Apple Macbook Laptop Computers
Apple MacBook: Excellent computer or just a style statement?
Apple make some wonderful stylish consumer devices, which also function very well, but do they make good computers and software? Apple macbooks look stylish and very well made, but are quite expensive compared to most of the competition. The operating system is different to the majority of personal computers and not all software is available or may arrive on the market later. Is it worth the money or are you paying for style over functionality?
Macs, by default, use a different operating system, Mac OSX, instead of the usual Microsoft Windows, found on most personal computers, which should not be a problem from a usability point of view for most people, but does mean that some software is available later than for PCs, but the OS runs on a Unix platform (Called Darwin) and various Open Source (i.e. free) software can be used on Apple Macs or Windows can be installed as well as or instead of the Mac OSX (discussed in more detail below)
Viruses and other such malware programs are far less common for Macs, so infection is less likely, but do still exist, so anti-virus software is still recommended.
Apple are famous for being innovative and providing the world with some wonderful well thought-out gadgets, such as the iPhone, iPod, iTouch and iPads. Much of the innovation was attributed to the leadership of the late Steve Jobs, the former CEO (recently deceased). The much hyped iPad tablet computers have until recently dominated the new tablet computer market although rivals from Samsung, Amazon (Kindle) and Google (Nexus 7 and 10) are taking a lot of the cheaper end of this market now.
Here is a review of the Macbook, Mac OSX operating system and other software and alternative laptops to consider. Please also see my review of a suitable backup or additional disk drive for your Apple Mac: LaCie Hard Disk Design by Neil Poulton Hard drive 1 TB
The Basic 13" Macbook (Pro)
Macbooks all look great and quite different and better made than many other machines with similar specifications. The original white one (pictured) is no longer available and has been replaced by the 13" metal-bodied macbook Pro (although the cheapest model is currently the 11" Macbook "Air") which looks very different from your average laptop (all macbooks including the Air have beautiful light weight metal bodies now). If you prefer Mac OSX rather than a Windows operating system I would certainly recommend it. I am a fan of unix, which is the underlying operating system for all Macs (i.e. the layer of software below Mac OSX) which is very accessible through a Terminal window, but this is probably irrelevant for most users. If however you prefer Windows (e.g. Windows 8) it is also possible to run Windows via a program called Bootcamp although of course this would add extra expense unless a copy of Windows is already available, because Apple only supply the one operating system, and this does impact a little on the available disk-space. Personally I think this is an extravagant way of getting a Windows PC , unless you really want that Apple style.
Free Opensource software for Apple Mac
Some free open-source software is also available, such as GIMP, the Linux photo-editing program (similar to Photoshop), because Linux and Unix are in fact virtually identical, but any software specifically for Apple from any source will generally be as expensive as the PC equivalent and probably available some time later, because there are far fewer users of Apples (unless you run Windows on your macbook)
See the related article below:
In terms of performance Macbooks are all quite fast machine, with Intel dual-core or quad-core processors, which can be made ever faster by doubling the RAM (4 GB is standard) although buying extra memory from Apple is expensive so upgrading using non-Apple memory at a later stage used to be more cost-effective than buying a higher specification initially. This is no longer possible, as the RAM is soldered to the board and cannot be replaced. Battery-life is very good at up to 7 hours or more and the clever magnetic power-cable that detaches if someone trips over it rather than pulling the macbook onto the floor has probably saved me a few quid in repair bills already.
Value For Money / Summary
It is however perhaps more expensive than some of its rivals and the screen is quite small for jobs such as photo-editing and I use it mainly with an extra, large monitor, as well, but so far I have had no regrets in paying the extra for this wonderful little machine.
I have replaced my original white macbook with a macbook Air with the latest operating system (OS X "Mountain Lion" 10.8), but after daily use for five years, I have had no problems at all, I am still impressed with the styling and the functionality, but if cost were an issue I would buy a linux machine and use just free software. This is only really an option for people who are quite computer-literate. Alternatively a netbook with Linux or an older version of Window is also a very cost-effective alternative if you mostly use a laptop for web-surfing.
Advantages: small, compact, fast, good battery life, stylish, well-made, Mac OSX/Unix
Disadvantages: Mac OSX/Unix?
