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Macbook Air vrs. other ultrabooks - Am I missing something?
September 2, 2012 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Macbook Air vrs. other ultrabooks - Am I missing something?

I'm a student looking for a lightweight computer for school.

Lately I've been considering the Macbook Air. The reviews are all stellar for it. I've never owned a mac before and I am really eager to buy.

There is one glaring detail I can't ignore before I make my purchase though, and that is the price of the MBA versus other Windows laptops and ultra books.

Example:

Macbook Air 13" ($1179.99 on sale)
http://www.apple.com/ca/why-mac/compare/notebooks.html

- 4gb Ram
- 128gb HDD
- 1440 x 900 pixels
- 1.8 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
- Intel HD graphics 4000 (integrated)
- Upto 7 hours battery life



Samsung 13" ($549.99 on sale)
http://www.futureshop.ca/en-CA/product/samsung-samsung-13-3-amd-dual-core-a6-4455m-laptop-np535u3c-a01ca-brown-np535u3c-a01ca/10208060.aspx?path=618a850fadf949420bff40b412a7a164en02

- 6gb RAM
- 500gb HDD
- 1366 x 768 pixels
- 2.1GHz AMD A6-4455M processor
- AMD Radeon HD 7500G
- Upto 6 hours battery life.
- Windows 7


Both have very similar form factors, the MBA being just slightly thinner and lighter.

But what am I missing? Obviously the Samsung seems to be the more powerful computer, with more bang for your buck. There are a whole lot more examples to be found on this page.

I hear the MBA constantly recommended, but I really can't justify the purchase with other ultrabooks at those prices.

Any input is appreciated before I make my decision.
posted by Snorlax to Computers & Internet (41 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I bought my first Macbook Air a little less than a year ago, after a decade of Windows laptops, including two different Dell Inspirons. And though it has less "firepower" than some of my previous laptops, I love this thing with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.

Here's why. Everything about the interface is simpler, cleaner, more elegant, and easier to use. I thought I would have trouble learning how to navigate the Mac interface, but after just two days of using it, I went back to my old Inspiron to get some files and was astonished at how clumsy, clunky and stupid everything seemed.

Basically, with the Mac interface, there is a lack of resistance to accomplishing things that makes everything you do more smooth and more pleasant. And when you're on your computer all day doing creative or knowledge work, that in turn makes your whole day much more pleasant. So that's what you're getting with an Apple product over another brand.
posted by crackingdes at 10:36 AM on September 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


One specific hardware difference is the Macbook is built around a solid state drive (SSD), while the Samsung is using a 5400 rpm spinning disk. SSDs are a significant improvement in speed, battery life, and weight. (But not capacity; 128gb is low if you have a lot of music and video.) Another difference is weight: the Samsung is 1.52kg, the air is 1.34kg. 180g doesn't seem like a lot but it is a 15% difference.

Apple has always had a reputation for charging too much for the same hardware. But in practice Apple typically is using higher quality hardware than cheaper Windows machines. Better screen, stronger hinge, better keyboard, etc. Until six months ago no PC manufacturer could get anywhere near to building something like an Air. With the Ultrabook push we're starting to see some nicer machines that are closer to the Air, like this one. If it were me I'd want to see the Samsung machine in person to see how it feels. And/or read some very detailed reviews about it.

A whole separate question is MacOS vs Windows. For day to day work or school they are both perfectly capable operating systems. Individuals have strong personal preferences; it's also helpful to try to match what other folks on your campus are using.
posted by Nelson at 10:37 AM on September 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


Screen and build quality are likely much worse. You're definitely missing pixels on the Samsung. Is the macbook air using an IPS panel? And the 500gb hard drive is probably a non-feature, as it's going to be a slow traditional drive rather than 128gb of blazing fast SSD that makes everything load almost instantly and feel faster/smoother.

