MacBook and Apple’s Black Friday Sale: “Almost,” But Not Quite Enough

The 13″ aluminum MacBook is an “almost” machine. It appeals to me in many aspects, being a roughly three-quarter-sized unibody MacBook Pro at a substantially lower price. But it falls just short of the slam-dunk it might have been.

For me, probably the biggest negative is the lack of a FireWire port. I think I could live quite happily with the glossy display that some object to, and while I’ve gotten comfortably used to the 1440 x 900 screen resolution in my PowerBook G4’s 17″ display (I knew that would spoil me), I don’t think downsizing to a 13.3″, 1280 x 800 screen would be a deal breaker for me. I’m still working fairly happily on the 1024 x 768 screens in my two old Pismo PowerBooks.

Consequently, I spent a lot of the day on Friday ruminating over whether or not to take advantage of Apple’s one-day $101 price cut on the aluminum MacBook at the expense of other things I should have been doing. In the “just do it” column were the arguments that Apple rarely has sales of any sort, and while a hundred bucks off wasn’t especially exciting, it would at least pay most of the sales tax, and with the Canadian dollar having dropped by more than 25 percent in relation to the U.S. greenback over the past year, I’m skeptical that Apple Canada will hold its current price points for much longer. It’s also the time of year that one starts thinking about income tax expense deductions.

However, on the downside, I have a provisional policy of not buying Revision A computer hardware, there’s the FireWire issue, the smaller screen issue, and that $101 really isn’t much of a discount off the C$1399 sticker price. It was almost enough to persuade me, but not quite. I’m looking to upgrade to a MacIntel machine, but I’m not desperate yet for a new computer. My old 1.33 GHz G4 machine is still anvil-dependable, very pleasant to use, and an astonishingly capable performer for its age, although it is struggling a bit to keep up with what I’m demanding of it lately.

There’s also the matter of Apple Certified Refurbished early 2008 2.4 GHz MacBook Pros selling for just C$150 dollars more than the Black Friday discounted unibody MacBook, and it’s equipped with both FireWire 400 and 800 ports, an ExpressCard 34 slot, a 2.1-inch larger LED backlit display with 1440 x 900 resolution (same res. as my current 17″ PowerBook), a more than 20 percent faster processor, a real discrete graphics processor with dedicated video RAM, and a backlit keyboard, all for C$650 less than the equivalent new model cost less than two months ago.

Another alternative I priced out was an old-school MacBook. Apple’s Black Friday discount on it was a paltry $51, and that didn’t seem like much of a deal at all compared with the unibody pricing out to $200 more, since the base model comes with just 1GB of RAM as opposed to 2GB, a 120GB hard drive instead of a 160GB unit, old-fashioned CCFL screen backlighting, and of course the white plastic enclosure instead of aluminum carved from a solid block of metal.

I could also get a Certified Refurbished early 2008 2.4 GHz Penryn MacBook with a a FireWire port, 2GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive for C$1054. The biggest drawback with the older model is its Intel GMA x3100 integrated graphics, rather than the unibody machine’s claimed 5x faster Nvidia 9400M graphics chipset, but I’m not a serious gamer and don’t do high-end graphics or video work, so that’s probably not a deal-breaker issue for me. What I really want is a unibody MacBook Pro, but it will probably be at least eight months to a year before refurbished examples of that currently future model become available, so a 2.4 GHz white MacBook might make a sensible tide-me-over machine for a year or two. Of course, that’s what the refurbished 17-incher was supposed to be when I bought it nearly three years ago!

So, in hindsight, what would you have done? Is a $100-off sale enough for you to jump the gun and buy an Apple notebook?