My experiences in switching to an Apple Macbook Pro

In December I had to make some choices for a new laptop to replace my Lenovo W530. The main drivers were for something fast enough to run Virtual Machines for SharePoint 2013/web development, Adobe Photoshop for my photography hobby and something to do my day to day job in Office 2013 at work.

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After looking at the options, I finally decided to purchase a MacBook Pro 15″ Retina Display. I maxed it out with 1Tb Flash drive (extra USD$500) and 16Gb RAM. I already have an iPhone 5S and iPad Mini so had already jumped on the Apple Hardware wagon. In the early 2000′s I had the MacBook Quicksilver 17″ laptop and was super impressed by the battery life, screen and build quality of that machine. In the 10 years since my last one, I wasn’t disappointed…much better than the crappy bulky plastic build of the Lenovo’s for sure and enormous power brick!

I saw that Andrew Connell posted a blog post that covers the fact that he also got a MacBook Pro, shortly after I did actually coincidently due to his Lenovo dying and we chatted about my experiences first hand. Also Sahil Malik who recently moved too. Sahil has some great advice on tools to add to OSX and Andrew gives some sound advice on the hardware side.

After using Windows 8 touchscreen devices for a long time, I really thought I’d struggle without it…but the retina screen is amazing and I have yet to even reach to touch the screen. I occasionally miss the stylus for sketching UI layouts, but had a WACOM pad hanging around I use. It does feel so old school over drawing directly on the screen. I was spending a lot of time on my Surface Pro and didn’t realize what I was missing in screen real estate and quality.

Setup

As Andrew points out, there is no docking station yet, but its coming from Hengedocks and I’ll get it as soon as its out…I’m super lazy and plugging in power & two thunderbolt ports into my two screens (you get the 15″ screen as well so three screens is sweet!). I tend to use the keyboard and touchpad rather than closing lid and using keyboard & mouse (one less thing to plug in too). I take this home with me everyday, and am up and around the office in various meetings all day, so a dock would be very useful.

Base Operating System

I decided to stick with OSX on the base metal and use VMWare Fusion to run Windows 8.1 for the programs I need and Windows Server 2012 for my dev environment.There is absolutely no slowness at all…and even when I have on a Windows Server machine running AD and SQL and another running SP2013 and VS2013 it still purrs along. I think this is a lot to do with the 1Tb flash that is spread very efficiently in the machine compared to a SSD etc. 16Gb RAM vs 32Gb RAM really doesn’t seem to be an issue. 2014-01-15_22-40-31

The three finger swipe between Windows 8.1 and OSX is so fast its ridiculous. I really don’t see a problem with using both and switching between them for the strengths of both. The notifications from OSX show up no problems in the full screen Windows 8.1 which is great. The fact that I can have Windows Programs in my OSX Dock is a real bonus!

The other thing I was totally amazed by is that the VMs just work with my two monitors plugged in, so I get multiple monitor support with Windows 8.1 (or Windows Server 2012) and can share all the devices I plug into my MacBook with no problems.

I find that I’ve been using Lync 2013 and the Office 2013 programs in Unity mode so they run looking as part of OSX (rather than three finger swiping). Lync for Mac and Office 2011 for Mac is really not as good as Office 2013…Lync seems to be quite unstable and doesn’t allow me to join too many companies Lync servers to have meetings (Microsoft works but other large orgs it doesn’t).

OSX Apps

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It’s interesting to see that Apple has the same problems with OSX and iOS in terms of apps. For instance, I love the feedly.com app on my iPad Mini, but the OSX App Store doesn’t have it. So you have to install OSX programs rather than OSX apps. Even the most common ones aren’t apps e.g. Photoshop, Skype etc.

Out of box OSX apps:

  • Messages is epic! I have it configured to Google Hangouts, Facebook Chat and because I have an iPhone all my text messages to fellow iPhone people is on there too!

So far I’ve installed these OSX apps:

  • Pocket
  • Evernote
  • MindJet Mindmanager (not as feature rich as Windows one)
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop
  • ReadKit (awesome RSS reader with Feedly support)
  • SkyDrive
  • Tweetdeck
  • Twitter

and these OSX programs:

  • Adobe Photoshop CC
  • Camtasia (very buggy compared to PC equivalent)
  • Microsoft Office 2011 (stopped using and use Windows versions)
  • ReadyNAS Remote (to hook up to my NAS at home)
  • Skype
  • Spotify
  • VMWare Fusion

The whole concept of opening a .dmg file and then drag and dropping the icon into your Applications is a little bit of an awkward approach. I haven’t used OSX since the first release and I’m pretty sure others will struggle! But I do like the way that you can remove things in a very clean way.

