A Fair Analysis of the New Macbook from a New Switcher

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by jbg232, Oct 22, 2008.

  1. jbg232 macrumors 65816


    Oct 15, 2007
    I wrote a review of the macbook pro 17" after it was revised with 2.6ghz chips in february here. Much has changed since then I wanted to write a fair analysis of the new macbook to all future switchers and old mac hands.

    First, the first thing I think switchers need to realize is that the entire mentality of how to use your computer is different with mac. On my PC I prided myself with how clean and streamlined it was. I did clean installs of windows and never had anything running in the background and always closed all the programs and shut down the computer when it was not being used. When I initially bought a mac I went in with this same mentality of shutting down programs and the computer when I was done doing what I was doing. In terms of performance, this is NOT a good idea. Macs work best by having the programs on at all times just with the windows closed. Once I realized this the entire macintosh experience became a complete joy. No longer was I scrimping and saving my precious memory, I took my speed hits at the beginning by opening all the important programs (mail, firefox, itunes, and vmware) and then just kept them open to have access to at a moment's tap of the dock. This took a mental jump to get used to but afterwards I couldn't be happier.

    I wrote this above part so that anyone who was like me doesn't get the wrong idea or you will do what I did which is return the machine thinking "it is too slow" or "slower than my windows xp computer." You really do have to "think different" and this is not because of apple marketing but because the operating systems have different strengths and weaknesses. Windows is all about customization and tweaking and keeping programs closed after using them, leopard is all about keeping things open for use at a moment's notice and integration of the entire system seamlessly. One more thing that is very different between macs and pc's is the handling of windows. If you are a person who likes to maximize windows to the WHOLE screen (even with white spaces on the sides - you know who you are), macs are not into that. I was always a "keep the window the size of the contents you're looking at" type guy and I think this jibes much better with mac graphics design philosophy. Maximizing windows does not work in a mac the way it does in a pc and I have friends who have returned macs for this very reason. Just wanted to mention this other critical difference. Now I would like to go into the strengths and weaknesses my new macbook.

    I bought the 2.4 GHz macbook with 4GB of RAM the day after it came out and everything installed perfectly. I did have the problem where the battery cover was loose. It was actually so far off (about 3mm) that when I brought it back to the apple store to have them just exchange the battery cover they forced (yes, forced) me to take a new computer with my hard drive swapped so they could send mine in to "engineering" for quality control as I had the most extreme case they had seen and wanted to use my computer as a benchmark of how things went wrong. So they gave me a 2nd computer with my original hard drive in it which does have the first 5 function keys and the escape key tilted to the left. It is not very noticeable but now that I know that it's there it is a little annoying. However, even the ones at the store have this so I know it's not mine and am not going to worry about it (but this is definitely a widespread problem that there is a very good chance you will have). It's better than dead pixels which I had in my first MBP. So in terms of quality control, there is a little to be desired from Apple as every computer I have ever bought from them has had a problem. Now to the real analysis:

    First of all, I think that the reason why the computer works so much better than the first time I bought it is because Leopard is a much more mature operating system. When I had my first computer things used to hang, crash and just plain not work all the time. Now those problems have all but disappeared. Here is a repeat of my original article with changes with the new macbook:


