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Old 12-02-13, 09:56 AM   #1
Hiro11
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Seriously considering switching to Mac

For the first time in a decade I need a new laptop. I've been using a variety of tablets at home for the past few years, but I now need a full-function laptop for grad school.

This weekend I purchased and then promptly returned a new top-of-the-line Windows 8.1 laptop. What a frustrating experience, Windows is really a hot mess right now. The computer was unstable, basic stuff like wifi and bluetooth were either unreliable or completely non-functional. The UI is a bizarre mishmash of desktop and touch paradigms that simultaneously confuses and infuriates me. I found myself resorting to a command prompt to solve problems... as if it's 1978. Microsoft pushes you to use all of its first party apps, most of which suck. The app store is almost entirely vacant. Device drivers, sysregs, IE, Control Panel, Properties... arrrgh. After 20 years of dealing with this crap, I officially give up on Windows.

My requirements:
This will be primarily a work computer. It needs to have a great keyboard and touchpad.
Budget is not really an issue.
I would prefer a top quality screen. I'm used to very high PPI screens and typical laptop screens look archaic to me.
Battery life is more important to me than computing power. I don't need a top-of-the-line processor.
I will not be carrying it with me more than once a week, it will mostly sit on my desk.
I need to run full Microsoft Office without issue.
I'm not a gamer.
I use several cloud-based storage services and don't need a lot of storage. In general I hate dealing with files.
I stream music and videos, don't have a lot of photos and don't do any video editing. I'm very rarely going to use a "pay-per-track/video" ownership-based media service like iTunes.
I use and like Google services a great deal including Gmail, Maps, Search, Hangouts etc.
Great video calling is a must. I use this to talk to my workgroup as well as my family when traveling. I need a good built-in camera and microphone.
It needs to work well with files from Windows computers. I have no idea if cross-compatibility is even an issue any more.
Computer noises drive me nuts: drive noises, cycling fans etc. I want a very quiet computer. SSD is highly attractive to me.

I'm probably going to get a 13" MacBook Pro w/ Retina as I like iOS and the new MacBooks are dead silent and sexy. As I said, I haven't purchased a new computer in probably 10 years and have no idea if any of my requirements will be a problem. Any experienced Mac people that can chime in?
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Old 12-02-13, 10:09 AM   #2
taffer
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

Just because all Windows laptops come with Win 8 now, that doesn't mean you actually have to use Win 8. If you have an older OS, just format the hard drive and install it instead.

Some Windows laptops are starting to come out now with extremely high PPI screens. I know Dell just released a 15" laptop a month or so ago with a 3200x1800 resolution.
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Old 12-02-13, 11:23 AM   #3
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

Just did a quick look, the macbook air doesn't have a retina model? Then I guess the MBP Retina is what you want.

Yeah, if you don't like win8 then send MS a message by not buying win8 and going mac. Maybe MS will fix things with win8.2 or win9. Who knows.
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Old 12-02-13, 11:46 AM   #4
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

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Originally Posted by taffer View Post
Just because all Windows laptops come with Win 8 now, that doesn't mean you actually have to use Win 8. If you have an older OS, just format the hard drive and install it instead.
You don't even need to go that far. Just select the option in Win 8.1 to bypass the Metro UI and go directly to desktop. Then install a small program like Start8 and it behaves EXACTLY like Win7, but with driver updates and speed improvements.

That said, I use a Mac full-time at work and it's a very slick machine, too. But it will cost you more than the Windows counterpart. And with Windows, you could get a touchscreen, which is nice to use.
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Old 12-02-13, 12:20 PM   #5
RichC2
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

You need Windows 8.x to handle those ultra high resolution monitors properly though, the scaling in Windows 7 and prior is pretty archaic.

I don't like the Windows 8.x layout, not so much for the Metro stuff but the corners stuff and in general the combo of the two formats is at odds.

The pro with Metro is you start typing at any point and you will find what you're looking for. Or you can install something like Classic Shell and get your Start Button back.

That said, if you can afford a Mac Pro and don't mind the lack of touchscreen (most don't, considering these are laptops and not tablets) then go for it. What was the laptop you purchased over the weekend and promptly returned? What brand? Build?
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Old 12-02-13, 03:37 PM   #6
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

Based in your requirements, yeah, you are a good candidate for a Mac Pro with retina display.

