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March 29, 2008

Comments

Yes.

To be more specific:

1. I've heard quite a few people mention the right click thing, and none of them so far has actually missed it. The interface simply doesn't need it. Regardless, you can always use a mouse or trackpad.

2. Compatibility is not a problem, unless perhaps you have some very specialized needs.

3. I never use audio or video editing features; they'd be near the bottom of my "needs" list. There are a number of other features that are far more important to me, foremost among them being stability, easy backups, and the well-designed hardware. As far as notebooks are concerned, I really don't even think it's a contest. I would advise going to an Apple retail store and trying for yourself.

Seconded. And you can right-click with a mouse, just not on the MacBook touchpad.

Plus, I've totally given up Windows, even at my non-Mac-supporting workplace, and I'm doing just fine.

And you never know--once you have the ease of audio and video editing available to you, you might try it and like it.

Dude, I've been in the reality distortion field for 22 years and counting...(Note that I work at a Windows shop all day and it's a bit of a relief to use a mac. Right click is solved by having a mouse with two buttons--easy to get these days. Compatability is no problem for simple documents. Very complex macros may be a problem. Font differences may be a problem; you get an awful lot of sloppy fontagraphers out there who give their sets similar names, but aren't similar in their specs).

I am curious. Why are you considering a mac? Is it because you like the way they look (asthetics?) or do you think that they provide something that you can't get with a similarly equipped windows machine? ( like say staying away from Vista)
If all you are going to do is keep up the blog and surf then get the mac if you are happy with it. With the intel macs there should not be a compatibility problem as long as you are not doing things like gaming.

I'd get one. I've never really used a Mac and don't know much about OS X but I am pretty experienced with Windows. It shouldn't be that hard to adjust. Even if it was, you can run Windows on any Intel Mac machine, including the notebooks. As for no right-clicking, you can hook up any standard 2 button mouse and it will work just fine in OS X.

No. Not worth the effort at all, trust me on this (had to buy two Macs because evil Mr. Jobs discontinued Shake on Windows). I could care less about the OS, I use my computer to run applications. The hardware is identical nowadays and while they're generally fine machines, they make a killing on memory (buy upgrades from third parties) and have the same manufacturing problems as any other vendor.

And then there's always the danger that you might end up like this really pitiful guy ;).

It's worth it. It'll work like you expect, you'll never have to wait 5 minutes for it to start and you'll be able to use it for years and years without problem.

I don't see Macs as being worth the Apple surcharge. Sure Macs, have better industrial design than their Win counterparts, but is that really worth the extra money?

If you buy a Mac, then you have to get acclimated to the Mac way of doing things. This isn't trivial, despite what the Mac fanboys say. I've been a PC user for 20+ years. I've used everything from DOS 3.3 to Vista plus various different flavors of Linux, but every time I've sat down in front of a Mac the way things work just seems odd and wrong. Obviously YMMV, but that's the way it's worked out for me.

My wife uses Macs at work because she's in publishing, but she uses Windows at home and she's never clamored for me to get her a Mac for home.

You can right click on a Mac. Two fingers on the trackpad is a right-click once you set it up in preferences.

Having worked for the past 20 years on both platforms, my standard analogy is that for the average set of uses, they can be compared to cars: both have the same number of wheels, and they'll get you competently to the ZipMart on most days, but PCs are more of a Ford Taurus (ubiquitous, functional, big sellers) and Macs are more like a sleekly designed BMW or Mini Cooper. More solid, more thoughtfully put together, and more fun.

Also, you should know that it's possible to right click by holding down the control key while hitting the button or setting a preference that turns one tap on the trackpad into a left click, and a two fingered tap on the trackpad into a right click. Nifty.

Good luck in your cogitations.

There's an urban legend circulating about a diligent grandson who secretly installed Ubuntu Linux on his grandma's laptop, then told her he'd ugraded her to Vista. She couldn't stop telling everyone how much better Vista was than XP...

FWIW, my mom, who is in her 60s, had never cared to use a computer, other than using my dad's PC to send me an email once or twice a month. Until, that is, I gave my parents my 2 y.o. iMac when I went back to a Mac laptop. Now she calls to tell me she loves using it and wishes they had a Mac years ago. If only she would stop forwarding every chain email she gets.

As for Windows compatibility, depends (as others have noted) on what software you will be using. A lot of law-related software isn't available for the Mac (LiveNote, Concordance, Summation, etc.) But since Intel-based Macs can also run Windows, even that is only a minor issue.

I've supported both for about 10 years. The barrier from moving from one to another is real, but a lot lower than in years past; somebody going from Mac OS to Windows 3.1 or vice versa has a LOT tougher time than somebody going from, say, XP to OS X 10.4.

All modern Apple hardware comes with multi-click capability; in the case of the laptop, the right-click comes from having two fingers on the trackpad when you click (and moving both fingers up and down = scroll wheel, more or less) so that's doable.

It's almost easier to run Windows on a Mac than a PC, as long as you're using a virtualization solution like Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion - mainly because backing it up is just a matter of duplicating the folder, and if you break it, just toss it and open the new folder and go right back to action.

Full disclosure: I did work at Apple for about 3 years in a largely non-technical role. But I will say this: I was allowed to pick out any Apple system I wanted for my home machine, and I chose the MacBook (not the Pro). It may be the perfect blogging machine. Naturally, past performance is no guarantee of future earnings; I would advise some quality time banging on Apple Store sample systems first.

I was quite happy with windows XP when I switched from 1998 era macs, but now I think my Intel mac is much better than my windows machine. Vista is an absolute trainwreck, in my opinion.

Startup time is a lot faster, and uptime is better (you can get windows xp to stay on forever, but if you don't want to screw with your machine, I think the mac is better on this score). Time machine seems like the sort of feature that's a god-send unless you're really anal-retentive.

On the right clicking issue, it's not that important to the interface, but when you're not using an external mouse, you can still ctrl-click.

The questions you should consider are whether there are any crucial applications you'll miss, and how much you want to spend on a computer. Macs cost roughly the same as Windows machines with similar hardware, but there are low end Dell machines that are cheaper.

publius: totally worth it. Right-clicking is easy: you can do it with a two-button mouse, with preferences, or just by holding down the option button when you click. Plus, they just work.

Every time I try a Windows machine, I get stuck on something I never realized anyone ever had to actually do on their computer. (E.g., select the disk drive to find your disk.) It's like, I don't know, driving a car where you have to actually tell it to inflate the tires every morning, connect the steering system to the wheels, etc.

Sorry; meant control click.

I bought a macbook pro.. first mac i've had. Love it. The OS is the thing. FAST FAST FAST. Stable. Sleeps and wakes up without getting stuck. The aesthetic part is very nice too. Compatibility has been sometimes an issues with Word documents with heavy macros (the new 08 office for mac doesn't support them [well]). Overall, pricey, but I'll never go back.
Plus Quicksilver and Scrivener are "can't live without them" apps now... and for OSX only.
g'luck.

I have always used a Mac due to the historical development of imaging software in biology, but have had to use Windows machines at work, too. Ken is right. Given a choice, would you rather drive a new, fully loaded BMW or a Ford Taurus? And a Mac is a lot more reliable than the BMW. My new MacBook is outstanding. The Dell laptop in the next office, not so much.

I have always used macs so can't really compare. I will offer an illustrative example, however.
My husband was setting up a slideshow for work. An observor was awed. "Wow, you just turn that on and it worked the first time. If that was a PC, you would have needed to try 5 times."

