Which Windows laptop is semi-equivalent to this Mac?
April 22, 2010 7:42 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is looking for a laptop. She's used to a Mac (desktop) and we've determined that the MacBook Pro 15-inch with 2.4 ghz Intel Core i5 processor (she's a photographer, so needs a decent amount of power). We're pretty sure she'd be happy with that, but we're trying to figure out how much we'd save by going Windows. Of course, trying to figure out an equivalent Windows to a Mac is a bit baffling (to me, anyway), so...I turn to the fine people of Askmetistan. What's a good comparable?
posted by The Dutchman to Computers & Internet (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
rg...pardon some omitted words in there.
posted by The Dutchman at 7:44 AM on April 22, 2010

Here is an example from Newegg that goes for $800. I think you probably sacrifice some battery life this way, but you could always buy a replacement battery, since they are able to switch in and out easily on the PC.
posted by Grither at 7:49 AM on April 22, 2010

Sorry, should have mentioned, that one has the same processor, same RAM, and same Harddrive space as the Macbook Pro. Arguably the most important factors in "computing power". Oh, and it has a ATI Radeon 5650 video card. Not sure what the macbook has.
posted by Grither at 7:51 AM on April 22, 2010

Here's a Core i5, 15" Asus for $869.

Asus K52JK-A1

Asus is #1 in the reliability surveys right now (Apple's in the middle somewhere). Also, they have one of the best warranties around, which includes accidental damage protection for the first year.
posted by smoothvirus at 8:04 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also consider getting a Mac Mini and a small computer for shooting. The rationale is that color-balancing laptop monitors is very often a losing proposition, and RAM can be a lot cheaper on the desktop. Plus if you shoot large quantities, it's easier to manage data when your disks are huge and fast. My father, a professional for 25 years, tethers a cheap ASUS netbook on location and then edits on a Mac Pro, and the workflow works quite well.
posted by tmcw at 8:05 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also consider getting a Mac Mini and a small computer for shooting. The rationale is that color-balancing laptop monitors is very often a losing proposition, and RAM can be a lot cheaper on the desktop.

I'd note though, that a Mini is essentially a laptop without a screen--you don't get the economies of the larger box as you might with a MacPro.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:13 AM on April 22, 2010

tmcw - Her main computer, where she'll continue to do color correcting, is a Mac Pro desktop. The laptop would just allow her to be a bit less tethered to home for other tasks (e.g., editing). Eventually, she might get an external monitor for the laptop at my house so she could color correct here too.
posted by The Dutchman at 8:18 AM on April 22, 2010

Define equivalent? Is it purely in terms of laptop size and processing performance metrics? If so, you're probably going to be down anywhere from $400-1,100.

But keep in mind, no laptop has nearly as impressive a battery as the MBP; it's tough to compare across laptops for LCD quality (MBP screens are excellent, which should be a major priority for a photog, and I'd suggest going with the new higher-res anti-glare), tougher still to put a price tag on the MBP's excellent build quality, and most importantly in this case, the rights to run OS X. These are all things you are paying for. Whether they are worth it is up to her to decide.
posted by drpynchon at 8:24 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd say there's also good value in having a homogeneous environment for her workflow. Having her laptop running the same software/environment as her desktop has to carry some value, at least in my opinion. Don't look at just dollarsigns and make your decision. Decide how much effort she'll go through switching her workflow from a PC to her Mac.
posted by Rendus at 8:25 AM on April 22, 2010

TechCrunch had a pretty good article a few days ago about the differences between the Apple and PC trackpads. Most PC laptops have lousy trackpads while Apple uses really high quality (expensive) trackpads on the Macbooks.

You may want to try them on both platforms to see if that's an issue for you.
posted by fremen at 8:31 AM on April 22, 2010

There's a LOT of well-deserved anti-Apple sentiment going on right now, for reasons entirely apart from the quality of their laptops and desktops. You're not going to get many unbiased opinions.

