Recommendations for new laptop with nice, sturdy hardware.
June 13, 2010 4:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about replacing my 2 year-old 15" Macbook Pro but I can't find a non-Apple laptop that feels like it doesn't have cheap hardware. Am I missing something?

I have yet to stumble across a non-Apple laptop that doesn't feel plastic, fragile, and cheap to me. Yes, this Mac was expensive but it seems very sturdy and looks the part.

Are there any Windows laptops out there that can even come close to the hardware this Mac is built from? I would hate to buy something new if it feels cheaper than what I am "upgrading" from. I'm considering making a switch to Windows 7 but the hardware definitely plays a part in my decision. I'm thinking of something in the 15" range.

Any recommendations?
posted by decrescendo to Computers & Internet (33 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Check out Lenovo - IMHO, they make the best laptops around.
posted by firei at 4:27 PM on June 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

You don't say why you want to switch to Windows 7. Is there some software you're unable to use on a Mac?
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:27 PM on June 13, 2010

For what it's worth, I've had a lot of problems with my Lenovo SL400. I don't know if it's because it was one of their cheapest laptops or what, but I've had to go through 2 hard drive replacements, many power port and power cable replacements, and now I have a broken left hinge which I won't be replacing. Whenever I get another laptop I will definitely be avoiding Lenovo (which is too bad because I've heard mostly quite good things about them from people on Ask.Mefi and other sites, but I just can't bring myself to give that company more money).
posted by majikstreet at 4:30 PM on June 13, 2010

Response by poster: I think I'm just more comfortable with Windows Explorer compared to Finder. I haven't decided that I want to abandon OSX for sure but I'm debating it.
posted by decrescendo at 4:32 PM on June 13, 2010

and this may be outdated Thinkpad chauvinism on my part, but firei means the Thinkpad line, which Lenovo bought from IBM and apparently has not ruined yet. Received wisdom in business/IT circles is that they're built like bricks. Some people are so confident that they'll deliberately eschew padded cases and such. (As for reality, some models do meet MILSPEC dust, shock, and vibration standards, if you need that, but you'll have to research your own particular model.)
posted by d. z. wang at 4:35 PM on June 13, 2010

I own a late-2007 MacBook Pro and when I opted for a netbook, the Lenovo ideapad S10 (original model, the blocky one) was the only thing that felt properly sturdy to me, so I'll nth the Lenovo backers.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:46 PM on June 13, 2010

I might be missing something, but why not get a new MacBook and install Windows. Best of both worlds, no?
posted by hamandcheese at 4:46 PM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is a world of difference between Lenovo's ThinkPad line, and their other lines (like the SL400). The ThinkPads are almost as good as they were when IBM still owned them, and are still the best PC laptop on the market.

Fit-and-finish-wise, though, you're not going to find something else that looks as sturdy as your MBP, with its aluminium and glass. Your use of the phrase: "...feel plastic, fragile, and cheap to me" is particularly telling.

Many MILSPEC laptops are silicone/rubberized plastic. Thinkpads are (mostly) plastic. They're stiffer than the aluminium unibody that your mac is built around. When they are dropped, kicked, crushed and abused, the plastic scuffs... it doesn't dent or bend, and the bezel in front of the LCD doesn't shatter until the LCD does. But it doesn't (and can't) feel quite as pleasing in the hands. That doesn't (necessarily) make it fragile or cheap... it's just that the engineering efforts went towards different goals (weight reduction, or in-field maintainability for instance).

If you want something that feels like a Mac, but runs windows, get a Mac and run windows on it :)
posted by toxic at 4:54 PM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's some laptop failure rate data that might be useful.

(You've got me wondering if there's a market for Sandbenders-style CNC-milled aluminium cases with stock Asus mainboards inside, as I admit "heft" and "failure rates" are two different things).
posted by Leon at 4:56 PM on June 13, 2010

Work provided me with a Lenovo T60. It runs alright, but it looks like every other cheaply-made, plastic laptop. Nothing can beat the newer aluminum unibody macbooks in terms of fit and finish.
posted by Jambi at 4:56 PM on June 13, 2010

HP's Envy series comes very close for fit and finish and even looks sort of like a macbook if you must go PC. If you don't care about aesthetics, HP's business laptops (notably the Elite Books) are also very solid machines without all the crappy plastic you tend to find on the consumer models.
posted by The Bellman at 4:59 PM on June 13, 2010

I just bought this laptop and love it so far. It's not the lightest laptop out there, but it feels nice and sturdy and performs better than my not-very-old desktop.

Almost everything we looked at had Windows 7, fwiw. It's taking a bit to get used to, but I like it so far.
posted by tryniti at 4:59 PM on June 13, 2010

I really like my Sony VAIO VGN-SZ320CP... very solid, and lots of features. I guess it's a matter of you-get-what-you-pay-for... I bought it a few years ago, but it probably cost the same as a MacBook at the time.
posted by kaudio at 5:00 PM on June 13, 2010

As others note, if you like the MBP, get an MBP. And install Windows on it (gah!). Or if Finder is your issue, use one of the many, many alternatives for OS X. I like Path Finder. If you're used to the Apple touchpad, going to a Windows laptop might make you want to jump off a bridge.
posted by drpynchon at 5:03 PM on June 13, 2010

Response by poster: I LOVE the Apple Touchpad. I am, in fact, very much worried about losing it.
posted by decrescendo at 5:06 PM on June 13, 2010

Even if you prefer Windows... is there a reason you're unhappy with your current hardware? A two year old machine isn't all that obsolete these days, and since it has an Intel processor, it's perfectly capable of running Windows 7 - exclusively or dual-booted with Boot Camp.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:10 PM on June 13, 2010

Chiming in to add my rec for the ThinkPad. I've had two and you just.can't.kill.them.
posted by contessa at 5:14 PM on June 13, 2010

Response by poster: I think this just changed my opinion of OSX. This has always frustrated me with OSX.
posted by decrescendo at 5:18 PM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just got a ThinkPad W500.