    Keyboard: I love the black design and the backlit keyboard (if you have the money I think it is worth the upgrade for this alone) so much that I had to put it first. It is my favorite feature and is a very pleasurable keyboard to type on.
    Trackpad: Simply love the expose feature built in. I was never a trackpad person (I used to absolutely despise them) but this trackpad has turned me into a convert!
    Graphics: The glass display is a wonderful thing to look at all day. Although I would like to have a higher res I have gotten used to the smaller res pretty quickly.
    Design: No-brainer.
    Quicklook: Great feature that I thought was useless until I found it to be incredibly fast and helpful.
    Mail: Much superior to outlook or outlook express. The IMAP handling is superb and the search query is uncomparable. Also the integration with the rest of the OS (address book and ical) is light years beyond windows.
    Address Book: Great, love the integration with the rest of the applications.
    iCal: Same as address book, love it
    Dashboard: I did not think I would use this program but I put some sticky notes on it and quickly became much better organized and really found this feature to be handy. Web clips were ok but sometimes took a very long time to load. Overall a good program if you don't use too many widgets. Windows programs that do this are very slow and memory intensive to the point of being unusable in my opinion.
    Expose: I LOVE this program and it is so much better than alt-tab in windows.
    Stacks: Now they work with hierarchical menus and I love them. I have a stack with all aliases of my programs organized into folders like a "start bar" so that I can get to anything I need in a snap and it works very well.
    Preview: Surprisingly very helpful and and after using it I don't see why windows doesn't have something this basic and easy.
    iTunes: Unsurprisingly this apple-based program works faster and better than on windows. On windows I was lucky if the program found my ipod but I never had any issues with mac.
    Mark/Space Palm OS Sync: I bought this program to sync my treo 650 with the mac (apple doesn't support these anymore unfortunately) and found it to be a very good program. It syncs directly with ical and address book and with my ipod touch perfectly. Much better than the windows version of these palm syncing software programs that rely on their own address book which makes integrating with email a pain.
    VM-Ware Fusion: For my second time around I used this as opposed to parallels and absolutely LOVE IT!!!! I didn't install bootcamp this time and just installed windows xp and office. Everything worked perfectly and in unity mode I can keep windows open in the background and open all my office 2007 documents with office 2007 programs as if they are mac programs and even minimize them to the dock, etc. This is the biggest reason why I am now happy with the mac. Before I had a lot of problems with office 2007 for windows working correctly and office 2008 for mac is a joke in terms of conversion errors (which are an absolute no-no for me in my line of work) so being able to just double click a powerpoint document in finder and it opens powerpoint 2007 as a program on my mac desktop and allows me to save wherever I want is a beautiful (and critical) thing! I can now do my real work while enjoying all the other mac applications which are superior to windows in terms of features, usability, and integration to make the whole machine enjoyable.
    Support: Applecare was really great. They solved some of my problems and it was a pleasure to call them (as opposed to the dreaded technical support staff of other companies). They also helped out my parents a lot with their computers and overall deserve good marks. Also, the apple genius bar which was a pain in the butt in Boston is much nicer and more helpful in NY stores.
    iChat: Now it worked flawlessly and is better than logitech software.
    Spotlight: A great program that works quickly and is better than windows searching in my opinion.

    Things that didn't live up to my expectations:

    Safari: I really wanted to use this program. I tried to love it, and get really into the whole mac experience but I found it to be an inferior web browser than firefox. It has two fatal flaws in my opinion. One, it only shows pages after a long delay of loading a webpage almost to completion. This means that if I want to quickly check the New York Times top headline, I have to wait for almost the entire page to load just to see the top line. In firefox it is much better at showing the page AS IT IS LOADING, but on mac this was still slower than in windows. Plus, it should have data detectors like mail, but maybe that's just me. The second thing is that its handling of RSS feeds is way inferior to firefox live bookmarks in my opinion in that you don't have to open a page to view the RSS content.
    Firefox: I was a firefox user and found that my web experience on my 8-year-old laptop was faster than my brand new top of the line mac. When I installed firefox in mac it was still slower than firefox on the bootcamp partition. Also, I really really really hate that I can't rename downloaded files before they start downloading in either Firefox or Safari. However, with my new mac I found that I can just save the targets as whatever I want to download so this problem is more manageable. Plus, the ability to integrate multi-touch commands into Firefox make it a much nicer browser.
    Time Machine: I bought a 7200 RPM external HD and I found the computer to be noticeably slower when running with time machine running. Good for periodic backups but I was quick to turn this guy off.
    iPhoto: Undecided and completely debateable, my parents love it though and for their purposes it works well. I personally think it is a little strange.
    Unix: I'm pretty computer-savvy and I thought having access to the unix core would be helpful but aside from chaning my dock I really found very little use out of it and realized how little I know about mac os x unix.

