Back in high school and college, the provided computers were all Macs, but I always had PCs at home – most of which I built myself. After leaving school I picked up a Toshiba Tecra laptop, and have stuck with Windows-based laptops ever since. I’d put myself into the “power user” territory, with Windows experience dating back to my first installation of 3.0, from floppies. Over that time my feelings about Macs have waxed and waned, but I was always one of those guys who couldn’t ever picture myself switching, not for any negative reason, just that PCs worked for me.
Along came Sony with their VGN-SZ460N Vaio laptop, powered by (and I use the term loosely) Microsoft Vista, Business Edition. In 10 short weeks, that combination has dropped about $1100 squarely into Apple’s hands, and unless some phenomenal shift occurs, I don’t see myself switching back anytime soon (and I’m not the only one). Granted, it’s only a single week, and no, I’m not gushingly in love with OS X or anything, but I am so much less frustrated than I was with the Vaio.
Let’s start on the negatives, the things I (so far) don’t like about the MacBook/OS X:
- Terribly inconsistent and lacking keyboard shortcuts. I was so used to Alt-F, N for “new …” and there’s no equivalent here. Further, every different app uses a different combination of alt-arrow, ctrl-arrow, apple-arrow to skip words left/right. My friend Michael Gartenberg pointed me to this article on how mouse usage is faster than keyboard shortcuts, but it’s almost twenty years old now and I don’t think it’s accounting for the expertise one gains after 10+ years of doing anything.
- No hard drive activity light. I’m a big multitasker, and often launch a few applications simultaneously, and however sluggish Vista might be, the HDD light is a handy way to know how busy the computer is. I’ve often found myself wondering if the Mac is doing something, idle, etc.
- Can’t open the screen to 180 degrees. However terrible (and its terrible) the Vaio may be, it can be opened such that the screen is totally flat. I’m sure the designers had a reason – I just don’t know what it is.
- Proprietary video connectors and no card readers. What the heck is this silly mini-DVI thing, and where’s an SD slot?
- Files, folders, and applications. When I install something, why do I have to drag and drop it into Applications? How come ‘save as’ requires two different pull-downs to pick a location to save a file? It just seems like the objective to simplify has created extra burden for those of us who really want an organized file system.
- Missing NTFS integration. This seems like a bit of a “childish” development decision, OS X is way too incompatible with the Windows file system. I hooked up my Drobo and my Seagate FreeagentGo drives, and neither worked well (if at all). Considering how much Apple is trying to get people to switch (successfully) you’d think they’d make this work properly.
- Right click? I know it’s there, but c’mon…
- I also don’t like the iCal/Mail/”meh” combo, but that’s really a comparison of Office, so I’ll hold off for now.
Now for the things I do like:
- Sleep/resume. Oh my, is this impressive. In fact, coming out of sleep mode is so fast and works so well, the guys in Redmond should be utterly ashamed at how bad a job Vista does. It’s actually a very empowering feeling, knowing that if I need something off the computer, I can simply open it up, and in a few seconds, there it is. All computing should be this elegant and work this reliably.
- Force quitting really quits. No, OS X is not immune to crashes, I’ve seen quite a few already. But, when I force quit something, it actually goes away, and does it instantly. When I relaunch it, the application loads fresh. Vista again, doesn’t even come close in this regards.
- Parallels. Despite some weird glitch that had me waste about 4 hours on the first install, it’s otherwise one of the most impressive pieces of software I’ve ever used, on any computer, ever. It’s so well integrated I am surprised it was built by a third-party, and am surprised that Apple hasn’t bought em (maybe MS should!).
- Battery life and performance. As far as I am aware, this ~$1100 MacBook has the same CPU, RAM, and screensize as my $2500 Vaio, yet it appears to run about 25% faster for multitasking or running comparable applications. The battery is 45-90 minutes longer (easily) and in standby it’s not even comparable. Last weekend I went away camping, and put both into sleep mode at the same time. When I got home, the Mac had about 3 hrs of juice left, the Vaio had shut itself down into Hibernate after having 5% battery life left.
That’s where I am so far. I haven’t really tried iLife or iWork yet at all. I’ve spent most of the time in transition and getting comfortable with the new interfaces. I’m still “uncomfortable” with a lot of the OS X nuances. But I am using a computer that I’d call reliable, and that alone is worth the $1500 LESS I had to spend on the MacBook than I did on the Sony. Check please!