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Why Macs are worth more?  RSS feed

 
chris webster
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In this discussion, I was struck once again by the passion many people have for Macs and for OS X specifically. But as I've never owned or even used a Mac (except for stroking the gadgets in my local Apple Store occasionally), I don't have any experience to judge this for myself.

My own reference points are: Windows desktop user (at work/home) from mid 1990s onwards. Unix servers at work from mid 1990s. Happy with 64-bit Windows 7 compared to other recent versions of Windows (really don't like W8). However, mostly using 64-bit Linux Mint (Ubuntu-based) at home for the last couple of years, with Windows only where absolutely unavoidable e.g. for MS Office compatibility (it's easier to just boot into Windows a few times a year than screw around with Windows emulation and MS Office on Linux).

I like Linux both as a developer and as a user, although it's still not entirely user-friendly e.g. printer set-up is often fairly nasty and many hardware manufacturers still make it difficult/impossible to find suitable drivers. I'd still think twice about handing a Linux machine to my elderly relatives, although that's partly just because it's harder for them to get help with Linux if I'm not around - which is a consequence of Windows dominance rather than the OS itself.

So I really don't want to trigger yet another boring flame-war over Mac vs. Linux vs. Windows, but I'm genuinely curious to know what it is that people find so persuasive about Apple machines that they're willing to pay such a hefty premium. I know the styling is great, but as we're all techies here, I'd like to know what it is about the hardware/OS that makes you willing to pay up to twice as much for a Mac than you would typically pay for a laptop with an apparently similar spec. And have you found any limitations e.g. compared to Linux for development work, or compared to Windows for consumer software packages.

I've never felt able to justify spending so much more for a Mac than I'd pay for a PC, but maybe you can give me an excuse to think again!
 
Jeanne Boyarsky
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Chris,
In that particular thread, the original poster said he wanted a Mac.
The motivation for a MacBook over a Dell/HP/Lenovo is like what Bear said, OS X. His daily driver is an iMac, and OS X is his platform of choice, but needs something that he can take to class. Also, OS X seems to be the preferred OS in Science and Engineering faculty at the university that he will be attending


When I was in college/grad school, I choose Windows because programs I needed for school only ran on Windows. (I had a Mac when I was in high school and I returned to it after grad school.) I could have done a Linux partition, but that would have been additional complexity. (ironically I have a Windows VM now although I hardly use it).

As far as the benefit, my Mac "just works" on a day to day basis. By contrast, my Windows machine at work blue screens twice a month and the help desk can't figure out why. And that machine replaced one that mysteriously blue screened twice a week. By contrast, my Mac has needed to go to the store twice. Once for changing the battery and once for a manufacturer's defect. They fixed both. (The later took an excessive amount of time though.)

I think a Linux machine would be fine at home and I'd prefer it to Windows. But Mac is more prevalent and comes with the convenience of having much of what I need pre-installed.

I wouldn't direct my elderly relatives to Linux for the same reason as you. My mom used Windows XP for a few years and had a number of problems. When I moved off Windows, I gave her a choice of Mac or a Chromebook. (I was paying for it so the decision wasn't based on cost.) She chose the Chromebook because she just uses the internet on her computer and not having to take care of it is a huge perk.
 
Bear Bibeault
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I'm not interested in yet another debate either, but I'll give you some of my reasons.

There are many studies that refute your claim that Mac hardware is more expensive than comparable hardware elsewhere. No, I can't point to any specifically because even though I've heard them referenced, I really don't care. Even if Macs were relatively more expensive, I'd be using one because: OS X.

I hate tinkering. With Windows, I always needed to tinker to keep things running. Within Linux, tinkering of a different type is needed as you alluded to with printer issues. I hate that. Detest it. Hugely. I want "works" not tinkering. There are also lots of usability reasons that I won't get into, but just suffice it to say that I find OS X works for me in ways that Windows or Linux never can.

