I'm a PC person- wondering if I should I buy a Macbook Pro?
October 21, 2010 3:04 PM   Subscribe

I've been generally a loyal PC user, but I'm thinking about getting a 13" 2.66GHz Macbook Pro. I'm looking for a lightweight and sturdy laptop to carry from class to class. For my purposes, is this the right laptop for me?

Recently I've been looking into buying the 13" 2.66GHz Macbook Pro. I'm a 2nd year college art student, and I'm looking for a laptop to last me for the rest of my time in school. However, i'm a complete novice when it comes to macs.

I'm drawn to the MBP mainly because of its hardware. It seems really sturdy and well built, but still lightweight. And also, the screen and trackpad are really quite amazing. I'm bit wary about the Core 2 Duo, but from what I've seen it doesn't seem much of a difference between that and say, a Core i3.

My previous laptop was a Dell Inspiron E1505... It lasted me about 4 years, but it's bulky, really heavy, has heating problems, and one of the screen hinges started breaking after a year. Pretty much, i'm terrified of getting a similar laptop again.

My current main computer is a desktop PC (that I built myself), so this is solely for me to take to classes. I have a netbook, and although it's convenient as hell, it's just too small- the keyboard perpetuates my tendinitis, it has heating problems, and it just isn't as powerful as I want it to be (It can hardly load youtube videos). I've also looked at the 14" Lenovo IdeaPad Y460 as well, but it's a bit heavier and bulkier, and according to some reviews, the screen resolution isn't very good. Price isn't a huge issue, the extra $400 will be worth it if I'm happy with my computer. Plus, I'll be getting a $150 discount if I buy at my university.

So, does this Mac seem right, or are there other computers you think would suit my needs? What are your experiences with Macs? What's the Applecare like, and is it worth it? For someone who's very proficient with PCs, buying a Mac is a big step for me, so I want to know I'm not going to regret this decision.
posted by jennz to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I switched to Mac in 2004 and I didn't regret it for a second. The 13" MBP is a great machine, but the MacRumors Buying Guide indicates it is nearing the end of its cycle and is due for an update.

That said, Mac just updated the MacBook Air and the BTO options on the 15 "and 17" MBP, so it may be one of those unusual long update cycles.

The 13" MBP will handle most anything you throw at it and a SSD will make it even faster. That said, if you plan on doing heavy lifting (Photoshop or Pro apps), you might consider looking at the 15" or 17" with a bigger processor.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:10 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I switched to the same laptop you're looking at in August and it was one of the best purchases I've ever made. I really like it a lot. I don't do any "heavy lifting," so it is more than enough for what I need. The screen resolution is amazing. I didn't realize how shitty my PC laptop's screen was until I used it again for something after having switched to the MBP.

Also, it's pretty easy to switch to Mac from PC. I'd used Macs a decent amount at school, so if you've never touched one, you might have a little bit of a learning curve, but I like it a lot better. The main thing was learning some different keyboard shortcuts. Also, the fancy trackpad has changed my life. It's soooo nice.
posted by elpea at 3:19 PM on October 21, 2010

I switched to Macs back in 2002 or so, and I've been very impressed with the laptop build quality. No loose screws or loose hinges, which I've encountered with Compaq and Dell laptops I've owned previously. It's just a very solid piece of hardware.

I was coming from a linux background, so I was pretty comfortable with the OS. If you're a "power user" on the PC, you might want to get familiar with using UNIX shells on the Mac. This shouldn't be a big deal for someone who's comfortable with computers in general.

I guess the main thing you leave out of your question is what you'll be using it for. What software do you want to run?

I use a 13" Macbook (not pro) laptop mostly for MS Office apps, light work with Photoshop and Illustrator, and occasional Matlab programming. It can handle all of these with relative aplomb. If the pro had been available in the 13" model when I bought my current laptop, I would have gone for it.

I've had good experiences with apple support on other purchases (a Mac Mini I had to get a replacement model on a couple of months ago). Though I've purchased the "extended" applecare with all of my laptops, I've never had to use it (knock on wood).
posted by mr_roboto at 3:22 PM on October 21, 2010

Response by poster: I don't plan on doing too much heavy lifting with my laptop. I built my PC specifically for the purposes of gaming and design. The 15" is appealing, but it's too heavy.

The digital labs at my school uses Macs, and recently when I had to finish a project there, I felt like a complete idiot for not being able to navigate a computer so easily. It was another reason I was prompted to buy a mac.

