To get a Mac or a cheaper equivalent PC?

By top_model_guy ยท 25 replies
Dec 15, 2010
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  1. Hey, I received my current laptop as a gift during the summer--a Toshiba Satellite L555, but have to return it because the gift-giver signed into a contract pricing the laptop over 3x what its worth (he's paying $1800 for a $500 laptop). So I'm in the search of a replacement laptop. I've always been a windows man and reluctant to cross over to Macs--maybe just scared to fall into the trend. I will extend that Macs are more portable and seem to boot a million times faster than any windows laptop I've had and they never seem to make any noise or get hot, however I still am unsure if they are right for me.

    All I pretty much do on my laptop is search the internet, use word, use excel, download and listen to music--haven't heard a mac with good speakers--, watch movies, burn cds/dvds, Play the Sims 2 & 3, upload photos and edit them. I'm usually multitasking with each of these things running. Just imagine me as your typical college student with my usage ;-)

    So my question is, are my activities suitable for getting a Mac? And if so, should it be a Macbook or Macbook pro--what's the big difference here? What is the lifespan of a cheap laptop too? I may consider the Mac because as my usage doesn't change much, I know macs last years right?

    Thanks for all input.

    P.S. Currently have a Toshiba Satellite L555-S7001,
    Processor: Pentium(R) Dual-Core CPU T4400 @ 2.20GHz 2.20GHz
    Installed memory (RAM): 4.00 GB (3.84 GB usable)
    system type: 64-bit Operating Systems
    Windows 7
  2. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,167   +986

    Unless YOU see a need for the switch, stay with what you know.
  3. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    Using a Mac is just about personal preference, mostly in terms of UI and user experience. All that stuff you are saying about hardware can just as easily be accomplished with Windows laptops. They all use the same hardware anyway.

    Go to an Apple store and play around with the same software that you use on your Windows PC. That's pretty much the difference you are going to experience. Slap a SSD into a Windows laptop and you'll see them booting just as quick.

    My personal opinion is that for the stuff you do, a Windows laptop will be more than sufficient for the tasks that you do, and probably at half the price.

    To make some generalizations, if you go with Apple you're going to pay more money, but probably will enjoy a smoother experience. If you go with Windows you're going to pay a lot less, and have more variety in terms of hardware and software, at the risk of having a less smooth computer experience if you are not sufficiently experienced enough with Windows, updating drivers, etc.
  4. top_model_guy

    top_model_guy TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 79

    I wouldn't consider myself a computer novice or an expert--probably have a little better than average knowledge with them. Using online research and this site, I'm usually able to handle most of my computer woes. I'm pretty sure a transition to a different operating system wouldn't be devastating.

    I want to order an already built computer however. My only problem really with windows laptops would be that they can get loud in terms of harddrive and heating thing. Any particular brands that don't experience this problem? or laptops you deem as fitting for my usage. I've already had an HP dv6000 and it was a good laptop, but it overheated to the max and became loud. My 6 month old Toshiba's fan is now beginning to be heard as well.

    How much do these SDD things run--I'm sure I could install myself--I've installed a few things into a desktop I once had.
  5. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    I don't think that the transition to OSX would be a problem. But it doesn't sound like you need to migrate to a simpler OS if you know what you're doing.

    I haven't owned a laptop for about 7 years so I'm not sure, but I would probably check out a few sites to see. I'm sure that for what you'd spend on a Mac you can find some equivalent models that run Windows that would probably offer that next level of performance and experience.

    If you want to consider desktops, there are plenty of brands out there which can give you a complete set for $500-$800 that would handle all of your needs. I bought a pair of Dells for my parents several years ago and both of them have run just fine. Main advantage of buying built computers is tech support, so I'd probably look at that in terms of which company I'd buy from.

    As far as just getting a SSD, they run from about $100-$200, practically speaking. They're expensive and fast. But if you can only fit one in a laptop you may want to get as big as possible so you don't run out of room.

    If you're adventurous, you may try the Momentus XT drive. It comes with 500 GB of HDD storage and a 4 GB SSD. The drive is supposed to migrate frequently used programs onto the SSD portion. Having used one in a computer which I used for essentially the same things as you, I can say that it really sped up the system as compared to a traditional HDD in terms of boot and loading up of startup programs. They're about a 120 or so.
  6. top_model_guy

    top_model_guy TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 79

    So a friend just conceded to me that her macbook pro does get hot--there goes my mac seller point...this area was really the only thing I thought a mac had over a pc was that they didn't get hot--she says it never gets loud, but they're intertwined issues.

    I think I will stick with windows now--much cheaper and probably opt for that SDD option when the laptop does get to that point of making noise and overheating.

    I may actually stick with Toshiba--the one I currently have has been great and actually has its fan in a functional location unlike my former HP--reason why it probably got so hot. Are Toshiba's good brands?
  7. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    You may want to look into a laptop cooler. They're not that expensive, and according to the feedback they seem to work well for the users. I'm afraid heat is always going to be a problem with a laptop.