Honestly, if there's money being made with the computer, the price of the machine isn't that important. $1700 vs. $800 over the course of 3 years is nothing given how important an asset it is. It's your darkroom where you spend more time than you do actually taking photos, so it's gotta be a productive and pleasant place to work.

I'd pay close attention to how Apple's and PC's handle the important things to photographers. Color profiling for displays and printers, customer service, battery life and weight if it's a machine for field use, resale value, file management and/or automating some tasks (few other professionals have to routinely deal with 1000's of files at once), file versioning and backups, the ability of the OS to recognize metadata and possibly handle RAW images, etc. Those things matter a hundred times more than processor speed.

The software itself is pretty comparable from platform to platform (ie, Lightroom and Photoshop) though it does run marginally slower on Macs. I don't have enough experience living with Windows 7 or Vista to really say how well they do in all those areas. Obviously Win 7 is hugely improved from XP.

P.S. I wouldn't worry about warranties for accidental damage (your insurance company can sell you a personal article's policy for a few bucks a month).
posted by paanta at 8:37 AM on April 22, 2010

And having recently purchased a new 13" MBP to replace an old 15" model, I do have to say that if she's going to be doing editing on the laptop without a mouse, the trackpad really is absolutely f-ing ridiculously wonderful in a way I had not anticipated.
posted by paanta at 8:40 AM on April 22, 2010

MBP screens are excellent, which should be a major priority for a photog, and I'd suggest going with the new higher-res anti-glare

To my great surprise, though, even the optional (extra $$$) high res screen is still lower resolution than the screen on my Dell work laptop, a 15" Latitude with a 1920 by 1200 display. Let's assume the MBP's screen is better for critical colour work (just for the sake of it); in the field, you'll probably not be doing that anyway, and you'll be more concerned with screen real estate for Aperture / Lightroom / whatever. As someone considering upgrading from a 13" MacBook to a 15" MBP, the 1680 by 1040 resolution of the optional high res screen is a real disappointment to me.

Overall, though, I'm with the workflow argument. Probably best to suck up the low resolution screens and go with the MBP.
posted by galaksit at 8:41 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

AND "10 hour battery life" is more like 3 hours of heavy photoshop/lightroom use. "4 hour battery life" is code for "don't even think about trying to get anything done on battery power"
posted by paanta at 8:44 AM on April 22, 2010

You also realize it's not going to be as trivial as switching to a windows machine in terms of hardware but also software right? If she uses Adobe CS4 (ie photoshop etc) she'd have to purchase that for windows as well if she plans to use it on both her new windows laptop and her workhorse mac back at home. That is a very non-trivial purchase and would pretty much blow any price difference between windows and mac laptops out of the water.
posted by kthxbi at 9:01 AM on April 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

How much will the lack of color accuracy and proper OS-level color management for printing and proofing cost her in her career by choosing a PC? Factor that in before comparing apples to oranges.

Dell makes the shittiest, most inconsistent displays I've ever used. You can put two of the same model next to eachother running off the same computer and watch the color shift as you drag psds across them.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 9:09 AM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Screen quality. Battery life. Trackpad usability. Consistent workflow. Consistent shortcut keys. Lack of bloatware...

If she's already a MP user, you'd want to be saving a whole lot of money to even consider a PC in this situation I'd have thought.
posted by puffmoike at 9:41 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

If she's committed to continuing to use her Apple desktop, she should pay the extra money for the Apple laptop. Apple people are typically going to be badly messed up by confronting a multiple-platform computing environment. The cognitive challenge would be more expensive than the $500-$1,000 you'd save.
posted by gum at 10:13 AM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Dell makes the shittiest, most inconsistent displays I've ever used. You can put two of the same model next to eachother running off the same computer and watch the color shift as you drag psds across them.

Maybe so (I even accounted for this in my comment about the Dell screen), but why can't Apple knock out a WUXGA panel in a pro laptop, even as a build to order option?

