I'm leaving the cult of Apple and ready to buy a PC....Help!?!
November 20, 2016 5:56 PM   Subscribe

I've had an Apple Mac Book Pro for the last 10 years. The computer is starting to breakdown / slow down, to the point where I'd rather bang my head against the wall then turn it on....Time for a new computer....I love Apple. I love my Macbook Pro...But.....

Looking at the big picture, I use my computer for pretty much online stuff....I do virtually everything online. The only non computer stuff that takes up hard drive space is my itunes library.

In orde to save a few bucks, I'm seriously considering in buying one of the PC's being advertised everywhere.... 8-12mb of Memory / 1 TB hard drive for $700 or less......A much cheaper option than a new Macbook Pro...

The only real thing that makes me 100% sure of my decision is , Apple Customer Service....It is un-paralleled.....Any problem I have ever had in any regard to any of my Apple Products (Computer/Ipad/Ipod.Phone) was solved with relative ease in the store or over the phone....

Back in the day, with my PC I was forced to deal with Best Buy's Geek Squads or Staple Computer Service Centers......Nothing but issues....

I'd almost rather spend close to $1700-1800 just for the piece of mind of knowing if I have computer issues, they will be solved....

What is my best option for a PC (brand/model wise), where if I did have issues, I could have a similar protection plan as Apples with ease of contacting them and having these problems fixed....

Having at least 1TB hard drive is a must...And I'd prefer 8-12Mb of memory minimum as well....I do like Spotify, Apple Music, etc, but I prefer to have all of my music on my hard drive, so Itunes is important for me....

Help convince me that going back to a PC can ease my nerves and potential future issues....Who/Where do I go?

posted by TwilightKid to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If you like near a Microsoft store, their customer support is quite good.

Last year I bought a surface book at a Microsoft store that developed a problem with the screen six or seven weeks later. They exchanged it for a new one immediately, as soon as they double checked that I had backed up all of my data.
posted by cpdavy at 6:20 PM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

You don't actually say Windows, you say "a PC". If you really do virtually everything on-line, wouldn't Linux work for you? Firefox and Chrome run there too. Your music files can be played by software other than iTunes, right? I think a lot of the Staples/BestBuy stuff has to do with the complexity of Windows. Mind you, our family has all three types of machines, so I am not trying to steer you one way. But if you're thinking of going down a new path, at least think about Linux, which can run or more modest hardware, too.
posted by forthright at 6:25 PM on November 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think you might be pretty happy with going straight to a Microsoft store. They're sort of set up to cater to exactly your type of customer - people who want the Apple Experience with a step down from the Apple Price - and have very solid customer support. (Full disclosure: I know someone whose job is exactly that and also teaching sweet old ladies how to sort through family photos; I was like "set me up, yo" and they proceeded to lay out my options in a very clear manner and it was overall an A+ experience.)

For having your music on your local drive, you might want to invest in some external storage. It's getting simpler to set up local sharing for that kind of thing, and combined the price of a simple laptop for online stuff plus a nice large-capacity but portable sized solid state drive for your music is probably less than what you'd pay for a beefier laptop anyway, and allows more flexibility.
posted by Mizu at 6:26 PM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

What is my best option for a PC (brand/model wise), where if I did have issues, I could have a similar protection plan as Apples with ease of contacting them and having these problems fixed....

Having at least 1TB hard drive is a must...And I'd prefer 8-12Mb of memory minimum as well....I do like Spotify, Apple Music, etc, but I prefer to have all of my music on my hard drive, so Itunes is important for me....

I full support your decision! I think it's a great one, and if you make the right choice you will be very happy.

A couple things to keep in mind. One, you mention this, but you use the slightly wrong term - aim for 8 or 16 GB of memory. 8 GB is still entirely reasonable for a laptop.

1 TB drive is great and all, but you know what's really, really great, and going to sell you on this entire thing? A solid state disk drive (SSD). This is the key innovation in computer technology in the last 10 years. Not processors, not RAM - the disk drive. This is going to be the key thing with this whole deal. If you get a nice laptop with really nice specs and it has a 1TB 5400 RPM platter-based mechanical drive, you're going to be miserable. A computer with a SSD is worth every single penny you put in it.

