Should I trade my PC Laptop for a Macbook?
December 12, 2007 10:32 AM   Subscribe

I was talking with a friend who owns a Macbook. She was talking about how she doesn't really use it for much and is looking for something newer. I mentioned that I just got my laptop but that I didn't like Vista and have been interested in Macs. Long story short, we came to the conclusion that we might each like to trade out laptops. I'm wondering if this sounds like a fair trade:

My computer:
Acer Aspire 5050
AMD Turion 64 Processor MK-38 (2.2GHz, 512KB L2)
14.1" LCD
DVD Burner
ATI Radeon Xpress 1100 Integrated graphics (variable GRAM depending on how much of it you assign from system general system RAM)
Has Vista Home Basic
It has internal wifi and is in more or less perfect condition.

Her computer:
Intel Core Duo 1.8 Ghz processor [L2 Cache (per processor): 2MB]
LCD slightly smaller, though I don't mind that
34.22 GB HDD (? I couldn't figure out how to determine the full capacity - this amount reflects how much is "free")
DVD (i assume) burner? (not important, as I use my desktop for such tasks)
512 MB 667Mhz DDR2 SDRAM
OSX Version: 10.4.10
Also, while the case is scuffed up a bit on the outside, it seems to work fine and would clean up well. The speakers don't work, but the headphone jack work fine.

My only needs for my laptop are Internet accessibility, word processing, and basic multimedia playing functions. Everything else I do on my self-built PC. I know very little about Macs, but have been wanting to learn about them. Does this trade make sense? Are there any other things I should consider?
posted by monkeyagent to Computers & Internet (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Monkey, just make sure you can expand the RAM to 2MB at least. If yes, then go for it; Vista is a hideous OS. I've been on a MacBook for about 6 mos. now and it is the best computer I've ever owned.
posted by Mister_A at 10:37 AM on December 12, 2007

About the RAM: You probably don't need 2MB right now, but you will get more service life from the thing if you can upgrade that RAM eventually. DO IT DO IT DO IT!
posted by Mister_A at 10:38 AM on December 12, 2007

2 Gigs, I presume, A?
posted by Squid Voltaire at 10:39 AM on December 12, 2007

HAHA yes! 2 G. Duh. : 0)
posted by Mister_A at 10:41 AM on December 12, 2007

Important question: Did she purchase AppleCare?
posted by Industrial PhD at 10:43 AM on December 12, 2007

In general the Macbook is a more powerful system due to CPU and generally if it is still eligible for apple care, a better long term system from a support perspective.

You can run windows on the Macbook with little effort, and frankly you can run OSx86 on your AMD machine if you're really interested.
posted by iamabot at 10:45 AM on December 12, 2007

Just remember that you will need a different license for word processing on the Mac than you currently have for the PC version. Microsoft Office for Mac is not Intel-native yet, which means it requires more processor power and memory to run (it still runs fine on my MacBook Pro with 2 GB RAM). You could also opt for iWork '08 (Pages is the word processor, Keynote the presentation tool, and Numbers the spreadsheet tool) - there is a 30-day trial and it's $99 (maybe $79 from Amazon) for the whole package. There are always the open source options as well, i.e. OO.o, GoogleDocs, Zoho, etc.

Also, it has 10.4.10 installed, which means you should upgrade to Leopard (10.5). It is $99, only one version (well, not counting Server), and either the best or second-best consumer operating system on the market (some argue Tiger was more stable; I have had no problems with either).

I wrote all that only to try and give you something to pause and think about. Yes, absolutely, you should trade.
posted by Mr. Banana Grabber at 10:45 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by Mister_A at 10:48 AM on December 12, 2007

Definitely do it. It's a win/win situation. You friend gets a nice, new Windows laptop and you get to play around with a Mac. I just switched to the Mac a few months ago for work, and now I hardly ever touch my XP desktop. Trust me, you'll be hooked.
posted by stratospark at 10:49 AM on December 12, 2007

Does she know she can install Windows on her MacBook? Thus having the best of both worlds? No witholding of info here. Come on tell her...There, now don't you feel better?
posted by Gungho at 10:49 AM on December 12, 2007

Mister_A and others: The question is, Is it fair?
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:51 AM on December 12, 2007

Are you comfortable making the switch to OSX? You may find out that your favorite apps don't work natively, yadda yadda.

My only other concern would be with how much older her computer is (you didn't say). As the age of a computer increases, so does the probability of something breaking. Also consider that batteries are only good for two years or so before you'll need a fairly expensive replacement.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:51 AM on December 12, 2007

Here are the (current) MacBook default specs:

The optical drive could be a SuperDrive (reads and writes pretty much everything - DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW) @ 8X, or a ComboDrive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW) @ 24X. You can check this by going to the Apple Menu, holding down the "alt/option" key, and selecting "System Profiler". Under "Hardware" should be "Disc Burning" which will list all the formats it can handle.