    Heat will always be a problem as you're dealing with components that are much smaller, in a much more enclosed space than a desktop, and you're paying more for them on top of it. I always ask people if they *need* a laptop. A lot of people I know never take their laptop out of their home, which IMO defeats the purpose of one.

    If you were really considering dropping a grand on a Mac, you could probably get a $500 laptop and a $500 desktop for the same price. =)
  8. Polah

    Polah TS Rookie

    The entire MacBook Pro body helps dissipate heat and I've never really experienced the bottom getting "hot". It's gotten pretty warm when I've been playing games on it for a few hours, but not unbearably hot to the touch. I think the main difference between the MacBook and the MBP is the body material (plastic vs. aluminium), sizes available and hardware available.

    If you want a long battery life and relatively risk-free system, I'd go for the Mac. It can easily manage 5-6 hours even when playing moderately intense games and around 10 hours with just general use, unless you run it with the keyboard backlighting and screen brightness at their maximum and of course the risk-free aspect comes from the lack of viruses and the simple interface doesn't really allow you to break it.

    As for sound quality, I don't think it's really any better or worse than you'd find on most laptops out there.

    And of course, the usages you mentioned won't be a problem. You can use iWork or MS Office for Mac for paperwork stuff, it should have no trouble really playing the Sims, watching movies and burning disks can be done with the drive in there easily and obviously you'll have Safari (or your browser of choice) for browsing/uploading photos.
  9. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    Please do not perpetuate the no Mac virus myth.
  10. Polah

    Polah TS Rookie

    I said a lack of, not none at all. There is no where near as many viruses/trojans/etc for OSX as there is for Windows, and of course my second point is still valid.
  11. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    Its not that simple, its just different.

    In fact it would also be a very valid point to say most lifelong Windows users would find OS X's layout, menus and function to be confusing in comparison.
  12. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,167   +986

    THANK YOU - - every system can be penetrated when one knows how.
    The issue (for most hackers) is the low return on the effort, so why bother.

    A much bigger target today is the Smartphone w/o and protection :wave:
  13. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    Look, I'm trying to be objective and point out the pros and cons of each approach. You just want him to buy a Mac cause you have a Mac. Most people who buy Macs, in my experience, often do so for reasons like you said, that you're going to be safe from viruses and that the UI is "better".

    Macs are not safe from viruses, they're just a very very tiny segment of the OS market, way disproportionate to the weight that the media gives them, and so not as many people write viruses for Macs. But considering that most of the vectors of transmission are either links people click on, or scripts on web sites, a person's computer won't help them that much if they willingly install the virus.

    As far as the UI being better, its a COMPLETELY subjective experience. Is driving a Honda better than driving a Toyota? Some people will say yes, some will say no. That is why I suggested that he go to an Apple store and play around with the computer, to experience for himself.
  14. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,016   +2,540

    I think you should buy a Mac, so you can talk down to all your friends with PCs. Then you can come here and try talking down to us, at which point we'll refuse to answer any more questions.

    Another thing, couldn't you have learned how bad PCs are from Apples advertising, rather that come here for a troll fest?

    From the PC equipped desk of captaincranky,
  15. Polah

    Polah TS Rookie

    Actually, I don't own a Mac, not any more at least. I have owned and used a MBP in the past, but I have always predominantly used Windows.

    I'm simply recommending a Mac due to the relative security compared to Windows, as you mentioned yourself regardless of usage or not, as well as the fact that they are, from what I've experienced, superior in terms of battery life compared to most laptops with similar specs and run pretty damn well. It's got absolutely nothing to do with your perception that I think myself superior because I own/have owned a Mac.
  16. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    My bad, your first person accounts of using a Mac, playing games for hours, telling us how hot it got, led me to the assumption you're a Mac owner. I guess I should have asked if you owned a Mac before assuming, I retract my statement.

    If you weren't a Mac owner, why would you be suggesting a computer you haven't used?
  17. Polah

    Polah TS Rookie

    I have used them, I said I don't currently own one but I have in the past. I was covering the points mentioned before in the thread, i.e. temperature as well as important points for laptops like battery life and how well it runs.

    For me, Macs surpass other laptops since they don't sacrifice performance for battery life, granted that they're not as powerful as desktops for obvious reasons but they're still pretty decent and have a much longer battery life. Most other laptops, playing moderate games or running the hardware in Macs would last only a few hours, whereas the Macbook consistently runs for 5-6 and almost double that when being used lightly.
  18. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,016   +2,540

    So is it fair to say that most of this is hearsay?
  19. top_model_guy

    top_model_guy TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 79

    How does this Toshiba compare to the one I previously wrote about?

