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Apple MacBook Review: Part 1

Apple MacBook Review: Part 1
By

I never had a good reason to switch to a Mac.  Windows NT, 2000, XP, and Vista x64 had all served me well.  My systems were always hand-built with the best-of-class components. For almost a decade, the only motherboards I used were from Abit, Asus, DFI, Gigabyte, Intel, or Tyan. The only memory modules in my system were from Corsair, OCZ Technology, or Intel-supplied FB-DIMMs using Micron or Samsung modules. My preferred power supply manufacturers? Silverstone, PC Power&Cooling, and Corsair.

With these components, my home-built systems were rock-solid, running months at a time, requiring a reboot only after installing new video card drivers. Building my own PCs also meant robust overclocking capabilities. I had been a student of the black arts of overclocking during an era when changing the bus speed meant unsoldering a physical crystal on the motherboard. Socketed crystals were a revelation, and I couldn’t have imagined a world of BIOS-controlled clock generators and the granularity of tweaks available to us today.

I had also adopted robust security practices. My PC was double NAT’d with my ports closed down. I had purchased Vista Ultimate to run Vista x64 to minimize the risk of rootkit exploits and to ensure secure timely updates and patches. I kept my system updated, downloading hotfixes even before they showed up on Windows Update. I was using Symantec Anti-Virus Corporate Edition, relying on the best available data from av-comparatives.org to make my decision rather than hand-waving and conjecture. 

While Windows made up the bulk of my day-to-day use, I was still well-versed with alternative operating systems. I had dabbled with BeOS R4 in college and my academic research in medical school required software running IRIX 6.5. Between Windows, UNIX, and Linux, I never saw a need to add a Mac to my system.

Everything changed on October 8, 2008. To this day, I still don’t have all of the details. My computer had been on all day, but I had only been on the Internet for a few minutes, when I suddenly began receiving a flurry of emails to my account. They were all spam bounce-backs coming to my email. My first thought was that the reply-to headers were being spoofed or that the SPF filter was defective. I started checking the headers and my heart skipped a beat--the spam was truly coming from my system. In a move worthy of a Hollywood film, I rushed for the master power switch on the PSU and shut the whole thing down. 

Not yet willing to admit defeat, I pulled the hard drive from my desktop PC and brought it to a clean PC, hoping to identify the malware that had infected my system. Nothing showed up. I tried the Symantec Rapid Release updates and several other anti-malware suites. The system was reported as clean. October would be the month where Microsoft would patch several critical vulnerabilities and it would later become clear that I had been hit by a zero-day exploit.

For a PC user since 1985, starting with a PC clone powered by a NEC V20 CPU, this was the first time I had seriously been affected by malware.  What if the malware had reached into my address book and sent spam to my boss or co-workers?

I had three options, all of which would require considerable amounts of time. One was to reformat the HDD and start with a fresh install of Windows Vista. It’d be tried and true, but it was still going to take a lot of time to redo the whole thing. I could switch entirely to Linux. I had already switched from IRIX to Linux several years ago, so I was already comfortable managing and troubleshooting Linux systems. Unfortunately, I still needed a system capable of running the Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office. Open source alternatives to Adobe Creative Suite didn’t have the same quality or capabilities that I needed, while OpenOffice lacked the same multi-core computation capabilities that Excel offers for some of my more complex spreadsheets. The third option was to try switching to a Mac.

The timing couldn’t have been better; Apple was planning to update their notebook line the following week. I’d pick one of the notebooks up, give it an earnest go to see if a die-hard Windows and Linux user could switch to the Mac and document the whole thing. I’d play with the Mac for a month and then give the notebook away to my parents. When Core i7 desktop processors were available in greater quantities, I’d rebuild my Windows PC then.

I had no plans to switch from Windows to Macintosh permanently. All of my data had been stored on NTFS-formatted external drives and all my applications were for Windows. I was too careful, too savvy, and too poor to switch to a Mac.

It was only supposed to be an experiment. 

It was only supposed to be one month. 