 Dashboard Widgets

It’s interesting that the Widgets really haven’t taken off in OSX, the “More Widgets” page is pretty awful with a three column picker. I like it for the World Clocks and Weather. This could be along the lines of the Windows 8 home screen with the live tile updates, but obviously no deep linking into apps. Apple should really just remove this from the OS I think.

Virtual Machines

I am not a heavy user of advance features of Virtual Machines, I’m pretty brutal and trash VMs regularly to rebuild them from base Windows Server OSs as opposed to heavily using Snapshots. VMWare Fusion does support Snapshots and from the tests I’ve done it is just as useful as that in VMWare Workstation or Microsoft Hyper-V on Windows 8 for what I need when running tests and rolling back.

Don’t hate me

I’m not a total Apple convert by any means, I’m running more Microsoft software on here than Apple and the reality is so much is done in the web browser now the OS will eventually become just a bunch of tiles with notifications and everything will be stored in the cloud. For me its just the same as buying a Lenovo running Windows…but with the added benefit of an additional OS and Apple ecosystem to give me even more choices than not having it!

 

12 thoughts on “My experiences in switching to an Apple Macbook Pro”

  1. One thing you’re going to find out (in due time) about Apple laptops is that nearly every model has a serious defect that comes along which Apple tries as hard as they can NOT to acknowledge. They’ll lie their arses off and do whatever they can to avoid repairing them at no cost or hassle to the buyer. They simply don’t honor their warranty. And their out of pocket repair charges are absurd.

    I’ve had several laptops with defective video chips which requires replacement of the motherboard. They replaced one under warranty after much difficulty. The laptop came back with degraded video. Another one they told me the video chip had to actually go out. When it did go out I was 2 weeks outside of the free replacement period which was infuriating. They wanted $800 for the repair. I hung up and have never spoken to them again.

    I rarely use my laptops on battery power yet my batteries have repeatedly swelled like balloons on me after maybe 6 to 8 months from new which is BS. Apple OEM batteries cost nearly $100 to replace. That was back when you could easily replace them. Now Apple is turning their laptops into disposables by burying the batteries deep inside their laptops. They are actually GLUED in now!

    There used to be a website called “Apple Defects” where you could go check to see if you were getting ready to buy a defective computer. But that site has been down for some time now. So it’s harder to find out which Macs are defective and which are not. But here’s a rule of thumb: They’re ALL likely to have a serious defect that crops up right about the time your warranty runs out.

    I won’t to buy new Apple laptops anymore. I buy off-lease laptops dirt cheap and I keep several backups. When a laptop craps out on me I’ve still got what’s left of it for spare parts. I do my own repairs. I think Apple is actually onto people like me. They’re making their laptops much more difficult to repair. So eventually I’ll probably have to come up with a new game-plan.

    While I hate Apple laptops from a hardware perspective, I love Apple Operating system (OS X). When Windows Vista was first announced that’s when I jumped ship and bought my first Mac laptop. As the whole Vista fiasco unfolded I felt I’d made the right decision. Mac OS X completely blows away any operating system Microsoft has EVER put out. There’s just no comparison. It’s stable and secure. I’ve never yet come across a virus or other malicious software in one of my Macs. And for that reason I’ve had to tolerate Apple’s overpriced and defective POS laptops.

    For these reasons it’s a tossup which company sucks more. I absolutely despise Apple as a company. They’re arrogant lying assholes as far as I’m concerned. And they’ve gotten even worse since Steve died. But Microsoft Window’s lack of stability and insecurity is completely unacceptable. I could never go back. I still keep a Windows laptop for the occasional times I need to run Windows software. But there’s no way I could stay in the Windows environment for more then a few minutes. Microsoft really needs to do a complete rewrite of the Windows OS. Under the hood is still the same outdated code that traces all the way back to DOS. New versions just get more bloated with new window dressing.

    I have to say it’s beyond me why you would spend 4 to 5 times the price of a Windows laptop to buy a Macbook only to run Windows in a virtual machine. I tried just the opposite. I tried running Mac OS in my Windows laptop and that was a disaster. It turned stable Mac OS into unstable Windows-like disfunctionality due to the fact that Windows was underneath making everything run horribly.

    It would have been nice if Linux developed to the point where it was as good as Apple OS X. In that case I would have bought a Windows laptop (most of them suck too) and installed Linux and hopefully I would have been happy enough with that arrangement. But so far Linux has perpetually remained in a “not ready for prime time” state. I gave up on that option.

    1. > it’s beyond me why you would spend 4 to 5 times the price of a Windows laptop to buy a Macbook

      My own comparisons *like-for-like* have shown a very small difference in price between MacBooks and equivalent Windows-based portables. So small a difference that I was surprised as it’s not what I’ve been used to.