To see the full capacity of the HDD, go to Applications > Utilities %gt; Disk Utility. The main HDD (probably called "Macintosh HD" unless she has renamed it) will list the capacity, available, used, etc.

A nice shortcut to know is that most applications and settings can be accessed by pressing "Cmd" (the Apple/Cloverleaf key) and "Space" which brings up Spotlight (search) and starting to type the name.

E.g. I want to run Disk Utility, I press "Cmd" + "Space" and then "d", "i", "s" and it should show in the menu in the top right corner.
posted by Mr. Banana Grabber at 10:54 AM on December 12, 2007

Also, it has 10.4.10 installed, which means you should upgrade to Leopard (10.5).

This is not pressing. There's nothing wrong with 10.4. Feel free to wait until 10.4 is no longer supported.

Once you get this laptop, you should probably wipe the disc and install the OS anew. Make sure she has the disc that came with it.

This is a decent trade. If it has AppleCare support, then it's a very good trade for you.

And, yes, get more RAM. Don't get it from Apple, who sells the pricey stuff.
posted by cmiller at 10:54 AM on December 12, 2007

Fair? "Blue book" value may be slightly higher for the PC, but I'd take the Mac any day. Has she said why she wants to get rid of it? She wants something "newer" and is willing for that to be a PC? Not trying to push any particular bias here, I've just used both for years and for personal use I can't imagine losing my Mac.
posted by Mr. Banana Grabber at 10:58 AM on December 12, 2007

Response by poster: I use OpenOffice, so I'm not worried about word processing software. Also, it's preloaded with software that would come with the trade of the computer.

Also, I did tell her about the many concerns people have with Vista. I will mention the ability to put windows on Mac, but she has already expressed that she doesn't want to bother with getting a new OS. I want to avoid a situation where she comes back in a few months and decides she wants to trade back. That having been said she seems genuinely interested. I don't want to decieve her - she doesn't know much about computers. She mostly wants something new (read: clean) and different. All she wants it for is internet, writing, and playing chess. She's extremely excited about the prospect of minesweeper. Finally, she *does* know that I paid about half for my laptop ($500) than what she paid for hers ($1000).

I don't know how old her computer is, but I figure it can't be too old, as it has intel duo core processor. Still, I'll check on that. The battery life on my current laptop is really horrible (40 min or so), so I'm not as concerned about that as long as I can plug it in somewhere.

I'll also mention that I do most of my computing on my desktop PC (XP/Unbuntu Dual boot) which I built and tweaked myself, so I'm not worried about finding myself stranded on an Apple island.
posted by monkeyagent at 11:02 AM on December 12, 2007

Well, the systems aren't identical, but I'd call them fairly comparable in terms of usability. The Intel CPU is faster than your Turion, but you have more drive space and probably slightly better graphics.

Her system cost more new, and it's probably better built than the Aspire. But it's also a bit downrevved, as it's got the older Core chip instead of the Core2. If your system is pretty new, without many miles on it, it's probably roughly a fair trade for a Mac with a year or two of wear.

Just in case, do tell her she can install Windows (but has to buy a copy, which will be about $150 for an OEM version), but that she has to install it herself. If she uses Bootcamp before it expires (end of the month), it will make a driver disk for her to make it fairly easy. She'll probably want to wipe out MacOS, though, as her drive space probably won't support having both installed at once.

The trade would be easier, but your laptop has the evil Vista on it, rather than the decent XP, which might be enough to dissuade her.

What you might do is this: if either of you aren't happy with the trade anytime within 60 days, you undo it. If you're both happy after 2 months, then it's permanent.
posted by Malor at 11:03 AM on December 12, 2007

As everyone's said, that MacBook is a respectable laptop. Bit worrying about the speakers not working—has she looked into having it repaired? Apple Care question again, I guess—but otherwise I would be happy to own it. Is it a fair trade? I think you are getting the better end of things because you are getting a Mac. Your friend, on the other hand, has a perverse desire for a Windows machine... she may ultimately see the error of her ways, but there's no way of knowing that beforehand. So yeah, do the deal. It's a match made in heaven. Come back and let us know how it works out.