But it happened anyway. I’ve switched to a Mac.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    curnel_D , January 26, 2009 8:15 AM
    Yawn. Basically, you were just explaining a normal notebook that costs more than it should. It's slightly thinner by the standards in it's class but is 0.38" really a big deal? (No.) The famed apple screens can be outperformed and sometimes for cheaper if you shop around, upgradability is shaky at it's very best, and it is generally more expensive than everything in it's class.
    Then of course, you list the Mac OS X as an improvement over the PC's. That's where almost every single person will find error in your article. It is nothing more than a watered down version of more powerful unix/linux OS's. Anyone who has work to do, wont use this. Yawn.
  • 13 Hide
    mrubermonkey , January 26, 2009 6:37 AM
    My spider sense is telling me that Tom's is desperate to bring in more readers with the release of this article, which is bound to conger up the same epic comment wars regarding Mac vs. PC of Mac articles past.
  • 12 Hide
    marraco , January 26, 2009 11:22 AM
    [While these ~200:1 contrast ratios sound like a catastrophically horrible results...]
    Excuses, excuses, excuses...

    If you pay premium prices, you should not get worse hardware.


    [Using a digital Munsell... the AUO screen had very good.... The LG-Philips display was worse]

    Another puny excuse. So you buy a Mac, and need third party software to calibrate it? I remarks: Overpriced.
    Why it does not get calibrated from fab?

    And you can't compare it with some trademark PC version. There are so many PC versions that you will ever find some example to make your point. It's manipulative, and aimed only to the computer ignorant victims who can read the article.

    Smart PC buyers don't buy Dells, HP, or Lenovos. They are choices bad as Apple, because of the reason that they are overpriced, and limited.

    [There is more misinformation about ... everyone agrees with: glossy screens have more vivid color and contrast while matte screens are better at rejecting reflections from ambient light.]

    misinformation as your article.
    "everyone agrees with"? Subtle. A trick to say that you have not basis for your statement.

    "glossy screens have more vivid color and contrast"?

    Plain lie.
    "glossy screens" looks good only in stores. That is the only reason for the mac "glossy" screen.
    As soon as you need to use it, you learn the hard way than all those reflections damage your eyes, because reflections on the screen:
    -don't let you see the screen.
    -forces you to use dark rooms, and move away all reflective the objects at your back.
    -You can't choose environment with a notebook, so generally you can't avoid reflections.
    -Damage your eyes and cause headaches, because the eye interprets reflections as incorrect focus, and constantly tries to focus the screen and the reflected object simultaneously. Since it is impossible, it causes health problems. It should be prohibited. You are not a good parent if you give a glossy screen to your children.

    But Apple, who knows it, sold glossy screens anyway. Why?

    Because Apple target victimizable consumers, and don't care about consumer health.
    Victimizable consumers are those:
    -Without enough information.
    -Without ego (manipulable), who need external symbols of status to show, even when they are showing his lack of ego.

    [ On the other hand, fans of glossy displays can point out that flagship digital mammography displays such as the Eizo RadiForce GS520 are designed with glossy screens because the superior sharpness (MTF) over matte screens allows radiologists to better detect more subtle changes in the breast and identify breast cancer at earlier stages.]

    "digital mammography displays"? you are not buying a "digital mammography display". You are buying a notebook. Such convoluted argument looks like marketing investigation aimed to cheat consumers.
    A specific model of "digital mammography display" is not necessarily well designed. ¿do all the "digital mammography displays" use glossy screens? NO. Do that model also implements other measures to avoid reflections? If not, is bad design.

    "So, when it’s comes to making a life or death decision, glossy wins." A marketing lie. It implies that "when life is important, you need a glossy display, so they are better". Is a hidden deceit. Life is important for passenger jumbo jets, because if the pilot does not see the computer screens because of a glossy reflection, then the jumbo jet crashes, and all the 400 passenger die.
    That is a deceptive argument, as bad as you "mammography point your finger argument".

    [While Dell allows... Apple sticks with ...]
    Comparing Apple with Dell? not fair. PCs allows lots of choices than Apple does not allow. You can't compare a bad choice -Dell- with no choice -Apple-.

    By the way, Apple "sticks" with obsolete hardware.

    [GeForce 9400M]
    Many PC have that or better graphics if you want it, and for a lower price.
    AND if your really need a good graphic chipset, you can't choose any Apple offer. GeForce 9400M is not good enough when you need graphic power.

