Any Mac made within the last few years will get you through law school. If you purchased a Mac in undergraduate, and don’t have the cash to buy something new, chances are you will be just fine with what you have now. That being said, if your Mac is on it’s last legs, or is seriously old, it’s probably worth investing in a new one.
Computer requirements for law school are pretty minimal – you need to be able to type documents, use a web browser for research, and take exams. We’re not exactly doing quantum physics or producing blockbuster movies here.
In this post, I’ll cover what to get, what to avoid, where to find the best price, and if the warranty is worth it.
Avoid the MacBook Air and the 12 inch MacBook
Whatever you decide, I recommend you avoid the MacBook Air (at least as it exists now) at all costs. The Air is decidedly outdated, and still uses Apple’s older, lower resolution screen. If you’re working on a legal brief for hours at a time, the lower resolution really does a number on your eyes.
The speed of the Air is not much of an issue for academic work, however Apple hasn’t substantially updated the computer in years and it’s growing a bit long in the tooth. If you’re sinking a grand into a new computer, why not get something that’s a bit newer?
The 12 inch MacBook is the lightest computer Apple makes, has a beautiful display, and is incredibly thin and portable. I’d still skip it. In order to make the computer so small, Apple had to seriously compromise on the internals. While it’s more than likely fine for the type of work that you’ll do in law school, the keyboard and tiny screen make things pretty cramped. You won’t want to use this computer for hours on end. And if you’re like me, and have a zillion Google Chrome windows open at one time, things get slow.
Get the MacBook Pro
Since we’re skipping the MacBook Air, you’re left with only one option: a MacBook Pro. Any of them are fine – if you want the fancy model with the touch bar or upgraded storage, that’s on you. None of the upgraded features are necessary, but sometimes it’s nice to #treatyoself.
The real question becomes which screen size: 13 or 15 inch? The 13 inch is great for portability, while the 15 inch gives you a little more breathing room. If you’ve used a 13 inch computer before and are happy with it, I’d stick with it.
Get the best price
Macs are expensive – and as a law student you’re [relatively] poor. While it’s tempting to blow that giant pile of student loan money on the priciest machine, just remember that you’ll eventually have to pay it back. The old adage of “live like a lawyer in law school, and you’ll live like a law student when you get out” definitely applies here. If you don’t care about that, at least remember that saving money on your computer now means more money for bar review later. If you don’t know what that is yet, you’ll learn your first week.
Here’s what I recommend:
- MacRumors.com updates a running list of the best prices on MacBooks from around the web. Generally, this is the best place to start. Don’t forget to add in the sales tax when comparing prices: this can add hundreds to the cost of your computer.
- Apple’s Educational Store discounts have been widely panned, however they generally knock off about $50-100 for students. In addition, during back-to-school season they’ll throw in a pair of Beats or a gift card. If you were in the market for a pair of Beats anyways…cool I guess. If not, you can find better deals elsewhere.
- Slickdeals is a “deals aggregator” site. Basically, people post killer discounts or deals that they find online. This sometimes includes some relatively decent deals on Apple products (including MacBooks).
What about used?
- Apple Refurbished Store is definitely the safest option – you can find some good deals on lightly-used Macbooks. These computers come with a warranty, and have been inspected by Apple themselves. You won’t have any problems here.
- Craigslist/Facebook/LetGo/Etc is a bit more of a gamble. If you’re reading this post for advice on which computer to get, I wouldn’t recommend it. If you do decide to go this route, always make sure that the previous owner’s iCloud/Find My Mac is turned off, and check on Apple’s website to see if there’s any warranty left on the computer. Obviously purchasing secondhand is risky: check for any obvious damage to make sure that you aren’t getting ripped off.
Do I need a warranty?
All new Macs come with a 1 year limited hardware warranty (limited in the sense of if you drop it, they won’t cover it). Macs are generally reliable, but nothing is infallible. In my own experience, if something is going to go wrong on a MacBook that isn’t my fault, it happens within the first few months. Otherwise, it’s smooth sailing.
Personally, I didn’t bother getting accidental damage protection or an extended warranty. I don’t drop my computers (knock on wood), and in my own experience, by the time things start getting sketchy any extended warranty has long since expired. I bought the computer I’m typing this on back in December of 2015, and it’s been trouble free. While I didn’t bother with an extended warranty, I did purchase extra coverage on my renters insurance to cover loss or theft.*
If you’re a bit of klutz and have a habit of dropping expensive electronics, you might find the coverage worth it. Apple’s products aren’t easy to fix, and in some cases, it’s impossible.
Keep in mind that Apple charges a deductible of $99 for accidental screen damage, and $299 for any other accidents you might have. This is on top of the cost of the warranty itself. For a 13 inch, that’s $269. If you drop the computer and only break the screen, that’s $368 all-in. If you drop your computer in a lake and totally destroy it, expect to pay a total of $568 for your shiny new replacement.
AppleCare+ doesn’t cover loss or theft, so if your computer gets swiped from the library or left on a bus, you’re on your own.
Third party companies like Square Trade can be a slightly better deal – you can cover a 13 inch MacBook Pro for $269, with a $75 deductible. Keep in mind that like AppleCare+, they don’t cover loss or theft. Although quite a bit cheaper than AppleCare+, you can’t just walk into an Apple Store and expect them to honor a third party warranty. Instead, you’ll might have to deal with the hassle of shipping the computer off – or paying up front for service and waiting for them to cut you a check. From experience after breaking an iPhone a few years ago, this is a pain in the ass.
*If you’re curious, my renters insurance is through company called Lemonade. They’re pretty cheap – I think I pay a total of $10 per month. The extra coverage was less than $30 for the entire year, and includes coverage for a few thousand dollars worth of electronics (including a fancy camera + lenses I bought for a backpacking trip).
**Just a heads up, I’m not getting paid for any of these recommendations, and I don’t work with any of the companies I’ve listed.