Do make it a done-deal though. It'd suck for one of you to get all set-up and cozy on your new 'puter, only to have the other say they wanted to swap back again.
posted by mumkin at 11:09 AM on December 12, 2007

If you decide to do a trade, please get the terms of it in writing, just in case.
posted by hermitosis at 11:10 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

i think it's a fair enough deal for the reasons others have pointed out. do set some terms down in writing and sign it and such. you don't want to ruin a friendship over one of you not liking your end of the deal.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:39 AM on December 12, 2007

Re: macbook speakers- some people have fixed the problem by gently wiggling the headphone plug around a bit inside the jack. If there's a red light visible inside the jack when there's nothing plugged in, the jack is trying to talk to the optical and disables the internal speakers. There's a mechanical switch inside that's not popping back into place after the headphone speakers are removed. (If you don't have the red light, it's probably a different issue.)
posted by oneirodynia at 11:54 AM on December 12, 2007

It's a fair deal if both parties are happy with it, regardless of the objective market values of the objects.
posted by trinity8-director at 12:59 PM on December 12, 2007

Or are you asking if the two computers are within x% value of each other?
posted by trinity8-director at 1:00 PM on December 12, 2007

You know, that Macbook isn't very old, so I can't imagine what the "newer" drive really is.

She might just be looking for change, and if she's willing to give up her mac for the sake of the pleasure of change, great.

However, I can say this: she'd be better off upping her mac to 2gb and trying to run other operating systems on it if she's just looking for change, and Vista is actually pretty good if you go up to 2gb and disable all the Aero garbage and overhead -- I just did this with my wife's new HP laptop, and went from a virtually unusable slow box to one that's quite speedy and useful.
posted by davejay at 1:08 PM on December 12, 2007

IF you are a good caring person then this is not a fair trade for her.
posted by majortom1981 at 2:16 PM on December 12, 2007

The lack of a multi-button trackpad and a real delete key on the Mac would be dealbreakers for me, but lots of other people aren't bothered by this. If you've never edited text on a Mac, though, you may want to give it a try first to see how much you miss these controls.
posted by gum at 2:38 PM on December 12, 2007

If you value her friendship, include a back-out clause in the trade. She might be very unhappy once the reality of a Vista laptop sinks in.
posted by alms at 3:00 PM on December 12, 2007

The value is relative, and if you're both happy with the trade then it's as simple as that. If either of you are the my operating system says something about my identity types then the value becomes even more relative but it sounds like this is not the case.

It is interesting that outside the my operating system says something about my identity types, computers are now solidly a commodity and what's important in a commodity is how comfortable you are with it and if it meets your needs.
posted by juiceCake at 4:20 PM on December 12, 2007

Um, I'll be the bastard here for a second, but only the two of you can answer these questions. Sure the commercial value might be different, but that doesn't matter much. All that matters is do each of you like what the other has better? If so, switch and you both have maximized your your enjoyment of the available resources. It's very utilitarian really.
posted by JakeLL at 4:33 PM on December 12, 2007

You should keep your own laptop, kick Vista in the head, and install Ubuntu. Trust me. You'll be hooked.
posted by flabdablet at 5:30 PM on December 12, 2007

I realize that this particular piece of advice has been given by so many Linux fanbois that it's generally taken as a joke, or annoying noise, or a derail or all three. But I'm quite serious. Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) just blows Vista away for usability and general no-fartarsingness. Even if you do the trade, you'll be doing her a favour by giving here a nice solid Ubuntu machine instead of a fragile, irritating, high-maintenance Vista box.
posted by flabdablet at 5:34 PM on December 12, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice everyone - there's a lot here to consider. I'll let you know what we figure out and how it turns out.
posted by monkeyagent at 8:13 PM on December 12, 2007

I have an Acer 4520, not far from yours (also AMD64). Ubuntu is great, but doesn't work well with this hardware -- it has trouble with the closed-source graphics and sound cards. Sabayon Linux, a Live CD variant of Gentoo Linux, is better at getting configurations right at install, and seems quite stable and pleasant to use. If you're attracted to the Linux turn this advice has taken, you may want to try this distribution first. I definitely prefer it to OS X -- it's not nearly as paw-and-grunt postverbal.
posted by gum at 11:52 PM on December 12, 2007

gum, did you try 7.10 (Gutsy)? There's a heap more stuff in Gutsy that Just Works than there was in Feisty.

How does Sabayon compare to Ubuntu for ease of software installation and updates? Last time I played with Gentoo (about a year and a half ago) I found it pretty fiddly. I've been most impressed with Ubuntu's Debian-style package management.
posted by flabdablet at 1:22 AM on December 13, 2007

"paw-and-grunt postverbal" made me chuckle. It's exactly how OS X strikes me, too.
posted by flabdablet at 1:23 AM on December 13, 2007

Gutsy didn't recognize my Nvidia graphics card or my whatchamacallit sound card (32-bit Feisty did, though, oddly enough). I'm confident that I could have sorted this out, but I decided to give Sabayon a try first and was very pleasantly surprised by its hardware recognition capabilities.
posted by gum at 9:34 AM on December 13, 2007

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