    Price: I have to say it because a similarly configured Dell is much cheaper, but everyone knows that so disregard this because as everyone knows you're paying to use a holier-than-thou mac. But I still said it.
    Speed: This is VERY debatable as I have decided over the last 6 months. See above but basically if you like to have programs stremlined then XP is the way to go, but if you want to just forgive a little bit of extra start-up time to open all your mac programs at the beginning then the mac wins.
    Video Watching: I like GOM player much better than quicktime. It is just better in every way.
    Microsoft Office: Office 2004 and Office 2008 for mac are some of the worst programs I have ever used, especially powerpoint. Office 2007 for the PC is a great program that is uncomparable and truly the industry standard now. I bought iWork and liked it but really cannot rely on it because no one else uses it and there were conversion errors in the sample powerpoint lectures that I made thus eliminating any chance of my using it. For professional office work that needs to be shared (which in my profession it does) this is one thing that the pc has way better than the mac. Also, you never know if you have to give a presentation on a windows pc so conversion to office perfectly was a must for me and it failed. What I wound up doing is installing VM-Ware Fusion with office 2007 into that which worked like a charm. See above for my analysis of this.
    Printing: I found mac printing to be inferior (at least for microsoft office documents). I could never adjust the formatting as much as I could on windows and that costs the mac some points given my need to do intense office work. However, now that I have vm-ware fusion installed I can install the printer directly as if it is a windows native printer which makes it work really well. One thing though is that my printer is not supported by leopard and this is a pain but I found some older drivers that worked out. It is annoying though that companies don't support older products with Mac because of market share.
    Support for Devices: As with the printer, it is annoying that getting support for devices is a complete pain for mac but I guess that goes along with the territory.
    Customization: I tried to install multiclutch and found everything to be much more complicated aside from basic tweaks on a mac. The mac is like an all or none machine. For end-users there are very few customization options but if you know unix you can do anything. I am in the middle and was initially frustrated by this reality however I have come to accept the mac experience and this is part of it so it doesn't bother me that I can't change the order spotlight search titles or other things that I probably would have been able to if this were a pc.
    Games: These are simply faster on a pc but if you are buying a macbook for games you are making a mistake. Even the 9400M while good is not going to cut it. However, now that I don't play games anymore this doesn't matter and makes me love my mac even more.
    Quality Control: See above, but every mac I have bought (or returned) has had some hardware problem from the super annoying dead pixel to the mildly irritating tilting of the keyboard keys. Either way it is pretty ridiculous that this has been the case. Although I did have a dell which had a screen problem, I have owned 7 dells before this and only that one had a hardware problem.

    All in all while my initial experience with a mac was trying to say the least my recent new conversion has been nothing but surprising joy. All the glitches I had with my first machines that caused me to return them and just wait for a new model to come out have been fixed and combined with my change in attitude towards the operating system and how to use it I now love my mac and can see staying on this "side" for the time being. However, I don't hate pc's and I think the fanboyism is just annoying so I wanted to provide as honest a review as I could about the mac's strengths and weaknesses as I saw them through the lens of trying to become a new mac user.
  2. Bryan Bowler macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008
    This was an excellent read. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

  3. Saturn1217 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 28, 2008
    Great Review


    I've been thinking about switching for a while so this review was really helpful. Thanks!:)
  4. Heb1228 macrumors 68020


    Feb 3, 2004
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Pretty fair review. One point I'd differ: You say printing on Windows is better, but I think the native ability to print to .pdf in OS X is way more beneficial than any advantage Windows has to offer.
  5. Roller macrumors 68020

    Jun 25, 2003
    Thanks for your fair review. A few comments:

    1. It's a pity that switchers' first impression of the Mac is often based on their experience with MS Office, which is horribly slow. I actually find PPT 2008 better than previous versions as far as features are concerned, but the slowness almost negates the improvements. Word is really frustrating, and I gave up on Entourage in favor of Mail/iCal/Address Book.

    2. Although I think that Mac printing has become more cumbersome over the years, once you get it working with a particular printer, it works very well.

    3. I've had more problems getting various devices to work with Windows than with Mac OS.

    Enjoy your MacBook. I think that you'll find it an even better experience with Snow Leopard, which will concentrate on stability and speed.
  6. David G. macrumors 65816

    Apr 10, 2007
    I actually agree with the OP. Anytime I want to print something other than a webpage I click on my VMWare fusion icon in my dock.
  7. StingerT125 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 3, 2008
    Dutchess County New York
    I always have multiple programs and windows open on my Windows PC at work and I have never encountered any problems with doing this.

    I am missing the point in why you say this is a difference in the Windows and OSX mindset.

    I always open all the programs I will be working on in both operating systems and this has never seemed to be a problem with either one for me. I usually have 4 or 5 applications open at all times switching between on either one.
  8. jbg232 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 15, 2007
    Completely agree that .pdf printing is awesome but still does not have as many options as native printing.

    The key point is "once you get it working" which can be a slight pain as I've definitely had more problems getting devices to work in mac. The truth is that if you own a mac you only buy mac-supported hardware and that stuff works great, even better than with windows. But if you have non-mac hardware already and now need to get it working in mac it is a pain. Getting my fiancee's windows pc to print wirelessly to the printer through my computer has been a challenging ordeal to say the least. On windows computers I find this process much easier.

    Maybe it's just me but I typically never leave more than one or two programs open in windows while now I have 6 open at all times. At least that took me a mental block to get over so I wanted to share it to the future switcher community.

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