Let the debate begin! (Laptop: PC or Mac?)

I’m going to be getting a new computer soon–a laptop! dances around the room

The trouble is, which kind should I buy–PC or Mac? I have a desktop PC in my room at home, so that’s the system I’m used to, but I’ve also used my mum’s Mac many times before in the past.

What would I be doing with my computer? Playing games (The Sims 2, mostly), listening to music off iTunes, working with Photoshop and writing stories, taking notes in class. I need a computer with a lot of hard-drive space and good graphics / sound resolution, a DVD player and a CD burner / player.

Which should I choose?

Macs are supperior, IMHO, but you can find a used PC laptop from five years ago that will do all of those tasks, much cheaper.

Based on what you’ve said you’ll use it for, I’d recommend a Mac. I’m a PC person myself, primarily because I like to play games and build my own systems. The selection of games for the Mac is extremely limited compared with the PC, although I know the Sims 2 is available. Mac desktop machines are significantly more expensive than upgrading one’s own PC. For a laptop, this isn’t an issue as Mac laptops are both competitively priced and feature-rich.

So long as you don’t need to maintain software for both your laptop and PC desktop machine, e.g. two separate copies of Photoshop, I’d definitely say go with the Mac. They are well-made and the operating system is excellent. I know a lot of people with Mac laptops, and they all adore them.

As another one of the resident Mac Fanatics here (as well as an Apple-certified repair tech), bear in mind one thing about The Sims 2…

it requires some serious hardware, minimum specs are a 1.2 GHz processor and a vidcard with at least 64 MB of VRAM, tht’s minimum specs…

i run TS2 on my G4 Mirror Door tower, dual 1.25 GHz processors, 1.5 GB RAM, and a GeForce 4 Titanium vidcard with 128 MB VRAM, and even it chokes on some of the bigger/more elaborate houses and community lots, small to medium sized houses are fine, but if i have a big house or more than 4 Sims on the lot, it begins to lag

to get to my point, TS2 may not run as well as you want it to on a laptop, the iBook will definitely be out, the 15" or 17" Aluminum PowerBook G4 might be able to run it, though to be honest, for best performance in TS2, it really wants to be running on a G5 based machine, and there are NO G5 laptops, the G5 processor runs too hot for a portable application

i remember reading somewhere on the 'net (so it must be true, right :wink: ) that even though it may not look like it, TS2 is more complex to render than the latest version of Quake/Unreal…

Can you turn down the graphical features to speed up performance?

I’m currently playing World of Warcraft on a 17" Powerbook and performance is pretty good (and the big screen is sweet). But if I were getting a laptop for taking notes in class, I’d look at the 12" or 15" models.
Definitely consider battery life in your decision. Dell makes a few decent low-end laptops but they skimp seriously on the battery. You have to upgrade if you want more than a half hour or so of running cordless.

It’s not on your list, but definitely consider wireless networking options. A lot of public places are providing WiFi nowadays, and it’s convenient for checking email and getting internet access.

Mac PowerBooks are durable and solidly built (as are IBM ThinkPads and AlienWare laptops).

Mac PowerBooks, like Mac Desktops, have long useful lives. I’m typing this on my WallStreet, officially a 1998-vintage machine (although I snagged it in late spring of '99 just as they were about to come out with the Lombards). It’s not just “a still-bootable machine that I still own” (that would describe my System 6 original LC, heh heh) or even “a still-useful bootable machine that I still do some work with” (that would describe my PowerMac 7100), it’s my latest and greatest day-in and day-out computer, still making me happy six years after purchase.

Macs are shitty gaming computers, really, but if you mostly only want to play that one game, see if you can load it onto one at the Apple Store (they may give you permission) and see what you think of the performance.

A PowerBook is entirely sufficient to do Photoshop, audio work & listening, multimedia, and burning chores. Buy the RAM — not necessarily from Apple or the reseller selling you the PowerBook, mind you, but do stuff the thing with RAM, quality RAM, lots of it. Photoshop loves RAM. OS X loves RAM.

that’s true, you can turn down the graphical detail, i have most of my settings set to “medium”, however, i do have the Sims themselves set to maximum detail, otherwise you get minor polygon alignment issues and their hands look more like “mittens” even in the closeup FMV’s, the only drawback to the high detail is that it’s for both Sims and objects, i’d prefer to have seperate detail settings for the Sims and the objects

i don’t care about the details on the fridge, magazines, appliances and such, but i do want to have max. detail on the Sims themselves

still, it’s amusing the number of little details they sneak into the game, the TV plays footage from TS2 as “news broadcasts”, the Sims themselves play EA Games on their gaming system (SSX 3, The Sims Rush Hour, and The Sims Bustin’ Out), and the in-game footage is reasonably detailed for background chatter, when a Sim prepares breakfast, if you zoom in on the milk carton, it has a little picture of a “Missing” Bella Goth on the back of the milk carton…

i thought it was amusing when i noticed this, as i was playing Bella Goth as my playable character, she didn’t recognize herself on the milk carton…

Mac drawbacks:

  1. Expensive.
  2. Few games available.
  3. Learning curve associated with operating system.
  4. Less powerful than comparably-priced PCs.
  5. Some specialty software may not be available.