Now, SSDs are a little expensive. If you were just buying the hard drive, like, off the shelf, a decent 1TB SSD would cost you about $300. A crappy 1TB platter-based disk would cost you $75 or so. Is it worth it? Oh, you bet your ass. I beg you, take this advice to heart. Do not buy a cheap, slow big disk, just because you want a ton of storage.

So, buy the best SSD-equipped machine you can, and if that 1TB SSD is too much, settle for 256GB or 512GB, and then expand with external USB storage or something.

As for brands - Lenovo, if you're looking at their Thinkpad branded computers, are designed for professionals, and have really nice build quality and great warranty support, but there's not really like a physical place you can take them like an Apple store. Still, I really like them.

As an alternative, as several people have said, take a look at Microsoft's offerings. They have a physical store and it's great. The Surface Book (first generation) was a great product but it was also a first generation product and was a little glitchy. The Surface Book (2016) just came out, and they are supposed to be fabulous. The Surface Pro 4 is also a neat device, if you can deal with the keyboard, which takes some getting used to for some folks.

I'm happy to give you any advice you'd like or answer any questions, please send me a MeFi mail if you're so inclined!

Good luck!
posted by kbanas at 6:54 PM on November 20, 2016 [11 favorites]

FWIW, don't forget to take amortization into account as you price out your options. I went through multiple PC laptops, lasting almost exactly two years each before physically breaking enough not to be usable anymore. Then I switched to a Mac, and my 6+ year old Air is still happily running with no physical problems whatsoever. It wasn't 3x the price of my former laptops, so I came out well ahead. If you're on year ten of your current Mac laptop, you already know what I mean, here. I've never heard of anyone with a ten year old PC laptop in daily use. Ever.
posted by instamatic at 7:10 PM on November 20, 2016 [10 favorites]

Then I switched to a Mac, and my 6+ year old Air is still happily running with no physical problems whatsoever. It wasn't 3x the price of my former laptops, so I came out well ahead. If you're on year ten of your current Mac laptop, you already know what I mean, here. I've never heard of anyone with a ten year old PC laptop in daily use. Ever.

Not to comment a million times, but I will say there is some truth to this. Most major PC vendors like Dell and HP and Lenovo have a line of PCs made for "consumers" and a line of PCs made for professionals. For example, with Lenovo, you could compare their IdeaPad laptops to their ThinkPad laptops. The ThinkPad laptops are more expensive, yes, but they also have better build quality, are made with better materials, are frequently easier to service as well. They often will have a different warranty department as well (when you call, there's a different phone prompt, and a different level of service). Pay attention to this. If you buy a $700 Dell Inspiron 15, it will probably not hold up terribly well over the long term. I've seen people use the same ThinkPad for years and years and years and years. You really do pay for what you get.
posted by kbanas at 7:16 PM on November 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm so glad you asked this question, I'm also replacing a Mac :)

So far the specifications of the Asus K501UX and this Dell look pretty great to me, for the price. The Dell Inspirons from 500 series and up look like good all-rounders in general. Also HP Pavilion (15).

Black Friday deals are coming in Canada and the US, so there may be some deals to be had if you're in either place.

Can't speak to service/seller.

You can always upgrade ram if there are slots, the CPU is the thing you're stuck with for the most part (so I understand, and for that, there's not a significant difference between i5 and i7, for most people who aren't editing films, apparently). I haven't seen anything with the kinds of things you want that doesn't have at least 8GB.

Keen to see other answers! Good luck
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:19 PM on November 20, 2016

Nthing Microsoft Store - you're not going to get a comparable experience from Dell or Lenovo directly.

2nding SSD - they're so much faster, can survive being dropped, and use less power. Having all your music with you rather than streaming is nice, but is it really worth the risk of losing data and having a slower system?
posted by Candleman at 7:32 PM on November 20, 2016

I would stick to the operating system I know and am comfortable with. If you want dirt cheap consider a Chromebook and keep all of your digital files in the cloud.
posted by xammerboy at 8:28 PM on November 20, 2016

At that price point, you are going to get bad hardware and bad service.

