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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Putting An End To This Mac Vs. PC Bidness

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PC or Mac? Coming from a field that's been so heavily focused on both interfaces, it's hard to choose favorites based on operating system alone. Additionally, the push for cloud computing has made it even more difficult to hand over the kudos to Apple's slightly more innovative Macbook line. Basically, if everything is possible over the internet, it doesn't really matter if you're on a Mac or PC. What does matters is a reasonably sized keyboard, a decent screen, a strong WiFi card, and lightweight body for portability.

Fortunately, both of the Macbook and HP Mini series are capable machines that sport all of the above requirements for an above-average notebook. The only difference being the price. With a good company or educational discount deal, you can have the new unibody Macbook 13" for about $1100. The HP Mini 2140 can be had for about less than half of that - $500. There are reasons for it being this cheap, outside of it being "PC" instead of a "Mac." Quotations are present for obvious reasons.

One of the big differences is resolution. While the Macbook allows for the standard 1280x800 resolution (good for 720p films and such), the HP only supports 1024x576. If you're looking to browse the web for extended periods of time, squinting at the text rendered on the HP Mini just isn't really a good idea. The Macbook's larger digital workspace lets you comfortably browse without added eyestrain, while maintaining the body weight down at a reasonable 4.5lbs (vs. HP's 2.5lbs).

Secondly, the specs are worth a quick mention. The HP uses a 1.6Ghz Atom processor while the Macbook comes in flavors of 2.0GHz or 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo. There's no doubt the Macbook is a superior machine in terms of performance, but where it strives in power, it loses in battery life. In real world tests, you can squeeze about 3 hours out of the Macbook on a single charge; you can get about twice as much using a six-cell battery on the HP Mini. There is no expansion for the Macbook due it its unibody design.

Aesthetics and ergonomics come into play, but are absolutely subjective depending on the individual. Personally, I find the Macbook's design many levels above the HP Mini, though this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Thoughtful design has always been one of Apple's strongest selling points and continues to be up until now. The HP Mini, on the other hand, isn't a pushover either. The simple, lightweight design pushes the boundary on what a cheap "netbook" could and should be. Its spacious keyboard truly allows for comfortable computing without making you feel like you're on a child's toy.

Finally, the last thing we should glisten on is longetivity. In IT, we use the term "destructive technology" a great deal when dealing with hardware refreshes. Simply put, a new piece of tech is deemed destructive when it completely annihilates another industry. For instance, the MP3 destroyed CDs. DVDs to VHS tapes. Facebook to Myspace. The list goes on. This does not happen much with the field of personal computers, but it does happen, just on a smaller scale.

While the Macbook may continue to be more than usable for 3-4 years after the intial purchase, "netbooks" have had a natural tendency to become outdated fairly quickly (just by looking at the rate of new netbook releases every 3 months) and feels like they've become more of a "phenomenon" than a true market niche that's destined to stay. Some may argue otherwise, especially when you consider the upward trend of netbook sales, but one must truly consider value in every conceivable definition before making a final decision on something you'll be using on a daily basis. Hell, most people take up more time picking out a bed than laptops these days anyway.

In the end, technology is technology and every budget is as different. If you're doing most of your daily work via an online interface anyway, the Mac vs. PC argument can end right there. Because even though gestures are a noteworthy plus, there needs to be much more than that to justify $400-$500 above a similarly speced PC.

So it really comes down to is how much you're willing to throw down. Those extra bells and whistles matter to you? (It's quite okay, if they do, really) For me, they're enough to greatly effect my purchasing decision. While I'll never let go of my pimped out desktop PC, but for portability, I'll stick with my Macbook. I'll tout it around like an asshole, but for me, it just makes sense. Gesture control is perfect for my blogging habits, the ability to dual boot into Windows will allow me to switch on over whenever OSX pisses me off, and the design is on par to a BMW I can't afford as of the moment, so why not settle on a little machine that'll bring a smile to your face the next day? Ah, yes. I said it. A piece of aluminum can really bring a smile to one's face. Strange world we live in, no?

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