I will use the machine both at university and at home fairly equally. At university light weight and good battery life are important but at home more power is always appreciated.
After a bit of looking I've come to two options but am still open to other suggestions.
First option is The MacBook 13. $1090 off Amazon with Mac Office and a protective sleeve. This is probably the better option for university life, 7 hour batter life, 13" frame and 4.7 punds. It has a 2.26GHz Core2Duo processor, 2G of ram and an Nvidia 9400m graphics chipset.
I'm a windows user but have been dealing with Mac's a lot lately and they are growing on me, Mac OS X combined with a multi-touch pad is a pleasure to use.
The other option is the new Sony Vaio E-Series. That comes to $1094 with Office, 3 years of Norton but no case. The has an i5-520m processor at 2.4GHz which as you know overclocks to 2.93GHz when only two cores are in use. It also has 4G of ram and an ATI 5470 chipset. The notebookcheck.com benchmarks page gives this chip well over twice the 3D Mark scores of the Mac chip. The computer weighs 5.95 pounds which is still reasonably light.
I do game a little on my current laptop and am always multi-tasking it to the point of crashing so at home the extra performance would be great.
I have never owned a Mac or a Sony computer . I currently have a Dell Inspiron 6400 which has performed well but is a brick to carry around and performance is starting to lack. The Mac would be a bit quicker but far smaller and lighter, the Sony would blow it away in performance but be only slightly smaller and lighter.
So basically I'm looking for opinions from anyone who is familiar with either of these machines or perhaps has another suggestion. Every time I convince myself to get one, I think "oh but..." and am back to square one. At the end of the day I "like" the novelty of a Mac more and it's probably more practical, but the techie inside me can't look passed the bang-for-buck performance of the Sony. I'd love to hear an overwhelming argument for one of the other.
Well, ergonomics is also MUCH better on the Mac. It would be a fairer comparios had you compared the mac to the VAIO SR, which is like the Mac. And I must remind you that the 7 hour battery on a Mac is not comparable to the paltry 3.5 on the Sony. For education purposes, you can't go wrong with a Mac.
Furthermore, it is important to realize that as Mac OS X and Windows 7 are two different operating systems, you will get different performance levels. Snow lepoard is more refined and elaborate, so a low end Macbook would be comparable to a core i5 Sony.
Thanks for the replies guys, went with the Mac, mainly due to it's more friendly dimensions. I will however probably install Windows 7 on it as well so that I have the option to boot with it. One of my papers involves heavy use of Visual Studio and Silverlight SDK which I am told will not run on Mac OS. Not a big deal as there are plenty of lab computers and my old laptop which I can use, but will probably do it for convenience sake.
Also, the Sony computer is not available with the i5 processor yet and I don't really have time to wait.