Praise/Pan MacBooks for me.

Tomorrow, I am likely going to make The Switch.

I am looking into buying a new laptop for school. I talked to a friend of mine who is knowledgeable about computers and he extolled the virtues of Mac up and down, even though he uses a PC (his job gave it to him). I’ve done the research, read the Consumer Reports articles, called both Apple and Toshiba’s (the brand I was going to go with) sales departments and asked questions, and went to play with PC laptops and MacBooks at Best Buy and at my university’s bookstore. I’ve got an appointment for personal shopping at an Apple Store tomorrow and I’m pretty sure that my last remaining decision is between a MacBook and MacBook Pro.

The laptop will be mostly for research and programming (I’m a Computer Science major). I don’t really plan to install games on it… that’s what my home desktop is for. The one tidbit that sold me to Mac was that Mac OS is a UNIX-based OS, and I think I’m going to be required to code in a UNIX environment.

So I ask both PC and Mac owners: What do you love or hate about Macs? Please don’t answer, “I hate Mac owners.” We all know that many Apple zealots are very elitist and snotty. I’m interested in the computers themselves. If someone wants to suggest that I don’t buy a Mac, then I want to hear that, too.

I am a PC owner. I will never be a Mac owner. They sure are purdy, though.

They are probably the best-constructed laptops in production. The new ones have the body machined out of a sold block of aluminum, making them extremely strong and light. They have excellent ergonomics, including high-quality trackpads with gestures. They have superb battery life, but at the (minor) expense of not having user-replaceble batteries.

These days, there’s not a whole lot to choose between brand-name laptops. You can get quality machines from any of the top retailers. There’s only 2 main questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Do you want a graphics card or can you skip it?
  2. Do you want a Mac or Windows for your main environment?

My advice, since you’re a Computer Science major, would be to ask your adviser what sort of classes you have coming up and if there’s a specific laptop build your department recommends. Your department might well have discounts on computers & software if you buy through them or at the campus store. Definitely check for discounts before plunking down full retail price somewhere.

If I were in your shoes, I’d probably get a beefy Macbook Pro with an actual graphics card rather than integrated graphics chip. That way you can get access to all three platforms (Mac, Windows & Unix) and also have a graphics card to play with in your programming. It’d be more expensive and probably more powerful than you’d need every day, but it’d give you the widest possibilities for your classes.

But do check with your department, first!

I’ve primarily been a PC owner, but I just got a MacBook Pro last year.

As was mentioned, I hate that you can’t swap batteries for long flights or something like that. I have the previous generation aluminum MBP and so I don’t know if they’ve done anything about it since then, but I will also say that the front edge of the metal palmrests are really sharp and uncomfortable. I know part of the aesthetic is not having any mechanical switches, but I miss having a mechanical volume control. On my old laptop I could turn the volume all the way down with the machine off in case I wanted to boot it up silently, but with the MBP, there’s no way (that I know of) to adjust the volume prior to hearing the bootup sound.

The trackpad, though, is the best I’ve ever used. It makes web navigation so smooth - I don’t know what I ever did without it.

I own a three year old MacBook. Overall, it has been a reliable computer. Since you won’t be installing games, I will spare you on those details. Three years is really stretching it for a MacBook lifespan so I suggest doing a cost vs. lifespan analysis for your next computer. Also, a lot of Mac program updates actually do no improve the program. Case in point, I had an iPhoto update that completely ruined the entire program. Granted, it could be the update or the fact that my computer is old or that I had a ton of games loaded. Also, my brother has had a ball using a MacBook as a Linux platform.

I’m curious as to why you ruled out PC + Linux? Being a CS major, I assume you know your way around a computer. My Dell Vostro has both XP and Ubuntu on it, which doesn’t give me many problems. I do research in mathematics, and the Linux/UNIX environment has served me quite well for this.

Wow, really? I purchased my Vostro refurbished about 2.5 years ago, and the only hardware problem I’ve has was a power cord that went out on me, forcing me to buy an after market replacement. I wouldn’t purchase any computer that I thought wouldn’t be working in 3 years time.

This struck a chord with me. Three years is a stretch for the lifespan of a MacBook? I don’t know how I can justify spending $1200 on a computer that would last me only two years.

Three years for a MacBook, maybe. But a MacBook Pro will remain current quite a bit longer.

Heck, I’m still using a PowerBook.

Be sure to get an education discount if you buy an Apple. You can also get a ‘free’ iPod Touch.

If you talk to other casual Mac users about the MacBook vs MacBook Pro decision be wary of anyone unwittingly giving advice based on outdated information. About a year ago Apple shifted their lineup so that the bottom line MacBook Pros are significantly closer to MacBooks and significantly more affordable for a college student. Prior to that there was a lot bigger difference between them.

Someone who last bought their Mac laptop 2 years ago might be under the impression that a MacBook Pro has a significant price and performance premium over the MacBook and that it would stretch a student’s budget and needs. And it was. But now it’s not so much, and for any serious computer using student you’d be better off with the 13 inch MacBook Pro than the MacBook.

If you compare the lowest end model MacBook Pro to the MacBook, you’ll see that they’re mostly identical, except the MacBook has a much larger hard drive, and the Pro is more expensive and has the shiny case.

