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Apple laptop vs. competition

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July 21, 2008 6:08:30 PM

Hello all,

I just wanted to ask you experts about what you think I should get based on my preferences:

- 13"-15"
- Ultraportable to mainstream in terms of size
- Student: moving from class to class, house to house, airplanes, etc.
- I'll be in bright places usually (so matte?)
- Looks don't really matter, it's more of a matter of getting my money's worth (on the inside)
- 40-100GB is fine (since I can always get an external)
- CDRW is fine, DVD burner would be neat, but not necessary (I have a Plextor PX-716UF external)

Software:
Safari (or Mozilla if it's not a Mac)
iTunes
Photoshop (light, not intense)
Dreamweaver / Web Design (standard stuff, no Flash or anything intensive: HTML, xHTML and CSS)
MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel
Gaming (I don't really NEED a gaming laptop, but if I can play some FPS that would be neat- CS, DoD)

Usage:
Mostly research, writing papers, and doing some web design and maybe some light gaming (but I can be happy with my 360).

What I'll be plugging into the laptop:
Logitech X-530 speakers
Mbox 2
Canon A710 IS camera
HP C5100 All-in-one printer
iPod 5G video
iPod Touch
Sansa Clip
Plextor PX-716UF external

Price range:
Well, the cheaper the better... Less than $1500 would be great!

List of possibilities:
Apple MacBook (2.1 GHz/ 1 GB RAM / 120GB HD/ DVD Rom CDRW) refurbished $949
Apple MacBook Pro (2.4 GHz/ 2GB RAM/ 200GB HD/ 8x SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)/ 8600M GT) refurbished $1,699
Dell Inspiron 1525
Dell XPS M1330
Dell XPS M1530
Lenovo ThinkPad T61

Questions:
1.) I really like the MacBook (size, price) however, I just wanted to know if I can do all the things I want to on it.
2.) I was also wondering if the MacBook Pro would be a consideration based on my usage as well (but worried about it's price)- Is it really worth hundreds more (FOR ME)?
3.) If the other laptops (non-Mac) are better for me, or if you recommend something else, which do you recommend? As I said, under $1,500 would be nice

Thanks in advance, take care all! Please get back to me as soon as you can.
July 21, 2008 6:27:05 PM

Well, you can forget about any kind of games on a macbook. It has Intel integrated graphics. Ignoring any OS compatibility or anything, the macbook pro could handle some gaming (it has a somewhat decent graphics card), but you'll get a lot more power for your money with the Dell XPS M1530. For you, I would recommend the Dell XPS M1530. For about $1700, you can get this configuration:

Quote:
SYSTEM COLOR Tuxedo Black edit
PROCESSOR Intel® Core%u2122 2 Duo Processor T9300 (2.5GHz/800Mhz FSB, 6MB Cache) edit
OPERATING SYSTEM Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Edition SP1 edit
LCD AND CAMERA High Resolution, glossy widescreen 15.4 inch LED LCD (1440x900) & 2.0 M edit
MEMORY 4GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz (2 Dimms) edit
HARD DRIVE Size: 250GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive edit
INTERNAL OPTICAL DRIVE Slot Load DVD+/-RW (DVD/CD read/write) edit
VIDEO CARD 256MB NVIDIA® GeForce® 8600M GT edit
WIRELESS CARDS Intel Next-Gen Wireless-N Mini-card edit
MOBILE BROADBAND Verizon Wireless built-in cellular mobile broadband (EVDO Rev A) edit
BLUETOOTH AND WIRELESS USB Dell Wireless 355 Bluetooth Internal (2.0+Enhanced Data Rate) edit
BATTERY OPTIONS 56 WHr 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery edit
SOUND OPTIONS Integrated Sound Blaster Audigy HD Software Edition edit
FINGERPRINT SCANNER Finger Print Reader XPS M1530 edit


This compares favorably to the $2500 configuration of the Macbook Pro, and would do fine for mild to moderate gaming while staying thin and light (thanks in part to the LED backlit screen).
July 21, 2008 9:16:44 PM