If you have the money for the macbook air but want something else, at least go for a more expensive ultrabook. You want greater pixel density and an SSD at least.
posted by jsturgill at 10:38 AM on September 2, 2012


I have the 11 inch macbook air and love it. Whether or not the price difference is worth it comes down to a few things -- how tight is your budget? An extra $500 for some people is no big deal, but for others it's a lot. How invested in PC software are you already? If you have to go and buy all new software for the Mac that's something to consider too. How long do you want to keep your new laptop for? I find that Macs tend to have longer lifespans than their PC equivalents and have higher resale value down the road too.

So for me, yeah, the premium is worth it. But if you're on a tight budget and you're just looking for a general purpose laptop for the next couple of years, no, it's probably not worth it for you.

It's a pretty subjective question.
posted by modernnomad at 10:40 AM on September 2, 2012


The Samsung you listed isn't actually an "Ultrabook", which is a marketing term created by Intel to describe a high quality smaller laptop like the Macbook Air.

Digging deeper into specs, the Macbook has an SSD instead of a hard drive, and the Macbook's processor is likely more powerful (I only know desktop CPUs these days, but AMD's offerings aren't very competitive at the moment. I guess their on-die GPU solution might be better).

Probably a more comparable Windows device would be something like this.

I personally think that OSX is horse pocky, but the Air hardware has proven pretty hard to beat in terms of build feel. I would just go into a store and hold both in your hands and see what you think.
posted by selfnoise at 10:40 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


For me, switching over to a MacBook Pro after 20 years of using Windows was because of software and hardware. Mac OS, in my experience, has fewer glitches and problems than Windows. While Windows problems are more frequent and oftentimes solvable without professional assistance, I'm at a point in my life where I don't have the time or energy to troubleshoot problems, so Mac OS reliability is a plus for me. On the hardware side, Macs are generally built more solidly than Windows machines, regardless of manufacturer. I've been keeping up with the reviews of various ultrabooks on Engadget and it's my impression that there aren't any trackpads out there that are on par with Macs (some come close, though) and the same goes for keyboards. The screen on the MBA will be much better than the Samsung, for sure. The MBA will also probably be quite speedier, depending on what your'e doing with it, due to the solid state drive (this review has some comparisons with other ultrabooks).

Chances are you will be pretty happy with the Samsung. The extra money for the Mac, if you can afford it, is a worthwhile investment IMO. A lot of it comes down to preference.
posted by puritycontrol at 10:40 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I wouldn't get hung up on stats. If one computer has a 10% faster processor or something, or a slightly more powerful GPU, you likely won't notice it. One exception would be the SSD, which brings a remarkable improvement in speed in everyday computing, I find.
posted by modernnomad at 10:43 AM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


The SSD is a big deal; it makes the machine perceptibly much faster, and adds a lot of reliability and what is really important to me: "not caring". With a spinning drive I always worry about shock or breakage or setting it down too hard on a desk or getting smacked in a backpack -- SSDs don't care. It becomes much more carefree to operate.

Further: Apple's screens are fantastic. The keyboard is top-notch. The aluminum housing is very sturdy, yet the machine weighs less. The WIFI works well, and you will never have to worry about driver issues.

Finally: Apple hardware has excellent resale value.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:45 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also do not neglect to check the Apple REFURB store, and if you are a student, you should be able to nail down education pricing on your refurb, which is likely another 10% off, and cuts the cost of AppleCare down dramatically.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:45 AM on September 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The major difference is just the Apple premium; you're paying for the oldest, most bug-free ultrabook out there, the careful R&D necessary for that, and the best components and hardware. You're also paying for the Mac name to an extent and the privilege of runnning OSX.

The screen on the Air is one of the best out there; there are ones with higher resolution and slightly more brightness now (like on the Asus Zenbook), but looking at the Air and other screens in person a few months ago when I was asking myself this same question, I noticed color rendering and balance looked significantly better on the Air. Pretty much every other screen looked "wrong" somehow- too blue, aberration when the viewing angle was only a few degrees off dead center. That matters alot to me so it was an easy choice.
posted by slow graffiti at 10:46 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was a Windows guy for years, and now I'm pretty much all Mac - don't own an Air, but I have an iMac and I love it. I love it because I don't have to tinker with it. If you are the kind of person who likes to get in and tweak every single thing, and add more memory and better video cards and sound cards and all that stuff, Windows machines are great, because you can get a machine now that you can keep relatively up to date for a lot of years.