Quote:
Great video calling is a must. I use this to talk to my workgroup as well as my family when traveling. I need a good built-in camera and microphone.
What video conferencing program do you use? You shouldn't have any issue with the most popular ones.

Quote:
It needs to work well with files from Windows computers. I have no idea if cross-compatibility is even an issue any more.
Yeah no issues. Specially all the Microsoft Office ones. They are standard across all kind of platforms.
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Old 12-02-13, 04:22 PM   #7
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

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Originally Posted by Hiro11 View Post
I need to run full Microsoft Office without issue.
Define "full". There are no Mac versions of Access, OneNote, or Publisher.
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Old 12-02-13, 04:29 PM   #8
Hiro11
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

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Originally Posted by RichC2 View Post
The pro with Metro is you start typing at any point and you will find what you're looking for. Or you can install something like Classic Shell and get your Start Button back.
I liked the Metro stuff, I actually wish MS would fully commit to it. Also, touch on a laptop was nice. The main issue was that 8.1 kept bouncing me around between the Metro and Desktop UIs. One moment I'd be in a modern tablet UI, the next in a control panel that hasn't changed since 1992. Also small things like system settings, driver updates, app associations, notifications, defaults and the like were all a total pain in the ass to manage. Over time I would probably figure out what the hell was going on and get it running smoothly, but I don't really want to spend hours customizing and tweaking. These days I just want phone/tablet-like plug in and go.

Part of this is HP's fault, surely. The Wifi and Bluetooth issues I had are pretty basic things to eff up and really pissed me off. Also, the hardware had lots of niggling little issues: loud fans, incessantly clicking HD, washed out looking screen, terrible trackpad, flexy keyboard etc.

Quote:
What was the laptop you purchased over the weekend and promptly returned? What brand? Build?
HP Envy Touchsmart 15.6, Haswell i7 2.4Ghz, 16Gb DDR3, 1Tb drive, Intel 4600 HD integrated graphics. From Costco, $200 off right now. Returning it could not have been easier.
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Old 12-02-13, 04:30 PM   #9
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

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Originally Posted by printerati View Post
Define "full". There are no Mac versions of Access, OneNote, or Publisher.
Great question, really need Excel, PP and Word.
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Old 12-02-13, 05:16 PM   #10
RichC2
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

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Originally Posted by Hiro11 View Post
I liked the Metro stuff, I actually wish MS would fully commit to it. Also, touch on a laptop was nice. The main issue was that 8.1 kept bouncing me around between the Metro and Desktop UIs. One moment I'd be in a modern tablet UI, the next in a control panel that hasn't changed since 1992. Also small things like system settings, driver updates, app associations, notifications, defaults and the like were all a total pain in the ass to manage. Over time I would probably figure out what the hell was going on and get it running smoothly, but I don't really want to spend hours customizing and tweaking. These days I just want phone/tablet-like plug in and go.

Part of this is HP's fault, surely. The Wifi and Bluetooth issues I had are pretty basic things to eff up and really pissed me off. Also, the hardware had lots of niggling little issues: loud fans, incessantly clicking HD, washed out looking screen, terrible trackpad, flexy keyboard etc.

HP Envy Touchsmart 15.6, Haswell i7 2.4Ghz, 16Gb DDR3, 1Tb drive, Intel 4600 HD integrated graphics. From Costco, $200 off right now. Returning it could not have been easier.
That sounds pretty bad. Also most things can be done in the Metro interface, curious why it was popping back to the Win 9x/7 interface. The issue with bluetooth/wifi is obviously HPs doing, weird issues though.

I highly recommend avoiding mechanical drives if you can, SSD is the way to go in this day and age.
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Old 12-02-13, 06:00 PM   #11
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

HP recently was rated as the worst laptop out there in terms of reliability. I bought a cheap Asus touch screen, that is similar to an MacBook Air size wise and it fits exactly what you are describing. At 1/3 the price. I use it for work presentations and photography stuff on the road. I am not a huge Win8 fan, but it works and I haven't had any issues with it, in the 9 months I've owned it. Asus was rated very highly in the same survey that showed HP at the bottom...
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Old 12-02-13, 07:15 PM   #12
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

I'm running a Macbook Air for school (undergrad, but I expect it to last through at least part of grad school). Got a 128gb Air and I use it only for school purposes, so no files on there that aren't directly related to school work. It's been great. I run Microsoft Office on it (whatever the latest version is for Mac, which I think is 2011). It's light, amazing battery life, and the lower resolution of the screen doesn't bother me at all.

