Avee's Place

Simple thoughts in a complex life

My Apple Experience

I have recently switched to using an Apple MacBook Pro as my main means of computing. This is my impression of owning an Apple product so far.

My Background

I had never been a fan of Apple product. Although I really liked the nice interface, I don’t like Apple products for several reasons. Firstly, it’s expensive, Apple products are known for their high price. Secondly, I can’t use it for work, I am a software developer who writes mostly for Windows. Third, I can’t use it for serious gaming. Fourth, Apple fans/product owners have this particular attitude that I don’t really like much. Apple seems like some kind of religion for some people.

Although I was not a fan of Apple, I admitted that Apple makes high quality products. And I even recommended buying Apple to some of my family where it was relevant for them.

When Apple recently introduced the 13-inch MacBook Pro to its product line while also lowering the price, and also being encouraged by a post by a fellow developer, I thought that it was probably the best time to try to own an Apple product. Nowadays Macs can run Windows through Boot Camp anyway. So I went ahead, I sold my relatively new ASUS laptop for a MacBook Pro.

The Apple Experience

After spending some time using my new MacBook Pro, I think that I have made a good decision. MacBook Pro is priced at $1190 (the low-end version which I got). Compared to my earlier laptop, the ASUS F80S which is priced slightly lower when I bought it, the MacBook Pro clearly have better value. It has better graphics card (although not it does not have a dedicated memory), 64-bit memory controller, illuminated keyboard, multi-touch track-pad, and an amazing battery.

The Hard Stuff

Hardware wise, in overall, the build quality of the hardware is excellent, the machine feels solid and polished. The illuminated keyboard really helps a lot when you’re typing in a dark place and I think this is a strong selling point for me. The brightness of the keyboard and the screen automatically changes according to the environment you’re in.

The multi-touch trackpad is very nice, you can scroll vertically and horizontally with two fingers, navigate back and forth in an app with three fingers, and activate expose, desktop, and switch application using four fingers. The trackpad also support gestures to zoom in and out and rotate documents, a handy feature when you’re using iPhoto. The best thing about the trackpad is that it works flawlessly with OSX, the behavior is unlike any other trackpads I’ve tried before. In fact, I only use a mouse when it is really necessary, like when working at the office or playing Plants vs. Zombies. Sadly, the trackpad doesn’t behave as well in BootCamp Windows XP, and even close to being annoying.

The lithium-polymer battery makes me feel like this is the first time I have a notebook that truly feels like a notebook. I can now work without being tethered to the power source and not feel worried about the battery dying out soon. It’s like using a netbook, but with much more raw power. Apple claims that the battery can last up to 7 hours, and I have tested it during one of my family occasions, one charge lasted through the evening. The new battery technology is also supposed to increase the battery life. In their website, Apple claims that the battery would last 1000 charge cycles before starting to degrade, we’ll have to see about this.

Virtual World

Software wise, OSX is just like what Apple said, it just works. I like the way the notebook works perfectly from first time you turn the notebook on. This is very different from my experience with other laptops. Although some of the other laptop makers offer similar experience, where you have a ready to use machine when you buy it, there’s something really different with Apple products. Maybe it’s the simplicity, or maybe it’s the elegant interface, but Apple clearly wins on this one.

Apple designed OSX so you can do everyday things easily with it, this means : browsing, emailing, writing documents, chatting, organizing photo, playing music is easiest and most comfortable using OSX. OSX is very simple, and has a lot of eye candy. This makes working with it a pleasure.

When I discussed this with my Mac-owning friend, we both agree that the good thing about using a Mac is that you don’t have to be bright about computer to be able to use it. All you need to do with an MacBook is open the lid, do some work, close the lid, open the lid, resume, and so on. You don’t have to care about all the technical stuff, it’s all been taken care of. That said, there’s certainly a benefit of being an OSX power users, you will get more out of it.

I also like the fact that OSX is built on top of Darwin, which is a variant of UNIX systems, I have set up a couple of office servers using Linux and they are solid.

Bonus picture so you won’t get bored reading 🙂

Apple Students

Apple Students, From Janssens Tom's Photostream

One Vendor for All Your Need

The real benefit of using Apple’s products is that both the software and hardware comes from a single company. Different than other vendors, like Microsoft which is a software company that makes Windows OS, or ASUS which develops computer hardware, Apple has complete control over their software and hardware products. Apple has the ability to make sure that both components can work together efficiently. In my opinion, this is what makes using the OS a pleasant experience.