But if you're looking for something that works great out of the box that you never have to open up and tinker with, Macs are awesome - you unbox it, you plug it in, and you go. No tweaking, no downloading fresh drivers, nothin'.

And in my OS X experience, the software's really stable - I've had my iMac for almost five years now and it's crashed exactly once in that time. And I have several friends with Mac laptops who swear by the build quality.

So for me, it'd be worth the premium to get the Apple product, but it is a pretty significant bump; you'll get a ton of life out of it, but whether that's worth the premium I'm not sure in your situation.
posted by pdb at 10:46 AM on September 2, 2012


But what am I missing? Obviously the Samsung seems to be the more powerful computer, with more bang for your buck. There are a whole lot more examples to be found on this page.
No. Apple just has much higher profit margins.
Screen and build quality are likely much worse. You're definitely missing pixels on the Samsung.
I find that unlikely, for one thing Apple uses Samsung display panels in the current iPads. Although they are switching to sharp apparently.

Now one thing to keep in mind is that a solid state hard drive will definitely make your laptop faster. A lot faster. However, a $128GB SSD only costs about $75. So paying $500 more for an SSD isn't a very good idea. (and actually swapping out a SATA drive on a laptop is ridiculously easy. Definitely worth doing if you're comfortable doing it)
posted by delmoi at 10:49 AM on September 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Not only does the MacBook Air's SSD drive bring greater reliability and speed, but longer battery life. Speeding up and down the motor in a regular hard drive sucks current faster than solid-state drives. You'll get another two hours with the Air from that difference alone, if battery life is a consideration.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:59 AM on September 2, 2012


The Samsung is built down to a price and a significant chunk of the build cost goes onto a Windows license. The Air is built to a standard. Is it a better machine? Undoubtedly, IMHO. Is it twice as good? Depends on your metrics.

You could buy two of the Samsungs for the cost of an Air, and in terms of longevity and quality, my guess is you'd have to.

For college use, the Air is more tempting to thieves than the Samsung, this may be a consideration. If you do get the Samsung, stick an SSD in it and put the drive you removed into a cradle and use it as a backup device.
posted by epo at 10:59 AM on September 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


1. An ultrabook is a Intel marketing term for laptops with SSDs that use Intel Ivy Bridge processors. Neither the Air nor the Samsung presented is an ultrabook.

2. In the specs list, the Air has three components that cost more than their Samsung analog: 500gb HDD, screen @ 1366 x 768 pixels and 2.1GHz AMD processor.

3. That's not even counting the aspects that are hard to put a price on: OS X, superior actual usage battery life, and the trackpad. For instance, you're going to touch this trackpad every day and Apple's is way better than anybody else's.

TL;DR

You're going to get what you pay for with thin-and-light laptops.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 11:02 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obviously the Samsung seems to be the more powerful computer, with more bang for your buck.

Well, it's slightly more complicated than that. As others have noted, the SSD in the Macbook air is really going to boost performance, especially in terms of system and application startup times.

Also, when it comes to processors, the clock speed is really only a valid comparison between two CPUs in the same product line from the same manufacturer.

The best thing to do is to be sure to check out some reviews. Here's a PC world and ITProPortal review of the laptop in question. Both seem to agree that the performance is lackluster and the battery life is less than advertised. (actually about 5 hours)

So if I were in your position, I'd carefully read a couple of reviews for each laptop that you're interested in. For example, here's a few reviews of the Lenovo Ideapad U310, the second least expensive ultrabook listed on that site: Engadget, PC Mag, CNET, which are generally more positive compared to the Samsung you're looking at.

More generally, yes, there is a premium on Apple products, but it's not as huge a premium as some people think. If you want an ultrabook with the same performance, battery life, and build quality as a Macbook Air, you're probably going to end up paying roughly the same as a Macbook Air.