Everything I've read about the newest MBP with retina is that it's almost as light, and with battery life almost as good as the Air. I think it had about 2 hours less battery life than the Air, which isn't bad when you consider the retina screen. It also is a little bit heavier, which is a concern for me because I'm not keeping it in one place, but sounds like it would be less of an issue for you.

In terms of the user experience, it's great, except for one building on campus where it doesn't like the wifi signal for some reason, even though my phone and other people's computers/tablets will connect just fine. I haven't used it for video calling yet but I expect to as I'm being mentored by a professor who will be out of the country next quarter, so I've already installed Skype on it.

Is there anything else you need to know?
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Old 12-02-13, 07:25 PM   #13
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

If this is the one you bought, i'm not surprised the hard drive annoyed the heck out of you, being only 5400 RPM. - http://www.costco.com/HP-ENVY-15t-Qu...100077260.html

Honestly, even thought I dislike Apple stuff for the most part, a Macbook Pro would probably be perfect for you. They still have the best touch pads in the business, make well built hardware, and have great battery life. Worst case, you can throw Windows 7 on it too if you really run into any problems. Although if you're not carrying it that often and primarily for work, I wonder if 13" is going to be too small to work on regularly.
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Old 12-02-13, 08:19 PM   #14
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

Love my MBP. I have the 15" retina with 500gb SSD. Silent and great battery life. Also can be used to dual boot into Windows if you absolutely need both OSs. I had mine that way for a while but ultimately removed the windows partition because I just wasn't using it.
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Old 12-03-13, 10:36 AM   #15
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

Ever since upgrading to Mavericks and back to using Safari on my MBP w/Retina, the battery life has been ridiculously good... I dont know how it compares with a Macbook Air, but Ive been impressed with how much better the battery life is.
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Old 12-03-13, 02:21 PM   #16
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

Having own Macbook Pros for the last 4-5 years, I have to say that if I were in the market for a notebook, it WOULDN'T be a Macbook.

OSX Mavericks is a significant step backwards for me in terms of performance. My previous MBP shipped with Snow Leopard which was fantastic. This MBP shipped with Lion (which wasn't so great), I upgraded to Mountain Lion hoping that the issues I was dealing with would be ironed out. They weren't. For example: with the changes introduced with Lion, resuming from suspend is laggy,( as is recognizing a keystroke after sitting idle) made worse by ML. I upgraded to Mavericks because I didn't think things could be worse than Mountain Lion. I was wrong. "Spinning Beach Balls/Psychedelic Pizzas are very common now. The quality that I have come to expect from Apple is no longer there.

If I were in the market for a notebook today, I could easily find a high quality Windows system (made by Toshiba, Samsung, Asus, or Sony) for at or just under $1000. I mention those 4 companies because I've had great experiences with their notebooks over the last 6 years. But I'm sure there are others who will swear off those because of THEIR experiences.

Ironically, if I were to go back to Windows the thing that I'd miss the most are the apps (something that was a thing to deal with going TO a Mac).... specifically Mail, Calendar, Pages, Pixelmator, and nvAlt.
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Old 12-03-13, 06:04 PM   #17
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

Currently, I use MBP 15" (2011 non-retina model) and the Mac Mini (latest 2012 server model) at work, and an Acer 14" notebook (Win7) at home. The Mac Mini is a dual boot with Win7 on a separate partition. I've been a PC user most of my life and only started using Macs on a regular basis since 2010.

While reading your requirements, I was going to recommend either the 13" or 15" MBP with retina. And sure enough, your post ended with you suggesting the 13" version.

