Thursday, November 26, 2009

Macbook Pro Purchase

Each and every time that I have been in the market for a new computer, I have considered a Macintosh but decided on a PC. The recent research for a laptop resulted in the same type of comparisons, but with the completely different final result, a Macbook Pro instead of a PC. To be sure, the decision for the Mac has much more to do with internal thoughts than any measures used for comparison.

A simple measure is initial cost. Except for the first computers purchased while a graduate student, the initial cost has not been a major factor. Even so it is a point of comparison and for the systems I've been interested in the Macintosh is always more expensive, also true of this most recent purchase. Certain aspects of the systems could be compared fairly closely, such as processor, memory, harddrive, battery, display, and video cards. Between the two options I considered most closely, the Macintosh was 39% more expensive.

What benefit might I obtain for that extra third in cost? Possibly it is in aspects that are more difficult to compare, such as operating system, software, manufacture, usage, and aesthetics. As far as operating systems, I have used Unix-like systems (i.e. Linux) for a decade and a half. While I am glad that Macintosh OS X is also based on a Unix-like system (i.e. freeBSD), the Macintosh look and feel and behavior is the stock interface. Cost makes a reappearence in that Linux is free whereas OS X is not, so future operating system upgrades for the Mac will likely require more money.

Most of the applications I use are open source and monetarily free. As far as I know at this moment, I neither need nor will be inclined to want Macintosh applications. However, this is part of the experiment — to determine if the software is so good that I would be inclined.

It does appear that the Macbook Pro is more sturdy than the other contender. This judgement is based on two main things: a personal notion that the aluminum body will hold up better, and vicarious experience from user reviews of the competing systems. User reviews also indicated some potential usage problems such as excessive heating for the PC laptop. However, I tend not to weight user reviews too much because of variability and unknown correspondence of priorities with my own.

Finally, there are the aesthetics to consider. In short, while I appreciate beauty in computers I am more interested in how the device will help me do the things I want to do. A trip to the Apple store confirmed that I am not their demographic, and I think experience will bear out that what I most want to do with computers is not available in iLife. I remained unconvinced that the slick look of the applications and the availability of mouse gestures will increase my efficacy.

If the decision were based on an algorithm of definite and known measures, I would have chosen the PC. Some things, however, are hard to quantify and in this case a desire to gain first-hand experience was probably the deciding factor. Never having a Macintosh means that I am not fluent in their administration and usage; this purchase adds a third major operating system to my toolbox. Although less important, the experience should help me better compare major operating systems and their ability to help users be more productive.

I hope the Mac is at least a poem that I can appreciate.

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