After 24 years of using Macs, I am convinced that the Mac v. PC choice is more akin to a spiritual decision.

We all need some elegance in our lives.

Maybe it's just anecdotal, but we've been a dual-platform household for 15 years or so - my wife has been a Mac user since they were steam-powered, and I've always used Windows equipment - and every year that goes by, the qualitative difference between the two platforms seems to be converging towards near-equivalence in functionality. And Apple's adoption of the dual-core, dual-window abilities in the newer models has pretty much, IMO, erased almost the last barriers. And, unlike earlier Macs, the OS 10.x systems are vastly more stable (my wife hasn't had to reinstall the OS on her Macs in years: it used to be a regular occurrence).

One caveat, though: re the Taurus-vs-BMW analogy: you will have to accept that the latter will have to be spending more time in the shop: we have had hardware issues of one sort or another with every recent Mac we've bought: the Apple Care extended-warranty is a MUST.

I only really use my computer for writing and surfing the net, but I can't see going back to a PC after being on a Mac for the last few years. There are just fewer headaches with them, and that alone is worth the money.

Due to a job change, I recently made the switch.

I heartily recommend the Mac. Figuring out how to do something on the mac is a much less frustrating experience on my new machine than it was on my PC.

Also, right clicking is in no way an issue. You can set your preferences so that a two finger tap on the trackpad pulls up the same menu a right click produces. It's just as easy.

So that's the question - are they really worth it?

No, they are not, with exceptions. Gaming sucks on the Mac. So much for being the fun alternative. Plus, as someone who has used both, including a lot of graphics work, the perceived Mac superiority is largely one of marketing and style. And price.

My son does a lot of movie editing on both the Mac and the PC, and he prefers working on a PC, for whatever that's worth. He actually detests working on the Mac, and only does so when forced to.

Lastly, if you're easily frustrated by the hardware chaos that comes from an open platform, pick the Mac and pay the extra bucks. Apple's tight grip on the hardware ensures less combinations of weird stuff, and makes interconnection of peripherals easier. But you pay for that privilege.

I bought a Macbook about 9 months ago and haven't looked back. The battery life is amazing..to the point that if I need my laptop for half a day, I won't bother bringing the power cord. Admittedly, I seem to have to reboot somewhat frequently, though I do do things that I'm not supposed to like be working on something, drop the lid and then get on a bus and open the computer again..most times this works, but I would never dream of doing such a thing on a Windows laptop.

Its really wonderful not having to worry about virus, spyware, etc.

The little things are the fact that there is a calendar/address book/to do list that are all accessible by any application. I've had a Palm Pilot/Treo for a long time, but this is the first time in many years that the information is truly synced between the device and the laptop.

By the way, this is a dangerous topic. Apple has invested a lot of money in the image of the Mac and the Mac user, and many have bought into it in a big way. The hardware fetishism surrounding the Mac, the iPops, and the iPhone creep me out.

In my experience, Mac users are sometimes like the Hezbollah members of the computer users community, and don't take kindly to their deity being dissed. There's frequently a lot of shouting and firing of guns in the air, and sometimes rockets.

Just kidding, guys. Put down the AK 47s. :)

My 2 cents:

Leopard (and Tiger before it) are more stable than XP. They can lock up but they do so much less frequently than XP. (I have no experience with Vista and hope to keep it that way..)

I have PC's, a MacBook Pro and a Mac Mini. The Macs do most things more easily. Documents are transportable between Mac and Windows although sometimes you do get glitches. (i.e. Word documents created on a PC do not always print properly on either of my Macs).

For Windows programs that are not available for Mac, you can use Parallels to run Windows in a VM environment or you can use Boot Camp to run Windows directly. (My geek friends say Parallels works better so that's what I do.)

Apples proprietary software is a pain in the ass sometimes but in general, their stuff integrates better and works better than the hodge podge of software that you have running on PC's.

To finish up, let me quote my Mac guru (and former IBM geek): "All computers suck. Macs just suck less." After a year of working on Macs, I think he is right.

I got my first Mac (an IBook) in 2006 and I have never looked back. I have a dual core MacBook now and don't miss the right click at all. I occasionally use our Windows machine for programs that aren't Mac compatible (Tax Act for one - I dislike TurboTax and won't change) but otherwise I do everything on the Mac.

As far as Mac vs PC is concerned, each have their positives and negatives. It's mostly "every cat to their own rat." Of the two, Macs make me purr. :-)

Admittedly, I seem to have to reboot somewhat frequently, though I do do things that I'm not supposed to like be working on something, drop the lid and then get on a bus and open the computer again..most times this works, but I would never dream of doing such a thing on a Windows laptop.

I do this all the time on my Windows laptop without problems. I've never used a Mac laptop before. Why are you not supposed to do that?

Have never commented before on this blog (longtime lurker), but I will now, to mention that buying my Mac notebook last July was the smartest thing I've done in a good long time.

You know you're going to do it ;).

Make sure to check out VMWare Fusion, though.

I think the question of "worth" implies a monetary answer. I'm a PC user, and every time I upgrade I ask a knowledgeable friend about Mac options, and every time the rational answer is that Macs are too goddamned expensive for what I want to do. I'm an editor by trade, and I manipulate words for a living, surf the web, listen to mp3s, watch a DVD. Like you, I don't edit audio or video and I don't play high-def video games. For me, buying a Mac is throwing money to Cupertino without need, so I don't do it. I am aware that Macs are like 10% better but I'm not going to pay 90% more for the privilege. I am still able to manipulate words just fine, thank you.

I work on both and can honestly say, the mac rules. Its so much more intuitive, easier, smoother, no right click, get a mouse that's what I use. I transfer word and excel documents between work and home without a single conversion problem. I have no desire to even have windows on my mac it's just too easy to do everything. Go for it and get just one manual by David Pogue on Switching to the Mac, the Missing Manual and you'll be happy, happy, happy.

It all depends on how you're going to use it... but enough about you. I bought my first Mac a few months ago, after 10-15 years of practical Windows purchases. I still use PCs; but I enjoy using the Mac.

There have been hardware and software headaches, but they've been no worse than Windows, and my one service experience at an Apple store was really great. In and out with my hardware problem fixed in fifteen minutes.

My biggest problem is application availability. Internet stuff and software development are no problem; I don't do much in the office-document world, so I couldn't tell you about that. I know I wouldn't be happy with a Mac if I were still a gamer; I still prefer the PC for audio work; and I can't find a decent maps-and-directions app for the Mac at all.

As for Windows compatibility, Boot Camp is near 100%, but, well, you can't use your Mac while you're doing Windows stuff. I also use VMWare Fusion, which runs inside MacOS, but is significantly slower (starting it up means it's time to have a sandwich), and doesn't offer as much compatibility.

Basically when I'm using the Mac as a Mac, I'm as happy as could be. It's smooth, it's stable, it's just pleasing. But if I were you I'd make sure the Mac can do most of what you want it to do without resorting to Windows emulation.