Feels real solid; works great.

Not impressed with Win7; Windows Explorer crashes ones or twice a day.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:51 PM on June 13, 2010

Fujitsu, which has a lower profile in the U.S. than those previously mentioned, has consistently high user satisfaction and reliability outcomes. The design tends to be simple. straight forward and highly functional. Quite well thought of, I have two, in Europe. Good Luck
posted by rmhsinc at 6:05 PM on June 13, 2010

I also hate the standard window management on OS X and the finder. So let me offer you some alternatives & work arounds. For window management, I love SizeUp - it maximizes, it tiles, it centers, it moves things to other monitors and spaces. It makes using my multi-monitor setup truly easy. For the finder, have a look at Pathfinder.
posted by Brent Parker at 6:33 PM on June 13, 2010

Seconding Tomorrowful. At one point I recall some test showing that the MacBook Pro ran Windows better than the equivalent "Windows" laptops. I'm sure that's no longer the case, but if you like the hardware but not the OS, I don't see any compelling reason to change out the hardware.
posted by bjrubble at 6:46 PM on June 13, 2010

Don't waste yor time with PathFinder, get TotalFinder, it's main feature is a tabbed interface similar to Google Chrome, makes using Finder that much more bearable. (it's labelled alpha but it's solid and ready for primetime, free for now).
posted by furtive at 6:53 PM on June 13, 2010

I recently purchased a sony F series and I am extremely pleased with it. It feels almost as robust as my thinkpads and even though it has the core I7 processor and very powerful Nvidia GPU it runs almost as cool as my acer netbook and orders of magnitude cooler than any macbook I've owned. Windows 7 is no OSX, but at least I'm not sending my laptop back every couple of months for a logicboard or harddrive replacement. It's also nice to be able to use a laptop on your lap without discomfort. Good Luck with whatever you choose.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 6:54 PM on June 13, 2010

The best windows laptop is the laptop you already have. Install windows on your MBP hardware. Win.
posted by zpousman at 7:35 PM on June 13, 2010

For what it's worth, I've had a lot of problems with my Lenovo SL400...I've had to go through 2 hard drive replacements, many power port and power cable replacements, and now I have a broken left hinge which I won't be replacing. Whenever I get another laptop I will definitely be avoiding Lenovo.

Ha! I was just about to post almost the identical thing! Actually, I've said this elsewhere, but I had the exact same experience with the SL400 - it always felt sort of cheap and clunky, and then the hinge cracked. Had the same problem with the port, too. Total waste of money, and I'll never buy another Lenovo. Their customer service was also very disappointing.
posted by lunasol at 7:43 PM on June 13, 2010

I LOVE the Apple Touchpad. I am, in fact, very much worried about losing it.

Well, don't get a new Macbook then. The windows touchpad drivers are all but useless. I have to use an external mouse to run windows on my macbook.

I have a couple of users with Thinkpads at work. They are very, very good computers.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:56 PM on June 13, 2010

FWIW, our network admin at work has a 17" MBP that he runs XP on 90% of the time in boot camp. The Unibody MBPs are as solid as they get, without the extra heft of a toughbook.

As far as fit & Finish for Windows machines, I've been really impresses with some of the ASUStek machines I've come across recently- very study in the 'corner pickup test' and doesn't have that 'we've cut corners on everything but the spec sheet' feel to it.
posted by tohojo at 8:06 PM on June 13, 2010

I had Thinkpads when they were sold by IBM and Thinkpads since the sale to Lenovo, and they just aren't as good anymore. I also used to swear by IBM's support org, but that's gone in the crapper too. I've since switched to a Macbook Pro, and it's the best-constructed laptop I've ever owned. Haven't had a chance to use Apple support yet, but I can tell you that Lenovo's on-site NBD support is definitely no longer worth it.

But if you *have* to go with a windows-native computer, then Lenovo Thinkpads are still the only way to go.
posted by Runes at 9:07 PM on June 13, 2010

You already have a Windows native computer. Just install Windows on your MacBook.
posted by santaliqueur at 10:22 PM on June 13, 2010

The MacBook Pro you already have is probably the best Windows laptop you are going to find. It's an ordinary x86 computer - just install Windows on it if that's what you want to use.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:18 PM on June 14, 2010

Boot Camp/Windows 7 runs amazingly well, but the trackpad's drivers are, sadly, a bit buggy. The only multi-finger gesture it supports is scrolling, and even that has some issues. The battery life is also substantially worse in Windows than in OSX (but still pretty good, compared to many other laptops!)

If you're set on getting another laptop, check out the Sony Vaio Z. It's quite expensive, but a number of MacBook users decided to switch to it over the 2010 MacBooks. (Note: the specs listed in the thread are a bit off, especially the resolution.)
posted by archagon at 3:04 AM on June 16, 2010

Oh, but the trackpad in Windows is far from useless! The main problem is that it seems to be divided into two areas: a lower strip (for simulated buttons, in case you want to click with one hand while moving the cursor with the other) and the main upper section (for moving the cursor). This division, unfortunately, is a bit buggy, and occasionally causes clicks to not register. OSX doesn't have this division.

Try it out and see if it's okay with you. You can install Windows 7 without a valid serial for 30 days (actually, 120, if you use a special command), provided you can get a DVD or ISO.
posted by archagon at 3:16 AM on June 16, 2010

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