I was worried that I'd buy a MBP and then they'd update it, but I can't imagine them updating to anything spectacular other than a better processor. I don't think they'd be able to put a Core i5, and I wouldn't be too hurt if I didn't have an i3 over a Core 2 duo.
posted by jennz at 3:25 PM on October 21, 2010

If portability is your main concern, then you should definitely take a look at the new Airs. I have colleagues who are delighted with their Macbook Airs, but they've always seemed a little underpowered to me. But I use my laptop as my primary machine at home, so I need to be able to do whatever on it. If I knew that it would only be for web, email, and light document preparation (no serious image editing), I'd definitely consider the Air. They're tiny for being full (i.e. not netbook) computers.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:31 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're set for all of your heavy lifting needs and just want something light and easy to carry around I would seriously consider the Macbook Air. I have the 13" MBP and I love it. It's the only computer I have (unless you count the iPad, which I do not) and it handles everything I throw at it including large data sets and 10-13 open applications at a time without missing a beat. But because I travel so much/often I am (sadly, for my pocketbook) seriously considering an 11" Macbook Air.
posted by FlamingBore at 3:31 PM on October 21, 2010

Well, one other option to consider then would be the newly updated MBA. Much lighter and thinner (but still a full-sized keyboard and aluminum unibody construction). If you're interested, invest in the 4G RAM upgrade; because, unlike the MBPs, *nothing* on it is user upgradeable. If that's too extreme, get the MBP and throw a SSD in it down the road. I haven't played with any Macs with SSDs, but supposedly they *scream*.

Oh, and Macs hold their resale value ridiculously well. I know people who buy every new hardware revision and subsidize their purchase by flipping the previous revision on Craigslist for 80% or more of the original price.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:35 PM on October 21, 2010

For my purposes, is this the right laptop for me?
posted by Biru at 3:39 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have a 13 inch MBP and absolutely love it. It is nice and portable, nice and powerful and can also run Windoze when I need it to (some of my work has to be done in IE, arrrrrgh!).

I don't know how tough it is because I take very, very good care of it. I keep it in a lined case and then it goes into my backpack that keeps it suspended and safe. I have not regretted getting this laptop for an instant.

This machine should easily outlast a comparable PC laptop.
posted by fenriq at 4:09 PM on October 21, 2010

Yes, and get Applecare.

I am forced to use PC laptops (which are actually more expensive than my MBP!) for work, and the difference working on them is night and day. I know not all PCs are the same, but the brand new HP I have to use has a trackpad that is too small and not as accurate, mouse buttons that are difficult to click, a cramped keyboard, a ton of extraneous buttons and lights on it, etc. Plus it feels cheap like the parts don't fit together. On the other hand, 99% of the time my MPB is a joy to use and doesn't annoy me.

It's almost guaranteed that when you switch to the Mac and it becomes familiar to you that you'll wonder why you waited so long :)
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 4:11 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have the exact one you're mulling over here and it seems perfect for your needs. Go get it.
posted by iconomy at 4:21 PM on October 21, 2010

I have a 15" MacBook Pro and loved it in grad school. I bought one of these awesome cases, and it has been lovely ever since.

One note on price: if you are able to camp out on the refurb page, you'll get an even better deal than if you buy with an educational discount. That's what I did, and the quality has never, ever been a problem. I saved something like $500 off of retail and $200 off of the educational price. Still eligible for AppleCare (a must!) and all that.

I highly recommend that you buy an extra power brick to live in your laptop bag. I leave my main one plugged in at home (between sections of my sectional!) and keep the other portable, especially if you, say, have a significant other at whose home you like to hang out.
posted by Madamina at 4:28 PM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know you already mentioned the IdeaPad, but if you want the quality of a MacBook while staying with something that's a PC, I highly recommend looking at the Lenovo ThinkPad line. The IdeaPad is a consumer-oriented series, where the ThinkPad is built for businesses who want durability. I had a Dell and two HP laptops either burn up or fall apart on me, but my ThinkPad T410 has been rock solid. The T410 is a hair larger than the MacBook Pro 13", but if you want a laptop that's built to take abuse just short of a construction site, give it a shot. The keyboard is much better than any other laptop keyboard I've used, you can get all the way to a Core i7 processor (and a discrete Nvidia graphics card for some decent gaming), and the TrackPoint in the center of the keyboard is awesome.

One thing that stood out to me: Lenovo offers 4-year extended warranty and accidental damage protection on their machines. (AppleCare is not accidental damage protection, whereas the ThinkPad Protection Plan will fix/replace your machine even if it was your fault)
posted by fireoyster at 4:32 PM on October 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I downsized from the older 17" MBP to the newer 13 MBP and it's been great. I do a lot of Photoshop & Illustrator work but it handles it pretty well. I have an external Dell 21" monitor to handle the desk work & I can plug into my 42" plasma with a MiniDisplay-HDMI lead to watch NBA League Pass which looks good.

And if you want/have to have Windows then Bootcamp will boot straight into it.