SYSTEM COLOR Tuxedo Black edit
PROCESSOR Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor T8300 (2.4GHz/800Mhz FSB, 3MB Cache) edit
OPERATING SYSTEM Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Edition SP1 edit
LCD AND CAMERA High Resolution, glossy widescreen 15.4 inch LED LCD (1440x900) & 2.0 M edit
MEMORY 2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz (2 Dimms) edit
HARD DRIVE Speed: 160GB 7200rpm SATA Hard Drive Free Fall Sensor edit
INTERNAL OPTICAL DRIVE Slot Load DVD+/-RW (DVD/CD read/write) edit
VIDEO CARD 256MB NVIDIA® GeForce® 8600M GT edit
WIRELESS CARDS Intel Next-Gen Wireless-N Mini-card edit
BATTERY OPTIONS 56 WHr 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery edit
SOUND OPTIONS Integrated Sound Blaster Audigy HD Software Edition edit
FINGERPRINT SCANNER Finger Print Reader XPS M1530
$1,549

- I found the 2.5GHz was $300 extra, rather than $150 with this 2.4GHz
- Also, I don't think I'll need 4GB (if I have to upgrade, I can always do so later)

* I was hoping to stay in that price range of the MacBook, but I'll continue to research until I'm set on what I want/need. Dell is cheap, but I've had bad experiences with their quality in the past (hence why I was looking at Apple & Lenovo). Are these laptops good QUALITY?

If everything else can run on a MacBook, I can always leave gaming to my Xbox (gaming isn't that big of a concern to me). I liked the Apples because you get OS X and XP (BootCamp)... Any more thoughts/suggestions/input? Thanks for help thus far!
Related resources
July 21, 2008 10:17:54 PM

Dell XPS laptops are good quality. I wouldn't go with an Inspiron though. The XPS has a completely separate customer support that is far superior (it's in the US too - last time I had an issue with my XPS M1710, the guy I called was in Arizona). That config you posted would certainly be a good one, and you would be happy with it. As long as it has the 8600M video card, and the 2 gigs of RAM, you could definitely run some games with it.

As for dual booting the mac? Yes, you can, but you need a copy of XP or Vista. Add $150 for that. Of course, if you really prefer OSX (I actually can't stand it, but I know people who swear by it), the Macbook could definitely be the right choice for you. Just be aware that you can't really do any games on the macs until you get to the pro series, and the base level macbooks are really quite slow for the price. You're paying for the OS and the style.
July 22, 2008 12:15:56 AM

Thanks for the reply!

I found:

Apple MacBook Pro:
$1249
2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo/ ATI x1600/ 1gb RAM

$1449
2.2/ 2GB RAM/NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT

$1499
2.33/ 2GB RAM/NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT

1.) So, with me, will I really notice the difference with 2.16 and 2.33? I may be multitasking:
iTunes + Safari
iTunes + MS Word
MS Word + Safari
Nothing too heavy...

Vista vs. XP vs. OS X:
2.) Well, my usage is pretty easy, I think Vista may be too extreme? OS X can be justified via BootCamp, right (I have XP CD)?

$1249 is a price in my liking... I think it's justified, so now I'll re-configure some other competitors to see which specs are my best "bang for my buck"

3.) is the XP on a Mac better than PC?

I already have XP on my desktop here, so no worries in terms of buying XP if I do get Apple...

Since I was looking at 2.16GHz, I have these on my list of options:

Apple MacBook - $849
2.0GHz
1GB RAM
120GB HD


Dell XPS 1530 - $1349
SYSTEM COLOR Tuxedo Black
PROCESSOR Intel® Core%u2122 2 Duo Processor T8100 (2.1GHz/800Mhz FSB, 3MB Cache)
OPERATING SYSTEM Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Edition SP1
LCD AND CAMERA High Resolution, glossy widescreen 15.4 inch LED LCD (1440x900) & 2.0 M
MEMORY 3GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz (2 Dimms)
HARD DRIVE Size: 250GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
INTERNAL OPTICAL DRIVE Slot Load DVD+/-RW (DVD/CD read/write)
VIDEO CARD 256MB NVIDIA® GeForce® 8600M GT
WIRELESS CARDS Intel Next-Gen Wireless-N Mini-card
BATTERY OPTIONS 56 WHr 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery
SOUND OPTIONS Integrated Sound Blaster Audigy HD Software Edition
FINGERPRINT SCANNER Finger Print Reader XPS M1530
July 22, 2008 2:20:39 AM

I wouldn't call Vista extreme. Actually, it's a quite easy operating system. I wouldn't run it with less than 2 gigs of RAM though. As for the CPU, I doubt you'd notice a huge difference there. Maybe slight, but nothing too significant.

