In a series of two articles, I want to explore how someone coming from the Windows world might see the Apple world as an alternative to upgrading to Windows 8. I use both Windows 8 and Mac OSX Mountain Lion on new hardware. A lot of this is based on my own shopping experience and preferences on computers that I have just purchased.
The choices that you might make would likely be different especially if you are a dedicated Mac user, but many Windows users venturing into the Apple world should be able to relate to this. With that introduction, here is how I see it.
As a Windows 7, Windows Vista, or even Windows XP user, you are likely aware of the big changes Microsoft has made to the Windows 8 interface. Perhaps you have even heard someone suggest that Windows 8 has such a huge learning curve that it would easier to just move to a Macintosh. Apple of course would love for you to “upgrade your computer experience instead of just upgrading your computer.”
Before you leave the world of Windows for the kindly embrace of the reality distortion field of Cupertino, consider your options carefully. These hardware thoughts will frame the argument but to cover all the bases will require a second post. There is a lot more to moving to a Macintosh than just finding the on switch on one of Apple’s elegantly designed pieces of hardware.
Shopping for Apple hardware is in a sense uncomplicated. They only make a few models and they release them on their schedule not anyone else’s. If you do not like what Apple has, you either wait or go to another platform,
In February 2010, my wife’s ancient 12 inch Aluminum Powerbook needed replacing. I waited a couple of months for Apple to ship the new I5 processor laptops. Finally I gave up and bought her a Windows laptop. I actually ended up buying her and myself new laptops. My 15 inch HP I7 laptop and her 14 inch HP I5 laptop together cost $200 less than one Apple I5 inch laptop with an outdated processor. Three years later my wife is still happily using her system. My youngest daughter has inherited mine.
Finding the exact combination of hardware and features you want is a little more challenging in the Apple world than in the wide open world of Windows hardware. Hardware from Apple is based on what they want to market not necessarily what you might want to buy. Today that means if you want a SD slot for photo memory cards, you will not find it in Apple’s lowest priced laptop.
There is no escaping you will spend more money if you chose to go to the Macintosh. In spite of Apple recently dropping their prices on some laptops, Apple laptops often cost nearly twice the money that a Windows laptop will cost. Before the Apple fans jump in and complain about the comparisons, let us go ahead and say that Apple is going to give you fit and finish that you will probably not be able to match in a Windows laptop. Perhaps Google's Pixel Chromebook might be engineered to compete, but Apple is hard to beat on hardware design. They will throw in some leading edge technology that may or may not be of value to you. If you want that Apple level of fit and finish, do not bother reading any further just get out your check book and go buy a Mac.
However, if you are like many of us and just want a functional laptop that will last you three or four years, there are plenty of them out there in the Windows world. The quality varies widely. However, I would rank my current Lenovo I7 Ideapad with the best of the Mac laptops I have ever used so my pricing example comes from Lenovo. Remember we are trying to decide if it makes sense for a Windows user to go to the Mac instead of upgrading to Windows 8.
On Lenovo’s website it is easy to find a 14 inch Lenovo laptop with an I7 processor, 8 GBs of RAM, 1 TB hard drive and a DVD drive on special for $699. There are never significant specials in Apple’s world. On Apple’s website, the 13 inch MacBook Pro with a slower I5 processor, half the ram, and half the hard drive space will cost you $1199. The Mac does have slightly better resolution along with Thunderbolt and Firewire ports. Of course the Mac has OS X, but we will discuss that in part two of this series.
If you are coming from the Windows world, you probably don’t have any Firewire peripherals and likely have never heard of Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt is a peripheral connect standard developed by Intel with Apple’s help. It is relatively new and very fast. You can buy a beautiful 27 inch Thunderbolt display from Apple but it will cost you $999.
You should also keep in mind that many monitors require $30 adapters to work with anything Apple. My Mac Mini came with one, but I had to buy a second for my second monitor. My closet full of adapters did not have the one that I needed. Apple is the king of special adapters so just be prepared. They are part of the Apple world.
The numbers show the lowest priced Apple 13 inch MacBook Pro laptop that I found is 72% more expensive than the Lenovo which has a better processor, more RAM, slightly larger screen, and a bigger hard drive. While specs might not matter and it is all about user experience and elegant design for Mac lovers, numbers do not lie. Mac laptops cost a lot more.
There are some categories where Apple's prices are even less competitive. If you want a Mac tower, it will cost you close to $3,000. While my new Lenovo tower does not even come close to matching the power of the Mac Pro models, it only cost me $499. This week of February 17, the same Lenovo tower is on sale at Staples for $449.99. The closest thing in price to my Lenovo tower is the Mac Mini.
Again you get less for you money when you buy the Mac. My I5 Lenovo came with 8 GBs of RAM, 1 TB hard drive, keyboard, mouse, and DVD burner. My Mac Mini came with 4 GBs of RAM, 500 GB hard drive, no keyboard, no mouse, and no DVD burner and retailed for $599.
If you get the Lenovo at this week's sale price, the Mac Mini is 33% more expensive, not really a tower, has less RAM, a slower I5 with less cache, a smaller hard drive, no keyboard, mouse or DVD burner. In defense of the Mac Mini, it is one of the nicest small computers that you can buy. I love mine and use it as the basis for my whole desktop virtualization experience. However, by the time you upgrade the RAM, add a DVD drive, keyboard, mouse, and external drive for storage, it is not inexpensive. If you feel like you need those items like I did, you can easily add another $170 to $200 to the cost of the Mac Mini even if you stay away from Apple branded accessories.
There was a time when you could argue that Macs came with SCSI hard drives and perhaps arguably better processors, but today most of these components are the same. Apple just makes more money on the assembled pieces than anyone. They have the cash hoard to prove it.
One final argument that you will hear on hardware, is that Macs last longer than Windows machines. There was a time I would absolutely have agreed with that argument and that Macs in general last longer. Now I am not so sure.
If Mac users keep their computers longer than PC users, it might only reflect the natural reaction to keeping more expensive products a little longer. In 2013 it may not matter how long you want to keep your Mac since Apple is aggressively bringing out yearly operating system upgrades which regularly drop support for older hardware.
If you have a Mac system older than three or four years, it is likely Apple is going to abandon your old hardware anyway. Remember Apple makes money selling hardware. They are pretty well giving away their operating system.
In the next article I will deal with software and operating system differences for migrating Windows users.