Is there a PC laptop that I will enjoy using as much as my Mac?
January 18, 2011 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Is there a high end PC laptop that I will enjoy as much as my Mac?

OK, I know this is the most subjective question possible but hear me out. Since 2005 I have used Macs and I absolutely love them. We now have a total of four in our household. But at work I still have to us PCs. I recently upgraded the work PC to Windows 7 and I find it a decent OS. So I am considering going back to the dark side for my next personal laptop.

The main reason I would go PC is price. Looking at 2.5 GHz processor, 4 GB RAM, and 500 GB HD I would be looking at $2000 for a 15" MB Pro, but only about $800 for a Gateway for example.

But I still HATE most PCs I touch. I have had to use HPs at my last several workplaces and I absolutely HATE HPs. Also Dells are rubbish to me. I have seen some Toshibas that look OK. My last PC laptop that I could stand was a Gateway so I would consider that. Some Sony Vaios could be OK.

Also, I like the way Apple lets me choose components. If I want this processor or that software I can custom order it.

Is there a PC laptop that I can order customized, that looks nice, that feels good to use, that is reliable, that offers at least decent customer support, that will extend the warranty to three years (like AppleCare). Or am I buying another Mac?
posted by pandabearjohnson to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
"Feels good to use" is 100% subjective. Personally, I love my Mac, and I dislike using Windows. But that's a software issue, not hardware.

For tech support, I haven't met any that are as good as Apple, but I also haven't actually called any major PC company's support line in more than 5 years, so my experience well out of date.

Customization is not a problem - I'm amazed you consider that a Mac advantage; every PC company is going to match or exceed Apple's customization options on any model. And absolutely all of them will let you up the warranty for three years.

If you can give us some better guidance about what makes you HATE PCs, we can probably give you better guidance, but there's a danger here of things being too subjective. For example, I love Macs and have a particular distaste for Sony laptops, which seem to be your least-disliked PCs.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:33 AM on January 18, 2011


I don't know about 'feels good to use', since that's pretty subjective, but the Lenovo Thinkpad has been fairly reliable and lets you extend the warranty to four years (depot or onsite).

The downside is that it is more expensive than Gateways or Dells.

(Also Lenovo is having a sale that ends tomorrow).
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:35 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


HPs and Dells are indeed rubbish. Lenovos have the best rep for quality, but they have all the style of something that originated at IBM. I have never heard anyone say a Lenovo "looks nice."

Toshibas are OK. And I think every manufacturer lets you customize components on their webs

I am not usually a huge Mac fan, but if you do have the money, they do combine style and quality better than any PC laptop manufacturer I know of. Personally, I would be tempted to get one and install Windows 7 64-bit on Bootcamp in case I needed it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:35 AM on January 18, 2011


Can you, perhaps, explain why you hate HPs and think that Dells are rubbish? Is it a question of the tactile quality of the plastics used in the case, or is it some other issue? Pretty much every laptop manufacturer will allow you to order a computer to custom specifications. As far as reliability, I've had Macs, Dells, HPs, and Sonys for years and I've only ever had one computer that I would describe as unreliable. It was a refurbished Dell in 1998.

All of my interactions with Apple customer support have been frustrating and have led me to believe that the title "Genius" that they apply to their support people is an intentional joke. I haven't had to use any PC company's customer support in over 10 years because my PCs haven't had problems.

As far as an extended warranty, there are plenty of options for that, as well.

In short, what is it, specifically, that you find to be uniquely appealing about a Mac? If you're looking for a silver, aluminum laptop with Apple's support staff, you're going to have to buy another Mac.

But if you're cool with it being black and made of plastic, the Lenovo ThinkPad is pretty tough to beat. I think the Lenovo looks cool and utilitarian.
posted by The World Famous at 10:40 AM on January 18, 2011


How would you compare the $800 Windows7 computer with a regular MacBook? That's the choice I made, but I'm OK with the 13" screen.

On the Windows side, I've found that almost all manufacturers make nice laptops but you have to pay almost as much for one as a Mac. The top end Dells and Lenovos are well built, but no real savings. No Sony is worth it in my book. I went through a bunch of those in the past. They look great, but ended up driving me mad, either with junky custom software, or oddball hardware. Ick.
posted by advicepig at 10:41 AM on January 18, 2011


Response by poster: One of the reasons I hate PCs is because things do not work seamlessly. Also, there always seems to be some flag popping up telling my that something is not right (I realize this is very broad, but at my last job it was always a PC Genuine Advantage thing popping up asking me to do something. On my current, brand new PC running Window 7 I occasionally get some shield thing popping up telling me something is not secure. I don't know b/c they make me so damn mad I don't read them and just close them. I use Kaspersky and don't have probs w/ viruses or malware).

Also, today I went to crop a photo on Windows 7 and discovered that I had to download some Window Live Essential sh*^. Why the h3ll didn't they just install it? Fortunately I discovered Google Picasa. Goggle software and cloudware I consider a + now for PCs. I dump Windows software whenever I can and use Google or other software whenever possible. It is only because of this possibility that I would even consider buying PC.
posted by pandabearjohnson at 10:42 AM on January 18, 2011


Also, I like the way Apple lets me choose components. If I want this processor or that software I can custom order it.