If, on the other hand, you're willing to make a few compromises, or if there's a few things that just aren't that important to you, maybe a PC based ultrabook could be a good fit for you.
posted by jcreigh at 11:03 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Forgot to mention that the Asus Zenbook Primes should be at the top of your list in the PC world. They look amazing, and about the only compromise you'll have to make is that they don't run OS X, which apparently isn't an issue for you.
posted by jsturgill at 11:15 AM on September 2, 2012


One other thing that no one has brought up is the included (and potential) software issues. The Air comes with the iLife suite (iPhoto, GarageBand, iMovie) as well as the potential for iCloud document backup. Add to it that the iWork suite from apple is $60 total for Pages, Numbers, & Keynote (try buying MS office for that) AND you can get $100 iTunes card with a student purchase thru sept 21 AND if you need help or service there are Apple stores all over the world...I think the Air is far and away the better machine.
posted by griffey at 11:19 AM on September 2, 2012


I think you really need to try them both out to see what you're missing. Just looking at the specs:
1. Weight -- if you're going to be carrying it around all day, and you're a weakling like me, every bit counts.

2. Hard drives -- upgrading to SSD is like getting a whole new computer. It's pretty much magical.

3. RAM -- the Apple memory is faster (1600 Mhz vs 1333)

4. Processor speed -- I don't think you can rely on clock speed alone when looking at different chips.

5. Screen -- the Samsung has lower resolution

Again, I can't tell you whether all this is worth $650 to you, but "the Samsung seems to be the more powerful computer" is definitely incorrect for most definitions of "powerful." Is it good enough? Try it and see!
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:23 AM on September 2, 2012


The fact that Apple makes the entire stack -- hardware and software -- really does seem to manifest in the quality of Airs. (I'm typing this on one.) I finally decided I should try Mac, after years of rolling my own computers. Everything just works, feels really snappy, lots of well-thought-out little touches.

For example, the Mac trackpad is miles ahead of anything else I've seen -- the multitouch gestures have already become indispensable, and I've only been using this for a month or two. You can switch between multiple desktops with a single swipe, and between windows with another. It makes the tiny screen feel huge.

Of course, this is kind of unquantifiable. But it certainly feels worth it!
posted by katrielalex at 11:27 AM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been a Mac user for the past fifteen years but if i was to buy a new laptop now I would definitely go for a PC at half the price. (That is if I was using my own money. If someone was going to be kind to me I would ask them for a Mac!)

I work with video and image manipulation and for a long time it would have been foolish to choose anything other than a Mac for such work, but I think PCs have caught up now. The specs are comparable. And, as pointed out, PCs are half the price.

Macs are shinier and prettier and sleeker but do you really want to pay double for that? As for the OS, one reason why Macs have become so popular is because they have tweaked the OS to become more PC-like - right-clicking and a bunch of other stuff I can't quite recall right now - it really irritated me when I got a new Macbook a couple of years ago because from the point of view of a veteran user that's kind of like reverse evolution.

Also, it's much easier to fix anything that goes wrong/replace parts/look up repairs online etc on a PC all by yourself. With a Mac it's such a palaver to find the info - and have you seen the cost of spares? And if you need to take the machine to be repaired out of warranty, people who repair Macs charge massively. At least in the UK.

Remember specs change so fast that the specs on a five-year-old machine seem laughable now - but even five years ago the average owner would only use a fraction of their machine's capabilities. I love Macs and I think they're shiny, but if i was buying a new laptop I'd go for the Samsung and put an SSD in it.
posted by glasseyes at 11:46 AM on September 2, 2012


You also should consider the software you'll be using most often in your major. I have an 11" Air and used it for my last 2 years of school (before that a Macbook), and only had 2 instances where I needed to use Parallels: my GIS class (ARC GIS), and a weird database of California wildlife. You may need to purchase Bootcamp or Parallels if you get the Air and need to use non-compatible software, so factor that in.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:49 AM on September 2, 2012


The SSD thing is nice and all, but I have a no-optical-drive 13" laptop (an Acer TimelineX) that is not too heavy, is as fast as it needs to be for everything I do, and was massively cheaper than the Mac. If you *have* a ton of money to pour into this, then it's not that having an SSD isn't a great thing, and if you prefer OSX then that's also a consideration, but I don't feel like I'm missing anything that would be of genuine use by spending another $500. I'd just as soon have that money for other stuff.

