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Which MacBook should you buy?

CNET compares the 13" MacBooks, the Air, Pro and White (aka "The MacBook Just Known as MacBook but which I call the WhiteBook") and tries to figure out how to tell you which one you should buy. The results are not all that surprising: if you want impressive benchmarks, get the Pro. If you want to get the most for the least amount of money, get the WhiteBook.

The problem is that it seems like CNET's author hasn't actually used a MacBook Air, because the most he can muster are some standard lines about the Air. Some of these are back-handed compliments at best such as, "If thinness and swift start-up times truly matter, the MacBook Air isn't a terrible deal," and "The light weight and quick boot times will be appreciated, and its single-task performance is better than you think." That's about the equivalent of telling me that I don't sweat much for a fat guy.

The MacBook Air is much more than just a light computer that starts up quickly. It's a computer that very nearly eliminates waiting for any of the normal tasks that most people do all day long. On the MacBook Air, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel launch a fraction of a second more slowly than TextEdit. In the past few weeks that I've been using one, I've already come to expect that if I see a "beachball," it means that the program has locked up (not that it happens very often, but I just don't see beachballs in normal use). The CNET article makes it sound like the Air isn't very good at multitasking. All I can tell you is that my previous computer was an iMac, and I haven't changed my computing habits at all. In fact, right now I have 15 different apps running in my dock, another 10 or so in my menu bar, and it's zooming right along.

Benchmarks are one way to evaluate a computer, but they aren't the only way or even the best way. If you're encoding video or doing heavy-duty graphics work, or if you need one of the connectors that it offers, then yeah, you probably want the MacBook Pro.

If you only have $1000 to spend, get the WhiteBook (or the 11" MacBook Air if you think you can get by with 2 GB of RAM and 64 GB of hard drive space), and you'll have a great computer with a good-sized hard drive.

If you don't do a lot of heavy-duty graphics/video work and want the fastest computer you've ever used, take a good long look at the MacBook Air. Ideally, go to the Apple Store when it's not too crowded and use one for awhile to see what it's really like.

Recommending computers for another person without knowing them is like trying to pick out clothes for a stranger. Chances are it isn't going to be a very good fit. Not sure which MacBook to buy? Stop by an Apple Retail Store or hit the live chat on the Apple store website. Don't rely on generic recommendations from some website... even this one.

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