a wireless Apple Keyboard and Magic Mouse. Software includes Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) and 18 built-in apps.
Note: This newest iMacs have no optical drive.
Apple's MacBook laptops are the new MacBook, the super-thin MacBook Air, and the powerful MacBook Pro.
Since MacBooks are more fragile than desktop Macs and are subjected to a more hostile environment, extending the warrantee to three years with AppleCare is a wise choice.
Note: This newest MacBooks have no optical drive, and they no longer give users the ability to expand beyond the factory installed memory.
Apple's top-of-the-line Mac Pros are nearly twice as fast as the earlier Mac Pro towers.
USB 2.0 & 3.0 Hubs
When all of your Mac's USB ports are filled, a USB Hub can turn a single port into 4 or 7 ports.
These USB Hubs are AC-powered to support most USB devices, from a keyboard or mouse to a printer, scanner or hard drive. One major exception is an iPad, which requires a high-power USB port, found on only the latest Macs (and some USB hubs).
Note: A unpowered (aka passive) hub is limited to low-power devices like a keyboard, mouse, trackball, or trackpad. Keyboard built-in hubs are typically unpowered.
Newer Macs have USB 3.0 ports, which are much faster than USB 2.0. It's especially important to use a USB 3.0 hub to connect USB 3.0 hard drives.
When your iBook, PowerBook or MacBook is traveling, it's important to have a power adapter for times when the battery runs out. A second power adapter means you can have one in your office and one in your laptop bag – no more packing and unpacking for each trip, which saves a lot of wear and tear on the adapters.
An AppleCare Protection Plan extends the warrantee for a new Mac from one to three years. AppleCare is recommended for MacBooks because they're more fragile than desktop Macs and are subjected to a more hostile environment.
Although Mac desktops are less likely to have problems beyond the one year warrantee, a screen repair can be expensive. AppleCare for a Mac mini or a Mac Pro covers any Apple monitor purchased at the same time as the Mac. AppleCare for a desktop Mac may include onsite repair.
AppleCare extends Apple telephone support from 90 days to 3 years.
AppleCare can be purchased with a new Mac or at any time during the one-year warrantee period.
See Apple's site for complete AppleCare Protection Plan Terms and Conditions.
Modern iMacs and MacBooks have a display port for an external monitor. A Mac mini can drive two monitors, and a Mac Pro can drive numerous monitors. Check the specs for your Mac's graphic processor to verify it can drive a monitor at its native resolution.
There are way too many monitor brands and models to fit in this section. So I'm suggesting four affordable monitors from ViewSonic, the brand I chose for my Mac Pro in mid-2011 after extensive research and viewing. When I recently replaced the Mac Pro with a 27" iMac, my ViewSonic VG2436wm-LED became its second monitor.
ViewSonic has four series of monitors:
Are you tired of the hassle and expense of ink jet printers? A personal or network laser printer is a wonderful alternative.
Brother offers an array of laser/LED printers in three basic categories, with numerous options:
Videos on YouTube, films on DVD, TV shows on Hulu, and your favorite songs on iTunes are a whole new experience when the sound comes from external, powered speakers that plug into the headphone (or line out) jack on your Mac. Speakers with a separate sub-woofer provide satisifying bass and enable smaller desktop speakers for the higher frequencies.
A search for the best Bluetooth headset for an iPhone quickly led to high praise for the Plantronics Voyager Legend at the Cult of Mac site: Plantronics Voyager Legend UC is Almost the Perfect Bluetooth Headset.
The Plantonics Charge Case provides protection for the headset and includes its own battery to recharge the headset for up to 14 hours of additional talk time.
USB flash drives have grown in size in recent years from 10s of MBs to many GBs, and increased in speed from USB 1.1 to 2.0 and now 3.0.
USB 2.0 Flash Drives
USB 3.0 Flash Drives
If your Mac supports USB 3.0 (10 times as fast as 2.0), a USB 3.0 flash drive is well worth the extra cost. A USB 3.0 flash drive works in a USB 2.0 port (at USB 2.0 speed).