The MacBook Air is really the sort of thing you buy so that you can tell other people you own one, or else because the price difference doesn't matter to you. I think it's a great computer, but a poor choice for the average student.
posted by gracedissolved at 12:10 PM on September 2, 2012


Since you're buying a laptop, definitely go with the Mac. When you're a student and lugging it around all day, everyday, build quality matters, and the unibody aluminum construction of Mac laptops is hard to beat.
posted by suedehead at 12:11 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Under the Mountain Lion update to OS X, voice to text is automatically available for just about every application and program. For some, that can be important.
posted by yclipse at 12:33 PM on September 2, 2012


But what am I missing? Obviously the Samsung seems to be the more powerful computer, with more bang for your buck. There are a whole lot more examples to be found on this page.

I hear the MBA constantly recommended, but I really can't justify the purchase with other ultrabooks at those prices.


At the risk of being glib, here's what you're missing: the MacBook Air runs OS X, and the Samsung doesn't.

That's the only difference between these laptops that might conceivably be worth $600 to someone for whom $600 is a lot of money. The differences in build quality and on-paper processor/RAM/HDD specification are, at best, second order considerations. Get the machine that runs the operating and software you want to use.

For me, I would gladly pay $600 to use the operating system and software I prefer.
posted by caek at 12:35 PM on September 2, 2012


Yes, you are missing something: user experience, which pretty much is what Apple excels at. I would recommend trying both out, certainly at a store, but if you can borrow a unit of each from someone you know even better. That's the only way you're going to be able to decide whether or not it's worth the extra money to you.

A note on screens. Not all screens, even from the same manufacturer, are created equal. This is completely ignoring resolution, which is only one factor. I've gone through about 4 Dell laptops at work, and I have been consistently dismayed at the quality of their screens compared to any Apple laptop of even remotely comparable vintage.
posted by danny the boy at 12:38 PM on September 2, 2012


The SSD is the best upgrade you can buy for any computer. The Mac's CPU is better and the and screen resolution *and* quality are better. Build quality is almost certainly better as is the trackpad. No question that the Air is a better laptop.

Look at a PC Ultrabook with more similar specs for a like-to-like comparison. Windows 7 has far, far fewer problems than earlier versions of Windows, so I think the idea that OSX is better is more a matter of preference than reality. I find the window management on OSX a nightmare for multitasking.

Windows 8 is a mess on a non-touch screen device. Just don't go there. However, I think it would actually be pretty good on a touch screen laptop.

Whatever you do, buy the SSD. It makes an ENORMOUS difference in the performance of the system.
posted by cnc at 12:41 PM on September 2, 2012


Just to reiterate Nelson's comment up above. A highly portable laptop with a 5400 RPM hard drive vs a solid state hard drive is... It's like crawling vs a rocket ship. I have an Air and a Sony ultraportable with roughly the same specs, CPU, memory, etc. The Sony has a spinning hard drive, it's the same one they put in the music-only iPods, so it's rugged, but it has horrible awful access speed. Software that takes 3 seconds to open on my Air take 3-5 minutes on my Sony. On the Air saving and loading files takes no time. On the Sony you forget what you were doing while it does it. I can't even stand using the Sony any more. (FWIW they both cost about the same and have similar build quality.)

In addition the Air runs Windows better than the Sony. So if you don't want to go Mac, you don't have to.