Mac advantages:

  1. Easy-to-use, near-intuitive operating system, moreso than Windows. Apple pays more attention to aesthetics and UI design than Microsoft. While people may poo-poo this, it does make a difference.
  2. Stable operating system, moreso than Windows.
  3. Secure operating system, moreso than Windows.
  4. Unix-based operating system, if that matters to you.
  5. Free supplied software for photo organizing, movie making, music making, etc., that is actually useful.
  6. Access to specialty, Mac-only software.
  7. Reliable, well-built, attractive and generally excellent hardware, especially the PowerBooks.

Make your own decision.

If you do buy a PC laptop, the only laptop I would consider equivalent in quality to the PowerBooks would be IBM Thinkpads. Mostly everything else is consumer-grade rubbish.

It’s also worth noting that if you don’t need the laptop immediately, you may want to consider waiting until next Spring/Summer, when Apple’s first set of Intel-based laptops will hit the market. I suspect it’ll be trivially easy to hack one of those to dual-boot into either your choice of MacOS X or Windows.

As for the OP – Mac, easily. It’s like choosing between a fine restaurant and McDonalds.

I wouldn’t throw that around so confidently. Apple has not announced which products will be switching to Intel when.

The laptops will likely be first, but that’s not a sure thing by any means. In fact, as I recall, their announcement was that low-end Macs would switch first in mid-2006, to be followed by higher-end products in mid-2007.

It sounds like it may be well over a year before we see Intel PowerBooks.

Neither unless money is no issue. From what people on the Sims 2 boards have said, you’re going to spend about 3 grand on a laptop to get one that’ll run the sims as well as a $700 desktop. The vast majority of laptops aren’t designed with gamers in mind, and it’s hard to upgrade the video cards - some you can’t upgrade at all.

      • If you want or need to run Mac-specific software, then obviously a Mac makes sense. (-I still think the Mini is a crap deal though, and nobody can convince me otherwise. :smiley: )
  • The two main things to look for in laptops now are built-in 802.11g wireless and long battery runtime. You can get an 802.11x PCMCIA card of course, but these things have a way of getting broken and also stolen–so this is the reason that a built-in card is better. Regarding the battery runtimes you’d have to look around and see what available models are best for that; I was told that slower Pentium-M CPU’s are preferred in laptops, because they use the lowest power.

  • Most-any laptop you buy now will have a CD-RW drive that reads DVD’s, at the minimum. You can get a DVD-RW drive in most but is it really important for your intended use? I am hearing from many people that it’s not anymore. Burning a DVD takes a relatively long time, and using a USB thumb-drive is much faster–and using wireless to transfer files is much more convenient. …Additionally–one problem with CD/DVD disks that I have experienced first-hand is that many business-level PC’s use older/cheaper hardware, and have older non-writing CD drives that will often not even read rewritable CD/DVD media reliably.

…And (for most software) you will be able to install your home-PC software onto the laptop (-it’s not legal, but everyone does it). If you get the Mac and have to buy Mac-platform software that you already have for Windows, then the Mac software counts as part of the cost, does it not? The Sims itself you might have to still buy another copy–many games have thorny online-registration processes, but you usually need a installation with a legit serial number to play online.

  • A PC laptop that can do all these things will cost about half what the cheapest Mac laptop will. Even allowing for a $50 antivirus program, the PC is still way ahead in savings.

  • The Mac’s improved “usability” I’ve never experienced, but it doesn’t sound that impressive to me. And it’s very debateable if either OS is particularly more stable in normal use than the other. No computer out there comes with a crash-proof guarantee. Macs have fewer virus and spyware problems, but suffer pretty much every other type of computer problem, as well as a few that are uniquely their own–see any Mac forum for examples.

While DougC is correct that Windows laptops are available at lower prices than Macs, I’m not sure they would be a good deal for you. Be aware that the cheaper laptops generally have skimped in areas which you may regret in the end. The iBook is in the same rough price range as similar Windows laptops. Most new ones today come with CD-RW, DVD-R, and wireless, so that’s not different.

I have three laptops, two Windows (HP Pavillion and Compaq Armada) and one iBook. Bought the HP Pavillion and the iBook at roughly the same time, but always take the iBook with me.