    Toshiba 15.6" Satellite C655D-S5080 Laptop PC with AMD V140 Processor, Webcam and Windows 7 Home Premium

    Toshiba Satellite C655D-S5080 Laptop PC:
    Key Features and Benefits:

    AMD V Series V140 Processor
    2.30GHz, 512KB L2 Cache

    2GB DDR3 system memory (expandable up to 8GB)
    Gives you options for surfing, video conferencing, documents, basic photo editing and simple computer tasks

    250GB SATA hard drive
    Store 166,000 photos, 71,000 songs or 131 hours of HD video and more

    SuperMulti double-layer DVD burner
    Watch DVD movies on your computer; read and write CDs and DVDs in multiple formats

    10/100BaseT Ethernet; 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
    Connect to a broadband modem or a wired broadband router with wired Ethernet, or wirelessly connect to a Wi-Fi signal or hotspot with the 802.11b/g/n connection built right into your PC

    15.6" diagonal TruBrite TFT LCD display
    ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4250 Graphics with up to 267MB-893MB dynamically allocated graphics memory
    Additional Features:

    Built-in Webcam with built-in microphone
    Digital media card reader
    2 x USB 2.0 ports, 1 x VGA port, 1 x RJ-45 Ethernet port, 1 x headphone jack, 1 x microphone jack
    6-cell lithium-ion battery

    Genuine Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit Edition (To learn more about the features of Windows 7, click here)
    Microsoft Office 2010 Starter 2010
    Symantec Norton Internet Security 2011 (60-day trial)
    Microsoft Live essentials, WildTangent Games Console, Toshiba Media Controller
    Toshiba Service Station, Toshiba Assist, Toshiba Online Backup (30-day trial)
    Support and Warranty:

    1-year limited hardware warranty with International Limited Warranty
    Restore discs are no longer included with PCs. We recommend you use the installed software to create your own restore & backup DVD the first week you use the computer.
    What's In The Box:

    Power supply and power cord
    6-cell Li-Ion battery
    Quick Start Guide and documentation

    How does this stack up compared to my previous Toshiba and should I be able to easily perform the tasks I listed?

    Or better yet, instead of me listing every possible laptop--list could go on. Could someone list the specific specs I should be looking for if I were seeking an equivalen laptop to the Toshiba mentioned in my first post.

    Is the mention of a dual processor important or not--or are there other ways that a laptop may have this yet mention it differently?
    How much RAM is necessary?
    Other specs around that line that are important to notice. I've noticed some other toshiba's with 2.4 GHz processors, but no mention of dual-core but mention of i3, i5? is this important?
  20. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,016   +2,540

    When all the trolling is over, there is one thing that sets Apple laptops apart is the fact that their displays are IPS technology. As is the iPad, and their phones.

    I believe that all Toshibas are TN panels. My cheap-o Tosh certainly is.

    So, if color accuracy is a major concern, in uses such as image editing, then you should probably go with Mac.

    This isn't an issue with a desktop, and I've personally solved it by buying a couple of the new mid priced IPS monitors from HP and Dell for use at home. Ergo, I still am a PC person

    If you're going to do everyday computing, or perhaps PC gaming, and the more limited angle of view, and 6 bit color depth is not a concern for you, then save some money and get a PC laptop.
  21. top_model_guy

    top_model_guy TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 79

    I edit photos, but nothing where color exactness is a of necessity--facebook, presentations
  22. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    I'm haven't owned a laptop in ages, so I'll recuse myself from buying suggestions, but the rule of thumb for all computers is to get as much RAM as you can afford (at least 4) and to get at least a dual core system.

    The only other thing I would suggest is to take a look at how and where you used your laptop, and then decide if you need a laptop at all, and if battery life is a major issue for you. If you do most of your computing at home, a desktop may be a better solution. If you take it outside the home, but always have a plug nearby (classroom, work, etc) then long battery life may not be a major feature for you, and look for laptops that provide other things. But if battery life is a major concern for you, and is the main motivating factor, then Macs really do provide an advantage in that area, but again, that's about the only objective factor in which they're better than other laptops.
  23. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    So you've narrowed it down to pretty much all laptops worth having to begin with.

    60% + of the laptops available for sale today have a minimum of two threads on the CPU, and 3+ GB of RAM.

    That alone is not a good enough target to head for. For example, my dual core AMD Turion laptop (with 4GB RAM) is crap when compared with my i5core (dual core/4 thread) Sony Vaio laptop.

    Even my ultraportable Intel SU3500 1.4GHz single core laptop is absolutely fine for pretty much everything I need from it, with around 8 hours battery life as well.

    It really depends on budget, and intended usage more than anything, that defines whether a purchase is a good one, or a waste of money.
  24. top_model_guy

    top_model_guy TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 79

    Thanks all for your input.
    I was in a rush for a computer and decided to go with another Toshiba since my experience with my previous one was pleasant. Got a Toshiba Satelitte L650-5115. Has a processor slightly faster than my previous Toshiba and an equal amount of RAM.

    Once again thanks
  25. gwailo247

    gwailo247 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,010   +18

    Would you take advice on buying a laptop from a person who does not own one?

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