Macbook (a PC Guy’s) First Impressions

Categories Articles, Web Design

For years I’ve been asked “how can you not be an Apple guy? Don’t you do web design…?”

Yup, and nope, I’m not (or wasn’t) a “Mac/Apple” guy.

My History With Apple Mac

Let me go back 15 years. My first computer was a Mac. I couldn’t even tell you what model it was. I’m not sure how many family came to own it, or what purpose it was supposed to serve. But after years of sitting in the attic I turned it on and to my surprise – was able to find the “making of Myst” video buried on its hard drive. The idea that I could double click this file and watch a video play was pretty amazing.

Through school, most of the computers I used were Macs (up until High-school) – who didn’t love Myst and The Oregon Trail! Ohh and don’t forget Mavis Beacon.

Once in High School everything switched, every computer I was using was now a PC (Windows 98 was the devil). But, they were inexpensive, you could build a really powerful one for relatively cheap and my friends and I were really into computer games…

About this time I was also allowed to use my Bosses nice 17″ Macbook pro for extended periods which was a nice change.

My Macbook Today

After a month of using the macbook almost daily I’ve got a much larger perspective on the Mac vs. PC debate that has raged for some years – and some insight on why it’s now irrelevant.

Disclaimer – the Macbook I’m using is a little dated – 2.1 GHZ Dual Core Processor, and 4GB Ram. 

Pros of the Macbook

To some extent I think the pros of the Macbook simply come down to software, and the packaging. Now that everything is Intel there’s virtually no difference in the actual processing capabilities, speed, etc.

The Case – The Macbook feels more solid than other laptops I’ve used, it feels like a brick, is perfectly sized for daily use (mostly surfing the web, emailing, writing, etc.)

Mousepad – Sucks on most other computers – I really like the one on my macbook, plus the ability to right click in what I’ve discovered is a more natural way (with three fingers) is very helpful – although that might be equal parts software.

Other – The magnetic power cord is great. Has already saved me a couple of times!

The Software – Using OS X is nice – 10.5.8. – it’s pretty user friendly and straight forward, although it’s hard to put myself into an inexperienced users shoes. There’s things I like about OS X, but little I love.

Networking – Networking can be a pain in the ass, and although competitors like windows have made strides to make this easier, Mac OS X and my macbook consistently, and flawlessly connect to networks with little or no hassle. It “just works” – for me it’s not that big of a deal as I can configure things myself, but for most, this alone is invaluable.

Cons of the Macbook

Overpriced – For the hardware you get, I feel you pay too much. I know there’s a lot behind the brand and the build quality is slightly better, but not worth the price premium.

Mac OS X – For its bells and whistles, I feel Windows 7 is a superior operating system. I can just do more – do it faster, and it feels peppier on similar hardware. Also, I wanted to test this system with Lion, but am unable to purchase a physical copy of Snow Leopard (which must be installed prior to upgrading to Lion via the new appStore)? Seems needlessly complicated.

Keyboard – I like the keyboard for conventional typing, but there are certain things, like using “command+” for various actions that seem more a strain for my hand than other environments. Plus, the absense of a delete AND backspace key sucks in some applications.

Applications – Again, there a number of issues here. There’s less of an offering for many applications or their sister applications seem less peppy, capable, or with less speedy interfaces than their Windows counter parts (for example I like the latest version of Outlook for OS X, but feel Windows’ is easier to use and I can get more done more quickly). Also I was asked to auto-upgrade the ONLY piece of software I purchased for the system and upon upgrading was told my new software was incompatible with the version of OS X I had. I found this very strange.

Overall I love my Macbook for writing, it’s lightweight, has great battery life and is more convenient than my other monstrous laptop. However, I was able to purchase this one in a very special case through a partner – if I had to choose for me personally, I’d save some money and buy a PC (or spend the same amount and get a more powerful computer).

Why The Mac vs. PC Debate is Over

EVERYONE I talk to think Mac’s are “cool.” They’re now an extension of one’s ego. To own a mac is to “cool.” However, even with the master branding Apple has managed to achieve, for all but the largest power users a stand alone computer is becoming unnecessary.