I've found the macs I own to be quite reliable, and when not, Apples customer care has been vastly better than my Sony's. Cant' speak for Samsung's customer support, but I'm sure some googling will sort that for you.
posted by Ookseer at 12:47 PM on September 2, 2012


You may also want to factor in repair or replacement costs if your computer gets lost, stolen, or damaged. Also, consider how well you take care of your electronics. We're pretty bad in my family ... eating at the laptop, tossing them into backpacks when we travel, leaving them in places where they might get damaged ... and we've lost numerous keys and cracked a screen because of it. The lost keys aren't such a big deal since we can plug in a usb keyboard, but the cracked screen means the laptop is no longer portable. We can still use it with an external screen, though.
posted by hoppytoad at 12:58 PM on September 2, 2012


The solid state drive is really a HUGE part of the cost. Take a look at the prices on a 13" Pro - it costs $900 more for a 512g SSD than it does for a 750g HD, $400 more for a 256g SSD. The Airs are not available with a traditional HD any more.

I'm pretty happy wih my 2010 13” Air, though it's getting kinda cramped for space now. I upgraded to it from my old 15” Pro because I had some money to burn; if I hadn't, I'd probably still have that, with an HD replacement at some point last year or so. Right now the Airs are still luxury machines, though I think that'll change in a few years; the high-end 13” of today costs a couple hundred less than the low-end version of the first model, and like half of the high-end. Largely because SSDs have come way down.
posted by egypturnash at 1:19 PM on September 2, 2012


I own the 12.5" version of that samsung - a similar computer to what you posted, but I actually almost bought a macbook air. People here can well advocate the benefits of the mac - usability, longevity, etc. There are tradeoffs when you enter the apple world, though: you lose flexibility and you pay extra. I'm typing this on that same samsung now, running linux, and from what I gather it would have been difficult or impossible to get linux running smoothly on the mac. I also saved $400, this computer is more powerful than the macbook, and I believe I get 2x greater battery life (5-7 hours).

If you can afford it, get the mac. You're unlikely to regret the decision. If you pay extra for a luxury item, in any circumstance, you'll justify to yourself that the luxury was worth it and believe you made the right decision. However, I think in most consumer situations one can safely resist the allure of luxury, pay a lot less, and be objectively just as happy without the name-brand.

It's also worth adding that much of what you pay for in the mac is the operating system, which really is a lot better than windows. I bypass this issue by using linux (which I prefer to both), but out of sympathy for who crappy windows is, I do understand why so many people buy macs.
posted by Buckt at 1:31 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, also, the "up to so many hours battery life" is always complete crap - it'll be lowest brightness sitting on idle with the wireless off. Don't trust either samsung or apple's information on that. Look up a comparable stress-test for the two computers on cnet or something. If I recall, the 11" macbook air that I was considering didn't even get 3 hours.
posted by Buckt at 1:32 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


It depends on how much your time is worth and what you do with the computer. Since you're a student, you're not doing anything difficult, and you might have to use some software that requires Windows. Also, you have much more time than money, so it's difficult for you to justify the price.

For a professional who doesn't need to use Windows software, I would recommend a Mac even if it cost ten times as much.
posted by michaelh at 2:38 PM on September 2, 2012


I have the Asus Zenbook UX21A (11 inch) which I love.

I'm simply not a fan of the Apple interfaces which many people adore. (I turned in my iPhone after a week of use; prefer a non apple music player to even though I own several i-devices. I prefer my Kindle Fire to my iPad. Clearly, I'm not Apple's target user.)

If you aren't absolutely sold on Apple, there are other ultrabooks worth considering.
posted by 26.2 at 3:57 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


It really comes down to this: if you like windows, get a Samsung, if you like osx, then get the Mac. The Air's hardware is better, the ssd is great, but basically you are paying the extra money to use Apple's integrated ecosystem of products. If that isn't appealing to you, get the Samsung.
posted by empath at 5:01 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


nthing selfnote and dannytheboy on getting your hands on one. Hit an Apple store, tell the salesperson your story, and let them try to sell you on it. Do the same thing at the nearby Windows/Dell/Microcenter whatever. Make sure you spend some time doing whatever you intend to do with the laptop.