I can't help but chiming in here... I just switched from PC to Mac, after fretting over the choice for ages. The two main reasons I wanted a Mac - after my PC had blacked out on me a couple of times, with the harddrive inaccessible - were TimeMachine and Leopard (versus Vista, which I really don't want).
The reasons why I didn't go get one immediately was, first, the wait for the update on the MacBook Pro, and second, the fact that none of the notebooks really hits the spot for me (don't like the Pro keyboard, the Air is overpriced, etc). I ended up keeping my PC notebook for fun and got an iMac for work. Here's my conclusions so far:
- I can use the mouse for rightclicking, fine - but would love to have the multi-touch trackpad; I'm regretting occasionally I can't have it on a desktop machine :)
- I find the switch in OS and applications surprisingly difficult. May be exacerbated by switching from German to English keyboard at the same time. But if you use keyboard shortcuts a lot it takes a while to adjust. I work mainly with LaTeX and have to learn TexShop from scratch, and recreate all my customizations. It took me almost a week. Plus, many little things work differently on a Mac (e.g. setting up ethernet), so be prepared for slow working at first and a few instances of panic (e.g. when pulling the Applications folder from "Places" onto the dock, only to watch it crumple up and disappear - I really thought for a moment I had just deleted my entire applications folder).
- The Mac is way more stable. No restarting all the time when installing, no crashes. The only thing that froze reliably: Microsoft Office. I got rid of the trial and switched to free and awesome NeoOffice. It can save everything as .doc/.ppt/...-XP format.
- Installing and uninstalling - so easy and fast!
- Many useful free and shareware apps (Quicksilver!, TeXShop, BibDesk).
- Love the look. Love the screen.
In summary, after a few days of feeling like a first-time driver, I really like it. I'd recommend the switch, even though the price tag is steep.

I'm a long time Mac loyalist. I don't have much experience with PC's but every time I try to use one it seems wildly non-intuitive. Mostly this is lack of experience, I suppose, but some of it is the kind of thing hilzoy commented on above. It's just awkward.

One point on the price is worth considering. My impression is that Mac owners keep their machines a lot longer than PC owners. (I bought this desktop in 2001 and it just keeps on going - recently added some memory and a second hard disk). I believe this is confirmed by some studies I only dimly recall showing that the Mac's share of the installed base is larger than its share of sales. I'm not sure why this is, exactly, but I must say that, unlike Jay C., I have had virtually zero hardware problems in about 20 years of using Macs.

I'll add another note...Apple hardware is quality stuff..you can definitely get a cheaper PC, but if you do an apples-to-apples (sorry bad pun) comparison of the same hardware, you'll find that the Apple stuff is about the same as a comparable PC.

I do this all the time on my Windows laptop without problems. I've never used a Mac laptop before. Why are you not supposed to do that?

Your supposed to shutdown when moving a laptop some great amount of distance..the shut the lid thing is supposed to be for relatively short distance moves.

To quote a norwegian comic strip:

"Gentoo for you and Ubuntu for your granny!"

I think it comes down to why you want to buy the Mac and what kind of a computer user you are.

For me, the PC is the only choice. I'm a gamer, and the Macintosh platform simply does not have the gaming selection that the PC enjoys. Further, I've been using a PC for years; I've gone through DOS, Win3.1, Win95, Win98 and WinXP. I know how stuff works and what needs to be done to my machine when/if it fails; give me the Ford Taurus, since getting me from Point A to point B is the only reason to have a vehicle--sleek sports cars may be prettier, but they cost more up front and are more expensive to insure. :) The Mac OS may be more "stable" than Win98, but XP pretty much closed that gap.

I think the kicker of the whole argument is this: how much of a computer person are you? If you don't mind sending your Mac away to a shop to get fixed every time it breaks, if you don't mind paying extra for the AppleCare warranty, if you don't mind proprietary hardware that is expensive to upgrade when upgrading is even possible, and you buy into the whole "Macs are better than PCs because they don't get viruses" commercial crowd, then by all means, get a Mac.

If you're an experienced computer user, though, don't need your hand held just to write a simple e-mail or make a spreadsheet, enjoy upgrading your machine instead of having to buy a whole new one every couple years, and enjoy having thousands of times the amount of freeware and shareware developed programs available for your use and computer personalization, the PC gives you far more options than a Mac.

Honestly, if all you want to do is browse the 'Net, make blog entries and write e-mail, there's no reason to dump the extra cash into getting a Mac notebook. Buy an inexpensive Dell laptop, save a few hundred bucks, install Avast! antivirus (free, automatically updates), the Opera or Firefox web browsers (free), and download a copy of Spybot Search & Destroy (free, automatically updates). There's nearly 100% of your security needs taken care of right there, and it didn't cost you but 10 minutes of download and install time.

Seconding BY on longevity: I have also been on Macs forever -- I got my first in 1984, and then the killer consideration, as far as I was concerned, was that pcs had a command-line interface, while Macs had a graphical one. It was a long, long time ago.

In all that time, I have replaced two Macs due to their actually breaking. In one case, I truly don't think it was the Mac's fault: my house was hit by lightning and the surge protector failed. In the other case, I probably could have fixed the disk drive, which was making grinding noises, but wanted a new computer anyways (my present one, which I adore.)

All the rest I upgraded because, eventually, software (and its speed and memory requirements) evolved to the point that my existing computer was choking on it. And in all cases, that took quite a while.

"proprietary hardware that is expensive to upgrade when upgrading is even possible"

what hardware is that?

The standard Apple "Mighty Mouse" now does right click.

I use a Mac to in a largely Windows shop and the only thing I have yet to find a native Mac solution for (read not running Parallels or Cross Over) Exchange Calendar.

Other than that I don't miss a thing.

The cartoon...

If I'd change I think I'd aim for Linux instead of Mac.

Oh, and I never had any problems synching my (various) palms with my windows desktops.

My two cents, as a PC user since DOS 3.x (and an Apple IIe user before that): in the notebook category, the Apple reigns supreme. There's really no comparison... but that's partly because, well, what do you use a notebook for? Me, it's very straightforward work: TeX, spreadsheets, Word (well, OpenOffice) documents, etc. My next notebook is going to be a Mac unless something really important influences the decision (e.g. integrating support for programming languages with my employer).

For a main desktop computer, though, it's Windows all the way -- especially for gaming -- *if* you're willing to learn about the hardware. At the extremes, a custom-built PC is going to blow the Mac out of the water, especially if heavy use is made of, e.g. newegg. [With the proviso that you're using XP; Vista blows chunks.] Of course, a Linux box is going to house the Windows machine in certain domains -- heavy numerical computation is what occurs to me off the cuff, though I'm sure there are others -- and there are usability tradeoffs, so it's not like this is a simple decision unless you're, e.g., a gamer or a number-cruncher.

As for longevity, my experience with PCs has been almost uniformly positive. I'm still using the same machine after 5 1/2 years, having replaced a DVD drive and (just last week) the monitor, and having upgraded the video card. In fact, I'm likely going to keep using this machine for the next couple of years until my income has stabilized. And this is typical; every PC I've had has remained functional for more than 5 years, barring a few simple replacements and an occasional upgrade. So YMMV.

I've been using Mac OS X since the 10.0 version and have not had a system-wide crash since its inception. Period. And I push these machines hard. I am a graphic and web designer, and frequently handle and work with files in excess of 400 MB. Things will bog down now and then, and I'll reboot every couple of days to get things snappy again. But let me repeat the key point: I have not had a system-wide crash since 2001. (By contrast, my wife's HP tower running XP Pro belly-flops at least once a week.)

I had my last home desktop Mac (a G4 tower) for four years before finally replacing it with a 24" iMac. The G4 tower (now five years old) runs the latest iteration of the OS as well as (if not better than) the previous version of the OS. Try that with Vista.

And, like other have noted before me, if you really find yourself needing some obscure functionality that the Mac won't handle natively, you can always run Windows on an Intel Mac (either through Boot Camp, which requires actually booting into Windows, or some virtualization solution).