    [traditional GPU-intensive games such as Call of Duty 4 will run at ~30 frames per second at resolutions of 1024x768 at high quality settings]
    Another deceit.
    -Hand picked game.
    -30 fps = not enough. Based on what you pretend that it can reach it a quality settings? You are omitting that it would reach frequently lower fps, specially in the most important parts of that hand picked game, making it unplayable. you omit to tell that your "high quality" does not include anisotropic filtering, and antialiasing.
    -looks like your "digital mammography display" does not have goods graphics.

    Stop lying. Graphics is important in gaming, and your Apple is puny at best in gaming.
    Also, you omit to say that you will need to buy windows to run those games.

    [With the exception of games such as Crysis]
    And Bioshock, Far Cry 2, left for dead, Unreal Tournament 3, DirectX 10.1 ... and laaarge list.

    [it appears that the 9400M is capable of running most modern games at medium or high image quality settings at 30 fps or greater, making it perfectly suitable for casual gaming.]
    "it appears"?
    "most modern games"?. NO modern game.
    "30 fps"? wait. 60 fps is the base quality. 30 fps is not good enough. You see the image jumping, and it is only average fps. In gamming, it matters lower fps a lot.

    AND you are paying premium price. You can but a much better computer for that price.
Other Comments
  • 13 Hide
    mrubermonkey , January 26, 2009 6:37 AM
    My spider sense is telling me that Tom's is desperate to bring in more readers with the release of this article, which is bound to conger up the same epic comment wars regarding Mac vs. PC of Mac articles past.
  • 2 Hide
    mrubermonkey , January 26, 2009 6:44 AM
    *conjure
  • 14 Hide
    curnel_D , January 26, 2009 8:15 AM
    Yawn. Basically, you were just explaining a normal notebook that costs more than it should. It's slightly thinner by the standards in it's class but is 0.38" really a big deal? (No.) The famed apple screens can be outperformed and sometimes for cheaper if you shop around, upgradability is shaky at it's very best, and it is generally more expensive than everything in it's class.
    Then of course, you list the Mac OS X as an improvement over the PC's. That's where almost every single person will find error in your article. It is nothing more than a watered down version of more powerful unix/linux OS's. Anyone who has work to do, wont use this. Yawn.
  • 10 Hide
    ravenware , January 26, 2009 9:28 AM
    Quote:
    I had three options, all of which would require considerable amounts of time. One was to reformat the HDD and start with a fresh install of Windows Vista. It’d be tried and true, but it was still going to take a lot of time to redo the whole thing. I could switch entirely to Linux. I had already switched from IRIX to Linux several years ago, so I was already comfortable managing and troubleshooting Linux systems. Unfortunately, I still needed a system capable of running the Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office. Open source alternatives to Adobe Creative Suite didn’t have the same quality or capabilities that I needed, while OpenOffice lacked the same multi-core computation capabilities that Excel offers for some of my more complex spreadsheets. The third option was to try switching to a Mac.


    Quote:
    When Core i7 desktop processors were available in greater quantities, I’d rebuild my Windows PC then.


    Quote:
    I was too careful, too savvy, and too poor to switch to a Mac.


    This seems rather illogical. Reformatting the drive wouldn't cost anything but time and if your too poor then why spend 1300+ on a new computer? You would also still spend time and possibly more money on installing your apps.
    You also spent time and money on upgrade options.

    Who is "We"? We is used often in the article, I thought this article was one mans account/review on switching over to a mac.

    I would like to know more about what you actually do for a living and what you really use your computers for too.

    I and the majority of the Toms hardware readers are diehard windows users too and I can not afford to pick up a $1300 laptop to see if I like it or not. So I am very interested to see how this unfolds.
  • 0 Hide
    ravenware , January 26, 2009 9:33 AM
    Oh yeah, why would the need to reformat your computer lead to building a new core i7 machine?
  • 0 Hide
    one-shot , January 26, 2009 9:49 AM
    ..The scent of Mac-ness and the sense of power that comes with it. Maybe spending twice as much isn't such a bad idea after all.............
  • 7 Hide
    marraco , January 26, 2009 9:54 AM
    [I started checking the headers and my heart skipped a beat--the spam was truly coming from my system]

    I found lots of spam "comming" from my computer. Even when I had run Linux -Live CD only- for a month.

    Headers are easy to fake, so, are a common spam trick, to hide real spam origin.

