Simply stated, now isn’t the time. Apple released new versions of the MacBook Pro line today, and they are faster, slightly lighter, and have a new “Thunderbolt” port, which works for fast data transfers and for video output (it also utilizes the current Mini Display Port Adapters). The down side? There aren’t any Thunderbolt accessories available–yet. Check back in March 2012 and see what is available (my guess: a lot of peripherals).
Some plans of action:
First, utilize the education store. Expect a small discount ($50-$100) for any Mac you will buy.
Second, think about waiting for a refurbished unit. It will be a while before the new MacBooks appear as refurbished units, but if you can wait, you can save a lot of money–and buy the same discounted AppleCare.
Third, in about a month, Apple will introduce its annual, “Buy a Mac, get an iPod” promotion. That means you can get an educational discount and an iPod, which you can keep or sell. Maybe Apple will allow an iPad to be purchased (with additional pay-in) instead.
Finally, wait to see what happens next week with the iPad 2 conference. There will be some bigger announcements than just the iPad 2, perhaps involving MobileMe (Cloud storage). In other words, if you can store music, movies, and pictures in the cloud, why do you need such a large hard drive?
And if that is the case, the MacBook Air will make sense for more people. But even then, you’ll want to wait for the MacBook Air to get the Thunderbolt port and a lighted keyboard.
What if you need a MacBook today? Buy a used one at a significant discount, as there will be plenty of people who will dump their current MacBook to have the most current model. You’ll be able to sell it later and still get quite a bit of your original investment back.
Final thought: Do buy the discounted education AppleCare plan. I had to replace the CD/DVD in my late 2008 MacBook, and it would have cost more to replace the drive than the educational AppleCare. As it was–no charge.