So...unless you just really enjoy always having to futz with antivirus, antispyware, internal components of dubious quality, endless driver issues and a machine that's likely to be obsolete inside of 24 months...the Mac is the better option.

For normal use--writing, e-mail, web, listening to music, spreadsheets---I find few important difference among the OSes. The computer will be worth $1.50 in a year, so I recommend whatever is cheapest.

(I was fervently anti-Apple in the '90s, but OS X has redeemed them. As others have suggested, if you like the non-aesthetic differences between Mac and Windows, you may be better off with Linux . . . but I don't think it matters very much.)

I think it's mostly a comfort thing. I'm a software engineer at a windows shop doing development on xp and vista. At home, I use Gentoo Linux for my server/workhorse boxes, and a MacBook for, well, everything else. OS X is very comfortable for me whereas vista seems somehow oppressive (I think it's the excessive and heavy-handed visual effects they crammed in and the UAC). So my recommendation is to send some time on both (a couple days--find a friend to lend you a machine) and see which feels right. And as noted above, unless you need some very specific Windows-only software, you'll be able to do everything you want on the Mac.

My biggest pro for the Mac, however, is that I can take it to work and it plays happily with our Windows network, then bring it home, and it plays happily with my UNIX network.

@Areala: the whole "experienced computer users prefer Windows argument" is bullshit. Just about a year and a half ago, when I was still working on my computer science degree, most of the students brought their laptops. At least 1/3 were Macs, 1/3 were running Linux. Two of my four professors my last semester used Macs. I personally find myself in bash constantly on my Mac. A Mac is quite as powerful as a Linux box if you actually know what you're doing.

Dave -

From what I understand (and have seen, although to a limited degree) Entourage syncs with Exchange Calendar as well as Outlook does.

But I could be wrong...

You might look at the Asus EEE.

I've been an academic computer scientist for about 3 decades now, and, while I am no fan of Windows (to say the least), I was never tempted to purchase anything by Apple until about a year and a half ago when I got a fully loaded MacBook Pro. My impression has been decidedly mixed, to the point where I can still see through to real reality from within the field while I type this on my Mac.

Software:

OS X is clearly fundamentally superior to any Windows variant. It's faster and you are in no danger of draining an entire pot of coffee waiting for it to finish booting. You can often load software on it without rebooting. It's more robust. And for power users like me, it's got Unix underneath, so I can escape the definitely overrated Apple Gui to get real work done when I need to.

But it isn't perfect. I think the fundamental user interface paradigm, in which you have one application take over the toolbar once you've selected it, is just wrong for a multiprogramming system and an unfortunate hangover from old time Apple OSs. Windows wins on that one. The one button mouse was an even bigger mistake than MS two button mouse, Xerox Parc figured out you need 3 long before either of these companies was making Guis. There are, as many have said, various ways around it; the situation with Macs now is that their Gui is a two-button Gui in terms of functionality, but they stubbornly insist on still putting only one button on the trackpad. Pathetic, but not fatal. Also, I had some real issues with the last Tiger upgrade, which ended up losing me a bunch of files (all backed up, so just a hassle) and forcing me to upgrade to Leopard, which I hadn't planned to do.

There are fewer Apple apps than Window apps, but they usually have more carefully designed user interfaces. And they generally play nicer with cross platform (i.e. non-Microsoft) media standards than Windows apps. The only things I cannot do on the Mac that I can on Windows are games and a few specialized applications that nobody has bothered to make for the Mac yet.

Hardware

I think the "Apple Premium" is overblown since they've gone to the Intel platform. I've looked at comparably equipped laptops for Windows and they cost about the same as Mac laptops. I think the premium still appears to hold mostly because Apple has relatively few models, and thus relatively few price points, often forcing people to pay more because they're buying a fancier machine than they might have for Windows. But "apples to Apples" (sorry), I don't see much difference if you want the same features, at least for laptops.

Reliability has been a great disappointment to me on the Mac. This has been one of the most unreliable laptops I've owned. I bought AppleCare, and they've lost a good bit of money on it (with a year and a half to go). Their service is great, though, so if you have to have something that breaks a lot, it's good to have Apple fixing it.

Overall

I'm about 50/50 on whether I'll buy another Mac laptop. As a result, I've carefully avoided using Apple-specific tools for critical functions like schedulers and mailers (just as I do for Windows) so I don't get locked into their platform. Firefox, Opera, and Thunderbird are great for this reason (usually, although sometimes they work better on Windows than the Mac, at least for awhile). I think the Mac hardware probably isn't worse than other hardware, and not more expensive, and I get good service. But I'll never buy an Apple desktop machine. I use my Mac laptop and Windows and Linux desktops now, and I don't mind switching among them now that I know them all. I'd rather be able to swap in generic parts myself when something breaks on a desktop, and that's really easy (and cheap) to do with Windows boxes.

Overall, Macs are okay, but they're definitely not insanely great.

Admittedly, I seem to have to reboot somewhat frequently, though I do do things that I'm not supposed to like be working on something, drop the lid and then get on a bus and open the computer again..most times this works, but I would never dream of doing such a thing on a Windows laptop.

I “suspend” all the time on XP (laptop). I can suspend, unplug peripherals, go to the airport and get on a plane, resume - and everything is fine. Even programs that were open are right where I left them. I probably only reboot about 4 times per year. All the grief MS gets about Windows is way justified, but XP is their best ever. I wouldn’t touch Vista with a ten foot pole.

My wife worked for graphics companies for years and so is a big Mac fan. I don’t deal with them. Mostly though that is because I like to open my computer up, buy whatever peripherals I want from whoever I want and install them myself. If you don’t enjoy the battle of spending a day getting something to work then Mac is likely better for you. Just realize that you will be paying a premium on just about everything.

this is great stuff - i love the internet for precisely this reason. thanks all. very helpful

Reading this thread makes me feel better about not knowing the genius of the multitouch trackpad.

The two (and three) finger functionality means right clicking, scrolling, and resizing are incredibly easy on the trackpad. I don't use an external mouse anymore.

I just made the switch when my Dell laptop was stolen. Best thing that ever happened to me.

Hey, publius, don't forget to check the education discount. They have some pretty good deals for Apple stuff. It's still more expensive, but I LOVE my laptop. Pretty easy transition from PCs.

publius: I know; the other day, when I was trying to find out what happens when a rifle round doesn't go off, I really did spend a while nosing around in all sorts of odd corners of the web before it occurred to me to think: hey, I can ask. And voila! Answers!

Which is all to say: yay to the internet for making it all possible, but double yay for having such a great bunch of people around here to ask.

Also, publius: if you do this, I can give you all sorts of software tips, gleaned from a lifetime of trial and error. (Although the trials and errors from the 80s would probably be pretty useless by now.)

"proprietary hardware that is expensive to upgrade when upgrading is even possible"

what hardware is that?

Well, it shouldn't be proprietary anymore, since Macs are running on hardware identical to the hardware used by PC makers, but since Apple's whole business model has always been centered around peddling overpriced hardware to its customers, they have found software and firmware based means to fake hardware incompatibility anyhow. Example: there is no technical reason whatsoever why MacPro users should have to restrict themselves to the one overpriced Nivida Quadro available from Apple, while there are several entry level and medium range Quadros available.

And even in the cases where Apple can't restrict hardware upgrades through such brute methods, they can be safe in the assumption that the vast majority of Apple users will buy products such as memory and harddrives at up to 3 times the price from the Apple store, even while identical or functionally identical products are available from other vendors with a money back guarantee.

what hardware is that?

