Buying a Mac with Wi-Fi

Supposedly, Henry Ford said in regard to his Model T, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black." (He is also supposed to have said, "History is bunk!" but that's a matter for another time.)

It's somewhat unfair to the Mac to say that you can only have it one way because it is possible to customize systems. But for the most part there is no real reason to customize a system, and at any given time there are really only a handful of systems to choose from. This is as much good news as bad news because it makes purchasing a Mac a much less daunting proposition than purchasing a Windows computer.


Feel free to mix and match your retail buying experience. It makes sense to research your Mac on the Web, then order and pick it up at a store. On the other hand, if you like to have a "touch and feel" sense for things before you buy them, you can go to an Apple company store to play with the various systems that are available. (You can find an Apple retail store at

It's then up to you to decide whether it is more convenient to pick your Mac up at the store or have it delivered.

There's also not as wide a choice of vendor. You pretty much may as well buy your Mac directly from the Apple Corporation. Purchasing a system online via the Internet, over the telephone, or in one of Apple's stores all work equally well, so it's just a question of which is most convenient for you.

To view the Mac laptops that are currently available, go to Next, click the Store tab at the top of the screen. Apple products will be displayed as shown in Figure 5.4.

Figure 5.4. By clicking on the Store tab at the Apple site, you can see a catalog of currently available Macs.

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In the Portables category at the top of the screen shown in Figure 5.4 you can see iBooks and PowerBooks. Depending on your needs and personal tastes, all of the machines listed in this category are adequately equipped. All of these machines can be used with Wi-Fi, although some of them do require an additional card. You should consider this as an additional expense when comparing prices. You can add an AirPort card (802.11b Wi-Fi) to a system for $79 and an Airport Extreme card (dual 802.11b and 802.11g) to a system for $99.

Click on each of the portables shown for further description. If the detailed description says "AirPort Extreme ready," it means that the portable will work with both the 802.11b and 802.11g varieties of Wi-Fi. (See Chapter 2, "Understanding Wi-Fi," for more information about 802.11b and 802.11g.)

If the system description says that "AirPort Extreme" is built in, as for example in the two PowerBook machines shown on the right side of Figure 5.5, it means that 802.11b and 802.11g Wi-Fi are already included in the system.

Figure 5.5. The PowerBook 15" and 17" laptops shown on the right have AirPort Extreme (Wi-Fi) built-in whereas the 15" and smaller notebooks on the left do not.

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