    By the way, there are some easy fix you could had used:

    1- Use virtual machines to access Internet.
    2- Use utilities as Norton Ghost for fast "formatting". In minutes your computer restore a partition image ready to use with all your software installed.


    I don't want to hurt your feelings, but it looks like you spent an enormous effort to justify pay for an overpriced Mac OS (overpriced because the obsolete hardware you had buy does not wort a penny, so you are paying for the OS only).
  • 8 Hide
    Pei-chen , January 26, 2009 10:12 AM
    Reads like crap only Anand himself would have written. You went Mac because someone better (a hacker, virus writer, whoever) defeated you? That's like saying you went gay because someone get the girl you're after.

    BTW, where are the reviews of web based Java game we were promised? You got a Mac so you're not reviewing SC2 that's for sure.
  • 8 Hide
    chaosgs , January 26, 2009 10:15 AM
    Why would anyone "switch" to a mac, when pc will do everything you need for half the price. Everything you mentioned in this article, all pc's (vista pc's) in the world can do at half the price.

    As for security, i don't need security on my computer, i NEVER get any viruses, and if i did Norton or avg would take care of all that.

    Mac aint got shit on pc.
  • 5 Hide
    arkadi , January 26, 2009 10:58 AM
    It more like an opinion (commercial stile) not a review. It a good article with all the specs and the pictures, but it far from being objective. And the suggestions that was made here...If you writing a review, you can't emphasize the superiority of your product on expanse of other (Microsoft in this case).
  • 12 Hide
    marraco , January 26, 2009 11:22 AM
    [While these ~200:1 contrast ratios sound like a catastrophically horrible results...]
    Excuses, excuses, excuses...

    If you pay premium prices, you should not get worse hardware.


    [Using a digital Munsell... the AUO screen had very good.... The LG-Philips display was worse]

    Another puny excuse. So you buy a Mac, and need third party software to calibrate it? I remarks: Overpriced.
    Why it does not get calibrated from fab?

    And you can't compare it with some trademark PC version. There are so many PC versions that you will ever find some example to make your point. It's manipulative, and aimed only to the computer ignorant victims who can read the article.

    Smart PC buyers don't buy Dells, HP, or Lenovos. They are choices bad as Apple, because of the reason that they are overpriced, and limited.

    [There is more misinformation about ... everyone agrees with: glossy screens have more vivid color and contrast while matte screens are better at rejecting reflections from ambient light.]

    misinformation as your article.
    "everyone agrees with"? Subtle. A trick to say that you have not basis for your statement.

    "glossy screens have more vivid color and contrast"?

    Plain lie.
    "glossy screens" looks good only in stores. That is the only reason for the mac "glossy" screen.
    As soon as you need to use it, you learn the hard way than all those reflections damage your eyes, because reflections on the screen:
    -don't let you see the screen.
    -forces you to use dark rooms, and move away all reflective the objects at your back.
    -You can't choose environment with a notebook, so generally you can't avoid reflections.
    -Damage your eyes and cause headaches, because the eye interprets reflections as incorrect focus, and constantly tries to focus the screen and the reflected object simultaneously. Since it is impossible, it causes health problems. It should be prohibited. You are not a good parent if you give a glossy screen to your children.

    But Apple, who knows it, sold glossy screens anyway. Why?

    Because Apple target victimizable consumers, and don't care about consumer health.
    Victimizable consumers are those:
    -Without enough information.
    -Without ego (manipulable), who need external symbols of status to show, even when they are showing his lack of ego.

    [ On the other hand, fans of glossy displays can point out that flagship digital mammography displays such as the Eizo RadiForce GS520 are designed with glossy screens because the superior sharpness (MTF) over matte screens allows radiologists to better detect more subtle changes in the breast and identify breast cancer at earlier stages.]

    "digital mammography displays"? you are not buying a "digital mammography display". You are buying a notebook. Such convoluted argument looks like marketing investigation aimed to cheat consumers.
    A specific model of "digital mammography display" is not necessarily well designed. ¿do all the "digital mammography displays" use glossy screens? NO. Do that model also implements other measures to avoid reflections? If not, is bad design.

