My Mac Switch: One Year Later

Wow, feels like I’ve actually waited a year to even post (yep, sure did)! Whew! Actually, I have a lazy Friday evening, so I thought I’d jot some stuff down.

For years, I said I’d never do it . . . there was no use for Mac and Windows was the king (percentage wise by users), so why would I even entertain the thought, right? Well, you can view my post on HP Overheating to see where the decision started to sway.

I started working with web/graphic design in 1998 after college. I’d worked on my projects with Windows 100% during that time. The only interaction with Mac was with my father-in-law and photography editing. I thought his Mac Pros were pretty sweet, but didn’t really get far out of Photoshop. I had that on my Thinkpad (God bless it – still a favorite) and my HP Envy (super powerhouse . . . refer to heating though) and it ran fine for all intents and purposes.

Still, I usually get 3 or so years out of a piece of equipment before seeing a benefit from a new machine (sometimes longer). When the HP felt a bit long in the tooth, I gave some serious debate to all platforms. I looked at gaming PC laptops, engineering workstations . . . all of it. I got some great input across the web but found that Mac was always at the top for many lists. I checked performance charts for 2D applications and the chart bars were always at least 2x the PC counterparts. I made one final call to my pal Bill Reid to get his expert opinion . . . he said he had Mac in the past and was impressed with them, but the price was the big issue. Understandably, you can get comparable horsepower for much less.

So, there was the question – do I throw down the extra cash to go Mac? In the end, it was a matter of curiosity that made me click the button. “What is all this hoopla about OSX” and “Can it really be that efficient for work and design”? So, I took the plunge.

I’ll admit, at first, I was totally in a weird place. I wasn’t familiar with the layout, file system, interaction . . . then, 5 minutes past and I was at home – ha! Really, there was a day or so of acclamation, but it was “fun” to get used to it. In the end, OSX isn’t the example of what I’ve heard from others. Some would say, “if you’re used to Windows, Mac will not be fun for you”. Fortunately, I’m a bit of a nerd, so it was enjoyable to see what could be.

That was November of 2013. I quickly learned what all the fuss was about. I’ll preface the rest of what I like by admitting I am not “that guy” when it comes to Mac. Windows is still king of the hill, and for good reasons. However, my experience with OSX and the Macbook Pro hardware has solidified my position that this is where, for my needs, I want to be when it comes to being productive.

Here are a few highlights of why I am impressed with the Mac:

  • Speed – This is the main “feature” I enjoy. Yes, it was the latest hardware for Fall 2013, but OSX has a certain “snappiness” that you can feel as you use it throughout the day. My notebook came with the PCI-e SSD for storage and the term “click and it’s done” is, in most cases, a reality. From the ~10 second boot time (from shut down) to the “instant on” of opening the lid to wake from sleep, the time I save not waiting on little loading moments is paramount. When I opened Photoshop (full version) in less than 5 seconds, I think I may have giggled like a little girl – yes, this thing is fast.
  • Cool and quiet – OK, I was coming from a thermo-nuclear laptop called the HP Envy, so anything would be cooler. However, I can run Garage Band to record audio in an isolated room and the laptop is no longer the issue. The Fan only fires up under crazy heavy loads (like compiling video in Premiere, etc). 99% of the time, it’s not heard at all. Even on my lap, all is nice and comfortable.
  • Screen/Video – holy cow, Retina screens are unbelievable. Unfortunately, most of my work is done on a 24 inch external monitor with the MacBook screen as a 2nd and another 4:3 monitor as a 3rd (can’t wait for 4K screen someday). But, when I need to preview imagery for final print, etc., the Macbook screen is very nice. Yes, I realize only a fully calibrated monitor is acceptable for print, but for web and newspaper ad work, it does very well.
  • Battery – this is a small detail for someone who works from a desk all day, but I’ve been typing, watching video, and editing since 5:30 and I’m just past half battery after 3 hours . . .
  • That virus thing – yes, Macs are at 7% or so of the market. No, the hackers and virus makers aren’t too keen on wreaking havoc on the Mac community (yet). Still, not worrying with adware bog down and viruses is actually something very noticeable in my day to day routine. PSA: Don’t open any email you don’t recognize and use a firewall, people!
  • Yosemite (OSX Software addition) – I already mentioned the efficiencies of the OSX platform. Well, Yosemite update has kicked my productivity up a notch. I already was using iMessage to easily type messages to my family, friends, and (increasingly), clients. With Yosemite, my iPhone talks to my Mac so that I can take/make calls (yes, sometimes I get that speakerphone tinny sound – I feel they will work that out), but I can now text (green bubble) as well as iMessage. I don’t pick up my phone now. This shaves minutes off my time and that makes for an efficient day.
  • Easy jump for CC subscribers – I work mainly from Adobe Creative Cloud suite of software. I thought it’d be different on Mac. Well, it isn’t. All menus are in the same place, so really, that was my only major hurdle. If you use Creative Cloud on Windows, it’s right at home on the Mac. Get a 2 button mouse and you’re all set for shortcuts.
  • Time Machine Backup – grab an old USB hard drive and plug it in. Turn on time machine and I can backup hourly/daily/weekly all my data (including the operating system). If anything happens, it’s a quick reload of the backup and I’m back where I’m started. I wish all backups were as simple as this. I can also backup to my network attached server – so I have two full backups for assurance. Plus, I can grab a file at any point from the past year (all changes) – so cool to find a file that I goofed on and restore it to continue on – all in about a minute.
  • Bonus: Screen grabs – I know this is minor for most people, but the fact that I can grab a preview of a design and quickly throw it into an email or text is the best thing ever. Where I used to save a file, attach, etc., I now get it done in a few seconds. So good . . . soooo good.

