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A 13-inch MacBook Pro costs £999 in the UK, compared to $1,199 (about £760) in the US.

For this reason (I guess), brand new US models cost about £850 on UK eBay. The obvious downside is the keyboard layout is US, not UK.

Only a couple of keys are different on US keyboards. So if it's possible to change system preferences to interpret it as a British-layout keyboard, then I'm happy to put up with a couple of wrongly labelled keys, if it saves me £150.

But are there any other downsides I should bare in mind? Any possible incompatibilities etc?

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The cheapest Macbook Air in Canada is $999 CAD, while in the UK it's £849 or CAD $1558.87. That's savings of CAD $559.87 before taxes. After 13% tax in Canada, the cost is CAD $1128.87. After 18% tax in UK, the cost is £1001.82 or CAD $1840.26. So after taxes, that's savings of CAD $711.39! –  Dennis Apr 14 at 2:27
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4 Answers 4

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I once was in a similar situation to what you described—I'm an American and brought my U.S. MacBook to the UK. A couple observations:

  1. U.S. keyboard layouts are substantially different from the UK ones. Many common punctuation characters, including quote marks, are mapped very differently. I found UK keyboards too awkward to use and did virtually all of my work on my own U.S. keyboards.

  2. U.S. keyboards do not include the pound sterling symbol or the negation symbol used in the UK. You can get them by using Option key combinations, but that can be a bit of a pain.

  3. As bmike mentioned, if you need a keyboard repair you'll face a substantial delay. Someone spilled a drink on my MacBook in a pub towards the end of my stay, and about a third of the keyboard was shorted out; when I took it in to an Apple Store, they warned me they would need to hold the computer for several days while replacement parts arrived. I couldn't spare the laptop for that length of time, so I spent the last couple weeks of that trip using an external keyboard with my MacBook, and repaired it when I got home. (That option, of course, won't be available to you.)

All in all, I don't think I would recommend it for you. That £150 is buying you freedom from a lot of hassles.

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If one is used to using a PC style British keyboard, then you will indeed find that both Apple British and US keyboards are much different. A layout to fix it is at liyang.hu/osx-british.xhtml . But there are virtually no differences in important characters between the Apple British and US keyboards. –  Tom Gewecke Nov 21 '11 at 13:34
    
I didn't realize that—most of the UK keyboards I saw were for PCs. Thanks. –  Brent Royal-Gordon Nov 21 '11 at 20:32
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If the physical key layout is different, you will have to get a replacement part for the exact keyboard you have chosen. It could result in a slight delay if you needed the mac repaired in the future.

Another gotcha is that the warranty for Apple products is established in the country of sale. For someone in the UK where Apple has official retail stores for service, this formality shouldn't be of any consequence - but if you are buying a mac from a country without official support it could add logistics to contact Apple in the country of sale and they could ask you to present the mac in that country for service (or pay for the shipping).

Again, in practice this is not a huge drawback for most - but it can add cost and delay if Apple chooses to enforce those terms of the warranty when you want to take advantage of that specific service.

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One major difference that you cannot change via any software layout is that Apple British and International keyboards are ISO and not ANSI: They have an extra key to the left of the z not present on the US keyboard.

Also as far as I know it would be a mistake to think that a "British" Macbook will have the standard UK keyboard with quote marks at Shift + 2, as shown at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_layout#United_Kingdom

Instead it will have Apple's own version of a "British" keyboard, which is essentially the same as the US keyboard except for #/£. Shift + 2 will produce @ and the quote marks are the same as for the US keyboard. This is shown at

http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2841

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If only a few keys are different I bet it won't be too difficult to adapt to the layout. In Canada we have both US English and French Canadian keyboards, and most people I know have adapted really well to US English layouts even though they only speak and type french.

As for warranty, I was assured a few years ago that buying a computer in a different country was no problem as long as you buy the AppleCare 3 years warranty, which lets you bring the computer for repairs in any Apple certified repair center or Apple Store. But just to be safe, you should ask Apple. It could have changed since.

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My experience is AppleCare doesn't change how the terms are enforced - just extends the time and makes it more likely you may eventually use the service. If it wasn't covered under the warranty - it shouldn't be by AppleCare. (And of course the internet is filled with exceptions where someone covered something that was borderline or clearly not intended by the warranty out of goodwill or whatever other motivation seems to make sense.) +1 for asking to be sure if you don't have several certified repair centers close by where you intend to use your Mac. –  bmike Nov 21 '11 at 18:08
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