I currently have five Windows machines running on my home network. I recently purchased a media PC (running Windows XP) to store all my music, movies, TV shows, and photos. This replaces my DVD player and stereo. I added a one terabyte hard drive to it at a cost of $325, the media PC itself cost around $700, and the media player software (MediaPortal) was free.

As more critical stuff is being put on it all the time, I'm about to set up a three terabyte RAID 5 to ensure no data loss. I will be able to do this for about a thousand dollars. A similar configuration using the Mac will run close to four thousand dollars.

I don't have any experience with Apple laptops, but I would imagine that laptops in general are more prone hardware problems. I can say that long term Apples are a good investment. I bought a '98 G3 350 Mhz on Ebay for 20 bucks, put $40 of ram in it to give it a gig. Tiger runs fine on it except for video editing. I gave it to a friend to replace the hopeless pc she had recently paid $500 and was taking forever to boot up. She remarks on the hours of time saved not waiting around for the computer to work. Try getting a '98 Dell to run XP, ain’t happening (obviously we’re cheap/poor). There are no registry repairs, no useless files to remove, no defragging or drawn out maintenance to do except for running DiskWarrior (a good idea) every once in a while. Not even going to mention the virus and spyware issues.

With a new Mac you get an OS installation disc, and Apple doesn’t require OS authentication to function, which means you can have multiple backups spread around to avoid work stoppages. My 2003 G4 boots up twice as fast as any XP box I’ve seen, occasionally Office or Quark will freeze up, but the force quit function works much better than end program. Font compatibility can be an issue, but Apple gives you many good font choices, and a decent app Fontbook to manage them. If you are doing layout you’ll need something more powerful, make sure you remove all the fonts from the system and library folders too. If you’re like me, and keep thousands of text and photo files on hand for reference, Spotlight makes finding anything hassle free. Stickies (post it notes), Calendar, Iphoto, and Address Book are decent well developed tools that are included in OS.

Apple’s don’t really become obsolete; they just get reassigned to other tasks. There are a lot of printing firms still using OS9. Unless you’re a gamer or doing 3d modeling or video editing, you Apple is going to give you a longer period of usefulness. I think you get better value over the life of the machine with an Apple even with the higher initial cost.

If your Apple is having problems, try using DiskWarrior before sending it to the shop. Hardware problems can be the result of a damaged volume wrapper on the disk, and laptop owners must use MacJanitor or Cocktail unless you keep your machine on all the time.

I'd lean away from getting the Mac unless you were already planning on spending $1500+ for a laptop.

To address a few things above:
-Similar specs on similar machines, the Mac is still considerably more expensive - remember that Dell et al are always having ridiculous deals on their systems. But even comparing full retail price, the Windows machines are still slightly cheaper. Get a Dell with Ubuntu and it'll be $50-$100 cheaper than that.
-Right clicking is one of those things where Apple has designed around a weakness, but a weakness nonetheless. It won't always be convenient to plug in a mouse for added functionality. Yes, the software allows for you to simulate a right click with 3 fingers, but I can middle click (open link in new tab) with 2.
-For basic usage, an $800 Ubuntu (or another Linux distro) laptop will give you all the functionality of a $1300 Macbook. Unless, of course, you find one of those aforementioned Dell deals and buy a basic system for around $500.
-While I've never suspended my laptop for a longer period than 1 day, I've never had any problems putting it on suspend for a few hours on road trips and the like.

If you're going to be switching OS's, you might want to try Ubuntu - download and burn it and try booting from CD without installing it. I'm not going to lie - it sometimes is a beast to set up (depending on your hardware), but not nearly as bad as a clean install of Windows XP. Of course, it's always easier if you already know a linux guy who can help you if you need it while you're on your training-wheels phase. But once it's set up, it runs far faster than XP on the same hardware. Alternatively you could take the plunge and just buy a Ubuntu system, already set up, from Dell. I think other manufacturers might sell a few linux systems as well.

I have to admit – there is a lot less blood in this thread than I assumed there would be. I mean politics, religion, abortion, Iraq – that could all be civil compared to a Windows v. Mac thread.

I think there's still an "Apple Premium" on the hardware. It's not outrageous, but if you configure a T60 class Thinkpad to match the specs of one of the standard MacBook Pros, the Thinkpad is easily several hundred dollars cheaper. And if you're on a tight budget you can get a low end machine for a little more than half the price of the cheapest MacBook.

Guess I need to be the contrary voice here: I've used both, and I just can't stand Macs.

Part of it is probably due to the fact that the Apple culture and aesthetic annoys the crap out of me. There's this cult of personality that seems to grow on people who really get into their Macs, and it amplifies the genuine advantages of the platform beyond all reason while turning a blind eye to the equally valid downsides. Something about the perky, prepackaged, no-seams perfection and triumphalism of Apple products just grates on me like getting skullf**ked with a sandpaper condom.

Part of it is also that I'm a gamer. Macs, not to put too fine a point on it, suck out loud if you like to play games on your computer. There are people who do it successfully, but there are also people who go street racing in a Lexus. If you play games, then stick with either Windows or a console (or both), depending on what you like to play. Macs just plain suck out loud at it, and while they can emulate well enough to play some low-end Windows games, I wish you the best of luck in trying to, say, play Crysis or COD4 on it.

Which leads me to my next point: whether or not a Mac is right for you depends largely on what you plan on doing with it. If you don't play games, it's really not a bad choice, provided you can put up with your typical Mac fans and get used to the interface. Aside from all that, the main downsides of the Mac are fewer hardware and application options, and an OS that is under the delusion it's smarter than you are even worse than Vista is. There are worse things in the world.

If you can deal with all that, it's worth a shot. But I would echo the recommendations above at giving one flavor or another of Linux a try. There's better (and cheaper) community support, more hardware freedom (I could hack my iPod to run Linux if I wanted to), less expense overall, and greater stability. The primary downside--that it's very hard to find certain games and commercial applications that run on Linux--is balanced out by the staggering amount of open source software available on the net.

So in conclusion: think about what you want to do. Form follows function, and in this case the form is the OS while the function is your intended purpose for it.

A similar configuration using the Mac will run close to four thousand dollars.

Ummm... if you're setting up a 3-terabyte RAID5 server, you shouldn't be doing it on a Mac or on Windows, IMHO. You're talking about a media server, which seems somewhat outside the scope of a question about notebooks, right?

publius, you should note that some of the comments above turn on gaming and on being able to swap out hardware. If you're not a gamer, that shouldn't be a concern (and even if you are, like me, the Mac may be a good way of kicking the habit), and that's really not a very good use of a laptop anyway. Similarly, you won't be able to swap out the hardware on a Windows laptop any more easily than you would a Mac laptop -- again, that issue relates to desktops.

As for the price premium, that strikes me as a myth. My experiences with Mac reliability have been overwhelmingly positive, but even putting that aside, there are a number of hidden costs on Windows that you don't run into with the Mac -- most notably, OSX doesn't require upgrades to an "Ultimate" version or what have you, and most of the important productivity software is free.

The hardware itself isn't overpriced when you compare it component-by-component, with the possible exception of the RAM, which you should just get yourself. In fact, there's a good argument to be made that the vertical integration and overall workmanship is a pretty good deal. Apple's QC is pretty solid; my experience with the PC laptop manufacturers is that they're all over the place. It's really hard to nail down the quality differences between, e.g., a Dell, a Toshiba, an IBM, etc., and they're not insignificant.