I don't care about the hipster factor: I'm fat, bald and old. Hardly your typical hipster and I was using Macs long before iPods and before iPhones and before iHipsters.

I'm also a front-end web developer, and OS X is where it's at where modern front-end web development is concerned, but honestly, I'd be using a Mac even if that weren't the case.

 
Joe Harry
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I just bumped upon this thread! Chris all I can say you is to buy a Mac once. I can assure that you will not regret your decision and you will never go back to a PC anymore!
 
Andrew Monkhouse
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chris webster wrote:I've never felt able to justify spending so much more for a Mac than I'd pay for a PC, but maybe you can give me an excuse to think again!

It is really hard to compare apples to apples (no pun intended), as almost all Macs come with SSD and Retina displays, most generic laptops use mechanical hard drives (with no indication whether these are laptop safe hard drives) and mediocre displays (compared to Retina).

But if you are comparing brand name laptops, the low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is roughly comparable to the Dell XPS 13 13.3-Inch Touchscreen Laptop. The prices are close - a little over $1300 for the Dell, just under $1500 for the Apple (assuming the blurb at the top is correct and the Dell has a 256 GB SSD - in the the tech specs it specifies that it is a 128 GB SSD, and if we compare it to a 128 GB SSD Mac Laptop the prices are within 1 dollar of each other: the Mac wins with a price point of $1299). The Dell has touchscreen (I hate using the mouse - I use the keyboard for 90% of my work, I would hate to be forced into using a touchscreen) and it comes with Windows 8 - not big selling points for me. The Dell does not quite match the resolution of the MacBook Pro (potentials for each of 3200x1800 versus 4096-by-2160).

We found a similar thing at work with MacBook Air verus Microsoft Surface Pro - Microsoft have been doing wonderful advertisements for how cheap their machines are compared to the MacBook Air, to the point where our TechDesk were asked to investigate switching to Microsoft Surface Pro. Unfortunately we need to buy in bulk, which means that we do not get the special deals that go into the Microsoft advertisement - we would have to pay full price. TechDesk reported back to management that there was no significant savings in switching over.

Getting away from price:

I run two identical Dell 2950 servers at home, one running Linux, which runs the bulk of my applications, and one running Microsoft Server 2012 for experimenting with various Microsoft applications. Given these servers are noisy, I hacked them by replacing the fans with lower speed / quieter fans. With the base install of the linux server I also had to hack the bios - it runs too slow / consumes far too little CPU most of the time, so it was getting below the minimum threshold for the fans for the BIOS. With the base install of Windows Server 2012 I had no such problem - the CPU usage / heat generated by the idle OS was enough to ensure that the fans were always well above the threshold for the BIOS. This worries me - why would I want to install an OS that effectively reduces the CPU / memory capacity of the computer I purchased?

I agree with Bear's comment about wanting something that just works. Way back in the day I used to tinker on my Linux box, and I would recompile the kernel so that I could ensure it would work with my hardware and (perhaps more importantly) not load any drivers that were not needed. I still find this when I try to run Linux applications - the great thing is that most applications are open source, but the bad thing is that most applications are open source. So it is still reasonably common that when I look for an application for Linux I find that the latest version may be compiled for a different base than mine (Debian versus RPM for instance) or might be a different release of the OS than mine, or might need a different version of a library than what I have installed. These are not big issues - even the worst of these can usually be resolved over a weekend. But I want my weekend for other things.
 
chris webster
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Thanks for the great responses, folks. Andrew's like-for-like comparison is really helpful too.

The key points seem to be: it just works, no tinkering, and quality. Which is of course pretty much what Apple marketing says, but I'm inclined to take your experiences a little more seriously than the ads.

