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Mac or PC for college?

By bkouns001 · 27 replies
Jun 9, 2008
  1. Need advice

    I am going to purchase a laptop for my grandson who will be going off to college where his first couple of years will be devoted to general studies. He has always used a Windows based PC and I doubt his technical skills are very advanced. His high school work consisted mostly of word and power point documents, and one course where web design was part of the curriculum.

    One of the things we were told in a parent’s college prep meeting was that we should purchase on-site service for computer along with a replacement/insurance policy. This runs the cost of a laptop almost up to $2000.00 which I am willing to spend if it will last him for his full 4 years. But now, he has complicated my search, he seems to think that he wants a Mac (personally, I think he is of this mind due to their great job of marketing to college kids). I have tried to look at them online but I am not familiar with them and don’t really understand how to compare to a PC. The other issue is that I can’t find where they offer a replacement policy, and they don’t do on-site service, so I am not comfortable with that. The other issue I have is that this is first year in college, his first time to live away from home, there will be adjustments for him that I am sure I haven’t even considered so should he be learning a new computer system at this time? I have always heard that Macs are more expensive but since I don’t know what I am looking at I don’t have a cost comparison. I saw one for about $1400 but I have no idea if it will be sufficient for his needs. One other point, he has never used a laptop before but I don’t know if that is anything to consider in determining the type of computer.

    I hope I have explained my dilemma well enough to illicit some suggestions from posters here. Thanks.
  2. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,494   +2,293

    That said, you're entitled to start your own thread to sample opinions, and get suggestions.

    While the Mac vs PC argument ultimately must include a comparison of operating systems, it is also hardware based. So, might I suggest that you start your own thread in the "Mobile Computing" forum and see how it goes.

    And about that Mac advertising, you're right, it does seem to amuse young people quite a bit.
  3. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 14,524

    So you mean Microsoft Office stuff?

    I say Microsoft Windows Laptop
  4. mscrx

    mscrx TS Rookie Posts: 310

    I don't think he should get the mac as well. macs are more designed for users who work with graphics and stuff. I am sure he will need a windows laptop for office tasks like essays, calculations and presentations. of course you can have all this software for mac but it will be different to work with it and if something goes wrong he'll be lost between the others - the windows users. maybe you should ask for the teachers opinion and their experiences besides the prep meeting...
  5. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,729   +409

    Apple does not have on site service. You will want to purchase AppleCare which is a 3 year warranty, it will not cover damage you caused yourself such as dropping it, but it covers just about everything else. On site service probably isn't a big deal because if something does go wrong with it, Apple will send you a postage prepaid box for you to send it in, they will fix it, and get it back to you very fast. I sent my laptop in for a fairly major repair and it was back 4 days later, would have been 3 except I wasn't home to take a call concerning how mine got broke. If he happens to be going to school in a larger city, this is even less of a concern because they will fix them in the Apple Stores.

    As far as the price, the laptops are extremely similar when you compare hardware. There is also an educational discount you can get when ordering, all it does is ask what school, there are no other details required.

    As far as learning OS X vs Windows, it should be very easy. The apps like Microsoft Office are nearly identical, only slight appearance differences. The graphical interface works just the same as in Windows, so if he can move a cursor around and click on things you are set there. Installing and uninstalling programs just involves dragging them from the image (OS X uses disk images a lot) to anywhere. Uninstalling is just dragging them to the trash.

    One other thing to keep in mind, if you purchase a PC laptop it will almost certainly come with Vista. I would say the XP to Vista change is almost as 'difficult' as the XP to OS X change.
  6. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 10,432   +801

    There's LOTS of bias in the Mac vs PC debate :( and it's been that way from day-one.
    Techspot is dedicated to Windows so few of us have any practical experience on
    Mac or even any other system(s), so this is not a great place to get Mac info.

    I've got both inhouse, the Mac for the wife and a PC for myself (business reasons) and a third Linux machine (just background info).

    I recommend
    • Focus on ISSUES and not the emotional "which is better?" cruff.
    • First, in any purchasing decision, the question is Which product fits my needs?
      If there's a lot of Video/Music editing, then Mac wins hands down -- that's the Mac
      niche market since 1980's!
    • Second, go with the crowd; If you're an island unto yourself, then you're forced into
      Pay For Services, whereas if the roommate or classmate down the hall has the same
      product(s), then the "collective mind" has a good chance of helping solve problems.
    • Compatibility was a major issue in the past, but OpenOffice Suite has solved that
      problem AND it's OpenSource (ie free) as well.
    • Lastly, Go with what you know; why burden yourself with learning a new tool
      (effectively as waist of time) when there's classes to attend for which you have paid
      a TON of money.
  7. LNCPapa

    LNCPapa TS Special Forces Posts: 4,247   +448

    Keep in mind also that many times if you purchase the laptop through the school's store they often have some sort of service program in case the machine goes down. I work for a university and we have such a program here. The only complaint I hear from those guys is how much crap Apple gives them when they try to get parts for a Mac - even if it's covered by AppleCare. Many times we just eat the costs on some repairs.

