The end of a 12-year-run with Mac laptops

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 2, 2018, 9:21 PM | comments: 0

As you might expect, I had been around Macs as early as college, when we had one in our residence life staff office in the hall where I was an RA (a Mac SE, I think). In my first TV job, I got to buy one for use as a video editor. Some years later, Stephanie bought an iBook, when the stopped making them colorful. I didn't buy one myself until 2006, when Apple flipped over to Intel CPU's. Prior to that, I had four other laptops, the only one of which that didn't suck was a Sony (that cost a remarkable $2,500 in 1999, and I can't believe I spent that much). That first Intel Mac was the best I ever had to date, and was the first of many, though it was not without its problems.

  • 2006: First Intel MacBook Pro. About 18 months in, I had to have the entire logic board replaced, at my expense, around $150 I think.
  • 2008: A 17" model, when they started doing the machined aluminum. It was huge, but awesome. Two years later, I swapped out the optical drive for an SSD, which breathed new life into it. The battery lasted forever. Sold it to a friend, and I think he's still using it.
  • 2010: Diana got a 13" for her birthday. I don't think that one ever had an issue, and we sold it four years later.
  • 2012: Tried to buy the new Retina 15" machine. It was crazy fast and wonderful, until the screen burn-in started. Seeing the ghost of a previous UI when working on another one got old pretty fast. Returned it for a replacement that had the same problem. Eventually gave up and returned that one too.
  • 2012: A 13" MacBook Air, which while lacking the pretty screen, was wonderfully light. After only 500 charge cycles, the battery capacity dropped to unusable levels and had to be replaced at three years, for about $180. Diana uses it now, and the battery is at 87% after 600 cycles.
  • 2014: A 13" MacBook Pro. Bought this one because I desperately needed more SSD space so I could have more than one Windows VM. Still in pretty good shape, but 8 gigs of RAM isn't enough anymore when I'm running lots of different things in a VM on only 6 gigs.

And that brings us to now, when I've found that getting another Mac laptop is financially insane. When I bought the last one, if you wanted a good laptop with the specs I got, the pricing was pretty much the same across the board, only the other manufacturers had crappy designs. What I call the "Surface influence," the act of Microsoft making really nice, thin hardware with the Surface Pro, hadn't really made an impact yet. Bit for bit, Apple still had the best stuff with very little premium paid for it being from Apple.

What a difference four years makes. HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer and the like all make really nice hardware. It's not that the Macs are less nice, because they're still pretty great (if generally behind a CPU release cycle for extended periods of time). It's just the price difference. I ended up getting HP's Spectre x360, with its nutty flipping screen for when you want to use it as a tablet, for $1,400. That's the latest quad-core CPU, 16 gigs of RAM, a 512 gig SSD, under three pounds with a 4K touch screen and insane battery life. The equivalent MacBook Pro, which would still be behind a generation of CPU's and not have the great screen, would cost $900 more.

Yes, I have to deal with some of the weirdness that is Windows (I immediately flattened the computer with a clean install), and I do love the general typography and ease of use of MacOS, but they've really blown the value curve for me. Congrats, HP... what a huge difference compared to the awful piece of crap I bought from you 14 years ago!


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