Saturday, March 05, 2011

Getting an Apple - Is it a good idea?

A reader asks

May I ask a few minutes of your time to offer an opinion re Apple computers?
I’m a long term Access developer, should really be retired; had PCs since the early 80’s but fed up with their vulnerability to outside threats and the deterioration in their performance once they have been in use for a year. I need a laptop and I usually buy the best going with the largest screen on offer.
The primary use I put my computer to is the development of Access applications; still with 2007.

Do you think an Apple Mac would provide a better long term platform for my work?

Every year or two I generally waste a lot of time in January and February (not so busy then) puzzling about whether I should upgrade my laptop or desktop. This year it was my laptop. After some thought I realised that I probably wasted a bit of time in the last 4 years with laptops that were cheaper and the hardware didn't last all that long.  So this year I vowed to spend a little more money.

My goal every time I buy a new machine is more and more about ergonomics. This time round I did spend quite a bit of time in the Apple store because an Apple Mac Book Pro wins big on that score. In case you didn't know, Macs come with bootcamp and also an internal virtual system that can Windows 7 and XP if you want.  So I started to dream of software like garage band for my sons and other neat programs that run on a mac that I have never used.  In the end I didnt go for a Mac Book Pro for the following reasons.

I liked the 13 inch MacB Pro but it was as slow as my previous computer in terms of hardware. The 15inch MacB Pro felt really neat but it too was under specified. One thing that really irritated me was that the place where your wrists sat was quite hot. This also seemed a problem with a number of Windows machines. Disk space at 300-500gbytes also seemed a little light on as there would have to be two operating systems on the machine. I did find out along the way that some specialist firms would add extra memory and disk but by then the price was going up and up.   One thing that was apparent was that Mac's had good batteries.  Unfortunately a lot of the speed of a mac is due to the fact that the hardware is optimised for the Mac software as there is only one version of hardware to cope with.  Windows has to cope with all sorts of configurations and hence hardware/software cannot be thus optimised. But if you are running Windows on a Mac, a lot of this advantage disapears.  I didn't look at a 17 inch MBPro as I don't like walking around with a piano on my back.

In the end I went for a Sony total ultra light beast of a laptop with really fast solid state memory disk drives. This had the compromise of not much disk space but as a Windows laptop allows for more peripherals than a mac, I will be find other places to store all the files that I don't use very much. 

In the end I kept thinking of my business, have I every made any money from someone using a Mac and the answer is no. Maybe if they bring out Access for Mac, then that may change. That said, I see programs like LogmeIn running on an IPAD as being a very good way to run Access and Office software on a remote machine.  This is an interesting area, contact me if you agree

Other favourable mentions were HP Envy and Dell machines, and watch for Samsung, their next machine could really rock as they own the sold state drive market.

Garry Robinson - Access programmer from way back then till now.

10 comments:

Bazold said...

I only use 1 computer so I put up with a 'piano' on my back and get the biggest screen I can, currently working with and 18+" Acer. The real bugbear of PCs is crap operating system that leads to real deterioration in performance. I don't about anybody else, but I don't want to learn each new iteration of Windows so I struggle to sort out why my machine' performance is failing. Your point about the Mac's performance when running Windows does bother me and also the possibility of paying much more for say my photo editing/management software, unless that can just be installed on the Mac?
Bazold

Garry Robinson said...

You can readily switch between the two operating systems so if you rely on Mac Software this is something worth exploring. It would be good to get an expert to show you how switching operating systems work to see if you are comfortable with it.

Garry Robinson said...

Also with a docking station and/or lots of USB plugs and vga cables, you never need to touch your keyboard or look at a small screen in your primary place of work. So a small laptop isnt that much of an issue, just the performance of the laptop. So many things to think about, best not to rush.

David said...

I love Win 7. I have a Mac and a Dell and I have Parallels on the Mac. I will take a dedicated Win 7 computer any day for doing real work. I never get used to the Mac keyboard.

Ed said...

I switched from PC to Mac in 2006. I bought a 1st gen iMac and was hooked. That became my wife's computer and I bought a MacBook Pro [MBP] (15" Core2Duo). My wife and I both use our computers for work. She does medical transcription and I do some web design on the side.

Since we both needed access to the Windows OS on a regular basis, I am using VMWare Fusion to run virtual systems. I've run XP Home, XP Pro, Vista Business and Win7 Pro. The newer the Windows systems, the more resource intenstive. If you go this route, you'd need to invest in 4GB to 8 GB of RAM. I'd recommend 8.

As Garry noted, you can run Windows out of BootCamp but I wanted access to both OSs at the same time, so I went the virtualization route. I've been very happy with the switch.

Unfortunately a lot of the speed of a mac is due to the fact that the hardware is optimised for the Mac software as there is only one version of hardware to cope with. Windows has to cope with all sorts of configurations and hence hardware/software cannot be thus optimised. But if you are running Windows on a Mac, a lot of this advantage disapears."

Actually on the benchmark tests I've seen reported online, Windows scores higher on the Mac hardware than any other PC hardware.

I didn't look at a 17 inch MBPro as I don't like walking around with a piano on my back.

Actually the 17" is just as thin as the 15". It is just broader. It isn't appreciably heavier.

However, if you plan to do a lot of your work at a desk, and don't need that screen while you are regularly mobile, you might consider a 13" or 15". They are cheaper and the specs are pretty consistent. Just output to a large screen (I have a 24" secondary monitor) and use a USB hub to attach a keyboard and mouse and whatever else. That is how I'm set up.

@Bazold said:
Your point about the Mac's performance when running Windows does bother me and also the possibility of paying much more for say my photo editing/management software, unless that can just be installed on the Mac?

Sure. If you are running Windows in BootCamp or a virtual software like VMWare Fusion or Parallels, you can install any Windows software. If in Bootcamp, it'll perform awesomely. Pretty close to that in a VM
depending on your total RAM and secondarily on the profile of how much you set aside for the VM.

Then using the Mac software itself is real pleasure. It is very intuitive and aesthetically beautiful and the hardware is very high quality.

Good luck with your decision!

Alex Dybenko said...

Hi Garry,
so what sony model you have bought exactly?

Garry Robinson said...

The Z Series which has gone off market in Oz http://www.sony.com.au/productcategory/it-pc-series-z

Alex Dybenko said...

Good choice, using Z for several year!

Garry Robinson said...

I was using Sony Vaio Z series, however last year I switched to Mac book pro, running windows 7, and I am more than satisfied with the result. The only issue is that Mac Bluetooth mouse will not work under windows, so when I switch to windows I have to attach a separate wireless mouse. I do not see much of performance issue on office, however Graphics are faster on Mac OS Snow leopard.

Farooq

Alex Dybenko said...

Just got a new Sony Z - this one amazingly fast, SSD drive and 8 GB of RAM. Although - cant compare with your Mac