WTF? I'm not sure if you are trolling or not, but you should just stick to an Apple laptop and dual boot Windows 7.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:47 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: I better way to explain my frustration w/ PCs is that I seem to spend more time maintaining them than I do the family Macs.
posted by pandabearjohnson at 10:48 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


A lot of the things you perceive as problems with Windows are again problems with the shitty manufacturers. They are loading up more and more bloatware when they ship machines, and I do spend the first few hours uninstalling crap. (For the record, Mac OS never ever stops asking me to install new version of "Growl" and iTunes, neither of which i wanted in the first place. There are annoyances about both OS's.)

The bottom line for me is that I need each OS sometimes, and I can run Windows on a Mac, but I can't (legally) run Mac OS on a PC. So I would get a Mac if I had the money.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:52 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The main reason I would go PC is price. Looking at 2.5 GHz processor, 4 GB RAM, and 500 GB HD I would be looking at $2000 for a 15" MB Pro, but only about $800 for a Gateway for example.

Not the best comparison, actually. The MBP has a discrete graphics card with twice the dedicated memory as the Gateway, a battery that lasts 50% longer, and a display with a higher resolution. You're paying a premium for Apple, but you're 1) for sure getting a computer with nice components, and 2) getting the ease of use associated with OS X as you pointed out yourself.
posted by The Michael The at 11:03 AM on January 18, 2011


If you compare a $2,000 MacBook Pro with $2,000 Windows notebooks, you'll find similar build quality and feel. It doesn't get you past the difference between Win7 and Mac OS X though.
posted by birdherder at 11:08 AM on January 18, 2011


Don't compare simple purchase price. Compare total cost of ownership. Macs crush PCs because you don't have to constantly fiddle with them (Java update anyone? how about a Flash update instead? Okay then, how about a Critical Security Update?).

Also, where I've got several nearly unusable PC laptops on my work bench right now. I've got a 2002 Powerbook G4 that I'm using to get my work done while the order for my new MacBook Pro slowly percolates through the bureaucracy.

And, when I do need to use Windows, I use either VMWare Fusion or VirtualBox to fire up Win7, do what I need to do and then shut it down. Not a big fan of dual booting.

I also just prefer the form factor of the Macs compared to the PCs. I was using a loaner HP Probook 6550b over the holidays and its a decent machine but I hated it. There's nothing intuitive about Windows to me and I find myself distracted by that frustration.

Why do you need a Pro? MacBooks are incredibly capable machines for quite alot less money. I require the Firewire port for my work so I have no choice but the district is buying my new machine for me (hence the delays).

In the long term, will you be more productive and happy on a PC laptop? I don't think so. Not if you primarily self-identify as a Mac person. And saving money isn't, or shouldn't be, the be-all, end-all metric that makes you choose a machine you'll be using for a few years.
posted by fenriq at 11:17 AM on January 18, 2011


I hate to be the one to say it, but try Linux. An easy-to-use, pre-configured distro like Mint or Ubuntu on a cheap, powerful laptop are viable replacements to your Mac.

I say this first hand. I was an Apple user for 20 years but couldn't put up with the insane hardware markup any longer (and also like you I have to use Windows at work). It's free to try so you have nothing to lose--slap it on a CD, boot from it and see if it's an alternative that you might enjoy.
posted by quarterframer at 11:20 AM on January 18, 2011


Any laptop you get for under $1,000 is going to feel cheap because it is cheap. Dell, HP, etc all put out laptops that are $400 and ones that are $1,500. They all run Windows, so the difference between the low and high ends is things like better quality components and build quality. If you skimp on these things then the laptop will feel cheap when you use it and probably not last all that long either.

The thing is, buying a higher-end laptop is going to negate your main reason for going PC in the first place - price.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:46 AM on January 18, 2011


From the complaints you mention, it sounds like those are all windows complaints, not hardware complaints. All PC manufacturers use the same Windows, so you will have the same experience. My experience with recent HPs is that they install a lot of HP-specific crap on their machines which you can uninstall. My work machine is a Dell and that came relatively clean. I'm also happy with Dell support. My hard drive was dying and they replaced it (in warranty) quickly.

I find that Win7 is a pretty decent OS. But my next machine will be a Mac. My wife just got a new Macbook Air and while it has the same general stats as my work Dell (which is almost 3 years old) it's so much nicer and faster. Perhaps the SSD has a lot to do with that.

But I gotta say that as a new Mac owner, my wife has had a lot of frustration in switching. Going either way isn't simple or easy.

It sounds like you need to make a list of your annoyances, in a calm, rational way, and research how to mitigate them. For example, you can turn off UAC, which is the annoying shield / pop ups. You can also turn off the Windows Security Center warnings about insecure things.

But I gotta ask, if you have so much rage against Windows, is it worth it to save the money? You'd probably be happier with a $1k Macbook and less rage in your life.
posted by reddot at 11:47 AM on January 18, 2011


If you configure a

The high-end PC laptops that have better build quality and design are pretty expensive. Dell Adamo, HP Envy

If you really configure a PC with the exact same specs as a MacBook Pro, the price is going to be pretty close. You have to look hard though, because there aren't too many PC laptops with the same specs as a MacBook Pro. Same CPU/RAM/HD maybe, but there are a lot of other factors like the video card, screen resolution, keyboard, ports, etc.