Posted from my MacBook.

I work in academia in a technical engineering area, and this is outstanding advice. Your Faculty Adviser will almost certainly have an opinion or tell you who to speak with. Also, the Apple education discount is usually only $100 on new systems, but hey, it’s a hundred bucks and they often offer free ipods with them, especially around back-to-school time.

I always suggest that you get the most powerful/expensive thing you can afford. It’s really a waste to go cheap today, and then have to upgrade next year. As a consequence, I’ve only ever had top of the line models, and other than an early end-of-life due to a picture frame issue, I’ve always gotten significantly more than three years of useful life out of them. Unfortunately I have a work-issued Dell currently, and so I keep myself happy with my desktop Macs.

I have had very poor reliability from this MacBook Pro, bought in 2007. I’ve had to replace, on separate occasions, the hard drive, the battery and the mother board. The battery is again in need of replacement and the CD burner is in need of replacement.

I highly recommend the extended warranty, but I’m really pissed off at the lost hours and lost data.

I have a Late 2006 Macbook Pro. I’ve pretty much maxed it out: 3 GiB memory, 320-GB hard drive. It still has no problem running Photoshop and Illustrator and InDesign at the same time. I also ran AutoCAD in a vuirtual machine, but that taxed it. My desktop Mac doesn’t even slow down at that load; CorelDraw in a Windows 7 virtual machine was faster on my desktop than it was natively on my friend’s Vista laptop (which is admittedly underpowered).

One thing about Macs–the Time Machine feature is a dead-easy data backup system. Just plug in an external drive, or make one available across the network, make your initial full backup, and then it’ll automatically make incremental backups.

I was able to restore my Mac from such a backup after the repair shop messed things up. And transfer my user accounts including data and all installed applications from an old Mac mini to a new one via such a backup file. SO much easier than transferring between Windows computers. (And I’ve done that a pile of times too.)

I love my Macbook Pro. I bought it about four year ago and it still has all the power I need to do everything I do (except for heavy number crunching, which I do on an 8-core Xeon at work). Having a supported UNIX on a good laptop is what sold me on a 12 inch PowerBook back in 2003, and I haven’t looked back. One great thing about it is being able to run X11 along with Mac OS. You can have all the windows (X and OSX) on the same desktop, or use X11 in fullscreen mode, so it’s like having a an additional virtual desktop that’s a generic UNIX-looking screen. It’s great for programming.

For what it’s worth, the PowerBook that my Macbook Pro replaced is also still going strong. At 867 MHz, it’s too slow to do very much, but it’s still useful for watching videos in the bedroom, playing music, or doing some web browsing.

Do you have a cite for reliability metrics? Because I keep seeing posts about (a) how high-quality Macs are, and (b) how people keep needing to get them repaired, and that it’s essential to get the extended warranty. The dichotomy has always struck me as being a bit odd.

Disclosure: I work for a large software company based in Redmond, and I haven’t used a Mac in years. I liked 'em OK back in the day, though I also thought the SGI boxes I was using at the same time were better.

Posting from a 6-month old MacBook. I have a love-hate relationship with Macs because I think their design philosophy gets in the way of usability too much.

All the praise Apple gets about their ergonomic design is bullshit. The edges on my Macbook are sharp and the part where my hands rest is completely flat. The curved surface on my old Toshiba is much more comfortable and its keyboard feels better. And the dock in OS X sucks. It is awkward no matter what. It’s like Apple has done everything they can to work around it (Expose, etc.) but at the end of the day the Windows taskbar is just plain easier and nicer to use.

A lot of stuff can’t be done completely with the keyboard or it is really inconvenient (ctrl-shift-4 to take a screenshot, command-tab switching between windows is broken (can’t get to minimized windows), command-o to open a file - pressing enter renames the file- WTF?)

I hope you like the anti-aliased fonts on your Mac cause you won’t be able to change it. Actually, you won’t be able to change much of anything else, either.

On the flip side, this is a damn nice piece of hardware. It is pretty, it is near silent, the battery life is amazing and the OS has been rock solid. It just feels like a solid, well-engineered machine. Mac vs. PC is Like a manual Porsche vs. a slushbox Chevy in this regard.

OS X is really a neat piece of software and you can do pretty much anything with it. All the Unix tools are there, you can script stuff a million different ways. Automator, AppleScript, bash, python, etc.

You’ll find that some things on the Mac are dead simple that would take hours on a PC, but that the simple things you used to do on your Dell can be really awkward on a Mac. I guess if you can adjust to the “feel” of a Mac you would like it, but I honestly think there are a lot more drawbacks to Apple’s designs than there should be for such an expensive machine.

Is this Mac day? Did I miss the memo? I just put up [post=12851386]this post[/post] moments ago.

Anyway, praise, praise, praise for my MacBook. It’s three years old. I just had to replace the battery. OK, I’m on my third case - there is a known problem with cracks in this model - but both replacement cases were under warranty.

Apple’s software is more stable, and has much better “fit and finish” than Windows software. Stuff just works. The difference is that simple and that profound.

And the multi-touch trackpad is pure genius. I love my MacBook. I do not like using my Windows machines for work.