REVIEW UPDATED 3/13/2007
KEEP IN MIND THIS REVIEW WAS UPDATED ON 3/13/2007. Information and specs relate to systems offered as of 3/13. Do not leave comments complaining about the specs from March 2007. They will be deleted.
My bottom line recommendation is to get the mid-range macbook. You’ll see why in this review. If you wish to purchase the mid-range macbook, then you can feel safe buying from amazon. I purchase all my mac products from amazon. Apple doesn’t care if you purchased your mac from them or a third party when it comes to warranty coverage. Amazon been 100% reliable for me. Be sure to follow the link below.
Looking for a laptop and don’t want to read all my mumbo jumbo?
Go to the bottom of this post and read the “IN CONCLUSION” section.
Though, many good points are mentioned in this blog post that you’ll want to check out if you’re considering buying a laptop.
May 2006 marked a special moment in computer history. Apple introduced the MacBook: the first consumer Apple laptop that runs on an Intel chip. This is significant because Windows users now can truly compare Windows-based laptops to the MacBook family. The speed of the MacBook is on pace with the speed of PC laptops. Windows users have less and less reasons to remain Windows users.
Running parallel to the increasing reasons to consider Mac over Windows is the fact that our world has evolved from a desktop world to a laptop world. Laptops are so fast and well-equipped nowadays that they serve the needs of not only consumer users, but also professional users such as graphic designers and high-end Photoshop users. There’s now only two groups of users that should even consider buying desktops:
1. mega-power users. This includes hardcore gamers, 3d animation users and professional video editors. These guys need the fastest machines available to make their processor-hogging routines running faster and faster.
2. super-budget users. You can get a nice desktop for $500 nowadays. nice laptops go for about $1000+.
That leaves the rest of us. And that’s a large group. Laptops offer a freedom that no desktop (or even an iMac) can offer: Portability. Use the laptop on the couch while watching TV. Use it at your desk to get serious work done. Use it on the deck to enjoy the spring weather. Use it at the coffee shop or library to simply look cool. Plus, they save a ton of space. Laptops are so powerful that it would be foolish to consider buying a desktop.
MAC VS. PC
The speed debates are much more clear cut these days since macs and pcs are running the same processor. Mac laptops run with the Intel Core 2 Duo. Most PCs run with the Intel Core 2 Duo. Same chip. Same technology. Technically, you can’t exactly compare them side-by-side because there’s still other factors that effect the processor speed, but as a whole, you can get a general idea by comparing speeds unlike the old days when Macs had their own completely different processor.
We all know that Windows machines have a reputation for being a bit unreliable. Problems are also difficult to fix. Whereas Apple’s OS, Mac OS X, is rock-solid. It is based on a solid core of UNIX. It’s funny that people have this image of macs being so basic and cute and playful, when really the core of the system is built on UNIX.
Apple’s support database is very useful and has tons of easy-to-read information. Though I’ve had problems using the search field on Apple’s site. It tends to be very picky about what you put in there. Actually, I’ve had better luck doing a Google search. Google is smart enough to know to give you a direct link to Apple’s support database. For instance, “blue screen mac os x” will give some stupid results on Apple’s search tool, but Google lists the direct database entry (article number 106464) as result #3.
Plus, there’s a ton of helpful mac sites out there that give easy-to-read instructions for troubleshooting. There’s alot of hardcore mac enthusiasts out there who live and breath the inner workings of the Mac. Use this happy and dedicated community to your advantage.
Mac users can use DiskWarrior to fix any very rare OS-related problems. I haven’t had the need to buy DiskWarrior yet because the Mac OS is so solid. But Diskwarrior is there if needed. It works wonders for the $79.95 price tag. If you’re not in the mood to call Apple tech support or search for a fix online, then DiskWarrior often will take care of business for you.
OS X has also won numerous awards as the best operating system from countless PC review magazines and sites. It’s clear that OS X is the best OS out there based on reliability, performance, and ease of use.
Thousands upon thousands of viruses are out there for Windows. Zero for OS X. Windows users also have to pay annual fees to get McAfee virus protection.
Virus protection does a great job stopping all known exisiting viruses. But new Windows viruses are popping up all the time. Users are at the mercy of how fast virus protection companies and Microsoft can update their definitions. And users must hope that their computer grabs those definitions before the next big mother virus hits them. It becomes a forced wait-and-pray attitude for Windows users.
If you’re looking for sheer volume of available software, then Windows is king. No doubt. 100%. Yet, who wants quantity over quality? Oh, that’s right. Microsoft does.
