Thinking of a new laptop. Should I switch to Mac/Apple?
November 21, 2004 8:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of getting myself a new laptop to play with. Do I want to switch? [Intel More Inside]

I don't _need_ a new laptop, but it would be useful to have for home use. I have a Toshiba for work, but if the argument is strong enough it could be replaced with a Mac. I'm a sysadmin for an almost pure Win2k/2k3 network, but most of that work is done remotely (i.e. RDP). I play with some webdesign (teaching myself PHP, etc) but am not a web- or code-monkey. I do travel somewhat, so this beastly heavy Toshy is a pain. I have a PC for (very light) gaming at home, but would like to be able to watch avi's etc on my television from the laptop. I detest IE with a passion unholy, and Opera is having my baby.
Price-wise, the AppleBooks are fairly equivalent to the IBM offerings which I've played with extensively. I like their X-series (particularly the X40) mainly for size/weight reasons (tiny, 1.6kg) and the excellent battery life (6hrs on main batt alone).
In realistic terms, how does a G4 1.33 stack up against the Intel boxen? What's the battery life like on an iBook? Is the PowerBook's battery better? How heavy is the iBook? What sort of gaming performance will they give me? Most importantly, Will the Apple do what I need it to do, and how long will it take me to be up-and-running?
posted by coriolisdave to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i found that in switching from windows to os x i encountered a technical learning curve for the first time in my life. the apple folks do things very very differently, and be prepared to yell at the computer screen every forty minutes or so "WHY THE HELL DO YOU WORK THAT WAY?" -- it's not necessarily bad UI/design, it's just different, and I wasn't used to it. Also see the "muscle memory" issues introduced by the funky way the dock works (that site mentions "dragthing", which i've installed on my powerbook and use instead of apple's dock -- it makes a little more sense to me).

for what it's worth, i still can't work (multitask, i should say) as efficiently on the macintosh as i can on windows, which possibly is to be expected since the majority of my experience has been on the windows side, but it's something to consider. Maybe borrow someone's apple laptop and use it exclusively for a few days and see if you run into anything you find frustrating.

that said, apple has some sweet-ass industrial design for their laptops, and my laptop *has*, for the large part, served its purpose (i bought it because i wanted to run software that I could *be sure* wouldn't crash on me when I'm playing live, and i haven't had a problem yet. even on the new pc desktop i bought i've had mad audio dropouts and other problems in only a month of use.)
posted by fishfucker at 10:15 PM on November 21, 2004

The best bang for your buck is an AMD Athlon 64 laptop. They outperform everything else. They battery life is great and they don't get too hot- it's amazing they can be so fast and use so little power. The problem is I haven't seen them for sale in anything besides the huge, "portable workstation" type laptops.

Most new laptops will let you display to TV out, you don't need a Mac for that. To me, Mac's are just too expensive. I do see the appeal of their striking design, but I've already gotten over that hump in the PC world so price/performance is the issue for me.

I've got to agree with ff that Mac's are a different world if you are used to Windows or even Unix. It took quite a while for me to be comfortable with the Mac GUI. See if you can borrow a friend's for a few days and have them along to help you through the how do I do this simple task that seems to be impossible on a Mac moments.
posted by gus at 10:50 PM on November 21, 2004

I have to agree with ff here - when I switched over to a Mac after many years of Windows, I spent the first 24-48 hours getting very frustrated about how, unsurprisingly, OS X is not like Windows XP. As long as you're patient and figure out where things are (e.g. there is no Control Panel! It's all in System Preferences), and keep a weather eye on MacOSXHints, you'll be fine. After those 48 hours I became very happy with OS X and fairly quickly I was working much more rapidly than I had been with Windows XP, due to the ease of installing and running apps, and smaller things like Expose.
posted by adrianhon at 1:45 AM on November 22, 2004

i have the x31 - not quite as cool as the new x40 - and my partner has the smallest powerbook.

the ibm is great. best of all, it has a wonderful keyboard. and having "infinite" (i have an additional external battery that gets me 6 hours total) up-time is great for long trips. if you're happy with windows, it's a very nice machine - mine is slightly smaller and lighter than the powerbook, so the x40 must be more so.

the apple has a horrible keyboard, one of those slidy pad things for the mouse, and only one button. battery life is pants. BUT it reads/writes cds and has unix.

for me, unix is important. i have linux installed dual boot, but mainly use cygwin on win2k. if i got a new laptop, i'd be tempted to go with apple to avoid the cygwin compromise. but if that's not an issue for you, i'd say ibm.

the other difference is the cd. for me, it doesn't matter. i can do everything via the net. but having no cd makes installing linux even more of a pain. so again, if unix is important, the apple's better.

i don't play games so can't comment there. with lots of memory, both machines seem decently fast. the apple has a quicker startup/shutdown than windows hibernation, but that's not really a big deal.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:05 AM on November 22, 2004

If you do go the Mac route budget for the Apple Protection Plan which gives you an extra 2 years warranty. Essential.
posted by i_cola at 2:48 AM on November 22, 2004

I can't tell you how the 1.33 G4 stacks up against the Intel. However I do have a 800 MHz G4 PowerBook. I've never had any complaints with the "snappiness". The most important performance issue with OSX is memory. UNIX likes to have a large addressable memory space.