I won’t bore you further. You should be able by now to tell I’m sold on the Mac platform. I still have my trusty windows desktop next to me for the occasional file manipulation or windows program, but really, I haven’t needed Windows. I thought I’d load it on the Macbook side by side, but then figured I’d try to go straight OSX. I’m glad I did.

The price premium is real. However, after a year, my machine is just as fast as it started and the extra money is one of those things I don’t fret over or regret. I hope and feel that I can get 4-5 years out of this machine instead of my normal 3. It is built very well, so I feel like it’s up to it – as long as Apple doesn’t do their thing and create something that won’t work on older hardware . . . they’d NEVER do that, right?

Feel free to comment below – glad to answer any insights – please no flame wars!

Specs for the machine reviewed
Macbook Pro 15″ Retina Display
500 GB SSD
16 GB RAM
Core i7 Processor (2 Ghz)

PS, I racked my brain to find something I didn’t like (other than the price!). Found it . . . when you are opening a file in a program, you can’t rename a file at the same time within that window – I find I miss that from time to time!

Advertisements

HP Mini 1000

My plan after upgrading my laptop was to let Alison use my old faithful gateway. Well, after minutes (looong minutes) of boot up time, that option fell by the way. I had heard about “Netbooks” becoming really popular for secondary systems and thought she might like one. I searched far and wide and did my research and came up with a great little gem.

The HP Mini 1000 is really a very well built, well thought out little machine. I’m actually typing on it right now. It has a 92% keyboard, so it’s actually not that bad to type on (it’s no Thinkpad, but for the size, it’s nice).  I’ll give my pros and cons below.

Pros

  • Size – the main reason for a Netbook is portability. In fact, that was one of my main reason for buying this. I figured my wife could simply put the computer in her purse and take it with her to school, dinner, trips . . . wherever. After 2 months with it, she’s doing just that. She loves it! She brought in her purse (a small one at that) and showed me how it just slips right in. And at 2 pounds, it’s really a lightweight.
  • Speed – the operating system is Windows XP, so it runs just as fast as any machine I’ve had. It has the new Intel Atom processor, so it chugs along nicely.
  • Solid State Drive (pro and con) – The model I bought has the 8 Gbyte solid state drive (think of it like a big digital camera card). Since she uses it for email and web most of the time, it doesn’t get near the space limit. There’s an SD card slot that will hold up to 30 GB if needed, so we’re good there. Also, it’s super quiet. You have to really get close to even barely hear a fan.
  • Nice screen – the resolution is 1250×600. When I bought it, I thought that might be a little low, but it’s just right for the size. This is the 9 inch screen. There’s a 10 incher as well, but this does just fine. The screen is good and bright . . . almost too bright when plugged in!

Cons

  • Solid state drive size – there’s a 16 GB, but these days, many people want lots of space. You can upgrade to at 160 GB drive if needed – adds weight and hurts battery a bit, but it’s there.
  • Battery life? – Not so much a con for me. We get 3 hours or so from the battery. Alison took it on a trip for 3 days and didn’t charge it once (casual use in the hotel). So, it’s a matter of preference. New netbooks are bragging about 10 hours, so we’ll see.

There’s also a built in webcam for easy Skyping which we like as well. One thing I think we might run into is installations for software. If it’s not downloadable over the web (i.e. on a CD), we’ll have to improvise with a USB CDROM (which we don’t have!).

Overall, I would recommend this for anyone doing lite duty computing such as web, email or word processing. It runs great, has the best keyboard of any netbook (size wise) and looks good to. The build quality is as good as I’ve found.

Price: $350 (most likely cheaper by now)