I suffer from betaeggizophobia – a rampant fear of second-hand goods. I’ve never been one for other people’s old stuff, although I do have 52 positive points (and one undeserved negative) on eBay. I’m not counting quality retro goods – I’ll leave “new antiques” to Lovejoy. Old CDs are fine, as they’re quickly imported into iTunes, and old well-thumbed books can be thrown out as soon as I’ve read them. I’ve just moved into a new house – purchased from a Macworld subscriber it turns out, so I can’t lie about how I replaced everything electrical with brand-new gear from John Lewis – and therefore I do now have a quantity of what I like to call “non-new goods”, which will be replaced when I’ve started breathing again after paying the stamp-duty bill.
But I’d never buy a second-hand TV or telephone, and I certainly wouldn’t consider buying someone else’s old computer to upgrade mine unless it was less than six months old. Anything more ancient than that is almost certainly past-it when it comes to embracing new technologies. I certainly don’t mean that your still-shiny two-year-old computer is a heap of polycarbonate, aluminium and silicon junk – unless it’s got Intel Inside.
If it’s a Mac, it’s more than likely a fully functioning machine that can handle most of the tasks you challenge it to complete. Keep using it, by all means – and don’t start looking at it as if it’s about to start smoking when you ask it to save a Word file. Many don’t need blistering speed to tackle 80 per cent of their daily needs: email, Web browsing, general office tasks, light photo editing and iChatting.
I’m merely stating that I wouldn’t buy it from you in order to subsidize your more than sensible decision to upgrade to a newer model. Unless someone is offering you a deal at a price so ridiculously temptingly low that they’ve either just won the lottery, temporarily lost leave of their senses, or simply pinched it off the back of a lorry, shake your head and start saving for a new computer instead.
There are many positives to buying new: components are their own lifetime away from wearing out; processors are as fast as they can make them in large enough volumes to be profitable; video cards can actually play the latest whiz-bang games; hard disks will be larger than those in the top-end iPod; the operating system is up-to-date and might not need a paid-for update for up to 18 months; the iLife apps come along for free; and you can use the box to line the rabbit hutch.
Second-hand is cheaper, but you get no warranty and each component is that little bit closer to obsolescence than when first purchased. And over the long-term that initial cost saving could be eaten up in repairs and upgrades.
For real value for money, now is a fantastic time to buy new. This is why I’m inviting you into my world of betaeggizophobia. Most Macworld readers have migrated to the safer, more modern environment of Mac OS X – but a few still boot up into a Platinum appearance every morning. Some masochists even use OS X at work but OS 9 at home – or vice versa if their boss is a scrooge. How they can go back to OS 9 after OS X is beyond me. It must be like using video-tape after Sky+, Sony Walkman after iPod, or QuarkXPress after InDesign.
Apple’s latest price cuts have removed any excuse you might have for sticking to that beige, Bondi-Blue or Strawberry Mac. The unsung eMac range now includes what is Apple’s least-expensive Macintosh ever. You can pick one up for a measly £549 including VAT. Even the Mac clones didn’t bring prices this low. In fact, the cheapest-ever clone was the Apus 160 from scanner manufacturer Umax, which cost £699 – the same as Apple’s previous cheapest, one of the CD-ROM-only Indigo G3 iMacs.
The eMac is the forgotten Mac, and yet it answers so many of our prayers. TV shows love to stick neck-flexing LCD iMacs or giant Cinema Display screens on the desks of their stars. I don’t remember there ever being an Apple TV or print ad for the eMac, and the general feeling is that it’s the G3 iMac’s big ugly brother. In fact, it’s a belter – offering high-end G4 performance, large screen estate, and actually occupying less desk-space than the smaller G3 iMac.
£549 is an amazing price – and, as we point out on page 22, this drops to a paltry £365 for educational establishments. The new eMac exposes the lie that Apple doesn’t compete on price with Windows PC manufacturers. Dell’s Dimension 2400 costs from £529. The Compaq 5210 is available for £499. The eMac costs a few pounds more, but look what you get for those extra few quid: an all-in-one design that’s far smarter, neater and more intuitive than the PC towers’ miles of odd cables; Mac OS X Panther, an operating system leagues ahead of Windows XP; bang-up-to-date technologies such as 54Kbps AirPort Extreme; and all the iLife applications for free – iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD, iTunes, and the sensational Garageband. With the money you save, you could sign up for Apple’s .Mac services to pick up virus-protection and backup software with all the other online benefits.
Grander Mac owners even have to look up to the £699 SuperDrive eMac model, which boasts a world-first 8-speed DVD-R drive that’s twice as speedy as that in the G5. I’m not suggesting that G5 Power Mac owners swap their tower for an eMac, but I do implore anyone sticking with an older, under-powered, OS 9 time-machine or considering buying a second-hand OS X Mac to put their hand in their pocket today to grab one of these unsung Mac heroes before Apple cottons on to the fact that it’s finally shipped a Mac that can duke it out with Windows PCs on a level playing ground of performance and price, while offering far-superior features. Rush down to PC World now, and drag a PC user with you.