The one concern voiced above that I'd definitely second is the niche-software issue. If your work uses any Windows-only software, that can be a pain in the butt, "boot into Windows" or not. It just sucks. E.g., I wouldn't use a Mac if I was architect and relied on a lot of CAD software.

Fundamentally, I think the central thing I'd point to was mentioned above -- Windows sucks. The fact that the most vocal Windows advocate in the thread has to preface their comments with how you should be OK if you just install a bunch of antivirus and antispamware prophylactics should speak volumes. XP is old. Vista is spaghetti code. OSX -- Leopard in particular -- is a really well-written, fast, reliable piece of software, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Again, the best thing to do is to go to a store that has Macs and PCs available to play with and get some hands-on experience. (Ignore the salespeople.) Despite all your other preferences, you may find that you simply can't stand the keyboard on the computer that looked great on paper, and the only way to know is by trying one out. Seriously, there's no substitute.

To give an example of the 'Apple premium':

4 GB RAM

Apple store: £630

crucial.com: £169.19

Crucial guarantees 100% compatibility.

they can be safe in the assumption that the vast majority of Apple users will buy products such as memory and harddrives at up to 3 times the price from the Apple store, even while identical or functionally identical products are available from other vendors with a money back guarantee.

"Vast majority" is a significant overstatement. There are plenty of online and local sources for things like memory and hard drives without going to the Apple store, and Mac owners are generally aware of them.

In any case, I don't see the relevance of this. Some people are comfortable ordering and installing equipment themselves. Others, including many PC users, are not, and will rely on dealers, manufacturers, etc. for this. One person's ridiculously high price is another's no-hassles no-complications peace-of-mind premium.

Ummm... if you're setting up a 3-terabyte RAID5 server, you shouldn't be doing it on a Mac or on Windows, IMHO.

I'll be doing it under Windows because I'm more familiar with it, and my immediate circle of community support is stronger than in the Linux department. And, should Windows either prove inadequate or undesirable, I can switch (I'm going with a hardware RAID controller).

You're talking about a media server, which seems somewhat outside the scope of a question about notebooks, right?

Sure, but it serves as an example of what was being discussed. Apple is often more expensive, and that illustrates the point.

"As more critical stuff is being put on it all the time, I'm about to set up a three terabyte RAID 5 to ensure no data loss. I will be able to do this for about a thousand dollars. A similar configuration using the Mac will run close to four thousand dollars."

Huh, Dude,
I pretty sure I could do that with a Mac Mini and some external drives, if you want to get really cheap you could buy HDs from NewEgg and HD cases on Ebay, And you could use Firewire 800 instead. The media apps come with the box.

Also, there is no need to buy components from Apple, go to OWC, 2 gigs of matched 667 ram $39.99. Other than motherboards, there has always been alternative supply sources. Only for video cards is there a bottleneck, and you could blame the manufacturers as much as Apple. And why would you want to put a 64 meg video card in a $3000 Pro?

The fact that the most vocal Windows advocate in the thread has to preface their comments with how you should be OK if you just install a bunch of antivirus and antispamware prophylactics should speak volumes.

Well, IMO that speaks to the popularity of the Windows platform more than the quality of the OS (which isn't to say that OSX isn't a well-designed OS).

As only about, what, 3% (?) of computers run an Apple OS, it simply makes more sense that spyware and viruses will be Windows-based. Were the Mac to become more popular, we'd see more malware on that platform, I think.

To give an example of the 'Apple premium':

4 GB RAM

Apple store: £630

crucial.com: £169.19

Crucial guarantees 100% compatibility.

Indeed. The memory I just added I bought from Crucial, and I'm no hardware geek. These sources seem to be widely known.

dpu, if you're going to install RAID, I strongly urge you to set it up and then run a test of a drive failing and then installing a new (empty) drive and recovering.

This stuff is tricky and the "hardware" (really it's software on a board) RAID stuff is particularly finicky.

If you want to be sure of not losing any data you have to test out the failure scenarios. I speak from experience.

Also, although mirroring (RAID 1) is a bit more expensive, it usually works much more smoothly and performs better.

I'm glad to see some other commenters pick up on what the Germans call "Preisleistung Verhältnis," what we call "bang for your buck."

If you can afford a personal accountant to get the most out of your tax returns, go for the Mac.

I can't, so I use a PC.

Should just point out that Tiger has very good native support for RAID, but I have been hearing that Leopard is having problems between RAID, the finder and Spotlight

"Vast majority" is a significant overstatement.

Well maybe, I don't have any numbers on this. But the fact alone that a company would even try to sell me an identical product at more than 3 times the regular price is outrageous and doesn't really inspire trust in their business practices.

One person's ridiculously high price is another's no-hassles no-complications peace-of-mind premium.

What exactly is the significant difference here? In my example a user would go to the Apple or Crucial website, indicate their Mac model, then some database will generate the right choice of memory and it will be sent to them in a box via mail and that's that. Apple doesn't add any value or security here and the modules have probably been made in the same factory somewhere in Taiwan, they might even be from the same batch. The only difference is that that Apple has ripped £460 (wow) off its customer.

As only about, what, 3% (?) of computers run an Apple OS, it simply makes more sense that spyware and viruses will be Windows-based. Were the Mac to become more popular, we'd see more malware on that platform, I think.

It's more like 7.5%, but this isn't the difference-maker. Windows is not as secure as OSX. It's really not. OSX isn't the gold standard -- it's not FreeBSD or anything -- but it is better.

Some of this is Microsoft's fault, because their development process is chaotic, to say the least, and there are areas where their design is just bad (Windows registry much?). Some of it is the market share issue.

But most of it is that Windows has to serve much more third-party software and hardware, and that means holes. That's just the nature of the market they serve. It's what made them rich -- starting with clone PCs -- and it's still their bread and butter, but it's intrinsically less secure.

-Similar specs on similar machines, the Mac is still considerably more expensive - remember that Dell et al are always having ridiculous deals on their systems.

This is important. First, don't buy the cheap Dell. You get what you pay for. There may be a premium one way or the other, but Dell doesn't have some magic power to cut their margins, and Apple's really aren't that big. That difference is made up at the QC level, down to individual components, and it may be opaque to the average user, but it exists. I assure you that if you go check the sourcing for Dell's mainboard components versus Apple's, Dell's cheap laptops might as well have been assembled with wood glue and bailing wire.

The RAM is a good example -- Apple does charge a lot for RAM. That's the one area I'd go elsewhere; that said, they don't do it for no reason at all. RAM is one of those components where at the high-end you tend to pay a huge premium for what you're getting, but Apple is the type of company that will pay a 25% markup to squeeze reliability from 85% to 95%. And their RAM costs more because they have to source a ton of it.

If you're buying a mid-range laptop, you will pay a premium for the RAM. Now, you might not notice it, because RAM basically has a half-life :) The cheap stuff might not fail for a year or so, but it's almost guaranteed to fail before the decent stuff.

Now, getting back to the Dell issue -- Dell's cheap laptops are cheap for a reason. They cut costs down the level of the bus controller, and it might be functional, but it's not as well-built as what Apple puts out. And for that matter, what Apple puts out often isn't as good as IBM or Toshiba's high ends, but you pay a premium for those, too.

These things have consequences. :) You should try to cut costs, but at the end of the day, you're not paying for nothing. The mythical premium isn't going to make as big of a difference as rolling the dice on the quality of your batch of components, and you can't control that. If you're building your own desktop, it's a different story, but for notebooks, you're stuck.