As for XP on a mac vs a PC, it will be exactly the same. Macs use exactly the same hardware as PCs (no matter what they try to claim), and it has no advantage.

Actually, that $1350 config of the Dell looks nice for you - the graphics card will let you do the moderate gaming, and by sacrificing a bit on the CPU, you can get it for pretty cheap. The 250GB HDD is nice too.
July 22, 2008 2:37:09 AM

Well, I thought Apple was the only place with student discounts (Hence why I was EXTREMELY geared toward buying something from them):
$1299
SYSTEM COLOR Tuxedo Black edit
PROCESSOR Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T5750 (2.0GHz/667Mhz FSB/2MB cache) edit
OPERATING SYSTEM Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Edition SP1 edit
LCD AND CAMERA High Resolution, glossy widescreen 15.4 inch LED LCD (1440x900) & 2.0 M edit
MEMORY 2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz (2 Dimms) edit
HARD DRIVE Size: 160GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive edit
INTERNAL OPTICAL DRIVE Slot Load DVD+/-RW (DVD/CD read/write) edit
VIDEO CARD 256MB NVIDIA® GeForce® 8600M GT edit
WIRELESS CARDS Intel Next-Gen Wireless-N Mini-card edit
BATTERY OPTIONS 56 WHr 6-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery edit
SOUND OPTIONS Integrated Sound Blaster Audigy HD Software Edition

Vista is pretty nice considering it'll help my Xbox 360 out with the Media Center, as well as the DX10 for the future. Thanks thus far!
July 22, 2008 3:24:24 PM

Apple:
MacBook Pro ($1249)
Macbook ($849)

Dell:
XPS M1530 ($1299)

So, basically I'm trying to find all competitors and weigh out each pros & cons... Is Apple and Dell only ones recommended? I'm not TOO worried about gaming, as I said earlier, I'm mainly worried about everything else and the fact I don't really want to spend more money on things I don't need...
July 22, 2008 4:33:18 PM

I will say that of the PC laptops in that range, the ones I would recommend the highest are the Dell XPS, so you are looking at the right ones. The main thing to look at now (I'd go with the MBP over the Macbook BTW) is whether you want Vista or OSX, and whether the programs you'll be using are compatible with OSX. The hardware on the Dell overall is slightly better, but not by enough to make a huge difference, so the main thing you should be looking at is the software itself (as well as the design). It's basically a matter of personal preference.

One good thing about the Dell is that if you ever want to replace anything in it, it is far easier than in the Apple (like replacing the hard drive), but that is a minor consideration IMO.
July 22, 2008 6:08:29 PM

Yeah, I think that the Dell is the best deal at the moment.

Photoshop
Dreamweaver
iTunes
Pro Tools
Reason 3.0 (maybe)
MS Word
MS Excel
MS PowerPoint

What speed should I get for the processor? I don't really know if the prices are justified by the speeds:

Intel® Core%u2122 2 Duo Processor T8100 (2.1GHz/800Mhz FSB, 3MB Cache) $0
Intel® Core%u2122 2 Duo Processor T8300 (2.4GHz/800Mhz FSB, 3MB Cache) $50
Intel® Core%u2122 2 Duo Processor T9300 (2.5GHz/800Mhz FSB, 6MB Cache) $175
Intel® Core%u2122 2 Duo Processor T9500 (2.6GHz/800Mhz FSB, 6MB $450

Because I was thinking of getting the:
- LED LCD (1440x900) screen
- 3GB RAM (included with this deal)
- 250GB HD 5400 RPM
- 128MB GeForce 8400MGT (Saving $100 to go toward more processing speed - or should I get the 2.1GHz and the 8600M GT?)