One example on this is my experience with the trackpad. The trackpad works and feels perfect in OSX, but its behavior is quite annoying in Windows Boot Camp, even with the drivers installed. On this issue, I think the source of the problem is because I expect the trackpad to work like it does in OSX, but it doesn’t. It’s not worse than other trackpads that I have used, but still it’s just not as good as it is on OSX. Another example is the MacBook Pro not having any hard disk activity indicator lights. In OSX, I haven’t found a case where you need to have that, but when running Windows, and your computer is  unresponsive, it’s very important to have the indicators to know what the computer is doing.

Support

The supposedly good thing about Apple is also their support. There’s this interesting article about Apple support that really sets your hopes high. My friend also had a good experience with Apple support. A while ago he damaged his MacBook keyboard while smoking and decided to fix it himself. After a failed attempt on fixing his MacBook, which made the damage even worse, he decided to go to an Apple Service Provider and ask for a repair. At that time his MacBook is still under AppleCare, they fixed it without any questions asked, free. This has made me considering seriously to apply for 3-year AppleCare plan. Especially when you can get cheaper prices on it on eBay.

Conclusion

To conclude this article, let’s revisit my previous opinion about Apple.

Apple products are expensive :

They are. Apple are like Honda, they only produce premium products. So I think it comes down to what you need in a computer. If your work requires a mid to high-end laptop, you could consider buying a similarly (or slightly higher) priced Apple product, as in my case. If you need Windows, you could just install Boot Camp and use it for work, OSX is for everything else. This is how I do it on my MacBook Pro. The quality of Apple notebooks won’t disappoint you. If what you need is just a simple computer to do browsing, emailing and you don’t want to spend a lot on your machine, then you would be better of buying a netbook. The cheapest Apple notebook is priced at $999.

I also can’t recommend Apple desktops. The cheapest iMac that Apple sells is priced at $1,199. You can certainly build a much better desktop using a much lower budget.I think Mac desktops are for two types of people, people who really need to use OSX, and hardcore Apple fans. You can also build a hackintosh if you really want to have a cheap PC running OSX, but don’t tell anyone you heard that from me ;).

I can’t use it for work :

This one’s easy, just install Windows under Boot Camp. From what I read around the net, Snow Leopard Boot Camp has drivers for most of Windows product from Windows XP to Windows 7 64-bit. This is not officially stated though, and I have only tried Boot Camp using Windows XP 32-bit.

I can’t use it for serious gaming :

Use consoles for your gaming needs. :p Sadly, you can’t do serious gaming in a Mac, but since I don’t have the time to play time-consuming game anymore, this is not a very big problem to me now.

The Apple attitude :

Now that I have used a Mac for some time. I can understand more why some Mac owners behave irritatingly, especially to Windows users. I think most of Mac users are just extremely satisfied with Apple product and they want to spread the love. For some people, this satisfaction is what drives them to being Apple zealots. I still don’t like the attitude, especially when people label themselves with tag lines like “Apple is my choice” or people who have huge collection of Mac T-Shirts with similarly irritating tag line and proudly wears them everywhere.

Pure sickness..

This is a screenshot that I grabbed from somewhere over the net

These people are real, I can give you links to them, but that would not be right. Not all Mac owners behave in such way, though. There are lots of people who use Mac just because they don’t want to tinker with their computers anymore. Or just want to use a computer without needing to understand them.

Here’s a funny article on this that made me laugh big time.

Well, that’s a quite lengthy article that I wrote. One more article to add to million others of Apple-themed articles. Well, I hope it was helpful, or at least it was fun to read. 🙂

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2 responses to “My Apple Experience

  1. Dave October 7, 2009 at 10:07 am

    I have have been looking at the MBP 13 inch model too. I have always purchased Windows products for laptops. I agree with you 100% that the touch pad on the MBP is excellent. Scrolling etc is fantastic from my experience in the Apple store.

    My only concern is the size and resolution of the display and this is one reason the MBP 15″ may be an option for me. How do you like the screen when you are doing software development?

    • avee October 7, 2009 at 2:32 pm

      My previous laptops had 15″ and 14″ screens with identical resolution with the 13″ MacBook Pro, so I am used to doing development using this resolution. IMO, doing development using the laptop is just good enough. I have no problem getting used to the limited coding space. The only thing that I don’t like when working with such screen is that you will swap between documentation, IDE, and browser windows a lot.

      Also, I only use the laptop for development when I am away from the office. I use a desktop with dual monitors as my primary development machine. The main reason why I choose the 13″ MBP is because of its portability. The more powerful GPU option in the 15″ MBP was interesting, since I do a lot of graphics development, but unfortunately the price would strain on my budget too much.

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