So am I a convert? Not entirely, Apple makes very nice, well built computers. I like the feel of using the computer. I enjoy the experience of the OS. But for my time and money, I prefer to use a more powerful Windows’ based computer.

PS – I think what the world really needs is a quality branded windows based computer. Something that lies between an Apple (which has “work[ed] very, very hard to convince customers to pay high margins” – Jeff Bezos – and the rest of the PC market (which has worked very, very hard to give customers extremely low margins.  A company with a similar eye for design, but a more modest price point. Dell has some really nice offerings, but they just don’t feel like the same build quality of an apple.

Zach Katkin – Entrepreneur, Web Developer, Designer and Writer – is the co-founder of Florida Web Design Company Atilus. In business for nearly a decade, Atilus has more than 600 clients worldwide.

  • James

    Your comparing OSX 10.5 to Windows 7? When 10.5 came out Vista was the most up to date Windows OS.

    While your article has some intresting points it is like comparing a Samsung Galaxy Nexus to an iPhone 1.

  • I’ve been a PC guy from the start. Never really messed with a Mac until I worked for my current employer. I’ve been using a nice MacBook Pro for a year now.

    Everyone claimed that once I st arted using a Mac I’d never go back. I was told it’s like crack. One dose and you’re addicted.

    The thing I come to realize is yes – Mac’s are nice. They’re pretty, have a nice youthful feel and snappy effects.

    But in the end, they’re a computer.

    I go home after 9 hours on the Mac, boot up my Asus PC with Windows 7 and do work at home on that. My PC loads everything faster, has never crashed a software since I bought it (Photoshop, Blender, Sculptris, Fireworks, etc).
    My Mac however takes forever to load, doesn’t play nicely with some software (Fireworks CS 5.5 freezes constantly).

    Do I hate Mac? Nah, it’s good for my work at the office.
    Will I buy a Mac? Nope. It’s over-priced and really doesn’t pack any more punch than a PC. It’s an OS difference and I prefer something that I can work with and works with me.

    Maybe I’m a weird guy .. most designers I know are Mac addicts … but I’ll stick with my PC.

  • Zach Katkin

    Hi Todd,

    Thanks for stopping by, reading, and adding your comment. I couldn’t agree with you more. But… How dare you talk smack, about the mac, which people say is like smoking crack…

    Sorry I couldn’t help myself.

    Although, your comment does underscore something I failed to mention – I did have a number of actual failures in applications as well.

    Anyway, the experiment is now over and I’ll be happily moving back to a PC for all of my work. Thanks again for stopping by.

  • Great article! It comes just at a moment I’m considering a switch. And it has been very helpful.
    I am a software developer and have been in this business for over two decades.
    Initiated through Apple //’s moved into Macs and stayed there for quite time.
    Years later moved to PCs due to software development market constraints.
    Today, with the app development for IPhone/iPads being restricted to OSX due to XCode, I am now considering the switch again. Though the overprice of Macs is delaying my decision as well as the fear to invest on some close to be replaced technology.
    On the other hand, with the Mac I would be able to develop for the PC market too, by using Java, C++ or even partition the harddisk and boot windows on it since it’s all Intel nowadays…
    So this is my dilemma.
    Analyzing what you get for the bucket, does not seem a good deal.

    My 2 cents. Happy 2012!

    Porto Alegre, Brazil

  • The MAC vs PC debate will rage until the end of time. However, you do make some salient points and I think you represent a large group of users (designers, surfers, etc)
    I have friends that have switched from PC to MAC to essentially ‘hang with the cool crowd’ but have complained bitterly after. The complaints range from unavailability of software or in some cases similar applications issues.

  • I would love a Mac, the only thing stopping me purchasing one is cost. For example I have MS Office and Norton that have multiple licenses so I can use the same software on both my PC and laptop, if I purchased an Apple which lets be honest is overpriced for the power, I also would have the additional cost of purchasing all new software.

  • Paulo de Almeida

    All the professionals I met today who used PC after they started using Mac never returned. Simple, because it is smarter. Cheers

  • Really. Overpriced. I don’t think so .True, they are the most expensive machines if you compare similar hardware specs and component costs. But all the R&D in the solid Unix based OSX, the extreme unibody engineering and conceptualisation, doesn’t seem much when you account only for material, but consider the brains that are paid for such work.