You know what will make a difference? Making sure that your laptop is insured against accidental damage and theft. Other than that, your guiding star should be what works best for you. None of the other differences discussed above -- except for the gamebreakers like whether or not you have to have a gaming rig -- stack up next to the basic question of what setup you're most comfortable with and what will make you the most productive. Unless you simply can't afford at least a mid-range laptop, penny-pinching on a notebook is an exercise in futility. Seriously, just go play with some different models and see what suits your fancy. :)

Apple doesn't add any value or security here and the modules have probably been made in the same factory somewhere in Taiwan, they might even be from the same batch.

No, no, that's not true. Crucial is not bad, but last I checked Apple tends to source their memory from Samsung, etc., and it's definitely high-quality. You can't tell from a consumer level since getting memory is like buying a lottery ticket -- 5% failure over a year versus 1% won't look any different to you, but it damn sure shows up on Apple's radar. If you can install your own memory, I'd say go for it, but the difference does exist.

well, I need to preface this with I am a machead, but I went to mac because multi lingual computing was (is?) such a pain with windows. However, if you have children, I think mac is a better choice. My 8 year old has her own account on all our macs and figured out from watching how to use shortcut keys from the age of 2, and the 3 year old can log on now and watch bugs bunny you tube videos. Perhaps if you have enough Windows nous, you can set it up so it runs like that, but I don't think you could get the kids to the point where they could install the software and get it to run. Admittedly, there is a lot more children's software for PC, but it seems that 90% of it is crap, whereas the mac/Windows barrier encourages some sort of quality control for what is ported over.

No, no, that's not true. (...)

Sorry, but without any hard data on sourcing and failure rates (which will be really hard to come by btw) your point is totally moot.

If you can install your own memory, I'd say go for it, but the difference does exist.

I don't get it, what's the difference: in both cases the user have to install their own memory, what does the installation have to do with it?

Adam: First, don't buy the cheap Dell. You get what you pay for.

Ain't it the truth.

[somewhat OT, but] If you're looking for lower-cost laptops I have had very good luck with refurbished ThinkPads bought through IBM's web site. Not only do they have decent price performance and good physical design, but the support is outstanding.

True story: the one I purchased most recently had a video controller fail after a few months. I had not purchased the extended (1-year) warranty because I didn't see it as an option on the web site but when I took it to an authorized IBM repair shop they let me just pay the warranty extension and replaced the motherboard. How many companies have that as a policy?

Once upon a time Dell had good support but my most recent experiences with them have been very disappointing.

You know, RAM problems in particular are a good way of illustrating why Apple has to put such a premium on QC. RAM problems tend to be very intermittent -- so buying the cheap batch of RAM might mean, say, that 6 months down the line, the chip starts flipping bits under high load (I'm just making this scenario up, but it gets the point across). The outcome is that apps tend to crash when you're doing lots of work, but the error correction catches it most of the time, so it's pretty random.

Now, on the Dell, when the system crashes, the customer probably blames Windows and moves on. Memory problems like this are so hard to track down that finding the source is always going to be a crapshoot. But on the Mac, the customer blames Apple -- and worse, they have an expectation of stability, so they get double mad.

Of course, component QC doesn't work exactly like this, certain batches or percentages of batches will turn out OK, etc. -- but again, on a market level, the bottom line is that if Apple skimps on their hardware, they suffer. PC manufacturers usually don't skimp on their high-end stuff either, just like no one skimps on server RAM.

As consumers, we're staring at all of this through a small aperture, so even if you know what's causing the problem and who to blame, you treat bad components that fail on you just like good components -- a 5% versus 0.001% failure rate doesn't matter to you unless your gear actually fails. If it doesn't, you won't care.

But for Apple that's a the difference between saving zillions on AppleCare versus suffering a PR nightmare, and since they'll take all the blame for that, they have a big incentive against cutting corners.

Sorry, but without any hard data on sourcing and failure rates (which will be really hard to come by btw) your point is totally moot.

Ha! Yeah, those numbers don't get published. That's kind of the point. If you poke around, it's pretty easy to find the anecdotal evidence, but no one would let the raw QC numbers get published -- not Apple, not Dell, not the memory manufacturers, not nobody. That's actually the reason why it's not moot, if you think about it.

Nevertheless, QC does exist and Apple is pretty well-known for it. You can find the indirect evidence in Consumer Reports, I believe, among other places. However, it's not falsifiable so it's difficult to say anything beyond that. If you know anyone that works in the field they could probably talk to you about it off the record :)

I don't get it, what's the difference: in both cases the user have to install their own memory, what does the installation have to do with it?

Well... nothing, really. Like I explained, it's not about individual users -- it's about statistical failure rates and support costs. To you, 95% is pretty good odds on RAM from a third party; for Apple, that's a class-action lawsuit waiting to happen.

This may not be the "cool" opinion, but I say "not to Mac." For one thing, they're a lot more expensive than comparable Windows-based laptops, so unless there's something specific about the Mac you're after, I don't think it's worth it. For another, if you do a lot of typing (in particular, if you touch-type, like I do), the keyboards on the new MacBooks are the worst. No tactile feel, odd spacing, just all around uncomfortable.

I say all of this as a guy who is NO FAN of Microsoft, and who actually WANTS to like Mac as an alternative. It's just that the latest models don't wow me, and don't justify the price difference.

Adam, it's nothing personal, but to me that's just another example of unfounded myth-making by Apple fanboys.

Yet, while we're in the realm of wild guesses, let me give it a shot: I highly suspect that with the volumes they need, Apple will buy from any reputable manufacturer, according to the laws of supply and demand and with some system of quality control in place. Crucial on the other hand is simply the consumer arm of the respected RAM manufacturer Micron and as such they have in-house control over the manufacturing process. This would work in Crucial's favour, don't you think? But be that as it may, I don't see how a 300+% premium can ever be justified.

For another, if you do a lot of typing (in particular, if you touch-type, like I do), the keyboards on the new MacBooks are the worst. No tactile feel, odd spacing, just all around uncomfortable.

I will say that I don't really love the keyboard on my new MacBook. It's OK, but it's not quite as good as my old ThinkPad, and nothing holds a candle to the 12" G4 AlBook's keyboard. However, that's essentially the same keyboard you'll still find on the MacBook Pro.

The Air keyboard seems closer to the MacBook keyboard than to the Pro, but there is always the drool factor in its favor. :) (I saw one for the first time the other day, and the person using it was two-finger hunt-and-peck typing. It was somewhat painful.)

This is what I meant by the importance of going to the store and trying things out. The difference between the 12" AlBook and all other computer keyboards was night and day for me, and I wouldn't have known it if I'd just ordered one online. You might hate all Apple keyboards, or just hate the materials Toshiba uses (and really, most people don't need their computer to double as a blunt weapon / body armor).

It's the things like that which will really make or break your experience on any computer, and even the most informative blog thread won't be able to answer all of these questions for you. It's an expensive consumer item, just like a car -- take it for a test drive.

I haven't used windows machines in years, but one thing you get with macs is all this great free software. Itunes, garageband, iphoto, imovie, safari, iweb even. It all works together so that my 8yearold daughter is recording multi track songs in garageband then exporting them along with a bunch of photos and movies she's made in imovie with the built in camera to the website she's built in iweb. Having worked for a long time as a web designer/musician I can tell you that this is amazing. 10 years ago it would have been a huge technical headache and cost a fourtune in equipment.

