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I've started to a lot of video editing with Adobe Premiere CS5 and After Effects CS5. I don't really have the money for a new Mac Pro. I feel that laptops are general underpowered and I have no need to be mobile.

Where should I look for low cost Intel Macs that fit my needs? In general, I don't think refurbished Macs from Apple are low cost.

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Why community wiki? –  Josh K Aug 25 '10 at 19:03
    
Hardware shopping questions are off-topic. Join us on Ask Different Meta to discuss this... –  bmike May 3 '13 at 18:00
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closed as off topic by bmike May 3 '13 at 18:00

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4 Answers

How do you feel about a used machine? A one or two year old Mac Pro tower is still a very nice machine for video editing, and you could likely find one on eBay for a fraction of the cost of a brand new one.

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+1 because I'm running the same Intel tower since they were released a few years ago, and it still hums along just fine. I have literally no complaints. If a Mac Pro was powerful enough, I can easily see it being more expensive used than a new iMac. –  Philip Regan Aug 25 '10 at 22:37
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For a while now I've felt that the best 'bang for buck' that Apple sell is the iMac range.

The laptops are wondrous machines but they are expensive and they do top-out in terms of performance at a certain point, and connectivity to other devices can become limited. The Mac Pro/towers are fabulous (I used to have a dual 2.5 G5) but you do pay a lot for that expandability and engineering - a quick look on eBay will show you that both the laptops and the towers can still command near-new prices, especially as Apple owners will often tend to get Applecare, keep the original packaging and use Apple-approved type parts and upgrades.

The Mac Mini unfortunately has increased in price as the spec has improved and I now think it's quite an expensive way to get a Mac.

A second hand Intel iMac, or even a low-end brand new one, gives a good mix of reasonable CPU, upgradeable memory (to a point), plenty of scope for FW800, FW400 and USB external connections as well as a potential internal hard drive upgrade if you get really desperate. It will happily drive an external monitor, something that in my experience people new to Mac don't realise (they think that it's all about the built-in screen and nothing else).

It's obviously more of a commodity machine than the towers and that's reflected in the price - you can get an awful lot of iMac for the same kind of price as the entry-level laptop. And if you can find a second-hand or factory-refurbed model, even better!

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Prices and availability on refurbished Macs directly from Apple vary from day to day (and sometimes hour to hour), and you can often get exceptionally good deals there. For instance, they've currently got a mini for 26% off ($589 versus $799). Yes, some days, there's nothing worth mentioning—but the following day, there might be, so it's worth checking back.

The best part of buying Apple refurbs, of course, is that they come with the same full warranty as Apple's brand-new hardware.

[Whoops, looks like the mini sold out while I was writing this, which kinda proves my point…]

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Best way to get cheap Macs is from schools that are getting rid of old hardware. Granted most of that hardware is crap.

If you're near local schools (or cough eBay) take a gander through anything the photography classes are getting rid of.

Also checkout refurbished computers directly from Apple. You mentioned that you don't find these low cost, but 15-20% off (in most cases) is pretty decent.

In terms of new computers, I would recommend one of the Mac Mini. It's a stout little machine, and doesn't tie you into a particular monitor.

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