    "So, when it’s comes to making a life or death decision, glossy wins." A marketing lie. It implies that "when life is important, you need a glossy display, so they are better". Is a hidden deceit. Life is important for passenger jumbo jets, because if the pilot does not see the computer screens because of a glossy reflection, then the jumbo jet crashes, and all the 400 passenger die.
    That is a deceptive argument, as bad as you "mammography point your finger argument".

    [While Dell allows... Apple sticks with ...]
    Comparing Apple with Dell? not fair. PCs allows lots of choices than Apple does not allow. You can't compare a bad choice -Dell- with no choice -Apple-.

    By the way, Apple "sticks" with obsolete hardware.

    [GeForce 9400M]
    Many PC have that or better graphics if you want it, and for a lower price.
    AND if your really need a good graphic chipset, you can't choose any Apple offer. GeForce 9400M is not good enough when you need graphic power.

    [traditional GPU-intensive games such as Call of Duty 4 will run at ~30 frames per second at resolutions of 1024x768 at high quality settings]
    Another deceit.
    -Hand picked game.
    -30 fps = not enough. Based on what you pretend that it can reach it a quality settings? You are omitting that it would reach frequently lower fps, specially in the most important parts of that hand picked game, making it unplayable. you omit to tell that your "high quality" does not include anisotropic filtering, and antialiasing.
    -looks like your "digital mammography display" does not have goods graphics.

    Stop lying. Graphics is important in gaming, and your Apple is puny at best in gaming.
    Also, you omit to say that you will need to buy windows to run those games.

    [With the exception of games such as Crysis]
    And Bioshock, Far Cry 2, left for dead, Unreal Tournament 3, DirectX 10.1 ... and laaarge list.

    [it appears that the 9400M is capable of running most modern games at medium or high image quality settings at 30 fps or greater, making it perfectly suitable for casual gaming.]
    "it appears"?
    "most modern games"?. NO modern game.
    "30 fps"? wait. 60 fps is the base quality. 30 fps is not good enough. You see the image jumping, and it is only average fps. In gamming, it matters lower fps a lot.

    AND you are paying premium price. You can but a much better computer for that price.
  • -1 Hide
    miltoxbeyond , January 26, 2009 11:48 AM
    ^ super rant. but yeah macs are ok if you do OSx86 (cuz its not costing you the premium)... but then again... windows or linux is better...
  • 3 Hide
    marraco , January 26, 2009 11:51 AM
    miltoxbeyond^ super rant. but yeah macs are ok if you do OSx86 (cuz its not costing you the premium)... but then again... windows or linux is better...


    Now winning:
    and the prices comparisons with PCs omitted to add windows price to play games, so the Apple cost even more.
  • -2 Hide
    marraco , January 26, 2009 11:52 AM
    Whinnying, I meant
  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , January 26, 2009 11:56 AM
    I know just about everyone here is a mac hater, but you really can't judge something until you try it.

    Google OSX86 Project. This is the coolest stuff ever. this project made me love mac and i have switched to it.
  • 3 Hide
    curnel_D , January 26, 2009 11:56 AM
    I guess this is a new traffic magnet tactic. Produce artciles so awful and mis/uninformed that everyone will be tripping over themselves to tell you what a waste this article is.

    If that's what you're going for, good job.
  • 8 Hide
    curnel_D , January 26, 2009 11:59 AM
    Starfox5194I know just about everyone here is a mac hater, but you really can't judge something until you try it.Google OSX86 Project. This is the coolest stuff ever. this project made me love mac and i have switched to it.

    I work on macs constantly. I regularly use an 8core mac for various work, and I own a last gen of my own. Macs are NOT worth it. I dont care about the OSX86 project. And if that website seriously convinced you to switch to mac, you're either lying (Very badly), or have Zero work to do.
  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , January 26, 2009 12:10 PM
    The entire article reads like marketing BS. As someone else pointed out, what's the word "we" doing in there? I thought this was one man's account of his transition from a PC to a Mac.
  • 0 Hide
    skjold , January 26, 2009 12:30 PM
    Are you really trying to convert overclockers and pc gamers with this s***? Because I thought that's what tomshardware mostly consisted of. Maybe you should put these kind of articles on tomsguide?
  • 1 Hide
    bunnyblaster , January 26, 2009 12:33 PM
    This article lacks any real content. If this article's intent was to appeal to PC Windows users out there, there needs to be something compelling in the article. Make it explicit so we, non "think-different", people can pick it up.
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