G’Day Local Na8ion!
It’s time for a Small Business Tech Review of the Apple MacBook for $1,299. I’m catering this review to small business people like myself who need access to reliable, low-priced, do-it-all computers. If you’re considering creating web content, audio, or video content for your web site or local marketing effort then I strongly recommend Mac’s, and I’m not an Apple fanboy.
While I’m not an Apple snob, I will admit to being a complete Geek. Don’t worry though, I won’t inflict my disease upon you! In fact, here’s what I usually say about business and technology:
“…with technology specifically we often lose sight of people. At exceler8 and Local Na8ion we love to experiment with the leading edge of web marketing and technology but we do so in the pursuit of value, not at the expense of it.” – Julian’s bio on Local Na8ion
For most of us, computers aren’t high entertainment as they are for me, they’re critical business tools. We take orders on them, make marketing materials, crank out business correspondence and balance the company books.
I’m a long time Windows user (aren’t we all) but I also really appreciate how Apple bounced back a few years ago and started making really high quality hardware and combining it with a rock solid operating system – OS X.
Today, there’s no way I’d buy a PC with the sad state of the Windows operating system (XP is now solid but feature-poor compared to Mac’s OS X and Vista is a joke).
I splurged on a PowerBook (the high end version) over three years ago and it was everything I’d hoped it would be in terms of being a digital creativity powerhouse. Apple has loads of built-in goodness when it comes to making user-generated content like audio, movies, and blog posts. For example, the bundled iMovie program that comes with OS X allows me to make all my Local Na8ion podcasts and it didn’t cost a thing.
Now that Apple allows you to run XP or Vista on your new Mac there’s really no reason NOT to buy a Mac anymore since you can now run legacy (er, old ass) PC only software on a Mac. In fact, a few months ago, PC Magazine listed the best (fastest) laptops to run MS Vista and the 17″ MacBook Pro was the top system. That says a lot of good things about Apple Hardware. Also, in my experience working at large companies, plugging an Apple Mac laptop in to your corporate network is dead easy.
Unfortunately my old PowerBook is now SO slow when I’m processing video (very resource intensive) for Local Na8ion and doing my client work I had no choice but to upgrade. Hey, that’s my excuse but Shannon didn’t buy it. This time around I went for the lower cost MacBook. There’s a $700 difference in the MacBook I purchased vs. the higher end MacBook Pro. What do you get for an additional $700?
- Bigger hard drive (200GB instead of the 160GB I got). Big deal.
- More mousepad gestures. Cool, but no big deal.
- PC card slot (very helpful for business for high-speed wireless Internet cards so popular with road warriors like my wife Shannon). OK, I can live without it since I’m not a road warrior.
- A dedicated NVIDIA GeForce display card
Now, that doesn’t look like $700 in value to me. In fact, I liked the smaller MacBook for its lighter weight and dimensions. The keyboard is nice (not as good as the Pro but still good) and the glossy screen looked rich and colorful in the showroom. A note on the glossy vs. matte display. People usually have a strong preference for one over the other with most coming down on the matte screen side. Why? The matte screen is much easier to read in outside lighting (the glossy display reflects everything like a mirror when outdoors). For the MacBook, Apple chose the Henry Ford Model T manufacturing method: You can have any display on the MacBook as long as it’s the glossy one. I prefer the glossy screen (it’s the glitzy Great White Way Marketer in me) so the glossy screen wasn’t a problem.
So how does my new MacBook perform? Everything is fantastic except for one very important thing – the display quality. If you plan on hooking up your MacBook to a larger external display I think you’ll be very disappointed with the MacBook’s screen.
According to post-purchase research I’ve done I’m not the only one. You can’t just blame it on the integrated Intel display adaptor either since it’s commonly used on Windows based PC’s and similar PC systems haven’t generated near the kind of angst that the MacBook screen has. In part, that’s because people expect Apple to nail things that involve design, look, feel, and craftmanship. Can you imagine an iPod with a badly pixelated screen?
If you’re just using the MacBook as a laptop, then by all means purchase the less expensive MacBook and save your business $700 in expense. If you like working with photos, images and er…web sites, which all rely heavily on display quality AND you use an external monitor, get the MacBook Pro. If you don’t need a laptop you can spend $1,499 for the iMac desktop and get the same exact processor (2.4GHz Core Duo 2) with a beautiful 20″ screen and a solid video card – the ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro with 256mb of display memory.
I’m still undecided as to what I’ll do exactly. I might just get the desktop for the $200 more and use my old PowerBook when I’m out at the park with my kids. Then agian, theMacBook Pro is an awfully nice machine. Would you put in a good word with Shannon for me? Better yet, hire me so I can afford to buy one! 🙂
Here’s a video review of the Apple MacBook on my personal blog with some additional links if you want to know more about my MacBook display dismay.
p>Update: I’ve gone back and re looked using my 17″ Sony Display and I’m much happier with it. The crazy pixelation is gone. I’ve also continued researching my issues and found that most people are going with a maximum size of 20″ for their desktop monitor (my Samsung is a 22″) if they use a MacBook with an external display. 20 inches is sufficient to me and I’m now moving into new monitor research mode.
For now I’ve decided that I can live with the smaller screen (I still have two desktops after all) and don’t want to give up all the stuff I like about the smaller MacBook (and its great price) for either a desktop iMac or a much more expensive MacBook Pro. My original recommendation still stands – just know what you’re getting into before you buy!