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Ask Max: Best Mac for Me?

Asked on 05/26/2006:

Hi Jacob from outdoor writer Kevin Naze of Algoma, WI. I'm seriously considering a new Mac for my outdoor writing career (25+ years) but with several little ones in house and an addiction to my old ('98) G3 am not sure what to do next.

My wife would like something with a CD burner as she wants to copy her own music recordings (she plays piano and harp, the latter professionally). I also would like something that would "easily" load images from a digital camera (so far all I have is a digital Deer Cam but have all Nikon SLR equipment and my autofocus lenses will work with any new Nikon digitals ...just need to save up the $!).

Would a reconditioned eMac be a good choice? I never had one, but have heard they are pretty good.

Also, we have a slow, "country connection" out here, though SBC Global is only a half-mile away and supposedly working its way here (can't come soon enough). Are there any options for high speed without upgraded phone lines that you're aware of? It would have to be reliable as I'm on deadline for six newspapers and a varying number of magazines each week.

Also, tips on what software I might like to add would be appreciated. I currently have Adobe Photodeluxe which is basic (but good enough for me to take photo CDs and size the pix whatever I need; I don't think I'll ever have time to master "Photoshop" but will still listen to your suggestions). I use Netscape Navigator, Appleworks, simpletext, some Quark (though most of my papers are phasing it out).

I appreciate the chance to ask you these questions, and I'll patiently await your reply.

I'm looking at spending somewhere between $500-$1,500, though could go higher if you think it would be the best long-term choice for me (remember, I've already had a G3 eight years and a truck for 12; I'm old school ...don't like wasting! But I may also need a kick in the pants now and then to get me up-to-date).


$500-$1,500 is plenty of money to get nearly any Mac that would do what you need. I feel I must disclose that I have never personally liked the eMac. I used to be the main configuration tech for PowerMax during the introduction of the eMac, so perhaps it was because they are heavy or maybe because they have large CRT displays when everything else has sleek and slim LCD screens, but still, that's just my personal bias, and in fact an eMac could be a great computer for you as it's one of the most cost-effective desktop Macs around today. But, I will also give you two other options that will meet both the needs of you and your wife.

Option one is either a 12" or 14" iBook. A portable will be a good option for you as it will travel outdoors well and can be put away from the "little ones." The iBook is the most sturdy of the Apple portables and has a good deal of power to do all of your work. You will be able to run most of your old OS 9 applications through Classic but you will also get a ton of new programs like iPhoto.

The only problem with going to an iBook is that it is older technology. The PowerPC based Macs are on their way out. You upgrade so infrequently that it may be better to get the newest of the new. So option two would be an Intel iMac. This will be a clean break for you. None of your OS 9 and earlier applications will work on this computer and most of the current software titles available are not optimized for this new computer yet. It is, however, the most forward-looking system to buy. It will last for many years with a great deal of support from Apple and third party companies alike.

Regardless of what you think is the best solution, I am going to further recommend that you buy a version of PhotoShop Elements. This is going to help you with most of your future photo work.

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