If you love some little application that’s on your PC, chances are that it may not be available for the Mac. But, you’d be surprised. A good place to check to see if a particular pc app is available for the mac is versiontracker.com or macupdate.com.
However, odds are there are no Windows applications that you absolutely love. You’ll have a better chance of becoming a big fan of Apple-based applications due to their rich content and ease-of-use.
You can check out some 23,000 apps that are made for the Mac here. It doesn’t list all the Mac apps, though. For example, they don’t list any of the common apps I use at work: Photoshop, Quark XPress, Illustrator or Microsoft Office. It seems this list is very limited in terms of what is made for the mac. Though it still gives an idea of what’s out there.
side note: If you’re looking to play the latest and greatest games, you’re better off getting a PC. More and more games are made compatible for the Mac, but you’d be awfully frustrated buying a Mac if you’re computer’s main purpose is for gaming.
Let’s quickly check out some of the software the comes pre-installed on Mac OS X:
iPhoto: organize your photos.
Windows XP equivalent: nothing (need to get third party application like Google Picassa)
iMovie: easily turn your clips and videos into fun little movies. cool effects and stuff.
Windows XP equivalent: MSFT MovieMaker 2
iDVD: take what you’ve done in iPhoto and iMove and burn it to dvd to share.
Windows XP equivalent: XP Disk Burning
GarageBand: create and edit music (i never used this. i will play with some day)
Windows XP equivalent: nothing (need to get third party app)
iWeb: create basic websites and blogs (i never used this. it’s new).
Windows XP equivalent: nothing (need to get third party app)
iCal: personal calendar.
Windows XP equivalent: nothing (need to get third party app)
both Mac and Windows have chat software (iChat vs. Windows Messenger), Media Players (Front Row, Quicktime, DVD Player vs. Media Center, WMP, and Cyberlink), and various silly, yet fun games.
word processor application
Microsoft Office ($329 if you can get the student/teacher discount) is available for the Mac. If offers everything that the PC version offers and it can open all PC Office files flawlessy. In turn, Office for Windows can easily open files created on Office for the Mac. The only interpretation problem i’ve encountered between platforms is fonts in Powerpoint, but that’s really a font problem, not a software problem.
There’s also ThinkFree Office for $50. It can open file formats like .doc, .xls, and .ppt. I’ve never used it. I’ve always used Microsoft Office. But it seems like a nice alternative for home use. Here’s Apple’s quick summary on it. TextWrangler is another alternative to Microsoft Word. It offers the functionality found in Word. It can open and save .doc files. And it’s free.
And then there’s widgets. Widgets are little applications that sit on your desktop. For example, the weather widget always show the current temperature of your area. You don’t have to open a web broswer and type in “weather.com” any more. Most widgets are free. The most popular widgets are the radio tuner, weather reporter, chia pet, and sudoku. I don’t think Windows offers this. Maybe it does. If it does, I’m sure it’s not as fun and easy to manage.
If you want to find out more about software for the mac, simply go here to Apple’s software page.
Don’t worry about buying printers, scanners, external hard drives, external devices, or cameras. They all come with software for the Mac (except for those $20 pocket digital cameras. They run on Windows only). Plus, your existing printer, scanner, external hard drive, external devices, and/or camera are plug-and-play ready. So you just plug in your device and it works. No software installations necessary.
However, any devices you own that uses software that is more than 6 or 7 years old may not be compatible with Macs that are selling now. The thing to keep in mind here is the SOFTWARE, not the hardware. You can have a scanner that’s 10 years old, but the software it uses may be only 4 years old. In that case, the 10 year old scanner will work.
Apple: 1 year, 90 days phone. I think Dell offers 1 year warranty with 1 year phone support. So Dell has Apple beat in terms of time offered. However, AppleCare (extended warranty) entitles you free repairs (parts and labor) and phone support for 3 years from the date of purchase. I recommend this extended warranty big time. AppleCare for the Macbook is $249. I never ever needed it for my Powerbook (going on 7+ years strong), but I definitely needed it for my iMac. My wife’s Macbook from December 2006 is going strong. No problems at all!
Being a former tech guy, I can say that PC support is terrible. Mac phone support is much, much better. The only problem with Mac phone support is that they have limited calling hours. However, you can do online chat support for the Macs at any time of day. I’ve done that before. Just be prepared for a long session. Conversation through any sort of IM-based tool can take a while. That’s the nature of the IM beast. And the technicians that operate the IM-tool are low level techs. They can fix simple problems. However, for larger issues, calling in is better than instant messaging because the level of tech support is better via phone.