To save a few bucks: buy from the Apple refurb store.

To get out of the Apple ecosystem, yet retain good hardware: buy a Thinkpad, then get some third-party tech support. Lenovo's hardware is good, but their phone support has been going downhill for a while. And by then, you're paying as much as you would for an Apple, I'd think.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 8:29 PM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

For sad reasons I'm real happy with Lenovo's 3-year next-day on-site service option... my last two high-end laptops (W510 & W540) have required system board swaps within their 1st year. A trackpad issue on one took a couple tries to fix (turned out to be a conflict with other hardware).

My old IBM branded ThinkPad seemed to be more robust than the Lenovos.

I was not impressed with the pay-for software support thru IBM. They also made it difficult to cancel.
posted by tinker at 8:53 PM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been pretty happy with Dell lately. I'm on my second Dell at work - a Lattitude. The build quality on the business Dell laptops is excellent. Also nice about the Dell Business machines is they are rather easy to upgrade.
I do like Surfaces also, but they can get a bit pricey and also they are harder to upgrade. Many Windows based laptops come with SD or micro-SD slots, which can be helpful to add on an additional 128GB. Just be willing to buy a quality SD card - Samsung or Sandisk are my go-to brands.
I don't recommend Lenovo, because of recent spyware issues - take a look at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/08/12/lenovo_firmware_nasty/
posted by coberh at 9:55 PM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

"I've never heard of anyone with a ten year old PC laptop in daily use. Ever."

I have a 13-year-old PC laptop in daily use FWIW

Seconding the advice above to put high priority on getting a SSD
posted by anonymisc at 10:31 PM on November 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

A word of warning, if you are used to a Mac laptop screen and it is important to you, you will probably find PC laptop screens disappointing. And SSD is the way to go. I bought an external 1 TB SSD for like $50, a "Slim", I forget the full name/maker.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:06 PM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't know if I missed it in the previous comments, but, with a non-Apple computer, don't you also now have to worry about virus protection? That protection will add to the price...
posted by Hanuman1960 at 5:12 AM on November 21, 2016

"I've never heard of anyone with a ten year old PC laptop in daily use. Ever."

We still have two or three Thinkpad T61's that go out and bounce around in sea trucks for a few days every summer (running old sensor systems we can't upgrade). We only got rid of most of them because we were forced to upgrade everything to Windows 7.

I'd look at MS Surface, Lenovo Thinkpads, Dell XPS, and HP Spectre lines in roughly that order of preference. I've seen at least one Black Friday Surface deal that is close to your price range for the m3 Surface 4. I don't think you'll find a Surface Book for $700 though---they go for Macbook Pro level prices.
posted by bonehead at 5:42 AM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

with a non-Apple computer, don't you also now have to worry about virus protection

We have a fancy system at work that causes more problems than it solves. At home, I've used the MS Windows Defender that comes built-in with windows alone for quite a few years now. So no, you don't have to if you use W10.
posted by bonehead at 5:45 AM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just to say also, the perception that Macs are somehow indestructible, or immune to design problems is patently wrong. Cf tons of people on this very site asking questions about replacing dead ones (I've noticed a four year turnaround isn't uncommon) and the various issues people have in the Mac forums. Heat issues, keyboards going - it happens. They're just computers. (I haven't kept up Applecare, which is kind of a shame because to fix the dead USB, keyboard, and drive or fan - and no, I didn't spill anything on it! - would cost as much as getting another (PC) computer. But continuing to pay for Applecare over the years would have cost about the same.

It's a wash, financially, imo. They're all subject to planned obsolescence, too, eventually they're no longer supported, the hardware can't handle the updates, whatever. Expect 4-5 years out of *most any* laptop. The marginal aesthetic differences here and there only matter to people for whom they matter. (And whatever, some PC screens look great, go to a store and check them out.) Get the thing that makes sense for you.

I am personally looking forward to returning to Windows!
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:18 AM on November 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

The only direct parallel to buying a Mac is buying Microsoft hardware from Microsoft. You may find the price difference on comparable hardware is not that significant.

I.e., generic advice is generally useless. Make decisions based on your comparisons of specific hardware that you would actually buy.