Two other notes: What I've started seeing in classes is people taking notes on iPads. If you don't have to compute in the classroom (e.g. you don't have to compile your java code), that's an emerging option. This is a small percent in my classes, but it's an option.

While a lot of people don't actually sell their old laptops when they upgrade, it's worth considering the resale value if you think you might do so. A 2009 MBA loses several hundred dollars off the original purchase price, if you treat it well. I don't know how to compare that to Ultrabooks, since the category didn't exist in 2009, but historically Macs have held their resale value better than Windows machines.

Other than that, it's pretty much as others have said. Determine which will be the best machine for you and get that one.
posted by Mad_Carew at 5:56 PM on September 2, 2012


I went laptop shopping with a couple thousand dollars this week, and ended up with a Samsung Series 7 instead of a Macbook Pro (the 2.6g CPU non-retina version), saving $900 (not even counting the extra several hundred I would have paid for a retina screen).

1. I was looking at virtually identical specs, but the samsung hard drive is better (ssd would have been nice but even more cash)

2. I was always going to install windows on the macbook. OSX would be nice to have to play with, but I run windows for work. It'd be worth maybe $50- $100 to me to have that available. I like OSX and got a macbook a year ago intending to make it my new primary machine, but never got around to moving my stuff from my slower, older windows laptop so I knew this wasn't important to me.

3. screen and build quality definitely looked better on the mac, but not that much better. Weight was the same. keyboard etc was comfortable enough when I played with it in the store. I don't think I'll notice the differences day to day - I would probably have paid another couple of hundred for the mac but not close to $1000.


I posted my requirements on facebook and 50% of my friends instantly said 'get a mac!' possibly without even reading beyond the 'buying a laptop' phrase (one of them followed up with 'oh but for only $2000 I guess you can't get a good one'). At least half these people I could be asking about electric toothbrushes and they'd still suggest getting a mac. IME Mac guys are still likely to be staggeringly in love with Apple, get offended when you suggest that you can get the same spec machine cheaper elsewhere, and then fall back to 'but OSX is so much better!' when you contradict them with data, and I straightup disagree with them there.

If money is actually a consideration for you and you don't actively WANT to be running OSX, then I can't see how you'd justify buying a Mac. Sure, it's nice stuff. So is Louis Vuitton and Rolex. Buy the samsung, spend $100-$200 on extra warranty if you like, and you're set.
posted by jacalata at 8:11 PM on September 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


After a diehard PC user for a long time, I recently became a fan of Apple and will be purchasing my next laptop from them. The two main reasons that I plan to stick with Apple is customer support/repair and longevity. I've had amazing experiences with Applecare, as have several of my friends. On the other hand, Samsung isn't exactly known for their customer support. You hear support horror stories from any major company, but I've been very impressed with Apple.

As for longevity, I am currently writing this post on a 2006 Macbook pro, which I inherited from an avid gamer. The PC laptop I bought four years ago at the same price has long since stopped working, but I don't see this dying any time soon. The battery life has dwindled down to two hours and I have to use a fan underneath it when I'm gaming in the summer, but it can play recent games such as Starcraft 2, and is more than sufficient for watching movies, skyping, and working with Office.
posted by PrimateFan at 6:37 AM on September 3, 2012


Only you can decide how much of your money a product is worth. It's certainly challenging when one of the products you're debating is as unfamiliar as a different operating system.

As a Mac user, I can honestly say I don't even think about the prices of PCs. I could save money by buying a PC. This is true. But when I think about how much time I spend using a computer, the price difference becomes silly to debate. If your job is driving a car for 8 hours a day, the extra cost of a nicer car is totally worth it, even if the cheaper one has similar upgrades.

Once you go Mac, it's hard to go back :)

In all seriousness: try to spend some time playing with a Mac at an Apple Store. You'll feel better about your decision to buy or not buy with more time playing with the OS.
posted by 2oh1 at 1:19 PM on September 3, 2012


[delmoi, knock it off. If you want to offer your contrasting opinion, do it without the eye rolls and calling other people ridiculous, this is not MeFi.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:38 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


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