There’s no Windows Stores where you can bring in your PC to get fixed unless you count the joksters at CompUSA or BestBuy’s GeekSquad. Macs fortunately have the Apple Store where you can talk face-to-face with a technician. Nice.
I brought my iMac into the Apple Store when all the kiddies were on their spring break trying to get their abused iPods fixed. The store was packed. Even then, I was able to schedule an appointment for the next hour and I walked around the mall for an hour. No biggie. Otherwise, it’s normal to just walk in and start talking to a technician. When they fixed my imac, they replaced the logic board and the power supply. It was ready the next day. That’s incredible turnaround. They had the parts in-house and just took care of it. You’ll never ever get that with a PC. Never ever never ever. Big props to the Apple Store.
STRAIGHT-UP PC LAPTOP TO MAC LAPTOP COMPARISONS:
Here’s one IT manager’s positive experience with moving his office from PC laptops to Macbooks.
WHAT YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR!
comparison chart of intro-level Macbook, Dell Inspiron E1505, Toshiba Satellite M115-S3144, and mid-range Macbook Pro.
Unfortunately, they used the entry level Macbook for the comparison. And they got the price wrong. The price should be $1099, not $1174. When compared to the mid-level Macbook, the entry-level has a slightly slower processor, can’t burn DVDs like mid-range, and 60GB hard drive instead of an 80 GB hard drive.
There’s another error in that chart. To get the Dell for $884, you will get the 80GB hard drive, not the 160 as mentioned in the chart.
macbook is $1099. Dell is $884. (The Dell comes with Windows XP for that price. You’re paying $1099 to get it with Windows Vista)
macbook is thinner and lighter and cooler looking
Dell gives you 2 chip of 512MB RAM for 1GB total. Macbook does the same. However, the Dell requires that each slot has identical RAM chips. So if you upgrade your RAM, you have to buy two new chips. You can’t run with a 512MB chip and a 1GB chip. They have to be the same. The Macbook lets you run with two different size chips
The Dell has a DVD+/-RW drive (can burn and read cds and dvds). The entry-level Macbook can read cds and dvds, but can only burn cds. The mid-range Macbook can read and burn cds and dvds.
advantage: Dell (unless you’re buying the mid-range Macbook, then the advantage is even)
The Dell’s hard drive is 80GB. Entry-level Macbook is 60GB. Mid-range Macbook is 80GB.
E1405 has a slightly larger screen. 15.4″ vs. 13.3″.
Advantage: Dell (However, the macbook is more compact and easier to carry around)
Macbook is brighter. 250 cd/m vs. 185 cd/m
macbook has better audio in and audio out. I know nothing about this technical sound stuff.
macbook has built-in video camera so you can do video chat with other people. pretty silly if you ask me.
i won’t go into the software comparisons since I covered them in detail earlier, but the mac wins out. The link’s chart gives a very nice comparison of Apple software applications vs. Windows software applications. There’s a bunch of apps they list for the mac that i’ve never heard of. Interesting. I’ll have to check that out.
Great news! The current Macbooks are the second generation product. What does this mean? Apple has a bad reputation for making making unreliable products in their first generation of life. It’s odd because Macs have a reputation for being solid, reliable machines. But realistically, the first generation macs tend to have problems. I know this first hand. I bought a first generation iMac G5 and it had some serious problems. The OS had nothing to do with it. The hardware was faulty. It was first generation. The first generation Macbooks had a problem with thermal grease. But that issue has been resolved with the second generation Macbooks. It just seems that Apple gets so excited about releasing a new product that they don’t catch all the glitches in beta testing. After all, name one other company (besides car manufacturers) that generates the same level of excitement as Apple generates in product introductions. Yea, that’s right, no one.
However, Apple also has a reputation for making rock-solid 2nd+ generation machines. They find the problems with the 1st generation and fix it for good. History has proven this. I won’t bore you with case studies on this.
WHICH APPLE LAPTOP IS RIGHT FOR ME?
I recommend the MacBook. The MacBook Pro offers some slightly better features, which only effect super high-end users like video editors. I do high-end Photoshop work. If I were buying a laptop today, I would go with the MacBook over the MacBook Pro. Well, the 13.3″ inch screen might be a slight problem. I might have to go Pro just because the Pro has a 15.4″ screen. Hmmmm. tough. Though I wouldn’t be thrilled spending an extra $500-$700 for an extra 2.1″ of screenage plus some little extras here and there. I’m rambling now. Focus. Focus.
Apple offers a comparison chart of its MacBook and MacBook Pro line.
