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The universities’ matriculation season is coming around again, and the new notebook tender prices for the 2012/2013 academic year have been announced. The big question on everyone’s mind, at least for those who can buy from the tender, is whether these deals are worthwhile getting? You’ll have to be a student or staff of these universities to get their respective deals, but even if you’re not, it’s still interesting to know what sort of deals there are. Let’s take a look!

I’m only going to focus on Mac notebooks. If you’re looking for Wintel notebooks, I’m sure you’ll find other comparisons elsewhere.

Apple Store EDU Price NUS Price NTU Price SMU Price
MacBook Air 11″ 128GB $1428 $1817.00 n/a
MacBook Air 13″ 128GB $1638 $1987.00 $1976.29 $1674 ($1948 w/ 3-years local warranty)
MacBook Air 13″ 256GB $1988 $2345.00 n/a

Let me explain the prices.

  • The Apple Store EDU prices are for the notebooks on their own, with just the standard 1-year warranty.
  • The SMU price is for the basic 1-year warranty (i.e. same as the above). The price in parenthesis includes AppleCare. Microsoft Office for Mac is preloaded through the SMU site-license.
  • The NTU price includes AppleCare and Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 Home and Student Edition.
  • The NUS bundle includes AppleCare and Adobe Creative Suite 6 Design and Web Premium.

In case you’re not familiar, AppleCare Protection Plan (often just referred to as AppleCare) provides for three years of international warranty and phone support.

Suppose you had to buy AppleCare and Adobe Creative Suite 6 Design and Web Premium, they would each cost $278 (Apple Store educational price), and $139, respectively. You can buy Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 Home and Student Edition at $188 (single-user) or $228 (Family Pack).

With a little bit of trouble, you can buy Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 Home and Student Edition from Amazon and ship it back to Singapore. Total price in SGD, including shipping, for the Family Pack should work out to about $145. You might pay less if you manage to catch a good promotion. This is for the Family Pack, which means you can install on 3 Macs for 3 users.

NUS Prices

Here’s the table comparing NUS prices with those from Apple Store. Prices for AppleCare and Adobe Creative Suite 6 Design and Web Premium have been included in the Apple Store prices.

Apple Store EDU
Price w/ extras
NUS Price
MacBook Air 11″ 128GB $1845 $1817.00
MacBook Air 13″ 128GB $2055 $1987.00
MacBook Air 13″ 256GB $2405 $2345.00

It’s pretty obvious, from looking at the above table, that if you want everything in the bundle from the NUS tender, then buying from NUS is going to be a worthwhile deal.

However, if there is just one single item that you don’t want from the NUS bundle, then you are definitely better off buying directly from the Apple Store. For example, you might not want Adobe Creative Suite.

NTU Prices

The NTU price for the MacBook Air 13″ 128GB model is $1976.29. The Apple Store price, after adding AppleCare and Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 Home and Student Edition is $2061. The NTU price is still good. Again, that’s provided you really want the bundle.

SMU Prices

Shockingly, the SMU prices are actually quite uninteresting. It seems more expensive than than the Apple Store prices. SMU preloads Microsoft Office for Mac in the notebook. But I understand that the software is already available under a site-license arrangement. I know students can obtain the Windows version of Microsoft Office for their own notebooks (i.e. not necessarily with a notebook purchased from SMU) free-of-charge. I imagine this is also applies for the Mac version of Office.

The only other value-add from the SMU deal is that you get to enjoy on-site warranty. But considering that SMU’s downtown campus is not very far away from one of the Apple authorized service centre (nearest E-Serve is at 313@Somerset), that’s not a very strong advantage either.


Back to the original question, should you get your Mac notebook from the university deals, or direct from Apple Store?

If you’re going to go for a MacBook Air, I would actually strongly advise an upgraded custom configuration. The RAM, specifically, needs to be upgraded to 8GB. The reason is this: The MacBook Air’s RAM is soldered on-board, so there is no way to upgrade that in future. The 4GB in the standard configuration may be enough for now, but perhaps it will not be in another year or two. Hence, go for the 8GB RAM upgrade.

However, custom configurations do not seem to be available from the university deals. That leaves you little choice but to go for a custom order from the Apple Store.

Another benefit with getting the custom order on your own is that, even if you decide you want to pay for AppleCare, you don’t have to buy it together at the same time. You can buy it later, within the first year. Splitting the purchase could lessen the pain of the large outright expense.

With the university deals, however, you’ll probably enjoy attractive financing deals. The Apple Store does also offer an interest free 12-month installment plan with Citibank credit cards. Not quite as sweet as financing options from the university deals, but a good offer too. The university deals also offer on-site warranty support. Useful in NUS and NTU, although I’d say not significantly so for SMU people, since they can walk over to E-Serve at 313@Somerset fairly close-by anyway.


So what’s the bottom line? If you are going to get the stock configuration, the university deals are not particularly great at all. If you want to go for the RAM upgrade, which I certainly strongly recommend, order directly from the Apple Store.

Extra: Full NUS MacBook Line Up

In case you’re interested, here’s the full NUS line up of MacBook offers. All models include AppleCare and Adobe Creative Suite 6 Design and Web Premium. I’ve priced in these extras into the Apple Store educational price.

Apple Store EDU
Price w/ extras
NUS Price Savings
MacBook Air 11″ 128GB $1845 $1817 1.5%
MacBook Air 13″ 128GB $2055 $1987 3.3%
MacBook Air 13″ 256GB $2405 $2345 2.5%
MacBook Pro 13″ 2.5GHz $1965 $1876 4.5%
MacBook Pro 13″ 2.9GHz $2365 $2260 4.4%
MacBook Pro 15″ 2.3GHz $2875 $2704 5.9%
MacBook Pro 15″ 2.6GHz $3255 $3046 6.4%
MacBookPro 15″ with Retina Display $3255 $3046 6.4%

Looks like the best deal from NUS is to get the top-end models.

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