I run Excel 8 hours a day, and I must warn you: Mac Excel is inferior to Windows Excel. It's mostly little things, but there are some limitations put on the Mac version that you will get annoyed. And it is generally slower. Running Win Excel 2010 on my 3 year old Acer is faster than running Mac Excel 2011 on my Mac Mini. Also there might be some compatibility issues if you open the same files in Mac & Win environments, especially if you have files with external data connections.
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Old 12-03-13, 06:09 PM   #18
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

Just read a news item which stated that Windows 7 purchases are growing faster than Windows 8 purchases - even since they brought out Windows 8.1. So, if you're a long time Windows user and would like to continue to use it - just find a model which has Windows 7 on it. Several manufacturers are still selling machines with Windows 7, they're not difficult to find.
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Old 12-03-13, 06:35 PM   #19
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

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Just read a news item which stated that Windows 7 purchases are growing faster than Windows 8 purchases - even since they brought out Windows 8.1. So, if you're a long time Windows user and would like to continue to use it - just find a model which has Windows 7 on it. Several manufacturers are still selling machines with Windows 7, they're not difficult to find.
That's probably because businesses are retiring the last XP systems for Windows 7. XP's end of support is April 2014. Some companies require an OS to be out a few years before they will switch so Windows 7 (or Vista) are the only options.
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Old 12-03-13, 08:10 PM   #20
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

Yeah, typically manufacturers are now offering Windows 7 Pro downgrades on some Windows 8 Pro licensed PCs. This is a typical feature of the Pro versions of Windows, so it comes up every time a new version comes out, but especially with Vista and 8 where people have had a strong negative reaction to it.

Another thing is that Macs can run Windows, either dual-boot via the built-in Boot Camp option, or via a Virtual Machine like Parallels. You'll need to buy a retail version of Windows to install though. As mentioned, Microsoft makes Office 2011 for Mac, so running Windows would be limited to programs/files that don't work natively is OS X.
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Old 12-06-13, 11:43 AM   #21
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

After all this, my school recommended a Windows laptop as some of the analytics programs needed were Windows only. Parallels VM is an option, but then you need a higher-spec machine and it's a bit of a hassel to flip back and forth.

I ended up buying a Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga after using one in a store. Seems like a very nice, durable machine.
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Old 12-06-13, 12:09 PM   #22
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

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Parallels VM is an option, but then you need a higher-spec machine and it's a bit of a hassel to flip back and forth.
I know you already bought a laptop, but the Coherence mode in Parallels makes switching between Mac and Windows apps pretty seamless. Windows apps launch and look like Mac apps while in OS X.

http://kb.parallels.com/en/112146
http://lifehacker.com/5521308/how-to...-need-on-a-mac

It also shouldn't need that much of a bump in specs to run, excepting maybe RAM if you need to allocate a lot for the analytics apps.
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Old 12-06-13, 12:58 PM   #23
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

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Originally Posted by Jay G. View Post
I know you already bought a laptop, but the Coherence mode in Parallels makes switching between Mac and Windows apps pretty seamless. Windows apps launch and look like Mac apps while in OS X.

http://kb.parallels.com/en/112146
http://lifehacker.com/5521308/how-to...-need-on-a-mac

It also shouldn't need that much of a bump in specs to run, excepting maybe RAM if you need to allocate a lot for the analytics apps.
I really liked the performance of Parallels on my MBP. It worked very well. The thing that I didn't care for was their licensing/upgrade model. It seemed like I had to purchase a Parallels upgrade every time a new version of OSX was released. (upgrades within the same version of OSX were free).

I ended up switching to Oracle's free VirtualBox. Turned out to be quite an acceptable alternative.
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Old 12-06-13, 01:29 PM   #24
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

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I really liked the performance of Parallels on my MBP. It worked very well. The thing that I didn't care for was their licensing/upgrade model. It seemed like I had to purchase a Parallels upgrade every time a new version of OSX was released. (upgrades within the same version of OSX were free).
It sounds like they haven't quite updated to the new release schedule for OS X. From 10.3 - 10.7, new versions of OS X were released every 2 years. Since 10.7 though Apple's released a new one every year.

It also doesn't help that Apple has been basically giving OS X away before literally doing so this year. When you get the OS for nothing or next to nothing, paying for updates to other software seems pricey, even though I'm sure Parallels had to put in work to make their software work with each new OS.
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Old 12-06-13, 03:23 PM   #25
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Re: Seriously considering switching to Mac

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I ended up switching to Oracle's free VirtualBox. Turned out to be quite an acceptable alternative.
We have been using VirtualBox for years under both Mac OS X and 64-bit Windows 7/8 to run some networked legacy order management software that requires 32-bit Windows XP. I have never had a problem with it on any platform, and you can't beat the price.
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