Conclusions On The Mac

After 20 days of my using the Mac full-time, we’ve decided to stick with PCs. But we aren’t typical, and many mainstream users will find the Mac beats Windows.

We’re both heavy users of Firefox, Word, assorted email & media packages, and I use Excel a lot. We operate from 2 (soon to be three) bases, each with laptop docks with screens & keyboards, an 11g wireless network, a networked printer, backup storage, and DSL. We’re planning on adding networked media servers at each location. We both travel a lot in Europe and the US but hate the hassle of lugging laptops and arranging ISPs. So we’re upgrading our cellphones to get email and basic web access on the road.

We need two laptops or portable desktops, and three media servers, all seamlessly networkable.

Here’s how Apple stacked up against our requirements compared with W2K and WinXP:

Pros

  1. Mac Mini is very nice: affordable, silent (except for DVD player), well networked, cool, fast (with 1GB) and weighs under 3 pounds (compared with over 16 pounds for the entry-level Hush).
  2. The Mac Dashboard feature is a great productivity aid – one mouse movement pulls up weather & local time in multiple locations, language translator, dictionary/thesaurus, unit converters, plus whatever you want from a whole range of other widgets.
  3. Software install is faster & easier.
  4. Mac Mini can access shared files on Win PC, although we haven’t got the reverse to work – that could be RTFM or MS problem.

Cons

  1. Limited apps. If you don’t like the Apple DVD player, there’s just one alternative, VLC. There are 3 web browsers, of which only Firefox is competitive with, er, Firefox.
  2. The single button mouse is an ergonomic horror. I couldn’t find a decent Bluetooth two button for the Mac & reverted to my USB PC mouse.
  3. Unstable. Firefox (1.5.0.4) crashes several times a day, Apple apps crash weekly, and the VLC DVD player leaks pictures.
  4. An evil alliance of the Mac Mini’s Matsushita DVD player and Apple’s OS X stops you playing DVDs from multiple regions. Oddly, they don’t block the legally more dubious practice of DVD ripping, providing you stay in your allotted region!
  5. Microsoft apps are slow and de-featured, and Mac alternatives aren’t up to heavy-duty use.
  6. Mac Book Pros are too hot to be used on the lap (or I’d guess a glass tabletop). Seems the decision to make them just 1” thick was a bridge too far.

Apple will be fine for many users. The Mac Book is less powerful than the Pro – so maybe less hot – and hence usable on your lap. Or – provided you always have access to a monitor – a 3 pound Mac Mini is great as a laptop replacement, although the HDD may not like too many jolts. Finally, you can get an iMac desktop.

The software stability issue will go away as software matures.

MS may release a decent Office for the Mac – probably just before Hell freezes over – but alternatives may appear sooner.

If you aren’t bothered about being limited to one region the Mac Mini is the beginnings of a nice media player.

But the DVD restriction, limited apps and poor stability are too much for us, so I’ll use the Mac Mini until it packs up, and then get a (cool) PC laptop. And we’ll get Hush or Sony Windows media players.

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