Inspired by a commonly asked question by pre-university students: "What laptop should I get?"
Quick Overview of my Laptop History
Parents bought me a 15.6" HP back in 2008 to use while I was at an overnight summer program, after 10th grade. I had this guy until mid-1st year. I learned a few things in first year. One was using a real backpack that protected laptops, and two - carrying around a heavyweight laptop kills your back. So after I got a blue screen problem with my HP, I needed to buy a new laptop. I didn’t have much time to do my research because I needed to complete assignments. So I got a 14" Asus. It was slightly less heavy and performed a bit better. It lasted until end of my 2B term in summer 2012. Well, it was working completely fine but it started performing extremely slow. And by that time, I’d already worked at two companies that had Mac majority (to date, the 5 co-op workplaces I’ve worked at all had a Mac majority). I saw how beautiful and simple the interface was. Windows (7 at the time) seemed way more bloated and I couldn’t really stand it anymore.
So I bought my Macbook Air 13" in Aug 2012, and it was probably the best purchase I’ve ever made to date. From my observations, the people who steer away from MacBooks are those who wish to either save money, need a machine that they can game on, or they think Linux > OSX.
I don’t game, and I don’t exactly love Linux. As for the money - I knew that for the value, it’d be worth it.
So what’s so great about Mac?
For one, more and more people are using it, thus more software is becoming available for it. I have never had any issues finding a particular software required for school assignments and projects that wasn’t also available with Mac. And even then, if I needed to run windows, I could do it using Bootcamp or VMWare. The only time I ever need to use a Windows VM is when I need to root my phone, because for some reason, the majority of the Android rooting community is Windows or Linux. The other common issue is that most applications that originated from Windows aren’t full fledged OSX apps that conform to OSX standards, though I don’t see it being that great of a limitation.
And then there’s of course the issue with gaming. I don’t game but I know some of the more popular games are available on OSX. You could also run a VM or dual boot. Of course the performance and graphics may not be up to speed. Many of my friends who game (I mean why wouldn’t you game if you’re in software engineering?) have both a laptop they bring to class, and a desktop or larger laptop they use for gaming.
Also - apps. I believe other manufacturers are introducing the notion of desktop app stores, but Apple was definitely the first to stand out. Buy all your apps from the app store, if you bought your Macbook as a student, you’ll be getting a gift card you can use to spend on apps (also applies to iPhone & iPad apps). I got $100 and after 2 years I still haven’t spent more than half of it. Now you don’t have to pirate any of your software (or at least, you will pirate less).
Dealing with Files
You can migrate files even when they’re opened. Have you ever downloaded a pdf and started reading it and then realized you wanted to move it to a separate folder, but you have to close it first if you’re on Windows? Well, you don’t need to do that on Mac. Same goes if you want to replace a file that’s opened. It’s convenient and requires less workarounds.
There are a few other cool features that are Mac specific. Airdrop for one is really awesome. It lets you share wirelessly with people within 30 metres, so you don’t have to do any uploading to Dropbox, or sending it via email.
I needed to defragment my Windows machines often. Even after defragging, the feedback from performing simple tasks like opening a folder, or opening a new application took forever. Of course these days you can also by Windows machines with SSDs, but back then, Macbook Airs were the only consumer machines with SSDs.
With Windows, you have varying manufactures and models. It can be difficult to debug hardware or software issues because there are simply a less amount of other consumers with your same machine. With Apple products - the community is huge. There are only a few new models introduced every year, and people will typically run into the same problems.
So get a Macbook if you’re not already convinced.
Another question that gets commonly asked these days is “should I get a tablet for school?" The short answer is no, because a laptop can probably do more things for you. If you want a convenient, lightweight device, just put your money towards a Macbook Air (or an Ultrabook works too I guess).