I think the quality point is where I've been going wrong in my comparison. I buy a new laptop every 3 or 4 years, and I'm usually looking for a "desktop replacement" with lots of disk, lots of memory, a big screen and a decent processor. I can usually find a good-enough Windows machine for around £1000. If I look for a Mac with similar RAM/disk etc, it's usually a big MacBook Pro which comes in at around £1800 to £2000, which is way beyond my usual budget. But I guess a good-enough Windows laptop is not really comparable with a Mac, so I'm comparing Apples and lemons here. Andrew's price comparison of the 13" machines seems to be fairly similar here in the UK too, although the prices are higher.

Costs aside (and it would be great to live in a world where cost doesn't matter), you've made a persuasive case for choosing a Mac for my next machine. I just need to find a way to finesse the budget/requirements accordingly.

cheers
Chris
 
Joe Ess
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chris webster wrote:Thanks for the great responses, folks. Andrew's like-for-like comparison is really helpful too.


This is the most important point. You can always find cheaper hardware, but Apple makes some really good stuff. That's why, in the previous discussion I suggested a business-class laptop (note this was before Ron clarified his son already had a Mac). Something that would be comparable as far as quality and durability are concerned.
As for "just works" I guess it depends on what you use it for. I know I have had to install XCode to compile a couple of things (ffmpeg???) from source for something (Audacity???).
Many applications and peripherals are better supported on Windows. When I want to manage my brand-new Brother printer, I usually have to jump to a Windows machine because the Brother OS X "control center" app is absolutely primitive by comparison. Then there was the time someone flipped a switch in the Gimp source code that made it impossible to save anything with a non-numeric file name because it treated everything else as a hot key, but only on OS X, so you have to sort through the 1000's of responses of "it works for me, dummy" from Win and Linux users.
For gaming purposes, I pretty much still rely on Windows.
I'm OS agnostic. My work and home experience with Linux has been excellent and Windows 7 is no slouch. Except for the occasional problem with Wi-Fi (I have to turn it off and turn it back on again) on OS X, it has been solid as well. I love my MacBook Pro, but if I were looking now, I'd seriously consider machines like my new work-issued HP EliteBook 850 G1
 
chris webster
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Thanks for another helpful perspective, Joe.
 
chris webster
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Andrew Monkhouse wrote:But if you are comparing brand name laptops, the low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is roughly comparable to the Dell XPS 13 13.3-Inch Touchscreen Laptop. The prices are close ....

Just thought I'd follow up with some feedback on this comparison: I still haven't managed to get the cash together for a Mac (domestic appliance failures have taken a big lump out of the Toys Budget), but some colleagues at work bought a bunch of the Dell XPS 13 laptops for a new project. And they are deeply unimpressed - driver problems with Ubuntu (although Dell is usually reasonably good at supporting Linux), flimsy construction, unreliable power button, etc. Haven't heard any experiences with the Mac, but it certainly seems likely the Mac would have been a better choice in this case, as so many folk around here seem to agree!

On the other hand, my new laptop at work is a 15" Dell Inspiron with a 4K HD screen at around £800 and it's been pretty good so far (running Ubuntu, although I had to turn down the resolution as the display drivers aren't up to 4K yet). Not comparable with the Mac above, but better than the much more expensive XPS 13. You pays your money and you takes your choice, eh? Still stroking the gadgets at the Apple Store, though. My time will come....
 
Liutauras Vilda
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I switched to OS X about 7 years ago:
1. OS X is as stable as any other UNIX machine, in fact, OS X is certified as such. BSD based, I think started with FreeBSD 4.4 kernel version.
2. Non of applications can access system memory or each others, unless running with advanced permissions. You can kill an application without having to restart the whole system. Reboots are rare in general, even after updates. Personally myself never considered of getting antivirus, as never had problems with malwared software.
3. Quick apps install/remove time. In most cases it is just copying or deleting of directory to/from an app directory, which is quick with SSD.

And probably yes, you'd need to try to use it for a while yourself and get your own opinion, which would be most objective.
Best luck, in case you're about to start with Mac's
 
Don't get me started about those stupid light bulbs.
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