I have included a review of one of my other computers below - a suitable alternative if you prefer Windows Vista machine instead of Mac OSX
Good Disk Drives To Use With Apple Macs
LaCie Hard Drive Design by Neil Poulton (1TB)
I have several Lacie external hard-disks attached to my Apple Mac computers and have mostly found them to be reliable, quiet and fast, until a few weeks ago when one of them (a 500GB Porsche designed one which I purchased about 18 months ago) failed. I needed a replacement and after quite a lot of research decided to risk buying a Lacie again.
I did a lot of research and chose a Lacie Disk Drive by Neil Poulton1
Alternatives (If you really must buy a PC instead of a macbook)
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Pi 2515
The Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Pi 2515 is a very good-value laptop. It is relatively inexpensive, at about Â£550, but comes with a good feature set, reasonably fast dual-core Intel processor (1.8 GHz), but the 2GB of RAM means it will actually run surprising fast with some more memory intensive software (e.g. photo-editing software). It also comes with a large disk drive (minimum 120 GB but larger ones are also available) It seems robust and well-made although I have mostly used it at home and have treated it carefully, so I haven't really tested this assumption. The screen opens and closes fairly smoothly and doesn't feel fragile like some cheaper models, although I still treat it carefully because I have had laptops in the past that in later life have started to flex near the hinges.
The Fujisu Siemens Amilo Pi 2515 has Microsoft Vista home premium installed, which has been surprisingly robust, rarely crashing. Vista Home Premium provides a good feature set to cover most of my non-business needs, without needing to pay the extra for the more advance versions of the software. I use Apple Macs as my work computers. Vista is not my preferred operating system as I have been using unix for almost 20 years, so I would prefer either Linux or Apple Mac OS X which are both based on unix instead of Microsoft DOS, but most people however will be very familiar with Vista.
The finish and feel of the casing are good when compared to the cheapest of it's competition, with dual colour, silver and black, casing that makes it seem slimmer, although not as stylish as some more expensive models such as my Apple MacBook nor as indestructible as my old IBM T42. The keyboard also has a reasonable "weight" to the keys, which don't feel flimsy, as can be the case with cheap laptops. I find the touch-pad annoying. It is too sensitive for me and the tap to select function gets triggered all the time when I don't want it to. This can actually be adjusted or turned off, but I haven't found the right settings yet, for me, and I share this computer with someone else who finds these setting almost perfect. Plugging in a mouse, of course, resolves the problem completely.
The screen is very clear, sharp and bright and a good size, 15.4", which makes it big enough to use for photo-editing etc. but without being too big to carry. Battery life is not great, often lasting less than 2 hours, but acceptable, and a spare battery would be a good idea if using it away from a power socket.
Overall the Fujisu Siemens Amilo Pi 2515 laptop it is a very good package that looks and feels a cut above many similarly priced laptops.
Summary: Good inexpensive laptop
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo
Apple Macbook Pro vs Macbook Air?
Current 2013 Apple Macbook Model line-up
O.K. So, if you have decided to buy an Apple Mac, which model is best for you. They are all expensive versus most standard laptop, for the specification, but are exquisitely made, machined out of single pieces of metal, but there are two styles to choose between and two sizes of each: Macbook Pro is available in 13" and 15" screens and the thinner Macbook Air in 11" and 13". The Macbook Pro now also comes with either a standard screen or a "Retina" display, which has twice the linear resolution horizontally and vertically (i.e. four times as many pixels)
The Air is slim and very light and each screen size corresponds in resolution to the next size up in the Pro range (i.e. a 13" Air has the same resolution as the 15" Pro) and is only available with solid state drives (SSD) and no optical drive, instead of an old fashioned hard-disk and DVD drives as seen, as standard on the basic Macbook Pros (Retina Display laptops also now have SSD only and no DVD drive). This means that they are fast, even despite their comparatively low cpu power, but also have rather less storage space. Retina models cost a lot more but are also very slim too.
For me the best has to be the Air. It is small, light, fast and extremely portable, with a screen that's as good as the larger models: Perfect for all but the most cpu intensive tasks. If you need more disk storage space, an old style Pro might be better (or a very expensive Retina display model with a lot of SSD storage if money is no object) If you need more cpu power and graphics capability go for any of the quad-core 15" models.