Do not expect to get the build and finish quality of a Mac in bargain PC hardware that costs less than half the Mac's price.

I can't speak to Microsoft's phone support. I've found their online documentation to be good, and their online support to be weak.

Microsoft does sell PC's it advertises as being free of the junkware that typically infests Windows PC's. This junk can be difficult to remove. The usual remedy is a clean reinstall, which no one wants to do on a brand new purchase.

As a long-time Mac AND Linux user, I say Linux is a viable alternative if you choose Ubuntu or another distribution based on Ubuntu, that targets the mainstream desktop. Their initial learning curve isn't as steep as other distributions can be. However, be aware that it is a different ecosystem that responds to different incentives than commercial products like Windows and MacOS. You would need to verify the availability on Linux of the specific applications you consider "must have". Ditto hardware drivers. (Driver availability is much, much less of a Linux issue than some may realize but avoid things like the latest video cards and verify wifi support.)

Commercial Linux support is essentially nonexistent for single users. Online support can be good and it can be awful. Support is typically via online user forums.
posted by justcorbly at 6:20 AM on November 21, 2016

I have a hunch that anything that isn't Mac isn't going to cut it for you, but I'll answer anyway.

Apparently, Mac users switching to Linux is a thing at the moment. I haven't used their hardware or experienced their customer support (yes, commercial support for Linux!), but I have heard good things about System76. They install Ubuntu, so you might be interested in this handy switcher guide.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 7:29 AM on November 21, 2016

So I just tried to make the switch from my old and tired MacBook Pro - bought a Dell XPS and was very excited about it until it arrived on Friday and would not boot up. More than 3 hours later (!!!), after being bounced around between USA and Canadian support (tech, then sales, then tech, then sales, then sales, then sales, then tech, then sales), I have given up and decided to return it. Which is its own nightmare. So. While on paper the new Dell looks fantastic and gets good reviews - turns out you cannot assume it will be shipped with a hard drive.
posted by latnahc at 8:14 AM on November 21, 2016

(Finally, you may find this site useful for comparing specs and benchmarks - scroll down for alternative suggestions based on these. Also, Bonehead's recs are borne out by every review site I've seen.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:17 AM on November 21, 2016

PC maker's business lines are generally better built and have less crapware than consumer lines. Consider HP Elitebook, Dell Latitude or Lenovo Thinkpad laptops in addition to those mentioned above.

I've never heard of anyone with a ten year old PC laptop in daily use. Ever.

I'd point out that Windows XP still has 8% market share of over 1 billion PCs, and it came out in 2001. That's around 80 million computers. Windows XP's successor, Windows Vista, came out in 2006, about 10 years ago. So it stands to reason that most Windows XP PCs are at least 10 years old. If even 10% those 80 million PCs are laptops, that's eight million 10 year old PC laptops. Apple laptops were generally better built back then, and they should have been, given their higher cost. That advantage has largely disappeared today when comparing laptops that are reasonably in the same price range.
posted by cnc at 9:12 AM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

It sounds like the Microsoft Store is the way to go. I would have gone for a Surface if I could have afforded one.

But I will put in a plug for Asus. I have three. When it came time to replace my Thinkpad, Lenovo just wasn't like it used to be.

Asus machines at your price point and higher are durable and beautiful. Although their customer service has mixed reviews, I've been on the whole satisfied when I have needed in-warranty repairs.

SSD drives are the future. But when they break, there is not much you or anyone around you can do about it. The vendor will have to repair it. Although I like mine a lot, I also have a regular hd-pc I can fix it myself were it to break.
posted by CtrlAltD at 9:36 AM on November 21, 2016

Also, if you do venture from Macs to Windows, I'd recommend getting something with a touchscreen, as Microsoft is starting to do some interesting and useful things with that capability. You'll miss the consistency that OS X generally has so you might as well gain some benefits from what it doesn't.
posted by Candleman at 1:02 PM on November 21, 2016

If you like the SSD suggestion: I just picked up an Acer Swift 3, and I think it might also meet your needs. It's new, so there's not a lot written on it, but all signs point to it being great, and it's in your price range.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:12 PM on November 21, 2016

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