      Of course you can buy much worse specified Windows portables for much less than the cheapest MacBook but compare for instance the latest Asus portable with 2×256 GB (as RAID-0) SSDs with the top-of-the-line MacBook Pro with a single (and faster) 512GB and we’re talking about a ca 10% increase in price.

    2. My own experience could not be more different. Always buy AppleCare and just count it as part of the machine. Covers you for a full 3 years. Sell it within that period and get a newer one then you are always covered. I have had stuff fixed without any issue in over 5 years of Mac ownership. Previously I had stuff from Dell that I couldn’t get fixed even in warranty. Apple’s warranties are among the best in the business IMO.
      An equivalent Windows laptop is *not* 4 or 5 times cheaper. Any truly similarly specified machine is not that far off the Apple price as Mike says below. When I got a Lenovo over a year ago (W530) same spec as the MBP, ended up at the same price. I can tell from the level of hate in your post I am unlikely to convince you :) but those of my friends/colleagues who also have Apple kit generally love it.

      1. I just got the email about getting cover. GOtta look what it costs but might get it as a just in case…and yes, I usually cycle machines every 18-24 months and hand the old ones down to family.

    3. So I’m shopping for a new desktop replacement laptop, what would you recommend? I’ve never owned a Mac and am far from an Apple fan.

      But, right now, the 15″ MBP Retina with Haswell, Iris Pro graphics, 16 GB, and AppleCare protection plan (3 year warranty) looks like the best option for me, at $2548.

      I want to do photography work, a little gaming, and virtual machines running Linux for development. I want lots of RAM, lots of power, and an excellent screen: 14″ or more with very high DPI, contrast, and color range. 256 GB SSD is enough. It needs to be light enough to carry all the time (under 5 pounds), good battery life, and a good keyboard and touchpad.

      So what is there to compete with the MBP ? My top three alternatives are:

      The Dell XPS 15 (1TB/32GB SSD, NVidia, QHD+ screen) matches or beats the MBP on many specs. But, it’s nearly as expensive: $2218 today with the 3 year warranty. And the battery life is unimpressive. Maybe…

      The new Thinkpad X1 Carbon Touch has great specs and a great screen, and at $2100 (coupon) with three year warranty is certainly cheaper than the MBP. But it has half the memory, a slower graphics chip, and a weird keyboard. It’s a pound lighter, and a little smaller, and that’s nice … This would be my top choice if I could get it with more memory and a normal keyboard. Too bad, it looks nice.

      The Thinkpad T440s doesn’t have the screen resolution. Otherwise could be a possibility, but fully spec’ed out is almost as expensive as the MBP, ($2248 with three year warranty) and still doesn’t have as much RAM and the more powerful Iris Pro graphics. So no.

      And finally, Mac OSX is probably more stable and reliable and works better with high DPI screens than Windows, so that can certainly justify a little extra cost.

      What have I missed?

      Any other good alternatives? Right now I’m inclined to wait another month.

      1. I am super happy with the the Macbook Pro, the VM’s purr. I am tempted to buy Battlefield 4 to see how it runs in a Windows 8 VM within…i’ll update if I do eventually get to this.

    4. Yes, i used to like apple but my logic board failed after 1 year, all apple did was to reformat my WHOLE disk without my permission making me lose over a year of data

    5. Your batteries swell because you are not using them – lithium ion batteries perform better with use, they calcify when you do not use them. I had over 1200 cycles on my MacBook battery and it was still at 80 percent capacity, I also work for an Apple service center and rarely see swollen batteries.

  2. On the VM side, Fusion is actually much better than Workstation. You have to remember that Fusion is on a Unix variant (FreeBSD), and has roots to ESX, while Workstation is based on GSX. Frankly, the better resources from VMware is on ESX, as that’s their flagship.

    The bit about buying AppleCare is the best advice you can get. And be sure to sell it before it runs out. You get considerable resale value, versus the Dells, and even Lenovos that drop to 50% or more within 2 years.

    I’ve been cycling MacMinis, iPads and MacBook Pros for years. Even a white MacBook bought in England (UK keyboard!) fetched 80% resale after 20 months here in the US. When you look at TCO, Apple actually wins out over the long haul, as you pay less for the next version with the cash you get back in selling what you have.

  3. I also switched to a Mac recently after many years of PC and I’m amazed with the quality of both hardware and software. I only miss the ALT-TAB to switch between windows in a single app (hint: use Cmd-@)… and some of the keyboard shortcuts are really annoying… but altogether it’s a great system

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