Laptop!? What Laptop!?

So, my current PC set up is this:

PC? But the header mentions a Laptop?

I’ll come onto that in a second, stream of consciousness. Bloody interruptions!

  • Intel Quad Core i5-2500k (running at 3.30Ghz per core)

  • 4GB of Corsair DDR3 Ram (1 stick)

  • Combined 4TB hard drive space (across 3 drives) – SATA

  • Standard DvD reader – SATA

  • ATI Radeon HD 4650 – Don’t laugh

All of this runs on Windows 7 Ultimate, which is quite nice and handles – pretty much – anything I throw at it quite nicely. I’ve also got a nice little HP 530 laptop, which runs Ubuntu 10.04 at the minute.

Well I say that it runs Ubuntu 10.04 at the minute, I’ve actually formatted it back to Windows XP SP3. This is because I’m giving it away to a friend whose own laptop has slowly been dying over the past few years. As such, I’ll be laptop-less… if that’s even a word.

But You’ve got a PC ‘aint ya?

While I do have a PC. But there are times when I just want to browse The Internet, check my emails or watch a film; and powering up a 750W beast of a PC (I know that’s not that much these days) just to watch a film or check my emails is a bit much. Not to mention that it isn’t nice for the environment.

New Tech?

With that in mind, I’ve been thinking of buying a new laptop. One that requires very little power to run it, but is still usable for mid-range stuff (maybe playing a few strategy games on, or whatever). I’ve looked at a few netbooks and, if I’m honest, I’ve not been impressed with them. Yeah, they’re quite good for power usage, but I need a screen that’s ever so slightly bigger than the average wingspan of a gnat.

Laptops are the way to go, I think. Small-ish, efficient-ish (dependant on the Operating System), cheap-ish, kinda powerful, useful.

I’m noticing a lot of ishes there. You don’t come across as convinced

Again, it’s all dependant on the Operating System you install. For instance, Windows 7 doesn’t seem to like laptops (in my experience). It’s a lot better than Vista for running on laptops. But it’s not as great as Windows XP.

The chances of finding a new laptop that has hardware that’ll play nicely with Windows XP is becoming a little rare. What with Microsoft having given up support for it (and turning off the activation servers too, which is what infuriates me about compulsory software activation. But that’s a topic for another post), and hardware vendors not releasing drivers for the legacy operating systems, it’ll be a difficult slog.

Then again, I could install a distribution of Linux. It’s a nice idea, I’ve done it before. It’s also very easy to do. But it lacks support for games, what with most PC games being written for the Windows format. The games that do get ported, usually don’t get treated as well, too.

This leaves me with one more option (OK, so it’s technically two. The second being: don’t buy a laptop, but I worry about the amount of electricity I’m using, and the carbon footprint I’m leaving): buy a Mac Book, Mac Book Pro or Mac Book Air.

Expensive Mac Books Are Expensive

With that in mind, I set off to my local Apple retailer. We don’t have an Apple branded store where I live, but we do have an official licensed retailer: KRCS.

After a long chat with the very helpful gents at the store, I walked away unsure of what I might buy.

On the one hand we have the Mac Book:

Image via Angrydicemoose on flickr

Image via Angrydicemoose on flickr

Pros:

  • It’s very pretty with it’s surgical white plastic case

  • It’s very powerful (Intel 2.4GHz CPU)

  • It’s got loads of hard drive space for a laptop (250GB hard drive)

  • It’s got an nVidia 340M graphics card

  • It can run Windows, through Bootcamp

  • It’s a laptop == It’s very portable

Cons:

  • It’s ridiculously expensive (coming from a custom PC background)

  • It scratches easily

On the other hand, we have the Mac Mini:

An Intel Mac mini, derived from the derivation...

Image via Wikipedia

Pros:

  • It’s VERY small (we’re talking inches in size)

  • It’s very powerful (Intel Core2Duo 2.4GHz CPU)

  • It’s got loads of hard drive space (320GB hard drive)

  • It’s got an nVidia 340M graphics card

  • It can run Windows, through Bootcamp

  • It’s cheaper than the Mac Book by £250

Cons:

  • More expensive in the long run (you only get the base unit, no peripherals)

  • It’s not portable (it’s just a very compact computer)

  • It requires more power than the Mac Book

  • I’d need to source a keyboard, mouse and monitor (if I didn’t want to use my PC ones)

Difficult Decision Incoming

To be completely honest, I’ve wanted to get a Mac for years. I remember using one at school back in the late 90’s and loved it, and I do prefer the Unix based operating systems (sorry, Microsoft. That’s just how I roll). Looking back, I just wish I’d have gotten one while I was at university. Not only was VAT cheaper back then (it was at 17.5%, currently it’s at 20%) but I could have gotten a discount because I was a student. Failing that, I could have gotten one while I was working at the school. VAT had dropped to 15% while I was working there, and I could have gotten the same discount I’d have gotten at university (because I was working in Education).

All that being said, and looking at the quotes I was given:

The Mac Book with 2 years of Apple Care came to around £1,026

The Mac Mini with 2 years of Apple Care came to around £715

The Mac Mini looks cheaper, but I’d have to buy peripherals for it (mouse, keyboard and monitor – if I didn’t want to use my PC ones, that is) and it’s not “portable” in the same sense as the Mac Book.

The Mac Book seems like a great long-term investment. It’s got everything that I want, with no need for peripherals and it’s portable. It (like the Mac Mini) can run Windows, so I can play any games that don’t get ported to Mac OS 10.6 with ease. The only off putting thing is the price.

Do I Need Apple Care?

Maybe. I’ve not used a Mac in years, and I’d dread to think that I would spend all this money on a device that I break, somehow. The salesman (and I know that he was using his salesman tricks to get me to buy stuff I wont really need) had said that if I needed to call Apple for any kind of assistance and I didn’t have Apple Care, it’d cost me £35 just to talk to a technician. Whether that’s true or even a situation I’d end up in, I have no proof. But it sounds scary.

He’d also said that

With Apple Care, you could come in any time and we’ll teach you how to use it.

Which sounds a bit pretentious. But then again, I’ve only ever met three Mac users that weren’t pretentious. A teacher colleague and two of my University lecturers.

Let me take a minute to rework the quotes without Apple Care on there (knowing full well that the salesman wont want to sell me either without Apple Care):

The Mac Book comes to £867

The Mac Mini comes to £612

That’s a hell of a saving!

After the Smoke Has Cleared

I think I’m going to end up going for the Mac Book. It seems like a logical, sensible and forward looking answer. I mean, it’ll be cheaper than the Mac Mini in the long run, and it’ll take less power to run.

I know that the guys in the store wont want to sell me it without the 2 years of Apple Care. After all they’re making a £200 sale on what amounts to a promise.

I think what I’ll do is I’ll wait for a few months, there’s supposed to be the new version of the operating system released soon, that and I don’t have the money to buy one right now anyway.

I’ll let you know how it goes,

J

Jamie is a .NET developer specialising in ASP.NET MVC websites and services, with a background in WinForms and Games Development. When not programming using .NET, he is either learning about .NET Core (and usually building something cross platform with it), speaking Japanese to anyone who'll listen, learning about languages, writing for this blog, or writing for a blog about Retro Gaming (which he runs with his brother)