My latest Dell purchase has helped me see the light: I'm getting a Mac next

Dan B.'s picture

It's not even been a year, and my overpriced Dell Studio 15 is making funny noises. I'm tired of flimsy plastic, cheap keys, and bizarre errors, and seriously considering buying a 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Does anyone own one and can share a bit about what they about the computer? Specifically, is anyone running Adobe CS5 apps on it? Can it handle them well?

Your input would be proverbially much appreciated.

blank's picture

Apple uses the same parts, and to some extent, the same internal hardware designs, as every other laptop vendor. There are really only four laptop makers in the world, all run out of Hong Kong and/or Taiwan. All of their designs are variations on each other, they all use the same suppliers and contractors, etc. Companies like Dell and Apple just pick a stock mainboard and have it slightly modified for whatever controls and ports their American designers want to wrap around it.

So I’m not surprised that my luck with Powerbooks has been just as bad as my luck with PC laptops was. This laptop’s CD/DVD drive has never worked right, the first battery developed a defect, the replacement has since done the same. The only real advantage to Apple hardware is that you can pay extra for Applecare, which gives you three years to walk into the Apple store and get fast service for just about any of the defects in Apple’s cheap Asian hardware.

I buy Apple computers because I like being able to run on a fairly solid UNIX OS and because Microsoft’s GUI designers are even worse than Apple’s. But I’m never buying another overpriced Powerbook. Next time I’m going to just build my own desktop and run Hackintosh on it.

Dan B.'s picture

Next time I’m going to just build my own desktop and run Hackintosh on it

James, I'm not as smart as you (yet!). At least MacBook's unibody will hopefully be more durable than the cheap plastic used to make my Dell. What ticks me off is that I paid nearly as much as I'll be paying for the MacBook and all I got was a wider screen.

I do agree desktops are nice, but very impractical for my situation presently.

Any other thoughts, especially concerning performance?

John Hudson's picture

James:The only real advantage to Apple hardware is that you can pay extra for Applecare, which gives you three years to walk into the Apple store and get fast service for just about any of the defects in Apple’s cheap Asian hardware.

On the other hand, there is Dell's on-site service option, which I've found to be excellent. Bear in mind that I live on a small island only accessible by ferry. The Dell contracted service guy came on over, spent a morning fixing one problem and diagnosing another. Then Dell couriered a brand new monitor to me that arrived the next morning, and arranged pick-up of the old one.

Given the nature of laptop hardware in particular, I'd say that such service options are definitely a sound investment and well worth the extra money, regardless of whether you're working with PC or Mac.

blank's picture

Any other thoughts, especially concerning performance?

If you aren’t doing motion graphics or doing 3D stuff CPU options are effectively irrelevant to performance. RAM is still really important, especially if you’re running bloated apps like Photoshop and Illustrator. Buy your Mac and then immediately upgrade to as much RAM as you can afford.

flooce's picture

Generally when I made the switch I learned to love the OS. The Hardware is alright, usually. They had their batch of problematic products too, cracking top-board of the old white mac-book, heat issues due to wrongfully applied thermal-paste, display issues with the iMac, so they are not manufacturing miracle-machines.

On the other hand their built quality recently increased again I think, with the new uni-body lineup. In general there were some issues after the intel-switch. Anyhow, you will definitely be at least on the same level as with a general Windows laptop (I am sure there are some outstanding Win laptops too).

I had three macs, and only good experiences with the Apple service. The old white macbook was a bit problematic for me, because I needed to get the display (flickering) and the keyboard-unit/top-case (cracks) exchanged on warranty. But it still runs great actually, considering that I dropped the whole thing from a meter and a half on the floor (It was due to a wrongly zipped backpack)! The display was broken, but I was able to change the display myself following the instructions of ifixit (It is the third screen in the same laptop already). Generally the limited variety of products can be a plus too, because parts are easier available, same with instructions. Plus if a line of products has a series problem you hear quite fast about it. With Windows-laptop manufactures you normally have 50 different laptops in the line-up, so news travels slower I guess.

I have the 13 inch MacBook Pro, mine is a year old already though. A friend of mine uses it for design work with Photoshop and an external monitor, she says CS5 performs better on a mac than CS4. She uses Photoshop. I am not sure if Video-Editing would be something advisable, other than that CS should be fine, if you use an external display.

For the value of money a hackintosh would be the smartest thing. In some EU countries this probably would be legal even, if you were you have the OS DVD, if you did not download a modified OS, but just the drivers and kernel-extensions. I am not sure how feasible this is, but I just want to point out that in some countries the use of the OS is less restricted and it is more seen under the aspect of property than license, than in others. This has to do with the non-applicablitiy of EULAs, which are not accessible before the buy. It doesn't mean that you own the code, but on your version of what you bought you can modify for your own use whatever you want, depending on the country.

oldnick's picture

It's not even been a year

Even id you didn't spring for extended coverage, your Dell should still be under warranty.

