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Your First Mac - Part 1

June 27, 2013 - Dave Hecei
mac ipad iphoneSo, you’re ready to buy your first Mac. This decision may come from the pain of figuring out Windows 8. It could be you’ve heard that Macs don’t have the major headaches of constant virus and malware attacks. But maybe this is going to be your first computer ever. Whatever the reason, now we just have to figure out which Mac is right for you.

Mac or iPad?

If you have never had a computer before, or if your needs are on the more basic side, I’d like to make a suggestion – try out the iPad. It really depends on what you want a computer to do for you. If you want to browse around on the Internet (the World Wide Web), do E-mail, chat with friends and family, play some games, do online banking and other financial stuff, or even take pictures/videos and do some basic editing of them, then an iPad might just be your answer.

The iPad is available in two sizes – the 8.9-inch iPad mini and the 9.7-inch (10-inch) iPad 4th generation. If you are thinking Mac laptop, then the iPad mini shouldn’t be considered. That leaves the 10-inch iPad. Of course, it isn’t that simple. The 10-inch iPad is available in two colors, three storage sizes, and two connectivity choices available from three vendors. Oops, I just confused myself there for a minute.

Color is simple. You have a choice of either black or white. If you want a more colorful iPad just get a cool cover or case for it. Storage is another matter. The iPad is available with 16, 32, or 64GB of storage. Remember, storage is where things like email, pictures, music, videos, and such are stored. The more storage available, the more stuff you can have with you at any time. The more storage you have, the more expensive the iPad so there is a trade off.

For most, 16GB is more than enough. I’ve used an iPhone for 3 years now with only 8GB of storage and it has worked great. Sure, there have been a few times when I’ve hit the ‘you don’t have enough room for that’ message. At 16GB, I doubt that I would of ever seen that pop up.

If you want to use an iPad to shoot photos and video (the built-in camera does a decent job at photos and an even better job at HD video), then you might want to think about getting either the 32GB or 64GB model. Since the iPad has a Retina display (a very high resolution display), photos and videos look fantastic. Be aware that each jump up in storage adds another $100 to the price of a new iPad. Also note that you cannot add storage to an iPad later on. There is no way to upgrade a 16GB iPad to 64GB. The iPad is essentially a sealed device.

So you’ve chosen a color and the amount of storage for a new iPad. Next there is connectivity. The iPad has two choices – WiFi only and WiFi with Cellular Data. If you plan to use you iPad mainly at home or at work where there is always a wireless connection, then the WiFi only iPad would be a good choice. In between work and home there are lots of places to find free open WiFi access, including hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, and such, so getting online probably won’t be to much of a challenge.

If you think you want to use an iPad on the road, or at the park, or while on vacation, then the WiFi with Cellular is probably a better choice. Opting for cellular data connectivity means you need to choose a provider. The choices are AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint. To use one of their cellular data networks you do need to purchase a data plan. The prices are pretty competitive between the three carriers. Coverage is anther question. It’s best to check you area and the places you plan to use the iPad to see who has the best coverage. The good thing is that this in not a cell phone, you don’t have to ‘sign a contract’ and be locked in for years. Data plans for the iPad let you pay by the month. If you buy an iPad with Cellular data you don’t even have to use it if you don’t want to. Just use WiFi to connect online and there are no monthly fees – just don’t create a cellular data account.

Unfortunately, there are specific models for each of the carriers. This means that if you buy the AT&T model you cannot use it on the Sprint network later on – so choose wisely. Getting an iPad with Cellular connectivity does add a bit more to the base price. A 16GB WiFi only iPad is $499 and the WiFi with Cellular is $629. Yes, if you want Cellular connectivity just add $130 to the price of whatever WiFi only model you picked.

You do get a bit more than just 4G LTE cellular data capabilities for that extra $130. The WiFi only iPads do not have GPS capabilities. This is actually a very useful feature for any mobile device, and something that most any laptop I’ve ever used has built in. But GPS wouldn’t be much help unless there were some great Apps that take advantage of this feature. Don’t worry because there are plenty of GPS Apps out there to choose from. This includes everything from the new Google Maps App to the amazing, and free, Waze social GPS navigation App.

If you are thinking of getting a new Mac, first try out the 10-inch iPad. Pair it up with a nice case, or better yet one of the Bluetooth keyboard covers, and the iPad becomes an ultra portable laptop. Considering all the great Apps in the iOS universe, many are free, 99 cents, or at the most $10 or $20, you won’t have any problem finding software. Add to this all the peripherals you can add, Bluetooth keyboards, speakers, WiFi printers, and such. Plus, add to all this, the ability to shoot what you see on the screen to your big HDTV via an Apple TV and you have an amazing computer. Some might need a full Macintosh computer, either desktop or laptop, but I bet that many would be happier with the simplicity and ease of use of the Apple iPad.

Next time – choosing the right Mac for you.


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