Grant Bennet-Alder, Greetings: I note your statement "But his came in a plain brown box. Obviously he got taken. I urged him to return it for one in a good White box, and not put up with such abuse from Apple!" which refers to yours truly and must not go unchallenged.
What I did not mention to you that the brown box which you so disparage was approximately twice the size (volume) if the current skimpy white boxes which you champion. I contend that Apple knew the worth of the recipient and felt it prudent to utilize a box more prone to resist possible damage and use white boxes for the ordinary plebeian rabble.
This is true because I am without guile.
In our house we have
I would go for the biggest that you can afford.
One thing to think of is a decent external screen where you can sit at a desk - for maybe your art projects
Like others have said a Mac is more efficient with it's resources than a Windows machine
as to weight I have had the same backpack for 13 years and have a 15' in it everyday for about an hour each way
Sometimes I take the 17'
trust me your text books will be heavier
as to all the other features, burning CDs DVDs with a descent program - it's second nature
If you've never used a mac you will be amazed by how easy it is
.....goooooo fooooor the biiiigeeeeerrr one!
Regarding refurbished, I and many people I know like Apple refurbs a lot because they are just as well covered under warranty but really just as good as new. I've had problems with new Macs, and refurbs with no problems ever, so buying new doesn't guarantee zero problems and yet you pay more.
I use Microsoft Office and Power Point a lot, as well as do some amature video and photo editing. Music, video, and photo storage is a must as well as being able to run several different programs at a time. I am not a gamer, but need to be able to have a good program to burn videos and pics...Portablility is very important would need it to last at least 4 years. I'm not hard on things, but it will get plenty of use. The MBP 13" 2.8 GHz seems like a much better deal than the MBP 15" 2.2 GHz, but I have a feeling it may not be enough.
I think a 13" will be enough. There wasn't anything on your list that said you need the features of the 15". Sure, you get a bigger screen in a 15", sure, you get more pixels and a better video card, but you sacrifice size, weight, and price...all of which you said were high priority. The screen options on the 15" are not relevant because you only get them at the high end of the price scale, and you're not going there.
I have watched many friends downsize from 15" to 13" and they love it. They never want to go back. They talk about how big and heavy the 15" was to carry all day. I believe them...I've had various 15" Macs for the last 10 years. I really, really wish I could go down to 13" or the Air for both size and weight reasons, but I do have a legitimate need for the bigger screen and power user features on the road. If you would be OK with a big screen only at your desk, you should get the 13" and an affordable big desktop monitor.
Some opinions above say the 15" isn't that big a deal to carry, but notice...they are forced to compare it to a Windows laptop to try and prove their point. In the Mac spectrum of laptops, the 15" is the second largest and heaviest out of five options. Is that what you want?
Whichever one you buy, to get it to last 4 years you will at some point probably need to upgrade the RAM or the hard drive. Luckily, that is easy.
If I was in your position I would look at a refurb upper-end 13" MacBook Pro.
I am just going to sit in the stands for this one ...
The real reason you want to sit in the stands a few more days is that the Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference is next week and you should hold tight until you find out what hardware is announced, in case there are new options that you might want, or if some current options go away.
Grant Bennet-Alder wrote:
Good thing you did not bring up those awful rumors that the entire Mac product line is going to be massively updated, and the announcements might come at the WWDC.
That might count as speculation, and we are not allowed to talk about that sort of stuff!
Heh heh...yes, you noticed that I wrote that in a very general and forum-legal way. Seriously though, I really try not to repeat such rumors anyway because bloggers and "news" sites tend to blow up the hype to absolutely ridiculous levels. There ought to be a site somewhere comparing rumor sites' stories with what actually gets announced. Some sites would be shown to be complete liars.
So all I mention is that there tend to be some hardware announcements at WWDC, and it often make sense to pay attention then.
I think it really depends on whether you are willing to carry around a 15" or 13" Mackbook. I love the 15" screen and I wouldn't have it any other way, but my girlfriend lovers her 13" because she likes not carrying as much weight. I think if you are doing any think with spreadsheets, you'll hate yourself for not getting the 15" eventually, but the 13" is just find for surfing, wordprocessing, and email.
13" is a Perfect size in everyway
if you could put all the 15" things into a 13" notebook you would have a winner, alas this is not the case and 15" is far superior.
Coming from personal experience with notebook, backpacks and text books. EVERY gram counts after you've had it on your back for 8 hrs and your on your way home!
PS: Personal recommendation is a 2.3ghz 15" Retina model & make sure you grab apple care