A friend at work asked me for a laptop recommendation, so I figured I would simply post that here so that the peanut gallery could add their comments as well. At a high level I suggest the following. My reasoning is below, feel free to disagree with me in the comments:
- The mid-range MacBook (the one with the SuperDrive for burning DVDs)
- Upgrade to 2GB
- Plan on getting an external USB hard drive for backups
My standard recommendation for all personal computers these days is “buy a Mac”. I’ve been firmly in that camp since switching (from Linux) about four years ago, and I’m even firmer in that camp since their switch to Intel chips. Essentially I believe that Macs are better at and easier to use for the majority of common tasks that people really want to do (digital life, Internet, managing personal data). There’s often an adjustment period for people coming from Windows, but in the end a Mac can do everything and more, and often make the workflow more efficient. For power users, there’s no question that the combination of a great GUI and a core BSD operating system is the killer combination that has most technical conferences completely dominated by Apple hardware these days.
Some people may have reasons that they want a desktop machine (and Apple has plenty of good options there), but I also generally recommend that people tend towards laptops these days, they are just so good and so flexible. The current laptops are amazingly capable:
- All of them include an integrated video camera – iChat A/V is really cool!
- Support for the Apple Remote Control – It seems trivial but its really nice for showing slideshows on a big TV
- And of course beautiful screens, good battery life, built-in wifi and bluetooth, and a nice touches like indicator lights on the charger and batteries
So for a laptop, my basic recommendation is to go for the mid-range MacBook (not the Pro…more later). There’s not a huge difference between the regular and the Pro, and most normal users won’t notice them:
- Slightly more screen pixels (well, many more on the 17″, but that thing is just too damn big)
- Better graphics card, and the out-of-the-box ability on the Pros to support separate displays on the internal screen and an external monitor (this is nice for the ability to instantly increase your screen real estate, but I’ve heard the regular MacBook can do this as well through a software hack)
- Backlit keyboard (OK I’ll admit that this looks frickin’ cool, but the place its most useful is on a plane…where I’m usually trying to conserve battery power…)
- An ExpressCard slot for peripherals, but most of these can be attached through USB or Bluetooth
Of course the MacBook Pro can get you more power (faster CPU, space for more RAM, and a better graphics card), but unless you’re going to be editing a professional movie or rendering massive images, my feeling is that the MacBook is a great fit for almost everyone, and up to $1000 cheaper. In fact, I actually prefer the slightly smaller MacBook form factor.
So my standard recommendation is for the mid-range 13-inch MacBook. I think that the upgrade to the SuperDrive (for DVD burning) is well worth it. I also highly recommend filling it with 2GB of RAM. RAM is about the most important thing you can do for Mac performance. It can be cheaper to buy from an online retailer like crucial.com, but sometimes that requires throwing away the RAM that shipped with the box, so its good that Apple has lowered the overall cost on RAM so its easiest to just upgrade when you order.
I gotta say, I do think that the matte black MacBook looks really damn cool, but I’m not sure its worth the style tax of $200 (with 40GB more disk space).
If anyone strongly disagrees (or supports), please feel free to comment below!