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Bide Your Time

Every new generation of computers is cheaper, faster, and better than the one before. So the best machine to buy is always around the corner, not the one in the stores now. Dwelling on this (admittedly true) observation leads to analysis paralysis: the inability to make a purchase now because of information about the machines that will be coming out in a few weeks’ or months’ time.

Apple typically updates its computers on a six-month cycle. There are two ways to look at this piece of information. First, you can use it as a guideline for when to buy a new Mac to get the best value for your money. If it has been six months since the last time a certain model of Mac was refreshed or revised, chances are that a new version is imminent and you’d do well to hold off making your purchase for another few weeks.

The other way of looking at things is to accept that even in the best of circumstances your shiny new Mac will be "obsolete" in half a year. So in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really make much difference when you buy your computer. Advocates of this approach make the point that a computer doesn’t have to be the fastest machine in the city; it merely has to be fast enough to perform the tasks you set it to do quickly and efficiently.

Although timing usually might not make all that much difference, sometimes waiting a few months after the release of a new series of Macs can be very valuable. Early runs of radically different Mac models sometimes have design or manufacturing flaws that become apparent only after a few weeks or months of use. Early adopters might get their fingers burned a little, although Apple has a reasonably good reputation for recalling seriously flawed computers or components (such as batteries) and putting things right.

Nonetheless, after a big change, you might want to sit back a while and let someone else shake the bugs out of the new Macs rather than doing it yourself.

The Mac press—both print and online—is a great place to get information before spending money, but testing out a Mac yourself can’t be undervalued. Experienced Mac users probably know what to look for when testing a computer at their local computer store, but switchers from the PC side of things might be a little in the dark. For those folks, a friendly word or two with a Mac-using colleague or friend can be a tremendous help. Mac users tend to be a friendly bunch, especially to recent converts.

Figure 6

Figure 6 Apple revises its machines a couple of times a year, so time your purchases to get the best value.

Once you’re up and running is when the next part of the story comes into play: making the most of your Mac. For that, stop by Peachpit on a regular basis to learn more!

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