First of all, I feel it’s important to make clear that I’m typically a ‘Windows person’, that is to say, I’ve always used Windows as my primary OS. Of course I’m perfectly comfortable working with Linux, but normally you’ll find me using Windows 8.1.
Why? Because I’ve never had a reason to use anything else. I do a small amount of mandatory development in Visual Studio for Windows Phone applications but I’m generally more comfortable using a simple text editor, my favourite at the moment being Sublime Text 3.
I recently decided I was getting bored with Windows, there wasn’t really anything forcing me to use it anymore. Additionally I’ve just completed my undergraduate dissertation written entirely from within a Linux VM - it offered a better workflow than Windows could. This really made it clear that maybe it was time for a change.
Another reason for me contemplating jumping ship is that I’ve grown tired of being shackled to my desk 24/7. Although my desktop’s reasonably powerful (32GBs of RAM and a liquid cooled octo-core CPU), it produces a lot of heat and uses a tremendous amount of power. At times it can also be a bit ‘touchy’, nothing I can adequately define, but small issues that don’t warrant finding a fix immediately and generally remain as tiny irritants.
For these reasons I decided to look into getting a high-end ultra portable laptop to replace my existing setup. Boy am I glad I’ve made this change…
As already outlined, my choice of operating system was not really a concern, this meant I could focus on comparing hardware directly without worrying about what software’s installed on it. I seriously considered the Dell XPS 13, a machine that offers a massive screen in a tiny package. The serious flaw with that machine is its woeful amount of RAM. My computing habits mean I consume system memory as if it were a free lunch - 8GB is the bare minimum and I really wanted 16GB, half what I had on my old desktop. The Dell (at the time of my research) only supported up to 8GB, something that disappointed me greatly as apart from this lack-lusted spec, everything else looked great.
I research Lenovo’s offerings and wasn’t impressed by the Thinkpad X1 Carbon. The machine looks great but again falls short of the specification I wanted: it’s only configurable with up to 8GB of RAM. It’s also mightily expensive when compared to Apple’s offerings.
But aren’t Macs really expensive?
No, they really aren’t. I grit my teeth slightly as I type those words. You see, I’ve always enjoyed hating Apple. Having not owned their hardware before (beyond the odd iPod many moons ago) they’ve always seemed expensive and ‘trendy’ - neither attributes I particularly like. Only through the exercise of trying to find a suitable laptop did I come to realise that they aren’t overpriced. Sure, compared to a £500 laptop they’re expensive, but no machine at that price range compares in specs or build quality - that’s the simple truth. Moreover, I was looking for an expensive machine to begin with, I’m a computer scientist - I live and breath attached to a computer, it needs to be good; the question wasn’t one of overall cost but of relative value for money when comparing systems in a similar price bracket.
Once you start to analyse machines in the same price region it soon becomes very apparent that the MacBook Pro has fantastic specs and offers more than it’s competitors can.
The screen is staggeringly good (although both the previously mentioned alternatives also have epic screens), the core components are great, featuring the latest Intel i5 and up to 16GB of RAM, not to mention the screaming PCI SSD.
There’s another thing… student discount. Apple offers a reasonable student discount that makes their offerings slightly more palatable, 15% certainly equates to a non-trivial amount of money when spending this much. There’s also the added bonus of super-cheap AppleCare, it’s only a quarter the price for students.
I ended up getting a 13-inch early 2015 MacBook Pro with the 2.9GHz i5, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
Having used this machine for a month or so now, I can honestly say it faultlessly delivers the nicest user experience of any computer I’ve ever owned. OS X just seems to work, and adjusting to this environment has been a doddle as a Linux user. I’ll be sure to write another post about my specific use case and findings using OS X in the future.
In conclusion, the switch to Apple hardware and software has required little modification of the wetware that operates it. I simply couldn’t find an ultra portable laptop in the same price range as the MacBook Pro that had the same or better specification wrapped in the same or better package.
I’ve gained a great little computer that’s capable of delivering more than enough performance for me to get some real work done as well as provide an enjoyable experience. Although my opinion of Apple has changed, I can guarantee that I won’t be getting an Apple Watch any time soon.