Back in the early days of personal computing there was a rule of thumb that said that your perfect computer cost $5,000. Not that you had to spend anywhere near that amount of money (the Apple debuted at $666) but if you sat down and imagined your dream machine, it wound up costing about $5,000. This was by no means the most expensive computer you could buy; you could always trick out your system with ever more storage, peripherals, and insanely-expensive monitors. Truth is, you could spend twice as much before you'd run out of toys to tack on. But, $5,000 would buy you the system that most all would envy, even you.
That proved to be a remarkably durable number, although it declined a bit as computer prices continued their severe decline. In recent years, it's been hard to break the $4,000 barrier. After all, today the overwhelming majority of computers sold are under $1,000. Apple, in fact, owns almost the entire market for over-$1,000 machines, and their total market share is still measured in single digit percentages.
But thanks (if that's the word I want to be using) to the technical machinations of our friends at Other World Computing, the ante has once again been upped. By my reckoning, the perfect machine runs closer to $6,000; with the perfect monitor, $7,000. Here's how you get there:
Start off with a MacBook Pro 15" 2.2 GHz with the Hi-Res antiglare screen option. That sets you back $2,350. Don't get the 2 GHz model; there's a very substantial performance difference between the two on Photoshoppy tasks. Apple's really pumped up the innards on the faster model in other ways than just the CPU. If you don't mind bigger (I do mind) go for the 17-inch "laptop" for another $200. You better have a really big lap, though.
Those two machines scream, out of the box. They'll outun the quad-core iMac that Mike just bought. This is just the beginning, though.
Throw away Apple's pokey hard drive and replace it with OWC's 480GB SSD. That'll set you back another $1,800.
Now to the newest sweet stuff. A big advantage of desktops over laptops has been their RAM capacity. Note the past tense. OWC has figured out how to cram 16 GB of RAM into the latest MacBook Pros, equaling the RAM capacity of the iMac.
Oh man, you're going to pay for that: $1,600. Add it all up and it's quite a pretty penny. Said penny, though, gets you a system that will run rings around the aforementioned quad-core iMac. In fact it will run rings around most any stock computer out there. And it all fits in a laptop—use it at your desk or take it wherever you need to. No longer are you compromising performance to get portability.
It still loses in one way: that relatively crappy laptop display. Well, get a NEC MultiSync PA271W-BK 27" display for $1,100.
Before you complain that a good display makes it a non-portable, remember there's always my iPad trick—dual displays with studio quality, in the field.
Either way, you've got a machine that's damn near perfect. Too bad about that $7,000 part, though.
Ctein's regular weekly column appears on TOP on Wednesdays.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.