I agree with the other folks, sounds like your annoyances with Windows are software/OS issues, so it won't matter how nice of a PC laptop you buy.
posted by kenliu at 12:25 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


...also size and weight
posted by kenliu at 12:25 PM on January 18, 2011


A Windows laptop that has been getting some accolades recently is the remodeled Dell XPS. It as a nice form factor and is highly customizable. A 15" set up with similar hardware to a lower-end Macbook Pro (i5-480m, GeForce GT 420, 4GB DDR3; 500GB 7200 rpm hard drive) will set you back about about $1000 with a 3-yr service plan.
posted by rtimmel at 12:33 PM on January 18, 2011


I occasionally get some shield thing popping up telling me something is not secure. I don't know b/c they make me so damn mad I don't read them and just close them.

Stick with macs. Your instincts and preferences don't mesh well with the windows universe.

The shield thing popping up telling you something is not secure is windows' s way of dealing with permissions and superusers, and it's telling you that either you or some software wants to monkey with the system. Just telling it to go away without even looking at it is a very bad instinct for the windows world.

I'm not telling you you're wrong or bad, but your instincts are a poor fit for the windows world.

Also, today I went to crop a photo on Windows 7 and discovered that I had to download some Window Live Essential sh*^. Why the h3ll didn't they just install it?

I think most people in the windows world would consider that it wasn't downloaded and installed until it was needed as a plus, not a negative. Again, a poor match for the windows world.

There is no set of hardware that's going to deal with these, to you, issues.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:01 PM on January 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


My sister, a dedicated Mac user, seemed impressed by the laptop I bought recently--a Gateway NV59c66u. She seemed to be impressed with the fact that it's pretty, runs very cool, and cost me only $450 dollars on sale at Best Buy. For what it's worth, it came with almost no bloatware (well, one piece of bloatware, really: an annoying application that leads you to Best Buy's website).

I could never justify the expense of a Mac, honestly, so I understand your frustration with the price. My advice for you if you switch (and I've switched OSes quite a bit, form Windows to Linux and back again) is to be patient, and not expect it to work like a Mac. It just won't. That doesn't mean it won't work, though.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:37 PM on January 18, 2011


Best answer: The answer to your question is no.

Not just because your reason for buying one (price) would be negated if you got a Windows laptop with the same specs as the Mac you're comparing it to, but also because you need to keep in mind switching platforms means switching software too. There are any number of programs on your Mac right now that would happily transfer to another Mac, but would not be available on Windows. There are other bits of software which would be available cross-platform but may not be licensed as such, or would have different interfaces/feature sets. Yet a third category are things you'd need to find replacements for, often free but not always, and you're going to be annoyed by things that used to be easy (because the software worked better/differently/you knew how to use it) and are now hard.

I keep as much cross-platform software around as possible. It ain't easy and for some things the alternatives just don't cut it.

If you get the Mac, you can still run Windows. You can't switch operating systems if you get a Windows laptop and decide the hardware is OK but you hate the OS.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:54 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


(RE: Price - you're thinking of components, like processor/RAM/hard drive/etc. but you are forgetting that a good chunk of the cost also goes towards the engineering and design of the case, the screen, the keyboard, mousepad, etc. - the core components might be similar on a Windows laptop, but the shell around it is not. For example, most Windows laptops I handle seem creaky after getting used to the aluminum shell on the Macs [especially the unibody systems!], and the PC touchpads are just a pain in the ass to use now that I'm used to the simple functionality and huge size of the Mac ones...)
posted by caution live frogs at 1:57 PM on January 18, 2011


One of the reasons I hate PCs is because things do not work seamlessly. Also, there always seems to be some flag popping up telling my that something is not right (I realize this is very broad, but at my last job it was always a PC Genuine Advantage thing popping up asking me to do something. On my current, brand new PC running Window 7 I occasionally get some shield thing popping up telling me something is not secure. I don't know b/c they make me so damn mad I don't read them and just close them. I use Kaspersky and don't have probs w/ viruses or malware).
Those go away after a while. One thing though is that there are a couple of programs that will bug you to update every so often.

Someone mentioned Linux. In theory, it might work. There wouldn't be many pop-ups. But if you want to install new software that's not setup in the repository - like Chrome or the new version of Firefox, it could be a challenge.
posted by delmoi at 5:03 PM on January 18, 2011


Warranty quality usually gets better if you get a business class machine. Some companies, like Lenovo or Dell, also have online outlet stores where you can get machines in varying states up to "the guy who ordered this cancelled before we could ship it out" at substantial discounts.

Also there is a program called PC Decrapifier that's purported to be very good at doing what the name says.

All that said, Macs and PCs have different mindsets, and they don't completely overlap.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:11 PM on January 19, 2011


« Older Games to avoid for insectphobes/arachnophobes   |   Packing Up My MLS and Moving On? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.