by Shane O'Neill

Mac or PC: Help Me, I Need a New Laptop

Dec 22, 20083 mins
Data Center

Pardon me if I’m a little bah humbuggy, but I had a rough week last week. I came home after a long day to find that my condominium had been broken into and my personal laptop and a few other items had been stolen.

Apparently deadbolt locks can be broken. Happy #%^&* holidays.

An unfortunate side-effect of the economic recession is an increase in petty crime, which I fear is only going to worsen in 2009. I live in the city, so that’s city living for you. It’s unpleasant, but it happens. I now have better locks and an alarm system, but the paranoia will stay with me for awhile.

My laptop was getting old anyway. It was a Dell Inspiron purchased in 2005 running Windows XP Home with 512MB RAM and a Pentium M processor. Not exactly a powerhouse. It still worked fine, but I had been pushing it to the limit lately and it was slowing down.

But the ole Dell was good enough that I wasn’t looking for a new computer. Obviously things have changed. I will have some homeowner’s insurance money coming my way, putting me in the rare position of maybe having enough money to buy a MacBook without feeling like I’m breaking the bank.

Ah yes, a Mac. I consider myself a PC guy, but I don’t recall giving an oath of eternal loyalty. The Mac versus PC debate that I so frequently write about has now hit home. I’ve used Macs sparingly during my career, mostly when I did page layout at a newspaper. I’ve never owned a Mac laptop and I’m more comfortable using Windows.

But with a little extra coin in my hands, maybe it’s time to leave the comfort zone. I will hopefully get enough money for a lower-priced MacBook.

Yet I remain conflicted. I’ll admit that from a consumer standpoint Macs are better than PCs: less buggy, less upkeep, prettier, stronger. But are they $600 – 700 better?

The argument I often get from pro-Mac people is that it’s a worthy investment and that when you factor in what you pay for AV software and other add-ons for an $800 PC, the prices aren’t that different. I’d say that’s fuzzy math by Apple fanboys. PCs are cheaper, period. The threat of viruses on PCs, the fear of Vista sucking and the barrage of patch updates can take an emotional toll, but I think it’s rare that you’ll ever pay more in dollars and cents for a PC than a Mac.

I also lost respect for Apple in October when it made only tiny cuts to prices for its line of MacBooks, and recently experienced some schadenfreude when I saw that Mac retail sales dropped 1 percent year-over-year while Windows PC sales grew by 7 percent. Apple needs to acknowledge the economic recession, come down from its Ivory Tower and throw a bone to cash-strapped consumers by cutting MacBook prices.

But this cash-strapped consumer and B&E victim will have slightly deeper pockets than normal. So I’m soliciting you, fair readers, both Mac and PC users, to give me some buying advice.

Should I buy a Mac or stick with a PC?