Can the 8400MGT play games I may want to play? It doesn't have to be the HIGHEST setting. I'm not playing Half-Life 2 or FarCry or anything on this...

Also, what's the diff in wireless?:
Intel Next-Gen wireless N $50
Dell 1395 802.11g $0

* I think I'll just reformat right when I get it and install XP, until the time comes, then i'll install Vista Home Premium on it again
July 22, 2008 6:20:09 PM

For the CPU, the bump from T8100 to T8300 is not significant. If you can spring for it, the extra cache on the T9300 is nice though (not huge, but definitely a benefit). The T9500 is a waste though, unless you need bragging rights.

As for the 8400M, it is quite a bit slower than the 8600. The 8600 has twice the stream processors, and would probably be nearly twice as fast. Both would run the games, just depending on how much you like being able to turn up the settings some. For the games, you'd get much more benefit sticking to the T8100 and getting the 8600. For Photoshop and the other programs though, you'd be better off with the 8400 and a T9300.

As for the wireless, the Dell card only supports up to 802.11G, which is 54 Mb/s, while the Intel card supports 802.11n, which is up to 300Mb/s (the intel card also supports 802.11b and 802.11g though, so it can be used with older routers). Do you need the extra speed? Probably not. The main benefit is that 802.11n has greater range, but this can only be used if you also have an 802.11n router.
August 3, 2008 6:14:53 PM

I read somewhere to make sure to get more memory, and the CPU speeds nowadays are fine for most users tasks...
I'm still on the lookout for the new purchase, I still don't know about Dell quality/service (since my past isn't great with them). So I'm still considering alternatives:

One of my subscription magazines had these:
Mainstream:
- HP DV6700t (#1)
- SONY Vaio VGN-FZ4000 (#2)
- Dell XPS 1530 (#3)

15.4 workhorse:
- Apple MacBook Pro

Light:
SONY Vaio VGN-SZ780
==========
My pros & cons thus far:
MBP ~ Cons - Feels heavy/quite warm, keys... just looks/feels expensive (worry about stolen/chipping/dents/etc) | Pros - 8600, LED, Firewire 800
MacBook ~ Cons - Integrated graphics | Pros - Small, light, keys I think feel better than MBP, cost
Dell M1530
HP DV6700t
Sony Vaio VGN-FZ4000
Sony Vaio VGN-SZ780

I guess software/OS isn't really an issue with Mac, due to BootCamp. Plus, the programs I'd be running I can just get Mac-compatible... I just really want to know if the MacBook could run Steam (Couter Strike & Day of Defeat) via Bootcamp? Graphics do not have to be perfect, but I wouldn't want it to be glitchy/laggy... I just love the price of the MB so much...
August 3, 2008 7:05:42 PM

Also, I never thought about this...

1.)
a. How can I hook up my Logitech X-530 5.1 surround speakers to a laptop that only has Line IN and Line OUT
(MacBook - http://www.apple.com/macbook/specs.html ) [I'm used to X-Fi soundcard, so will I not have the options/clarity?]

b. If there's no way of achieving the EQ/Crystalizer and all that the X-Fi offers, should I hook up my stereo monitors instead?

2.) How can I hook up my stereo M-Audio BX5a studio monitors to the laptop?
a b D Laptop
August 4, 2008 2:30:09 PM

If the laptop you get comes with an xpress slot, Creative has several soundcards ranging from the Audigy 2 to the X-fi that will work with the Logitechs at the very least.
August 4, 2008 6:09:18 PM

Ok cool, I'll have to look those up. Yeah, anyway of avoiding the optical OUT (headphone) to a receiver or buying a whole new speaker system would be great at the moment... [Eventually I'll end up getting a receiver via optical so I can truly get quality sound]
August 4, 2008 10:09:29 PM

You can get the X-fi notebook card. I have one, and it is quite nice - it gives you full X-fi functionality, and 5.1 surround with either optical or the optional surround sound kit.
August 5, 2008 3:00:09 AM

Yeah, what cjl said. Unfortunately, the X-530s don't have an optical line, so you'll have to buy the Surround Sound Upgrade Kit from Creative, MSPR of 35 dollars. But you'll have surround sound on your notebook!
!