    I agree, though, that becoming proficient in Vista is probably just as much a shell shock as switching from XP to Mac OS X.

    I also agree that you don't want to make him an island - I'd see what the Mac:Win ratio is at his school to get a better idea. Steve Jobs and Co. have done an excellent job of marketing their trinkets. I actually have a MacBook Pro myself - but I triple boot it with Mac/Vista/Ubuntu and I spend the least time on the Mac side.
  8. Spyder_1386

    Spyder_1386 TS Rookie Posts: 498

    Hey there

    Correct me if i'm wrong, but doesn't the Mac now work with Windows as well?

    Spyder_1386 :)
  9. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,494   +2,293

    It has a boot manager, "Boot Camp", but you need to spring for a copy of Windows. This is a big marketing talking point for Apple, but, that said, Ubuntu has it's boot manager "GRUB", and that's quite free, and free of advertising support. But here again, you have to sprng for a copy of Windows. An ugly, ugly, circular trap brought to you by the wonderful people in Redmond.
  10. Spyder_1386

    Spyder_1386 TS Rookie Posts: 498

    Ahh thanks mate..... thought there might be some catch to the story.

    Spyder_1386 :)
  11. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 10,432   +801

    OS X 10.4.* and above can run a Virtual copy of Windows using the Parallels Desktop.

    The neat part is BOTH run together, ie you can copy/paste directly from one to the other and there's no REBOOT to get to the other OS.

    The goofy part is the real devices are controlled via OS X so to get printing, you
    print spool from Windows, thru a virtual ip connection, back to the OS X print spooler
    which performs the real task.

    This should clue you to a major issue: gamers will not be happy with this solution as
    there's no direct access to the video, aka DirectX 9.*
  12. ThomasH1

    ThomasH1 TS Rookie

    He can always run Windows if need be, bootcamp is great.
  13. BorisandBailey

    BorisandBailey TS Enthusiast Posts: 154

    This may be a bit unorthodoxed, but I would seriously consider using the Linux-based Ubuntu. The operating system and all softwares are at no charge, the softwares are very well written, and Open Office will open anything from Microsoft Office, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Photo editing and music playing is available and are excellent. The Linux kernel is very stable, and viruses and spywares are nearly unknown to Linux users. You don't have to be a geek to use Ubuntu--it is very user friendly. It is also considered "cool" to have Linux.
  14. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 14,524

    Yes I agree that the OS can be free (reducing the cost and increasing the security with Ubuntu)
    But the question was in relation to which Hardware to purchase, (not MacOS and WindowsOS)

    I still say PC (which also works well with Linux Ubuntu :) )


    I mean Laptop (not Mac)
  15. bkouns001

    bkouns001 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 21

    Thanks everyone for your great and informed opinions and advice. He has decided, thanks to your opinions, against the Mac. It is now a question of which PC manufacturer. It now stands between HP dv6700t, Dell XPS M1530 , and Leovo Thinkpad T61.

    I am not please with what I have read recently about HP's service depatment and customer service.....Consumer Report rates them very low. So I am leaning toward Dell or IBM, but would appreciate any thoughts you might have. thanks.
  16. LinkedKube

    LinkedKube TechSpot Project Baby Posts: 3,481   +44

    There's usually a discount program when buying laptop through Universities, make sure you check into that. I had a friend that got a 300 rebate off his macbook for showing his school I.D in a mac store.
  17. kimsland

    kimsland Ex-TechSpotter Posts: 14,524

    Out of those three I say Dell (but it's all personal choice)
    Hp software tends to take over Windows OS
    The Thinkpad is just the cheaper version of a real laptop (lol)
    Dell is world recognized leading brand (up for debate!)

    Instead of all the arguing replies, it's best to purchase a computer that suits your needs. :)
  18. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,443   +36

    The Dell XPS laptop is of better build quality compared to the others. I recommend it. Also, if you browse Dell's University site here, you might find that your grandson may be eligible for a small discount as well.
    Good luck and let us know how it goes. :)
  19. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,729   +409

    Sorry to hear about your decision. I don't like the Dell over the Macbook, I did try to do a price comparison, and if you drop the RAM on the Dell to 2GB to match the $999 price of the Macbook the Dell is an overall better deal because of graphics, RAM, Hard Drive, and DVD Burner. So if you are going on an ultra tight budget then I guess the Dell is the way to go.

    In your first post though you said you could go as high as $2000 if its a quality machine, and mentioned one around $1400.

    What if you wanted to spend, say... $1199. Suddenly the Macbook becomes a lot better system. I'll spec the Dell similarly for comparison:
    (I didn't do the HP because you were leaning against it and I didn't do the Lenovo one because I don't have enough motivation right now).