My friend gets 5-ish hours out of his iBook battery. In my experience the battery life is about the same. Maybe a bit less for the PowerBook because it drives a larger LCD.

Games? Mac? Not really it's strong suit.

I think the Mac does what it needs to do, and does it well. I love my little machine. Best computer I've ever owned. I really love the UNIX underpinnings. The interface is consistent and easy to use. Almost every development language, tool, and environment is available because of the ability to leverage all the Linux development taking place.

It took me about a week to get up and running. I come from a Windows/UNIX background. The two biggest challenges I had were:

- No start menu. You use the dock and the applications folders.
- Finding equivalents for the windows programs I used. Version tracker is a great place for Mac software.
posted by srburns at 5:37 AM on November 22, 2004

I switched about three years ago (initially to an iBook and later to the PowerBook that I'm using now) and haven't looked back. I've also had two friends switch from running multiboot Windows/Red Hat and Windows/Debian machines and they love the convenience of a well designed GUI with a full featured, Unix based operating system (and the Unix utilities that go along with the OS).

There is a period of adjustment, but I didn't find it nearly as overwhelming as some others are reporting that they encountered. If you do decide to go the switcher route, I highly recommend, "Mac OS X: The Missing Manual" to ease your transition. It may account for my relatively painless move.
posted by jperkins at 6:08 AM on November 22, 2004

I should've included my methodology in ordering a new PowerBook in my previous post:

First, I find the 12" PowerBooks too small and the 17" PowerBooks too big (I'll admit to pining for the 17" until I saw a co-worker using one). The 15" is just right for me. Second, I buy the lower end, stock 15" PowerBook - the higher end model currently throw in a slightly faster proc, DVD writing ability, RAM and a larger HD. I've never needed to write a DVD, the speed bump with the proc isn't all that great, and the amount that Apple charges for memory and hard drives is silly. Note that swapping in a different hard drive in the Aluminum PowerBooks will void your warranty (unlike the Titanium models), so if you are concerned about the included hard drive and want a faster one I'd upgrade that when I ordered the PowerBook. After ordering the lower end, stock 15" PowerBook, I then head over to Crucial and order RAM - normally 1GB of RAM on top of the 256 MB installed stock is more than enough for my needs (primarily web development using PHP/MySQL, but sometimes Photoshop and Fireworks).

43 folders has a good list of OS X software that you'll want to check out and see if anything listed blows your hair back. I recently picked up one of the Timbuk2 Commute bags to replace my backpack and having used it for about a month now, I'm liking it as well. Not a must have, but it's a definitely nice (and not just for Apple laptops) and I've noticed that the neck strain that I was getting from lugging around my old backpack has gone away since I started using the Timbuk2 bag - especially if I place the carrying strap across my torso.

I'm normally against extended warranties, but AppleCare is very much worth the extra cost if you plan to own the computer for more than a year (it also helps with the resell value). I recently sent in my two year old PowerBook (there was an issue with the video card) and there were some cosmetic blemishes on the case - Apple replaced the video card and also completely replaced the PowerBook case, so the computer looks new!

Finally, check out the pricing on a 667 MHz PowerBook. They're now two years old and selling in the $800 to $1200 range. Apple's hold their value like no other computer that I'm aware of.
posted by jperkins at 6:41 AM on November 22, 2004

I switched to a 1ghz tiBook about 1.5 years ago and at this point, I've never looked back. For me, OSX is the perfect blend of unix power, software choice, and usability; games are for my consoles, so it was never a consideration.

Battery life isn't great. ~3 hours. Slightly more if I turn off the wireless and don't do much else besides text editing. You can get through a whole dvd on one battery charge though.

I had three major things to get used to:

1) The "finder". It doesn't operate like Windows Explorer.

2) Lack of consistent hot-keys and key-chords across applications. On PCs Ctrl-x/c/v always does the same thing regardless of app, on OS X... ymmv, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. A powerbook keyboard forces you to key-chord for all text navigation (pg-up, pg-down, etc...), and it's almost never consistent. This is a huge annoyance.

3) Closing a window does not necessarily quit the application. This is a big difference, but has minor implications. Apps load into memory, and then open windows to display documents. When you close most windows, the app is not unloaded from memory, it just hides until you use it again. It consumes very little resources, and speeds up load times by a huge amount. I love this feature, but it took some getting used to.

Hmmm... what else... Safari is shit. I have no idea what the hype is about. Get Firefox (or in your case, Opera?).

I have to complaints about the dock... I don't know what all the fuss is about.

The MS Windows remote desktop connection app (for server admin) is available on the Mac and runs just great. I use it all the time.

Virtual PC is... adequate for... hmm... don't bother.

If you need MS Office, Office for OS X rocks. No Access DBs though. (whoop-tee-doo)

You can play old PC Games with DOS Box.

Any other questions, send me an email.
posted by C.Batt at 8:26 AM on November 22, 2004

« Older Azureus for OSX, torrent files?   |   Recording RealPlayer Streams Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.