Seconding AppleCare. I'll assume US students get similar deals to the UK where AC is nicely discounted (70% IIRC).
posted by i_cola at 4:41 PM on October 21, 2010

If you're an art student, and you think there's even the remotest chance that you're going to probably be a freelance graphic designer in a couple years, get a mac. Period. It's pretty much industry standard. Ditto if your art is film or video related. Macs are standard among filmmaker sorts. (not so much screenwriters, but you say you're an art student.)

I find that the Adobe Creative Suite runs fine on my Macbook - you'd probably be fine buying the cheaper laptop unless your art includes editing pro-quality video.

I couldn't afford the applecare package for my last computer (an iBook G4), and it was never a problem. For my new macbook, I purchased it but have yet to need it. I think it's a smart choice, but not absolutely mandatory.
posted by Sara C. at 5:04 PM on October 21, 2010

I switched to Mac two + years ago and would definitely call it an improvement over my previous Windows adventurers, but certainly not perfect. One area of particular annoyance is that I haven't been able to find a Mac-based Digital Audio Editor that comes close to what Windows offers (even at triple the price). To this end, I still keep a Windows box around for that specific purpose.

So the caveat here is to do your research into software options before you completely throw in with Mr. Jobs' worldview.
posted by philip-random at 5:28 PM on October 21, 2010

I'm typing this on my new MacBook Pro, which I got a few weeks ago. I love it. I used to carry my old laptop around (a MacBook, not Pro), and I was bothered by the bulkiness and weight. The MacBook Pro is so much easier -- it barely feels like there's anything extra in my bookbag than when it's not there.

I've used Macs all my life except once for about a year -- and it was a Dell Inspiron I got in 2004. I only used it because I had to in order to take law school exams, and I immediately switched to a Mac once the school started supporting them. To me, comparing the two is a joke. Everything about the MacBook I replaced it with (the non-Pro) was so, so much better. And everything about my new MacBook Pro is so, so much better than the non-Pro.

As you mentioned, the trackpad is great. The scrolling is so powerful, I can scroll down the whole AskMe thread on getting things wrong (which has 877 comments) with 4 split-second flicks of my fingers.

If price isn't a major issue, I couldn't imagine not getting the MacBook Pro in your situation.

There have been other threads about AppleCare. Everyone recommended buying it.

There have also been several other threads about making the switch from a PC to a Mac, which you should be able to Google if you're interested.

I know someone who's been using Macs for decades but was very dissatisfied with the Air. She said it's just not sturdy enough: the hinge broke in a way that makes it very hard to use. Also, I believe there's no disc drive. I recommend the MBP, not the Air.
posted by John Cohen at 6:50 PM on October 21, 2010

I would recommend you get a lightweight laptop. My first laptop was a 15-incher, and a good inch thick when closed, and it weighed a ton by the end of the day. I really hated carrying it around. It was a good machine, but just really heavy. Though at one point I got a decent backpack designed for laptops and that helped a lot.

If you just want to use this for taking notes in class, look to find the lightest laptop with the largest keyboard. I was going to suggest a netbook, but you already don't like yours, but how about a netbook with a decent keyboard. I remember playing with a Dell netbook (don't remember the name or model) and it was surprisingly comfy typing on it.

As for Macs, yes, go for it. I "switched" a few years ago from a PC and my iMac is great. I put that in quotes because I never really switched; Intel Macs can boot Windows just as easily so I use Windows when i need to. It's the best of both worlds. Just get a Macbook Air--very lightweight and still able to do a lot of your "heavy lifting".
posted by zardoz at 8:02 PM on October 21, 2010

If you Google around you can find lots of people complaining about the design flaw with the MacBook Air. Example, example. Apple admits there's a problem.
posted by John Cohen at 8:20 PM on October 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks so much for your input, it's really helping me out.

I considered the Macbook Air, but honestly i'm afraid of keeping something that thin in my backpack. Unfortunately I can't say I take the best care of my computers.

I already do some freelance design work on my desktop, and I'd only plan on really light photoshop or illustrator work for my MBP. Any video work, After Effects or the likes would be on my PC.

As for applecare, I'm not sure if I can get it directly if I buy at my school store. Is there a way I can buy/activate it separately?

My father has a Lenovo Thinkpad. While I feel like it's extremely durable, It's quite bulky. The .5lb makes quite the difference. They're also unfortunately ugly, as much as I'd like to say aesthetics don't matter to me. :P
posted by jennz at 9:19 PM on October 21, 2010

Yes you can get Applecare through an authorized 3rd-party vendor such as MacMall. They are often significantly cheaper than buying from Apple directly.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 10:06 PM on October 21, 2010

Amazon also usually has good prices on Applecare. You have up to a year after the purchase date of your computer to buy/activate Applecare.