Also, Pages, which cost about $40 is a great replacement for Word which costs about, what? $150? There are very few compatability problems, as long as you aren't dealing with really complicated documents.

PS. I always thought Windows were conservative and Macs liberal. That's been confirmed by the recent ads, and it also explains the people who get cranky about the "cult" of mac. Conservatives (in general) don't like hip. They don't like things that are designed or stylish. It's the calvinist gene in them.

IMO, if you ask the question, then the answer for you will be "yes".

- My next non-Linux PC probably will be a Mac.

- I work in a lab full of electronic engineers building computer network systems that go on aircraft -- talented people I struggle to keep up with. About half are Mac owners, including my favorite Linux kernel hacker and my favorite hobbyist PC hardware hacker.

- My college-student daughter (50% chemist, 25% people person, and 25% computer hacker in self-training) has a Mac which she loves, especially the Apple Care support.

But there _is_ one thing that a Mac user can't do ... shut up.
:-)
But I was able to use this fabled Mac pride to my advantage. When we changed wireless phones, my daughter extracted an obscure Springsteen guitar solo into the correct format to be my new ringtone. I got this for free, because she got to demonstrate her Mac's superiority to my Windows PC.

Adam, it's nothing personal, but to me that's just another example of unfounded myth-making by Apple fanboys.

Nothing personal, but you're wrong ;) And I'm not a fanboy. I've owned dozens of computers, and most of them weren't Macs. I tried to be clear that Apple's QC is no better than IBM's or Toshiba's, but you pay a premium for those as well.

Of course, I could say that the "Apple Premium" is myth-making by Windows homers, but that wouldn't make it true. It's a business decision that has many dimensions.

Yet, while we're in the realm of wild guesses, let me give it a shot: I highly suspect that with the volumes they need, Apple will buy from any reputable manufacturer, according to the laws of supply and demand and with some system of quality control in place.

Well, we're not in the realm of wild guesses, we're in the realm of indirect proof. I'm not trying to convince you that this is the way things work -- I'm just telling you how they work. Your mileage may vary, but I'm not trying to sell you on it.

This would work in Crucial's favour, don't you think?

Actually, no -- or rather, it works in their favor, but not yours -- it lets them mix and match production batches, and warranty a specific part. They don't bear the support costs or PR risks of intermittent memory failure: that falls on AppleCare and Apple.

Memory manufacturing doesn't turn on "the manufacturing process" per se. In this case, what Apple generally does is do initial QC checks on batches of RAM from good suppliers (usually Samsung) and they will buy batches that meet certain standards. Their deals are set up so that they're buying the top end. (This is true for monitors, mainboard components, etc., but the premiums hit RAM extra hard.)

The rest generally gets sold on the OEM market to customers that (rightfully) don't care about the difference between 99% and 99.999% reliability. Some of it will be downrated to higher latency, lower clock ratings, ECC on or off, etc. (Note that a lot of that isn't too evident on, e.g., Crucial's website -- and also that I've bought from them before, too. I have no problem with Crucial, for the record. But it is what it is.)

You're not buying the same RAM, and even if you were, Crucial can charge less because they don't have to provide support for it; but that doesn't make it better RAM. It doesn't make it less likely to crash your computer, which is what you're paying for at the end of the day. It mostly just means that your Apple warranty won't cover it. Crucial can afford to sell you second-tier OEM product because they don't shoulder the costs component failure; Apple can't because they do.

But be that as it may, I don't see how a 300+% premium can ever be justified.

Well, on an individual basis, it might not be. But that doesn't mean it's unjustified. You are getting what you pay for. Paying for insurance is an infinite premium if you don't get sick, but that doesn't make it "unjustified." This is not a consumer decision so much as an actuarial decision.

If you buy a new Ford Taurus, it will drive off the lot -- but that doesn't make it a Honda Civic. Saying that Ford has a business incentive to make good cars doesn't turn your Taurus into a Civic, either. It just is what it is.

I should back off the tone of that comment a bit :) I don't want to sound like I'm proselytizing -- there are tons of reasons to go with Windows machines over Macs, and there may even be a premium, but the QC thing is simply a fact of life. It's not an issue unique to Apple -- and theirs isn't even necessarily the best in the industry -- but it is there.

I always thought Windows were conservative and Macs liberal

So 90% of computer users are conservatives?

Conservatives (in general) don't like hip.

A sure sign of not being hip is constantly talking about your own perceived hipness.

But there _is_ one thing that a Mac user can't do ... shut up.

No argument from me there - but I'll shut up now ;).

I always thought Windows were conservative and Macs liberal. That's been confirmed by the recent ads, and it also explains the people who get cranky about the "cult" of mac. Conservatives (in general) don't like hip. They don't like things that are designed or stylish. It's the calvinist gene in them.

I think this is a case of actually believing advertising hype. My first PC was an Apple, but had to switch when I could no longer afford the high-end Macs that were coming out. PCs were open-platform, and much much cheaper.

Since when is affordable and open synonymous with conservative? I also have a problem with a luxury electronics manufacturer who relies heavily on litigation to protect its shareholder profits portraying itself as the fuzzy, happy, playful machine of choice for the free-thinking liberal.

But that's probably just the socialist gene in me. I don't like corporate cults :)

I always thought Windows were conservative and Macs liberal.

And those of us who use nothing but Linux?

And those of us who use nothing but Linux?

Well, you got your guy a blimp. That's laudable.

"The fact that the most vocal Windows advocate in the thread has to preface their comments with how you should be OK if you just install a bunch of antivirus and antispamware prophylactics should speak volumes."

I wasn't aware that one antivirus and one anti-spy program constituted "a bunch". Maybe "a couple"? :)

Mac's "bulletproof security" meme that has been floating through the Internet since the release of OS X is just asking for trouble. If Mac users start thinking, "Oh, I run a Mac. I don't need virus protection and I don't need to worry about a firewall," eventually they're going to get their legs kicked out from under them.

Think it'll never happen?

http://www.sophos.com/pressoffice/news/articles/2008/01/security-report.html

A rather large computer security firm begs to differ with you. :)

The point is, computer security isn't just a Windows issue or a PC issue, it's a COMPUTER issue. So no matter what platform or OS you are running, it just makes sense to be safe, right? :)

I'm a pretty hardcore Apple fan, but I agree that Apple RAM is way overpriced. But with outlets like Crucial and OWC, that latter of which will actually buy your Apple-branded RAM from you if you don't want to eBay it, it's not an issue for the cost-conscious shopper. Notebook drives are another story, however, since these aren't user-upgradeable parts (adding a drive to a Mac Pro, on the other hand, is disgustingly simple).

Publius, if you do decide to buy an Apple, and building to order isn't really important to you, check out their Special Deals section for refurbs. I bought my wife's MacBook Pro and my own Mac Pro 8-core and a 24-inch Cinema Display (best display I've ever owned, hands down) at a decent discount for like-new quality with full warranty. I've had zero problems other than the MacBook Pro battery recall (it was the first gen MBP) and the AC adapter giving out (which the local Apple Store replaced on-the-spot with no hassle).

"I always thought Windows were conservative and Macs liberal.

And those of us who use nothing but Linux?"

Libertarians

On the cost. It simply isn't true that Macs are that more expensive when you compare like with like. In fact several articles in PC magazines show they are sometimes cheaper.

Also, Macs have MUCH greater resale value than PCs. Just check Ebay.

Funny that we never hear the inverse of your question:

"I have been using Macs for years and I am thinking about switching to a PC running Windows ..."

The switching only goes one way. There's the answer to your question.

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