Laptop suggestions

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Dal's picture

My laptop using Windows Vista just broke down. Tried to switch screen, but it cannot even start. Is there anything I can do?

If not I may have to buy a new laptop. Should I buy an ordinary Windows 7 laptop or buy Macbook, which is double in price? Are Macbooks really worth the price?

If I go with Macbook, should I buy extended waranty of three years?

Thanks

Yippee-ki-yay

Sweep the Leg's picture

What do you use it for?

Just trying to be logical before the mac vs pc war begins.

/no matter what you answer I’ll say mac

Black Swan's picture

First take it to a tech and see if they can fix it.

Regardless of how that works out, get a macbook air, it will change your life! Best purchase I ever made. Unless you’re into gaming, then macs aren’t as great.

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CFAvsMBA's picture

I have an iPhone, but have not made the transition to Apple laptops. I suggest an Intel iCore (3, 5, or 7) processor machine with as much RAM as you can afford. A good one will cost you 600-800. Don’t buy the warranty on a PC, more often than not it only covers HARDWARE and not SOFTWARE which is usually the culprit.

You can take the hard drive out of your laptop and have a techie back it up for you. It may cost a few bucks, but it’s worth it.

ohai's picture

I recently switched from my old Lenovo laptop to a Mac. The main reason was that I received a large gift card that made the purchase economical. Having made this switch, I can tell you that unless you have very specific needs, the functional differences are mostly trivial. Web browsing, media viewing, email, or most other functions work on either platform. The Mac is a bit more seamless in its execution, but I will straight up say that I don’t believe the price premium is worth it - not for me at least. Of course, this depends on the person, so I’ll list a few things that I have learned from my experience:

Pro Mac
1) Hardware-software integration is better than on a Windows PC. There are fewer crashes, bugs, or other annoying events that interrupt your experience. UNIX-based OS is inherently more stable than Windows.
2) Beautiful design and attention to aesthetic detail. Mac glossy displays are superior to those of most Windows PCs. Media viewing is improved as a result.
3) Good video editing software is packaged with Macs, making it easier for you to produce your own Justin Bieber clips.
4) Fewer viruses. There are Mac viruses, but few if any currently exist in the wild.

Pro PC
1) Vastly larger selection of software available for Windows PCs.
2) “Forced adoption” of user interface features by Macs. Apple decides that the “finger scroll” on the Magic Mouse is the best way to scroll, so they delete the scroll bar in OS X. Apple decides that cloud storage is best, so they delete DVD burning capability in OS X. All this is extremely inconvenient, especially if you prefer the old way of doing things. Magic Mouse is an ergonomic disaster, by the way.
3) As mentioned before, Windows PCs are generally cheaper than Macs. You can buy lots of things, like a 50” TV, with the money you will probably save. Of course, if you are rich, this might not matter.
4) MS Office is reputedly inferior on Macs. I have not tried this myself, so you should do some research if this is important to you.
5) Apple rips you off on their options. For instance, extra RAM is $200 when you can buy the same RAM on NewEgg for $70. It’s the same with hard disk space.

If you value the smoothest user experience, want a prepackaged set of quality functions, and are willing to pay a premium for these features, then a Mac is a good choice. If you are looking to optimize your functionality per cost, than Windows is probably better.

“I’m a CPA! I got money b***h!”

Black Swan's picture

^Ohai, that’s exactly it. The differences are not large, but I’ve had my Macbook Air for about a year now and it still rocks and fires up / executes as quickly as the day I bought it. I’ve never had a PC continue to function that smoothly over time. To me, this is definitely worth the premium. Besides, at 900-1000 dollars for a base model, the Mbook Air 11 isn’t a bad deal at all.

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ohai's picture

It’s not that Windows PCs can’t run well for a few years. They just need more attention than Macs. The Mac price premium incorporates the convenience of not having to put as much effort into maintenance, not that Windows performance will unavoidably deteriorate over time.

The value of a $1000 Mac Book Air is subjective - you can get a much more powerful Windows PC for that price. So again, it depends on whether you value convenience or function optimization.

“I’m a CPA! I got money b***h!”

Black Swan's picture

Yeah, but battery life and functionality of the air stacks up well against pc’s of it’s dimensions / weight. For me personally, I’m always on the go with night classes. I’ve always made the mistake previously of buying laptops that were too heavy, they were far more inconvenient to carry than I’d estimated in the store. For my uses, the air was an awesome solution and has made my life 100x easier with regard to studying on the go and night classes.