Dan B.'s picture

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

John, that is good service, indeed. Unfortunately, customer service (Apple or Dell) won't help me much in a year's time when I go back to my native Romania (currently in US). I believe it was a couple of years ago that an acquaintance was trying to purchase a Dell from the Romanian branch of the company. He e-mailed them, left a voice message, but nobody got back to him. :) Maybe things have changed since.

I still plan on getting Applecare for 3 years, though.

Nick, yes, my laptop is still under warranty. I'm trying to get them to fix it now before it expires!

James & Florian, I don't plan on doing any video. I'll be using Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, and maybe Fireworks and Dreamweaver. (And probably only two at the same time!)

The model I'm looking at has 4GB or RAM. Not sure what my options are if I want to upgrade, though. I'll have to look into that.

flooce's picture

The model I'm looking at has 4GB or RAM. Not sure what my options are if I want to upgrade, though. I'll have to look into that.

8GB are possible in the 13" MacBook Pro, change of RAM is easy and does not break warranty. Its not cheap though.

Theunis de Jong's picture

.. I'll be using Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, and maybe Fireworks and Dreamweaver. (And probably only two at the same time!)

One of the many nice surprises of OSX: it handles application memory way, way better than Windows. Even Windows 7 on a brand new PC bogs down with only two CS applications open (only one if you also are using Word). Quitting apps as soon as you are done with them is something you'll soon get used not needing to.

Dan B.'s picture

That sounds great, Theunis.

Dan B.'s picture

A little irony in the 'hottest' section of the homepage.

[Sorry for the double post.]

JamesM's picture

Individual experiences can vary, but reviewers generally give Macs high marks for build quality.

I've got a 15" MacBook Pro and love it. CS4 runs great (don't have CS5 yet). The standard 4 GBs of RAM is okay, but more would make it zippier, especially when you've got many apps open and are switching back and forth.

The screen in the 13" model looks a tad small to me, especially if you've got a lot of palettes open in CS, but I realize that cost can be a factor. And you can always hook it up to a larger external monitor.

I think you can choose between a gloss and matte screen. I prefer the matte myself, as I find reflections annoying, but most folks seem to prefer the blacker blacks on the glossy screen.

Steven Acres's picture

Apple has constant hardware failures, more than I care to deal with. As for the bizarre errors, in my computer-repair days, they've always been user-caused... I'm on Win7 and never get any bizarre errors.

One of the many nice surprises of OSX: it handles application memory way, way better than Windows. Even Windows 7 on a brand new PC bogs down with only two CS applications open (only one if you also are using Word). Quitting apps as soon as you are done with them is something you'll soon get used not needing to.

Not necessarily. Windows actually handles multitasking with multiple cores better. I currently have open: Illustrator, Dreamweaver, InDesign, Photoshop, Suitcase Fusion 2, MediaMonkey (audio program), Steam (video game launching program) and some other miscellaneous things, and I can switch between one and the other seamlessly. In Windows 7.

To be honest, I would only buy Dell's high-end laptops. Sony and ASUS are better options, and don't cost a fortune to upgrade RAM as with Apple.

Also, what James Puckett mentioned isn't quite true, either: If you aren’t doing motion graphics or doing 3D stuff CPU options are effectively irrelevant to performance.

His statement was too generic. If you aren't doing motion or 3d, then a superpowered video card isn't necessary. "CPU options" are everything in this matter. RAM doesn't do processing, it allows more memory for the CPU to work with. The key is to have a good amount of quality RAM and a powerful processor.

Take this into consideration, as well:

2.66 i7 CPU
8GB DDR3 RAM
500GB Hard Drive
17" Screen
Apple's Cost: $2900.00
ASUS: $1450.00

That's double the price. ASUS's also comes with a better video card, 1yr accidental warranty, 2 year parts & labor warranty, and an extendable warranty.

But, overall, I do love Apple's design. That's where they have always trumped other brands.

Dan B.'s picture

Steven,

Thanks for the info. It's helpful, but I'm not looking at high end PCs, as they're over my budget. With the education discount and the free iPod touch (which I will sell right away), my MacBook Pro is going to end up costing me around $950. I'm not sure there are better alternatives, but your post prompted me to look better.

How are the Sony and Asus laptops built, as far as the body goes? Sturdy? I'll be carrying mine around quite a bit, so that's important to me.

oldnick's picture

But, overall, I do love Apple's design. That's where they have always trumped other brands.

