Apple won me back on laptops

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 24, 2023, 9:17 PM | comments: 0

About five years ago, I broke a dozen-year streak of Mac laptops with a Windows laptop. With Mac and Windows both using Intel processors, the hardware inside was largely equivalent, depending on what you bought. I've mostly liked the HP I had, and the Surface Laptop 4 since (I also still have a Surface Pro tablet/PC from eight years ago). Windows 11 is actually pretty solid, continuing an evolution that's been going on since 2009-ish. Still a lot of quirks, but it's generally reliable.

I didn't go to Windows as much as I went away from Mac. By 2018, Apple took some unfortunate turns with the hardware. They stopped putting useful ports on the things, leading to dongle hell, they ditched mag-safe power, and the biggest sin, leading to class action lawsuits, that horrible keyboard and touch bar. That, and the prices were not even remotely competitive. My last Mac was a 2014 13" model, and I know a lot of people held on to machines from that year, for the keyboard alone.

Fast forward to late 2020, Apple releases their first machine based on their own custom CPU. The next year they spread around the processors, including faster ones, across the product line, and people went ape shit. Benchmarks blew minds, and it was especially great for creator types who work with video and other media. The new machines reversed all the poor choices I mentioned before, and they introduced a 16" version. I got one for work, and I couldn't believe how great it was. This year's generation is incremental in improvements, but still high end.

Mind you, they're still pretty expensive. It's relative, I suppose, as I bought a $2,500 Sony in 2000 ($4,200 on today's dollars!), to work with DV, but they're still steep relative to Windows laptops. Sort of. The only real equivalents are gaming laptops, which are probably the closest things in terms of performance, and they're about as expensive. For normal people, I will say that the new MacBook Airs are a pretty good deal. But even then, we got Diana a Surface Laptop Go 2 for $600 that feels premium-ish and suits her well. It depends on what you do. I haven't worked with video on a laptop since HD days, and even then it was a struggle and rendering was crazy slow.

But the thing that I love the most about these new things is the battery life. These ARM processors are way more efficient, and Windows on ARM has a long way to go. Not only is battery life crazy good, but they don't get so damn hot. People seem to be getting 10 hours on a charge at the low end. I get 6 to almost 8 hours on my Surface Laptop, depending on what I'm doing and how bright the screen is. That seems to be right around a good spot, but I've definitely hit points where I had to plug in because I was on and off of it over the course of a day and it ran out toward the end.

MacOS hasn't changed much, but it's a solid operating system. Fortunately they haven't messed with it much just to mess with it. It's not like iOS, which is a trainwreck of horrible settings UI and absurd gestures to do anything. I can't stand the iPad Mini we bought last year, and I only use it for testing.

Am I going to buy one of these new things? I'm not really planning on it, but never say never. If discounts go deep on the previous generation, that would help. Whenever I buy a new one, honestly part of it is that I miss having a bigger screen. I've had small and light now for a long time, but that 17" I had a decade ago was awesome, and that was before high resolution screens.

Welcome back, Apple. Sorry, Jony Ive, your portless design was crappy.


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