Macbook versus Macbook Pro: my decision

Sunday, 16 March 2008

A few weeks ago, while I was sitting at my computer, I noticed a strong burning smell coming from somewhere beneath my desk. I sent for a computer repair dude, he confirmed motherboard was fried.

So with the old computer completely written off, and Apple just recently having upgraded the specs of their Macbooks, I thought now is as good a time as any to switch to a portable Mac.

So first I must determine my needs: I require a fast, sturdy and highly portable laptop, with good battery life and good wireless support, a nice clearly readable screen suitable for writing papers.

And perhaps I should also specify what the laptop will *not* be used for: gaming of any sort, photo-shopping, video editing, programming.

Based on these requirements, I determine that certainly the midrange white Macbook, with 2GB ram, 2.4Ghz CPU and 160GB hard disk drive, should meet my needs. But I also wonder whether the entry level Macbook Pro won’t be worth the extra investment. So I thought I might post a comparison here and hopefully, by writing this down, I will gain more insight into what I require to help me make the best decision.

So let’s begin with listing some of the most important pros and cons of the Macbook.

Pros:

  • Lightweight, sturdy polycarbonate frame
  • Long battery life
  • Good wifi support
  • midrange white model is 516 euros cheaper than the entry level pro, with same CPU and RAM (I get students discount on Mac merchandise, so this price difference is actually less than what it normally is)

Cons:

  • The magnetic latch system is known to cause chipping of polycarbonate shell after prolonged use.
  • The X3100 graphics with non-dedicated memory bites into RAM memory
  • Speakers on this thing really suck, even for a laptop

And now the pros and cons of the Macbook Pro.

Pros:

  • It has a nicer screen, with better backlighting and greater vibrancy
  • Dedicated graphics card
  • More stylish and thinner than the Macbook
  • Better sound

Cons:

  • 516 euros more expensive!
  • Some users have noted that wifi signal quality of the pro is less
  • I don’t like the keyboard as much as the ‘chicklet’ keyboard on the Macbook
  • The aluminum casing dents easily, it’s not as durable as a Macbook
  • It’s wider and slightly heavier than the Macbook
  • Battery life is not as long as on the Macbook

OK, now to think it over a little better.

Under the “pros” of the macbook pro, I have mentioned the dedicated graphics. But like I said, I do not intend to be gaming with this thing, so I could just as easily get a Macbook and use a 4GB memory set for around 90 euros. 2GB of extra RAM to satisfy the X3100 is a lot cheaper than going for a Macbook pro just for the dedicated graphics memory.

The screen on the Macbook pro looks better, but is that alone worth 516 euros? I also have a 19″ Dell display that I can hookup, so this quality difference will only be an issue when I’m traveling. On top of that, I won’t be doing any of the graphics intensive stuff anyway that would warrant the investment in the more colorful display the Pro version features.

One thing that counts against the Macbook is the problems with the magnetic latch, but from what I gather after much searching on google, is that Apple is aware of the problem and they will fix it for you if this happens to your system. Furthermore, the problem appears to be entirely cosmetic anyway.

The last point is sound quality. To be honest, the built-in speakers of the pro version sound much better than those in the small macbook. However, it still doesn’t sound nearly as good as the perfect stereo sound I get from simply plugging in my Sennheisers. So I’d just be paying for an upgrade that wouldn’t get used.

So I guess the conclusion becomes inescapable: the mid-range white Macbook is simply the best buy for my needs. (Wow, who would have thought that writing everything down like this could *really* help this much ;-)