    Dell XPS M1530: $1174
    Intel Core2Duo 2.4Ghz
    2GB RAM
    15.4" LCD @ 1280x800
    160GB HD
    DVD Burner
    nvidia 8400GS Video
    802.11g Wireless
    Fingerprint Reader
    Built in Camera
    Windows Vista Home Premium
    Ships July 16th

    Macbook: $1199
    Intel Core2Duo 2.4Ghz
    2GB RAM
    13.3" LCD @ 1280x800
    160GB HD
    DVD Burner
    Intel GMA X3100 Video
    802.11n Wireless
    Built in Camera
    Mac OS 10.5 Leopard
    Ships now

    The only thing the Dell has over the Macbook is a fingerprint reader and a couple bucks, but the Macbook has Bluetooth. The graphics on the Dell might be slightly better, I don't know, neither are going to be gaming powerhouses though.

    Now with the Macbook you have a smaller overall size which is a big deal for taking it anywhere, but you don't sacrifice screen resolution, its the same as the Dell. You also have the ability to run Windows on the Macbook if you want to. Faster wireless. Lighter weight. Magsafe power connector, if someone trips on the cord, or it gets yanked in any way it just pops out, preventing the laptop going crashing to the floor or damaging the connector or laptop.
  20. Rage_3K_Moiz

    Rage_3K_Moiz Sith Lord Posts: 5,443   +36

    I'd go with the Dell simply because it's more value for money, and there's the option of going with the Penryn-based T8300, which is not offered in the MacBook. It will have a significant impact on the temperature and power consumption of the laptop IMO. The MacBook has more bells and whistles sure, but most applications are designed mainly to work with Windows, so there might be compatibility problems with a Mac. Also, he might find installing Windows on the Mac a bit tedious, since you've stated that he has limited technical knowledge.

    Whatever you do, make sure you buy a laptop with as much RAM as possible, since more RAM increases the battery life by allowing the HDD to be used less frequently.
  21. bkouns001

    bkouns001 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 21

    What great advice I got, thanks all. Dell it is, we will check with the school especially since it is in Dell's home town, Austin, TX.

    I would have gone with the Mac but after showing him all the suggestions I had received, he decided that the PC was a better choice for him. He has enough adjusting ahead of him without adding the complication of a new computer system.

    I did chuckle however that you all nixed the IBM. I have had a Thinkpad for almost 15 years with absolutely no problems and I love it. But as my g'son says, its a machine for business people and older folks, of course, he got that from Consumer Report, lol....which by the way, rates it number one in many areas.

    Thanks again all.
  22. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,729   +409

    The 2.4Ghz Macbooks do use the Penryn. Link1, Link2, Link3

    It is really no harder than installing Windows on a PC, there is just an additional step of creating a partition for it first on the Mac end. Apple even provides an extremely detailed step by step instructions on how to do it.

    If you buy more RAM when you order it you get raped on the price. It is FAR cheaper to buy the RAM yourself from someone else and then install it. Even if you hire someone to install the RAM for you it will still likely be cheaper.

    So I think the Macbook is by far the "better value for the money". Penryn processor, better wireless, lighter weight, ability to run Mac OS X, Linux, Windows XP, Windows Vista. Insanely easy access to HD and RAM for upgrades (that don't void your warranty), and several other little things.
  23. think_guru

    think_guru TS Rookie

    I just have to throw in my support for IBM here, and raise some points that might be helpful to consider. First, as we all know, they are very solid and well designed machines. I've experience using a Thinkpad, and their combo of reliability + great keyboard makes them a superb choice for students. Also, the newer T61's feature a roll cage, which can be handy because it will prevent the screen from being damaged incase the machine gets crushed by school books in your bag (which often happens)!

    In terms of economics, it looks like Lenovo is really trying to cut their price. Additionally, their reputation for durability seems to afford Thinkpads a greater resale value, which can be handy when it comes time to upgrade.

    Those are just some of my thoughts. However, I when it comes down to it, you are choosing amongst a number of great machines, so it's mainly just a personal preference. From what I can see the Dell XPS offers top-notch performance, and the extended customization options are nice as well, so I don't see how you can go wrong. Congrats on your choice!
  24. Ph30nIX

    Ph30nIX TS Rookie Posts: 243

    Dell is notorious for shocking service, in particular once your warranty is out. They use the same crappy motherboards in their more expensive systems which are from their cheaper systems. If you buy a dell, mak esure you get an extended warranty on it!!

    HP are good, and I can vouch for their services. I once had one that broke 3 times in the 5 years of using it, and it was serviced free of charge and some parts replaced with better ones.

    However, the software side of HP is a bit annoying.

    From Dell and Mac, I'd almost certainly go the Mac route, they are easy to use, and effectively ***** proof.
  25. bkouns001

    bkouns001 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 21

    Thanks for your input; the deal is done, Dell it is, with an extended warranty.

    I am glad that you have had success with HP, my only reference point was Consumer Reports and some pretty angry people at The Squeaky Wheel; nothing at Squeaky about Dell but several about HP.

    LOL, sounds like maybe I should get a Mac.
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