Like the iPhone 4 antenna?

wongxiao's picture

If you aren't doing motion or 3d, then a superpowered video card isn't necessary. "CPU options" are everything in this matter. RAM doesn't do processing, it allows more memory for the CPU to work with. The key is to have a good amount of quality RAM and a powerful processor.

I completely agree. Even if you're doing motion or 3D, chances are you'll be working in a low quality/res or wireframe mode anyway. All of the fancy 3D stuff like raytracing, GI, SSS, volumetrics, motion blur, and whatnot come in when it's time to render...which happens on the CPU and in memory.

Personally, I can vouch for my satisfaction with my MacBookPro, although it's one of the older ones (got it summer of '07). I have experienced some logic board issues and I had one of those creepy Sony (IIRC) batteries, but the service was excellent. The OS has only ever crashed maybe once or twice, and I only ever shut it down when I need to get on an airplane. Most of the time it just stays on, and if I need to move it I'll put it to sleep. As far as multitasking, as I said, I really think it depends on the app. I can run Nuke, Final Cut Pro, and ZBrush all at once with no issues. Open one too many tab in Safari, though, and it dies... *sigh*

Steven Acres's picture

Like the iPhone 4 antenna?

I should have been more specific... their "design aesthetic." :)

In my experience, ASUS is extremely sturdy. The MacBook's unibody design is really nice and sturdy, but the metal they use is pretty flimsy overall and takes dents pretty easily.

If you're going for the lower-end laptops, you might do well to get the $1K MacBook. Good luck in your purchases!

aluminum's picture

"The only real advantage to Apple hardware is that you can pay extra for Applecare"

Well, that and the fact that they are consistently rated higher in quality than most of the competition by reputable labs such as Consumer Reports and many of the major PC publications.

We've beaten the crap out of many Apple laptops in our house and have been fairly impressed with the durability. My MacBook finally bit the dust after a 5 year run with a dead battery and HD. Easily fixable for a couple of hundred bucks but will likely be my excuse to upgrade. ;)

My experience with Dell laptops have been in the corporate setting where they just buy the cheapest ones they can, so I'm not sure that's a fair comparison. I do use HP hardware for windows work and will say that HP is perhaps one of the worst PC companies in terms of customer support.

My main argument for leaning folks towards Macs these days is that the Apple Store Genius Bar is infinitely better than the Best Buy Geek Squad counter.

aluminum's picture

"when I go back to my native Romania "

Oh! Well, then scratch all my comments on the Apple store. Not sure if they have any open in Romania yet.

Still, Apple is a good bet. If it weren't for the Adobe Suite, I'd push you towards Ubuntu as an option as well. (Personally, Mac or Windows, I'm finding Adobe's products the more annoying part of daily work these days...)

"That's double the price."

One thing to note with Apple hardware is that their highest-end model of any of their lines tends to be disproportionately more expensive compared to the specs. And even then the gap between their lowest end option and their highest end option isn't all that large, so I'd usually recommend folks go with the lower or mid range option unless money is of no concern.

"Like the iPhone 4 antenna?"

Not sure a half of a percent of affected devices is significantly relevant. The last thing to note is that when Apple screws up (and they do, like any company) the press is disproportionately harsh on them. And perhaps that's OK as they do have a reputation above the rest so we need to keep then in check. When I buy an HP, I just assume there's be zero support from HP if anything goes wrong. When you start with low hopes, it's hard to get upset.

oldnick's picture

Not sure a half of a percent of affected devices is significantly relevant

Perhaps, but how Steve Jobs chose to handle the problem is: first, deny it; next, blame the user; next, blame second-party software; and, finally, admit the mistake and offer a fix...

Delete's picture

I've had a Dell Precision M90 laptop for three years. The initial cost was around $5000. So far, it has had the motherboard replaced once, the video card (FX3500) replaced three times, the power cord once. Dell's support is awful (both drivers and hardware). I would not take another Dell if it were free. I've used Dell computers at home and work for years and am in the "Friends don't let friends buy Dells" camp.

aluminum's picture

"and, finally, admit the mistake and offer a fix"

I wish more companies did that.

Steven Acres's picture

I prefer desktops anyways. Mobile hardware is only JUST beginning to become comparable.

I built my desktop for $900 in 2007 and its performance is still above laptops coming out today. It's not portable, but saved me quite a lot of money, lasts much longer, and is way more powerful. I prefer to have a sketchbook on me at all times, and use my workstation when I get home.

Dan B.'s picture

I bought a Dell workstation 3 years ago also. Had it for 2 years and was very happy with it. Unfortunately, a desktop does not fit with my current life situation.

Steven Acres's picture

Yeah, I do wish I had a laptop a lot of times. I think the best thing is a combo of both.

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