Where to Shop for a New Mac
You can buy your new Mac online or in a traditional brick and mortar store, and you can do either directly from Apple or from an independent retailer. There are pros and cons for each. But wherever you go to buy your Mac and accessories, make sure that you take a list of all the specs and accessories you know you’ll need. Your list should include not only what Mac model you want, but also how much RAM you need, what size hard drive you want, and what options you’ll choose (such as whether you want a SuperDrive or a higher-end graphics card). By having all these notes at the ready, you’re much more likely to stay within your budget (if you have one) and get no more or no less than what you need.
Your local computer store: The nice thing about going to a computer store is that you can see the various models before you make your final decision. You can also ask questions. Assuming that what you want is in stock, you get to take your new Mac home with you. And if you have a problem, most stores have a place where you can talk to someone face to face. (Ask your salesperson to show you the service department before you buy.)
Not all computer stores carry Macs. Apple is pretty choosy about which establishments it does business with. It doesn’t want Macs stacked along the wall with all the Windows models in a department staffed with salespersons pushing the PC that happens to be on sale that week. You can find a list of authorized Apple resellers near you. Call ahead to see whether what you want is in stock.
The Apple store: If you choose to buy your Mac at an Apple store, you’ll find that the stores are well stocked with most Apple models, attractively displayed — although you probably won’t see an Xserve, and the inexpensive minis are usually tucked away in a corner. The stores carry lots of accessories, both from Apple and third parties — printers, external hard drives, carrying cases, software, games, and of course, iPods, iPhones, Apple TVs, and the growing list of Apple consumer electronics.
The coolest thing about the Apple store is the Genius Bar, a section staffed with people who know their Macs and can answer your questions. After you buy your Mac, if necessary, the Genius Bar can take your hardware for repair. If the store is busy (and it usually is), you’ll have to sign in and wait a bit. You can visit the Genius Bar and bring in your Mac to the Apple store for service regardless of where you purchased it originally. You’ll have to pay for service, of course, if your Mac is no longer under warranty or is not covered by AppleCare.
Online: Pick out the model of Mac you want, enter your shipping address and credit card number, and in a day or so, depending on how cheap you were about shipping, your computer arrives. You can buy all the products Apple makes from its electronic Apple store at (or by calling 1-800-MY-APPLE). You can even watch the latest Apple TV ads. A number of other online stores sell Macs, including Amazon.com, Macconnection.com, and Maczone.com. Again, you can find a full list at Apple's Web site. These stores sometimes offer discounts or deals on extra memory. They may stock only the more popular configurations, however.
The online Apple store is your best bet if you want to buy a build-to-order configuration.