Automatic backup by Time Machine was a key new feature in Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5). Simply connect an external hard drive to your 10.5 or 10.6 Mac, and Time Machine starts hourly backup of your entire internal hard drive.
How large a drive does Time Machine need?
The rule of thumb is a Time Machine hard drive should be 1.5 times the amount of data you'll be backing up. Typically, that's 1.5 times the size of your Mac's internal hard drive.
Having more space means a longer backup history. That's because when the backup drive fills up, Time Machine begins discarding the oldest backup files.
USB 2.0, FireWire 400, FireWire 800, USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt?
An external hard drive (HD) can connect to your Mac via USB 2.0 (faster than older USB 1.1), FireWire 400 or FireWire 800, USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt. Modern Macs typically support only USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt.
N.B. Check the ports on your Mac before ordering a drive.
Pre-configured External HD
Other World Computing offers external hard drives that are ready-to-go, right out of the box:
Desktop (larger, powered from a Back-UPS)
Portable (smaller, powered from your laptop)
When your Mac loses power, you lose any work in progress. And if a file is being written/copied/saved at that moment, the hard drive is very likely to get corrupted.
An UPS (rhymes with "cups") powers your Mac and selected peripherals (monitor, modem, router) during a momentary power interruption. When the lights blink, your Mac doesn't. In the event of an extended power outage, an UPS gives you time to save your files and do a graceful shutdown.
Use the APC UPS Selector ("PC or Workstation") to find the right model for other Macs + associated peripherals.
Although a MacBook has no need for an UPS battery backup, it's still a good idea to protect the MacBook and its power adapter from hostile power surges, e.g., a nearby lightning strike. Simply plug the power adapter into the surge protection side of an UPS.
If your UPS is not nearby, a standalone surge protector is all you need.
Video conferencing over the Internet requires four ingredients:
Modern iMac and MacBooks have a built-in iSight camera and micophone. Older iMacs and iBooks have only a build-in microphone. If you have a Mac Mini, a Mac Pro, or an older Mac, you can add an external FireWire or USB "Webcam" (many with a built-in microphone).
FireWire cameras provide the best video quality. Apple's original external FireWire iSight camera/microphone has been a popular choice, but it was discontinued in December 2006; new and used iSights are still available on eBay at a premium price, often $100 (or more) than the original $150 price. There are a few third-party FireWire cameras in the $125 to $200 range, plus $50 or so for an external microphone.
Affordable USB Webcams are a more popular alternative. From the vast array of vendors and models, I've found two Mac-friendly Webcams with good video chat quality and a built-in voice mike.
USB Webcams may claim USB 1.1 compatibility. However, USB 2.0 is required for iChat-compatibility on Mac OS X. White iBooks, later model flat-screen iMacs, and all Mac minis have USB 2.0. A USB 2.0 PCI card can be easily installed in a PowerMac G3/G4 tower.
iChatUSBCam is a $10 add-on for iChat that adjusts camera settings (e.g., brightness, contrast) and provides support for a USB 2.0 PCI card.
Wired (Ethernet) vs. Wireless (Wi-Fi)
A wired (Ethernet) connection between your computer and router provides the maximum speed and reliability. A wireless (Wi-Fi) connection allows your MacBook to move throughout your home or office.
Modern routers support 10 megabit Ethernet for old devices and 100 megabit for newer devices. Some routers offer Gigabit (1000 megabit) Ethernet for the newest devices.
B, G & N and Single- vs. Dual-band
Wi-Fi transmission includes three 802-11 protocols: B (slowest), G and N (fastest). Older devices use B or G protocol. Newer devices can use all three.
Some newer 802-11n routers offer two transmission bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 5 GHz band can provide faster speed, with a more limited range. But the 5 GHz band is not compatible with some devices (e.g., Kindle)
Copyright © 2008–2016 Ward Clark