Don't apologize for appreciating aesthetics. Regardless of what certain parties would like you to believe, they matter.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:10 PM on October 21, 2010

I use a macbook and my boss has a pro in the same size. I lug both computers around every day and don't notice a significant difference in weight. That said, I notice a HUGE weight difference between my old g4 and almost brand new macbook. That might be the difference John Cohen is feeling.
posted by Sara C. at 11:13 PM on October 21, 2010

I switched to Macs at home about three years ago and I'd never go back (and I say that as an ex-militant PC guy). Read Marco Arment's post on 'Grown Up Computing'. It's kind of a stupid, inflammatory title, but if you read it and resonate with the ideas (i.e. you want to spend less of your life tweaking and screwing around with your computer and actually want to do some work) then a Mac is probably for you.

For switching, pick up a copy of the Missing Manual series for whatever OS it is by then, they're very comprehensive and even have handy 'How do I do this thing I did in Windows' guides in them.

Finally, consider this - Mac OS X actually runs on top of a flavour of UNIX, and it is not crippled on the command line the way Windows is. I'd argue, despite the closed hardware platform, that it's actually a better piece of kit for most coders and techies and certainly for artists and photographers.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:45 AM on October 22, 2010

I considered the Macbook Air, but honestly i'm afraid of keeping something that thin in my backpack.

It might be worth getting to an Apple Store to have a look at one of the MBAs - the unibody construction actually makes them pretty durable, and Gizmodo's first impressions post mentions them feeling quite solid despite their thinness. If you're not going to be doing any heavy-duty computing on this thing it's really not worth you paying for a big ol' MBP and then lugging it around everywhere, backpack or no backpack.
posted by Acheman at 5:31 AM on October 22, 2010

I bought the previous 13" iteration of the Macbook Pro you're looking at, despite being a PC person all my life. Upgraded the ram to 4gb and the hard drive as well. I'm considering replacing the main drive with a small SSD and swapping out the dvd drive with a hard drive caddy to put a second larger hard drive mostly cause I like to tinker.

I have it dualbooting OSX and Windows 7, both of which run great. I take it with me on my photographic outings, tether to my phone/DSLR, or wherever I go where I'll need decent computing power.

I don't play games on it much and the top left corner hinge can get quite hot when doing anything intensive. I do make a note of taking off the cover and cleaning out the heatsinks and fans every six months or so.
posted by liquoredonlife at 3:07 PM on October 22, 2010

I use a macbook and my boss has a pro in the same size. I lug both computers around every day and don't notice a significant difference in weight. That said, I notice a HUGE weight difference between my old g4 and almost brand new macbook. That might be the difference John Cohen is feeling.

That might be the case. That wouldn't change my advice. As I understand it, the OP is considering getting a MacbookBook Pro or PC. There is no issue of getting a MacBook other than the Pro. All I can say is I'm someone who has often been annoyed at having to carry around laptops, my 2006 MacBook being one example. And I'm very happy with the MacBook Pro. Make of this what you will.
posted by John Cohen at 6:46 PM on October 22, 2010

MacbookBook Pro

bookBookbookbook... Sorry, got a little overexcited there.
posted by John Cohen at 7:14 PM on October 22, 2010

I was a PC user for around 20 years or so and got my first mac this past summer and I can't begin to tell you how much I have appreciated having a machine that runs mac osx (a sweet & intuitive interface) & windows, a pleasure to use design wise, no vents at the bottom, functions right out of the box and is a pleasure to just keep in front of you. Did i mention how much I love aesthetics?

Here's the deal: I am probably not switching back to PCs but Microsoft is taking it's biggest risk on the next operating system and that may want me to look at it again (according to the Gartner conference where steve jobs spoke, the video is up on youtube).

When I was a windows user, after windows 7 came out, I figured I could delay possibly getting a mac for another 2 years till I had some more money but then after the aero feature dying on me and me having to create another user accounts and do a bunch of data migration and few reinstallations, I said to hell with it and bough a MBP 13" - I have not looked back since at my decision.

Plus, since you are dealing with art, I would imagine your future lies in software that will be available on the mac more than the pc possibly?
Some folks ave said that photoshop is better on the mac than the pc, YMMV.
The PC is a great machine for a few tasks and only those. The mac is a machine to inspire yourself while working with it.

The only thing you will regret is when there is a new mac out in a year or so with touch interface. The MBP 13" was updated earlier this year in march or april and the current MBP model on sale at apple.com right now is more advanced than the model bought over the summer (thanks to the processor bump).

Did I mention the vents of the computer are at the hinge and you have a keyboard backlight?
posted by iNfo.Pump at 9:38 PM on October 23, 2010

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