The £150 Mac Challenge..

Do you remember when you were younger, and sent off for items via mail-order? Do you remember how that item would be the only thing you could think, read, or speak about for the 4-6 days until it was delivered? It turns out seventeen is not too old for this, as I’m now going to blather on at length about my latest purchase from afar. This is a big deal too, as come a few days, for the first time, I will be a Mac owner! Turtleneck jumper not included!

For this momentous occasion to take place, I set myself a challenge to track down a used Mac within my budget of £145. After several somewhat poor eBay bids and a bit of auction watching, I found quickly that my initial target of the PowerPC G4 based Mac Mini was not going to be particularly feasible under my budget, with most auctions ending at £180 or more. I had initially chosen a Mac Mini due to a lack of storage space over at TMSD HQ, and that I don’t really have room for another tower. Therefore, the blue-and-white G4 or a G5 were out. My budget also constrained me, as you may have guessed, to PowerPC based units rather than the newer – and considerably more expensive – Intel models. This may or may not prove to be a problem in the long term, but at least for now it ticks another architecture off my list.

I was sure from the start that I was looking for a desktop model as opposed to a laptop. While a laptop would be nice, the performance hit and the fact that the battery was likely to be knackered led me towards a desktop alternative. Second hand laptops also tend to have more cosmetic damage where the previous owner had placed their wrists or used the trackpad. In any case, most were priced too highly.

I had initially considered an all-in-one G3 iMac, but the hardware in those is somewhat antiquated by modern standards. I also find the iMac G3’s design (Which is a design classic, and I can appreciate that) somewhat dated these days, and I also would have been landed with the dreaded “Hockey Puck” mouse which has gone down in history for heralding a new age for RSI lawyers. One of those iMacs with the anglepoise lamp style connection between the base and the screen would have been nice, but again, my budget  reared it’s ugly head.

After eBay proved useless, I turned my gaze to Amazon.co.uk, which in the past has served me well for second-hand items (Namely Super Nintendo cartridges) and had a little look around. For some reason or other, they only sell brand new Macs. Failing that, I glanced down and saw an advert, among the “FREE iPH0nE N0W” and “CLICK TEH WII 4 LO LO RATES”, I saw a tiny box of text that advertised Studio Macs, a UK company that resells used and refurbished Apple products. I clicked on it – something which I ordinarily never would have done – and was swiftly directed to a web page typical of Apple resellers, with lots of white backgrounds and promo pictures.

I was intruiged. After a quick poke around I found it: a 1.25 GHz Combo drive eMac for sale at £125 including shipping and handling to mainland UK. I had not previously considered an eMac due to the large size of the unit and the aforementioned space constraints, but this price was too good to miss. I eagerly cleared off a spare desk that was covered in crap and bought it.

I have had to make a few sacrifices for the arrival of the eMac – for instance, TMSD HQ no longer contains a television – but in the face of all that, I’m sure the eMac will be excellent, and even if it isn’t, I can finally call myself a Mac owner.

Now all I need to do is grow a goatee.

-James

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