I’ve been a PC person since the beginning of time, and I recently decided to switch to a Macbook Pro. I’ve gotten questions recently from folks about how I like it. So, this post summarizes some of my thoughts and discussions on the Mac vs PC debate reframed into a software developer perspective – and without all the hype. I think it’s safe to say I’m a power user and my needs go well beyond a typical consumer. So my ratings reflect that mind set.
Chassis: Rating A++++
While this has nothing to do with functionality, per se, and everything to do with aesthetics I’ve never had a more beautifully built ‘machine’. The brushed aluminum looks great and the device feels rock solid. It doesn’t creak like old wooden stairs when you hold it like a dinner platter while carrying it from meeting to meeting. The construction of Windows laptops I’ve used, and some of them were considered top-of-the-line, mostly pale in comparison. It’s like comparing a brand new Porsche fresh off the factory line with all it’s power and state-of-the-art construction to my beloved but campy ’95 Camry.
Speed: Rating A
I have had this discussion with a number of colleagues. The speed from the Macbook Pro comes mainly from the SSD (Solid State Drive). I’ve seen Windows laptops with SSDs perform just as admirably when doing CPU intensive work such as large software builds.
Screen: Rating A++++
The screen on the Macbook Pro is…wow. In all fairness there are some really awesome screens on the latest generation of Windows machines too.
Easy of Use: Rating B
Now’s were things get controversial. Let me explain. I believe that Mac’s are just as easy to use for the 80% of things most every-day consumers use them for as Windows machines. But, remember I’m a power user. So, once you step off the cliff into the 20% of things that aren’t intuitive I think Windows machines are much easier to manage because it’s more GUI oriented. Let me give you an example.
Setting up Apache, creating virtual directories and ongoing management of the web server for newbies isn’t exactly intuitive. I’m not talking about cobbling together the pieces needed to host simple HTML web pages; I’m talking about hardcore web server abuse. Granted my bash skills have gotten rusty after years of using Windows, and yes some things are very easy to quickly do in a terminal window, but having lots of GUI interfaces are nice when you are feeling lazy. Some days you just don’t feel like recalling complex and arcane sequences to manipulate your github account. Case in point for GUIs, I’d say compare the easy-of-use of SourceTree to using the command line when doing intermediate to advanced github manipulation. When I started using my Mac I would have loved to have something similar to IIS for manipulating Apache.
Stability: Rating A-
I do want to point out that my Mac has locked up and I’ve had other miscellaneous hiccups with various parts of the operating system that required a reboot or a force quit. Some applications have given me fits for example, I’ve had to manually kill off Charles debugging proxy quite a few times when it went hog wild and chewed up vast chunks of my available CPU. Having used numerous Windows laptops and untold number of Windows-based applications, I haven’t seen anything like that in years. Granted these issues on my Mac have been few and far between, but they did happen…and it got my attention.
Attaching to other devices: A+
The bane of Windows was trying to connect to various devices and finding the right device driver from various manufactures is always lots of fun. Connecting to smartphones has never been easier for me than on my Mac. The only trouble I ever had was connecting to a network printer. That turned out to be counter-intuitive to a newbie and took several calls to tech support and two days to figure out. I’d say connecting to network printers, which is a common task in the typical work environment, is much easier with Windows.
Using with Corporate Software: C
This experience hasn’t been so great overall. Using a Mac on a PC-based network has its challenges, such as connecting to network printers. I’ve also noticed that the Mac versions of PC software typically have less functionality. I don’t know why this is the case. For example, for some strange reason the Mac version of PowerPoint has less functionality for drawing shapes, and it has a very limited selection of built-in clip art. Go figure. Why do I use PowerPoint? Because sometimes you have to collaborate on presentations with folks who use Windows machines, or maybe you have to share your presentation and the vast majority of users have Windows machines.
Battery Life: Rating A
I seriously debated with myself on including this. It’s so subjective but it always, always comes up in conversations. At what I’d consider a medium level of CPU usage, I can eke out about 4’ish hours of battery life. There, I said it. What I mean by medium level of usage is doing build after build using an IDE, or doing numerous intensive page refreshes while banging out a web app as opposed to hanging out and doing general internet surfing or using a Word processor.
But, to be honest it’s rare these days during anyone’s normal, everyday routine that you aren’t within close proximity to a power outlet. You can even get power adapters for use in your own car if you want. The exceptions are when you travel and then power can get scarce at some Airports, certain conferences, some particularly crowed coffee shops, and certain types of public transportation. Some airlines have graciously even gone to providing 110V outlets. I mean, short of those exceptions I rarely have need to exercise the full life of my laptops battery prowess.
Noise level: Rating A+
I’ll end this post on talking about fan noise. 99% of the time my Mac doesn’t emit any sounds other than the tappity-click-clack of my poking at the keyboard. I love it. All my other Windows laptops have had fans that often were noisy enough to make it hard to hear during meetings. I remember being shushed a couple of times during particularly intense meetings when the virus checker kicked off and caused the CPU to generate enough heat that the associated fan level noise exceeded that of an F-18 in full afterburner. The only time my Mac’s fan starts to get noticeable is when something I’m doing continuously drives the CPU past 30% for an extended period of time. Examples of this include video conference calls and some video based web pages.
There are certainly many more things I could discuss, but I felt these were the highlights. Overall my Macbook Pro has been a very nice machine and I’ll give it an A rating. It’s the nicest looking laptop I’ve ever used. But looks aside, it has proven to be a fairly stable and fast performer. Access to everyday functionality is easy enough to figure out. As a newbie Mac power user, some of the advanced settings are counter intuitive and some seem needlessly arcane. I’m glad I’ve been able to actually try out a Mac after all these years of hearing about them.