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ohai's picture

Wait, what you just said doesn’t change anything. Your problem before was that you chose a Windows laptop that was unsuitable for your needs. It’s not that there are no Windows laptops which are similar in size, weight and battery life to the Macbook Air.

For instance, for a bit over $1000, you can get a Lenovo X220, which is comparable in size and weight to the Mac. The Lenovo has longer battery life and is more powerful than the comparable 13” Macbook Air.

The downside, of course, is that it’s a Windows machine. So again, it goes back to the functionality per price vs. convenience argument.

“I’m a CPA! I got money b***h!”

Black Swan's picture

^ I wasn’t saying the air was the only option, you simply implied there’s a premium and I countered by saying it stacks up well against PC’s of similar dimensions & performance (such as the Lenovo), implying that the premium isn’t really there on the airs. The 12.5” Lenovo is priced at 1100, the 13 at 1300. Battery life is pretty close between the 13” and the X220 standard (6 cell battery). The longer times they quote are all for 9 cell batteries which would expand the size of the laptop as well as cost and add considerable weight. In terms of speed, they’re about the same, Mac uses dual core which I like, Lenovo does not. Air comes with flash hard drive, Lenovo does not, which is huge in my mind, in terms of reducing hard drive errors and reliability. Air performs better in graphics tests. My point is not that one is better, but just that, matched against it’s peers, the macbook air’s measure up well on both cost and value.

The last part about it being a better choice because of size etc, was unrelated to the mac vs pc argument, I should have put that in a different paragraph for clarity. Believe me, I spent about a year and half going back and forth between the lenovo x220 and the air but in my mind I made the best choice hands down. I hate, hate hate, slowing PC’s and the associated problems and I don’t want to perform software maintenance. After a lifetime of this, the mac finally solved my problems. Plus it integrates awesomely with the airport express wifi and iphone.

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bchad's picture

One thing to consider is the useful life of the Mac. I’ve tended to need to replace my Windows laptops about every two years. My mac laptops tend to need replacing about once every three years. Simplistically, that can justify almost a 50% price premium, a little less if you use discounted values. The remaining part of the premium is a value judgement on how much you like “it just works” and hardware/software integration.

If you are a gamer, it’s definitely true that Macs don’t have the selection. For most work applications, Macs are able to hand it well. And you can put Parallels on it (or its competitor), for those things that truly require windows. In fact, a year or two back, a Mac was selected as the best windows machine (I think a MacBook Pro running Windows under BootCamp was the choice).

I do most of my daily work on a 2007 Mac Pro, and it still rocks. The 9 GB of RAM and 4 processors help a lot.

If you go with non-mac laptops, I’ve been pretty happy with Dells and Acers. I find that the hardware construction on a lot of the other brands tends to fall apart after a year or so.

If you go for a Mac, then the AppleCare extended warranty is good. I don’t normally do extended warrantys, but Apple’s is one I do do. The most common thing to go (on any computer) is a hard drive, and if you have that replaced just once, the warranty pays for itself, plus you are covered for pretty much everything else (the iPhone AppleCare now partially covers accidental damage too, so if you drop your phone and crack the screen, you can replace it very cheaply). The other reason to buy AppleCare is that it improves the resale value if you sell before the warranty expires (people feel more comfortable buying a used machine with AppleCare, so it raises the resale price).

If you get a MacBook Air with solid state hard drive - I believe those don’t tend to crash the way traditional drives do, so there may be less value in the warranty.

You want a quote?  Haven’t I written enough already???

itera's picture

I properly maintain my PC’s, and they run strong even over time. And they are far more customizable. Mac’s are total ripoff’s in $$ terms. Video editing yes, less viruses yes, but gaming sucks, price sucks, software selection sucks,

Hope. It is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and greatest weakness.

Inner Evil Voice's picture

I’ve considered a MacPro but I think there were compatibility issues with VBA. I’ve not checked recently though.

Black Swan's picture

I can’t remember, but I think they fixed those in the latest mac office suite. Regardless, you could always install bootcamp and run windows with the normal office suite and plug in a pc mouse, that would fix all your excel needs.

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Supersadface's picture

I would echo everything that Ohai said. I’d consider his assessment of PCs and Macs to be pretty valid.

I would also agree with what iteracom said; if you properly maintain a PC over time - namely not installing crappy free/sketch ware, running a good anti-virus program, and not abusing the hardware (dropping the computer, spilling coffee on the keyboard), you can get a good solid lifespan out of a PC. Heck, if you buy a laptop that’s popular and well-designed enough, you may even be able to upgrade the hard drive and RAM in 2 years and get another 2 years out of it, if you really feel like stretching the life out of it. It’s not as easy to upgrade as a desktop PC, but it is something that’s possible to do these days if you want to stretch the lifespan of the rig.