The iBook has to my mind three advantages:

  • weight (2.2 kg for the 12’’)
  • battery life (easily 4 hours, often more like 5 for light usage like word processing)
  • Mac OS X (whether you consider this a plus, is your own view).

You may not think the weight to be very important, but if you have to lug the thing around a lot, you may think differently.

Cheap laptops may quite often use a cheap Pentium, which means they’re power hungry, and don’t have such a good battery life. If you want to have a low-weight windows laptop with good battery life you may have to look at a high-end Sony Vaio, IBM Thinkpad, or Toshiba, which may easily cost twice as much as an iBook.

If you are already somewhat familiar with Mac OS X you should have no trouble getting used to it; I far prefer its interface to Windows XP (even though I didn’t mind Windows 95). It’s far more seamless and smooth at multitasking than Windows XP every managed for me. Try running iTunes and a video in QuickTime, then moving the video window with the mouse. I never managed that on my HP, and with SP 2 its performance has become abominable. Of course a dedicated user may get XP running smoothly and virus free as well, but that takes expertise and quite a lot of work over time; Mac OS X does normal user tasks smoothly without lots of maintenance.

Another little bonus for me is that the iBook hardly makes any sound; the ventilators only start blowing when you are working the thing really hard. Compare that to the interminal noise from most Pentium laptops (except Pentium M’s, but those are expensive).

For you there may however be a few cons.

  • Sims2 (as mentioned, that may not run or not run as well).
  • Having to buy new software (if you already have a Windows Photoshop license and/or Word). However, there are cheap or even free alternatives for taking notes/writing documents.
  • The small iBook 12’’ may be too small for you, as may the 14’’; the PowerBook is available in larger formats but is more expensive.

What you should be aware of in any case is that there are quite a lot of ‘laptops’ that are in fact mobile desktops, i.e. too heavy and power hungry to use comfortably outside a more or less fixed desktop with a power socket.

All this is IMHO, I never bothered to delve into XP so probably deserve my bad experience there.


You should get a doctor to look at that.

If you compare based on features, Macs are almost exactly the same price as a Windows laptop in most cases. My PowerBook was actually cheaper than a comparable Windows laptop because at the time an 80GB drive, which came standard on the 15", bumped the cost up a bit on the Windows end; the usual size was 60GB. A video card as powerful as the one I got simply wasn’t available in the same price range for Windows laptops. None of the Windows machines came standard with Bluetooth or WiFi; the PowerBook did. If I’d wanted to spend around $600 more, I could have gotten those options on a Windows machine, but why pay more for worse design and an OS whose only real advantage is compatibility with stolen software and many, many viruses?

I spent a week researching laptops before finally deciding on staying with Macs instead of switching to Windows.

Thanks, you guys, you’ve all been really helpful!

I’m currently wavering between the 12" Apple PowerBook G4 (which has a combo drive instead of the Superdrive–DVD player, CD player, and CD burner are all still functions, right?) and the 12" iBook. Either would be great for most of what I like–music, word processing, videos, graphics design, chat…

I’m disappointed about the Sims 2, though. There’s no way it’s going to be possible–not on the laptop or my old desktop, a Intel Celeron processor at 401 Mhz and 116 MB of RAM with a really crappy graphics card. :frowning:

I would go for the PowerBook. They are much better built, made of aluminum and not plastic. They’re also thinner, lighter, and more compact. Of course, you do pay extra.

Are you sure you won’t be able to run the Sims 2 on the PowerBook? It should be fast enough…

Make sure you buy the laptop directly from Apple. You will get a substantial educational discount, and I think they’re currently running a promotion where you get a free iPod Mini if you’re a student purchasing a new Mac.

All the buzz I’ve been getting from this thread is that you can’t really play the Sims 2 on an Apple laptop without serious hardware adjustments and loads of extra memory, and I don’t have a lot of money to begin with. So, I’m not sure.

I don’t think I’ll be in the running for the mini iPod–I’m not buying it right now, I’m saving up. But maybe that’ll be my next purchase. :slight_smile:

If your non-gaming needs are well met by the iBook, you may want to get that instead – not only is it cheaper, but IME they’re built to take a bit more abuse than their Powerbook big brothers.

If you don’t mind not being able to use a big external monitor as an external display and don’t mind the lack of expansion ports, that’s true.

Me, I’m going the other direction: when I get my next PowerBook (which could be Real Soon Now if the Steve announces dual-core G4 PowerBooks), I want a Magma so I can use actual PCI cards when my PowerBook is sitting on the Desktop. And it will have not one external screen but two, for a total of 3 (the built-in TFT will still be in use). I haven’t had a triple-screen setup going in many years now :slight_smile: