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Final Thoughts

Apple MacBook Review: Part 2

Two months ago, I never thought I would become a Mac fan. I had toyed with the idea, but if my Vista PC wasn’t compromised, I’m sure I’d still be a PC guy. But my time with the MacBook changed things. When it comes to my core computing applications: Internet, office productivity, and digital imaging and content creation, the MacBook works beautifully. It’s incredibly stable, extremely responsive, and a pure joy to use. Small touches like Cover Flow for the normal Finder and integrated Canon RAW support bring the extra level of polish that’s lacking from Windows Vista. With the unibody MacBooks adding a final tactile complement to software, it’s hard for me to imagine ever going back to Windows after making the switch on my primary PC.

The MacBook itself is a stunning piece of hardware. Starting with the aluminum exterior and wonderfully intuitive multitouch trackpad to digging internally to the Nvidia GeForce 9400M chipset and careful motherboard design, the MacBook is one of the best notebooks I have used at any price.  Sure, as a techie I’d love to have a higher-quality screen from the MacBook Air, and the backlit keyboard of the 2.4 GHz model, and yes, the addition of FireWire or at the very least an eSATA port would have been welcome. But, the notebook does everything else so well, so efficiently that I still get a smile every time I use my MacBook. I’m not the first PC guy to be impressed by the latest Macs. Our colleagues at Anandtech were pleasantly surprised to see the superior battery life of Mac OS X over Vista and our colleagues at Wired aren’t the only ones to comment on the speed of Mac OS X over even Windows XP. We’re just the first to look into the possibility of performance penalties in running hacked Mac operating systems.

Windows Vista is still my platform of choice for home theater PCs and gaming. Windows Media Center still offers a better living room interface than Apple Front Row, and its support for ATSC HDTV makes it must-have in a digital living room. More importantly, I can build Windows Media Center PC of my choice, combining a silent CPU and power supply with a ton of hard drives and multiple ATSC tuners. The Mac doesn’t have anything like Media Center. Plex, the Mac OS X fork of XBMC and Boxee both show a lot of promise, but without the ATSC integration that Windows Media Center offers, it’ll be a while before I even think about leaving Windows Vista behind. The Mac also can’t compete with the PC when it comes to games. While StarCraft 2 will likely be the Mac Game of the Year in 2009, the PC version of Mirror’s Edge already has me itching to rebuild a gaming PC.

But I’m waiting to rebuild. In January, Apple is expected to launch a new set of desktops. If these systems offer Core i7 quad-core CPUs, a modern GPU, and arrive at a reasonable price, I’ll be the first to get one to dual boot Vista for games and OS X for everything else. If Apple comes through with a netbook, I’m not sure if I’ll pick one up or not. The MacBook already does what I need in a notebook and the iPhone does everything else I need for extreme portability. An Apple netbook would need eight-hour battery life and full Office 2008 document support for me to make the switch.  Who knows, maybe iWork ’09 will run on ARM?

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