Dell vs. Apple is a curious one because in some contexts (e.g. Cinema Displays and Dell's desktop monitors) they have been known to use the same underlying panel anyway.
posted by galaksit at 10:24 AM on April 22, 2010

... pro 15" laptop, that is.
posted by galaksit at 10:25 AM on April 22, 2010

Be careful to make sure the money won't be wasted on a laptop she'll hate. I'm a Mac guy but I have a PC laptop, and I loathe the thing. Actually, my laptop is fine... but Windows drives me mad. I don't mean to turn this into a Mac/Windows debate... but I'm shocked by the things that Windows users accept. Take, for instance, the stickers slapped onto PA Laptops. I understand Dell putting their logo on their laptop, just as Apple does... but those stickers are like zits for christ sake! Go to Best Buy. Look at the PC laptops and look at the Mac laptops. The PC laptops are littered with advertising on them. GAH!
posted by 2oh1 at 10:36 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

You know those stickers come right off, don't you? They do.

I like Windows a lot, I was totally messed up when I had to work on a Mac. But your girlfriend is used to a Mac, and unless you have a blinding need to save a few dollars, the frustration she's going to have with relearning keyboard shortcuts and other particulars means she should probably not switch.
posted by sageleaf at 10:56 AM on April 22, 2010

If she uses a Mac as her main computer, she should probably have a Mac for the on-the-go computer.

Having used both for a while (Mac at home, Dell on the go), no matter what you do it'll still be rather awkward switching between the two. It's not as much a matter of one being better than another (I prefer my Mac) as that it always throws you slightly off switching between the two for similar tasks since they both do them so differently.
posted by ooklala at 11:24 AM on April 22, 2010

Her main computer, where she'll continue to do color correcting, is a Mac Pro desktop.

This really is the deciding point. Get the MBP. The two will just work together smoothly. The workspace remains consistent. She won't have to pop for both Mac and Win versions of the same software. And, try as you might, there will always be little hiccups that crop up when trying to get the Mac and the PC to work together...and usually when you need them to play nice the most. That's been my experience, anyway. YMMV.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:35 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have to agree on the shortcut thing. Even if she learns them fairly quickly, it can be a PITA when going back and forth. I have a mac at home and pc at work, and if I've been doing a lot of work at home, the next few days at work I'm fighting my hand because it keeps doing the mac shortcuts. That alone probably shouldn't affect your decision, but it is an additional factor to thing of, especially since kb shortcuts are so fundamental to speedy workflow in graphics programs.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:38 AM on April 22, 2010

Not to be a dick, but the OP's question was not "Which should we buy: Mac or Windows?" but "What's a PC equivalent to a 15" MacBook Pro and how much cash will we save?" Only Grither and smoothvirus bothered to answer the original post. I'm interested in the answers too, so please excuse my unintentional thread modding.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:51 AM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

"You know those stickers come right off, don't you? They do."

HOW!?!? I can't figure out how to get them off without scratching the laptop. They're not just stickers. They seem like they're made of metal and permanently glued on. If they were just plain old stickers, I'd have peeled them off the moment I knew the laptop had arrived in working order.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:54 AM on April 22, 2010

I've removed the stickers from numerous laptops by sticking my fingernail under the edge and lifting. If I've ever Goo-Gone in the past I can't remember, certainly haven't done that lately. They're designed to look permanent, but they're not. If they're cooked on after years of use, I don't know if that's doable.

As to equivalency, the easiest way to find the price is to customize a machine at Dell or Toshiba or HP and match the specs as best you can.

It's not unreasonable that people are suggesting that this might not be a great idea and pointing out some things that might not have otherwise been considered.
posted by sageleaf at 12:42 PM on April 22, 2010

Does she use Photoshop? You can use Photoshop on 2 machines of the same architecture legally. If she got a windows box for her mobile lab, she'd need to get another copy for the new architecture so you can tack on a few hundred dollars.
posted by chairface at 1:27 PM on April 22, 2010

It's not unreasonable that people are suggesting that this might not be a great idea and pointing out some things that might not have otherwise been considered.

Agreed; provided they answer the original question at some point in their reply.

As to equivalency, the easiest way to find the price is to customize a machine at Dell or Toshiba or HP and match the specs as best you can.