Black Swan's picture

Oh, that reminds me of another thing I LOVE about my mac. Not having to deal with antivirus software, man, sometimes that crap was more annoying than just getting a virus.

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bchad's picture

I suppose if you value the time you spend “properly maintaining your PC” at zero, then one can argue that PCs are a bargain. Or you could use that time to talk to a pretty girl (or boy), or find a useful investment, etc.. Some people enjoy the process of maintaining their equipment, so there is free entertainment value there.

As for configurability, that’s more of a plus in the desktop world than the laptop world. Even so, if you’re not a gamer, it’s a bit hard to say exactly what needs to be configured, other than RAM and HD size. My Mac Pro is a delight to configure - everything slides in and out so easily (with the exception of the bluetooth module). Adding a hard drive was so easy that my jaw dropped the first time I did it.

Extra monitors are nice for finance folks, but that’s really desktop issue, not a laptop issue. Some laptops can dock and support extra monitors, I guess, but so can Macs, and I think that a windows laptop that did that would be comparable in price to a Mac one.

BTW, Office 2011 for Mac has VBA in it. Office 2004 had a pared down version of VBA and Office 2008 removed it entirely. Office 2011 for mac restored it, and it is fully compatible with Windows VBA, I believe.

Consider how much time you spend in front of a computer each day. If you’re going to spend extra money, why not spend it on something you use for several hours every day. It’s places like that that it makes sense to spend on something you really like and makes your life easier every time you use it (that might be a Windows machine for some people, but I’m happy with my Mac, even if one still thinks that it is a more expensive).

I do agree about not buying extra RAM or hard drives from Apple though. It’s easily 2x as expensive as from third party providers, and offers virtually no performance advantages.

You want a quote?  Haven’t I written enough already???

Dal's picture

It looks like Macbook is really worth for and I am not a big gamer, I will probably go for it depending on any chance of getting a good job.

2011 has been such a bad year for me, misery after misery, first started January with a fail in CFA level 1, then got a job with a terrible boss, did Excel VBA course but could not find any relevant job, stocks’ value down, now resigned from job, soon to be unemployed, laptop broke down meaning that I could not do any job search. All the best for 2012. I am down but not out and no regrets. Thanks for my wife for keeping me positive.

Yippee-ki-yay

Blake McCallister's picture

Company gave me a Dell laptop with:

Intel i7 chip
64 bit Win 7 Pro
8 GB RAM

But I also work on data sets that you will never see in finance as they are so large and so highly computational.

If you are upgrading, the best upgrade you can do is replace your 5400 or 7200 RPM hard drive with a SSD drive

Concerning Macs, you are paying twice as much for inferior technology. Snow Leopard was written in Unix and Macs use Intel chips. They aren’t some super proprietary magic machine that everyone makes them out to be.

If you subscribe to the “Macs are better because they don’t get viruses” theory just get a Win 7 box and put Linux on it. The distros of Linux today are extremely user friendly. I own a XP laptop, Ubuntu laptop, and use the Dell I was given as well….

"Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful..."

brianr's picture

Blake McCallister wrote:

But I also work on data sets that you will never see in finance as they are so large and so highly computational.

Some things never change… good to see you still around Blake.

Black Swan's picture

Keep your head up Dal, it can be a long road, but with persistence you’ll make it.

If you do decide to get a Mac, be prepared for an adjustment period to get used to the new interface. Best practice is to find a serious Mac user and ask them to help you get setup / customized and used to the operating system.

redacted

Inner Evil Voice's picture

The VBA thing was a deal breaker before, but I’m going to give Macs a shot this year. Hope I don’t have to use some secret keyboard combinations to make my VBA stuff work as expected.

Carson's picture

I’ve had an 11” mac air for the last year or so and love it. Would highly recommend it.

I find in discussions like this, either online or in real world, that tech savvy people feel that macs are not worth the extra cash because they are able to maintain windows PCs so that they do not slow down, get viruses etc and after a year or two can upgrade the memory etc and customise as they see fit. For regular joes like me, windows pc’s always slow down over time and after about 2 years become buggy and horrible. I have heard that windows 7 is better at preventing this which is something to consider.

I would say that if you are not tech savvy and can afford it, you will not be sorry you stumped up the extra for the mac air.

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