Below is a list of the things that the MacBook Pro offers that the MacBook doesn’t. The bottom line is that the MacBook Pro doesn’t really offer that much extra over the MacBook. I would recommend any user to go with the MacBook over the MacBook Pro unless you can justify spending an extra $500-$700 (or even $900) for the following:
larger screen (15.4″ vs. 13.3″)
faster graphics card (only necessary if doing high-end gaming)
128MB video memory vs. 64MB video memory (only necessary if doing high-end, professional video editing)
faster processor. (This isn’t exactly true. The high-end Macbook has the same processor as the low-end MacBook pro.)
better resolution options for external displays (if you hook up a monitor to your macbook or macbook pro to get more real estate. The Pro offers higher resolutions.)
Pro is slightly larger and slightly heavier than the non-pro
Pro has an ExpressCard slot, non-pro does not (I’m assuming this is the PC card slot. Essentially the PC card slot gives you more options for hooking up stuff to your laptop. Most people don’t need to use a PC card. The built-in functionality of the Macbook serves the user well enough. I use the PC card slot on my old powerbook for my Wi-Fi connection. Some people use the PC slot for memory card readers or as an additional place to hook up USB devices. All of these things require you to buy the appropriate PC card.)
Ok, so I’ve established that the MacBook is a better buy than the the MacBook Pro. But which is the best MacBook to get?
There’s three tiers of MacBooks.
I love the look of the hi-end MacBook in black, but it’s overpriced at $1500. The only extra you get from the hi-end black MacBook versus the mid-range MacBook ($1300) is an 40GB hard drive vs. 80 GB. That’s it! 200 bucks for 20 more gigs and a black case instead of white. RIP-OFF!
So now it’s between the mid-range ($1300) and low-end MacBook ($1100).
Mid-range has 2.0 GHz processor. Low-end has 1.83 GHz. How noticeable is the difference? Probably not that much. Mid-range has superdrive which lets you burn CDs and DVDs. Lo-end only lets you burn CDs. No DVD burning. Mid-range has 20 more GBs on the hard drive (60 vs. 80) Those are the only differences.
Personally, I think it’s worth the two hundred bucks for the slightly faster processor, bigger hard drive, and the ability to burn dvds. I’d pay 200 extra just for the dvd burner alone. It’s nice being able to burn files to DVD. But that’s me. I have a ton of graphics files that take up tons of space. CDs don’t cut it for me. For the consumer, dvds are nice because you can easily store ALL your digital photographs on one disc and you can burn dvds of family videos to have and share. If you’ve never burned a DVD before, it’s quite simple. Don’t think DVDs are just for storing and viewing movies. DVDs are just like CDs. You can store any sort of digital file on DVD. Yet, traditional DVDs hold about 4.4 GB whereas CDs max at out at something like 690 MB. Standard DVDs hold 6 times as much information as CDs.
If you’re comparing entry level laptops on Windows and Mac, then Dell Inspiron E1505 (with added options) is a direct competitor to the entry-level MacBook. comparison chart](comparison chart here.)
Dell is a solid name in the PC market. You could probably buy a Gateway or some other middle-to-bottom-rung PC manufacturer for a cheaper price with same options as the MacBook, but the Gateway name (among others) is pretty unreliable. Too often, you get what you pay for.
The E1505 has a bigger screen and DVD burner. The Mac has the better OS (more reliable and easier to use) and far better built-in software applications. Which do you value more? If you value the DVD burner that much, then consider paying an extra $200 for the midrange Macbook.
Oh, by the way, you can now install Windows on any of the Intel-based Macs which includes the entire MacBook line. For a while it was kinda an underground thing to do, but Apple now officially says you can do it. (That is if you’re that crazy about Windows.) Though, I’m not sure how much of the Apple Warranty and AppleCare warranty covers Windows.
If you’re comparing MacBook to MacBook then it comes down to $200 extra for a slightly faster processor, a dvd burner, and bigger hard drive.
If dvd burning isn’t important, then go with the entry-level MacBook.
My wife needed a new computer so we purchased the mid-level Macbook and we’ve been loving it ever since. We keep it in the living room. It basically moves back and forth across the couch between us and goes to the dining room table when we want a working surface. We’ve had no problems at all. It’s a welcome addition to our home. For a full list of the macs I’ve used check out this link.
one more note. I really don’t like the new Mac vs. PC commercials. I think they’re very pompous. I understand that Apple is trying to get more agressive in winning Windows users over, but i think it comes off as being self-righteous. And that’s an image that Apple needs to change in order to win Windows users over. They need to focus on how functional the Mac is without being snotty about it.
REVIEW UPDATED 3/13/2007