The OP specifically said that he found this process confusing, hence his question.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 4:34 PM on April 22, 2010

Ok, well, everything here has been helpful and I appreciate it. I've been leaning toward the idea that a Mac will just be better for her regardless of price difference and this discussion has pushed me over the edge. Sucks that it's $1,000 more, but I think it's the right choice.

...and you can pry my XP machine out of my etc. etc.
posted by The Dutchman at 6:26 PM on April 22, 2010

I've spent some time researching this, and the closest thing you will find to a MacBook Pro 15 is going to be a Lenovo ThinkPad W510, which, similarly configured, costs nearly the same as the Mac.

There are other cheaper Windows laptops out there, but they will all either have a lower quality screen, shorter battery life, greater weight, or larger dimensions (thickness, usually). There's more to a laptop than the specs for RAM, CPU, and hard disk space.

IIRC, the license for Adobe Lightroom allows installation on a second PC (or laptop) whether it is OS X or Windows - not sure if Photoshop is the same.
posted by kenliu at 8:25 PM on April 22, 2010

Kenliu, my experience with Adobe licenses allows for a second install but (unless this is a very recent change) it is NOT cross platform. You can choose 1, then install it on the same, be it OSX or Windows. Yes, the install DVD may even have both versions on it, but the license does not apply to both. You can even remove the license from machine #1, but the license is still bound to that operating system. This was learned the hard way.

Sony Vaio is very much trying to close in on MacBooks and MBPs. Tech specs for all the Vaio lines here. The E series has the same processor. The video cards may look comparable, but it has slower ram, and only one card. The mac has 2 video cards and automatic hardware switching for battery vs. performance balance. The screen you'll need to see for your self (and she likely won't use it for color correction anyhow). One plus for the Vaio is HDMI out (please Apple make mini-display port +sound!) and eSATA port which was done away with recently on the MBP except for 17". System RAM and Hard Drive I'll consider moot, though they'll affect the price.

So you're left to consider a few other things, which aren't really trivial, but hard to quantify: Speakers; love the sound on my MPB. Build quality; unibodies are hot. Form factor; plastic vs. metal. Trackpad; multitouch vs. buy-a-mouse.

Another "value added" (to use a terrible marketing term) thing you get when you buy a Mac is the support-- a physical store you can go to and talk to people. Yes Sony is starting to have more stores in malls just like Apple, but surprisingly they don't have technical support people to talk with, and most contract out repairs. I'm far from saying Apple Care is awesome (to which my twitter account will testify.) But having gone through HP and Vaio support personally and with my sister, it is much much better.

Also I do lots of cursing at ctl+ vs apple+ shortcuts when I'm using adobe products cross platform. When productivity is how you make money, it's a bit worse than "annoying."
posted by fontophilic at 10:31 AM on April 27, 2010


I didn't experience any issues with installing a second copy on a different OS - I have Lightroom 2 installed on my MBP and a XP netbook. I looked into the licenses for Photoshop and Lightroom and it appears that there are differences.

Both EULAs have this section:

"2.4 Portable or Home Computer Use. Subject to the important restrictions set forth in Section 2.5 below, the primary user of the Computer on which the Software is installed (“Primary User”) may install a second copy of the Software for his or her exclusive use on either a portable Computer or a Computer located at his or her home, provided that the Software on the portable or home Computer is not used at the same time as the Software on the primary Computer. You may be required to contact Adobe in order to make a second copy."

...but the Photoshop EULA has this extra bit that's not in the Lightroom license:

"2.10 Dual Boot Platform. The Software is licensed for use on a specific operating system platform. You must purchase a separate license for use of the Software on each operating system platform. By way of example, if you desire to install the Software on both the Mac OS and Windows operating system platforms on a device that runs both of those platforms (i.e., a dual boot machine), then you must first obtain two separate licenses for the Software. This is true even if two versions of the Software, each designed for a different operating system platform, are delivered to you on the same media."
posted by kenliu at 5:57 PM on April 27, 2010

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