Going to college presents a series of choices. There are the big ones: Which school should I go to? What’s my major? And there are lesser ones: Should I eat at the cafeteria? Can I wear pajamas to class?
One choice is usually the selection of a laptop: a Mac or Windows-based PC? Either can be a considerable investment, so you want to make sure that your choice is right for you.
If you’re getting ready to go off to school — or just want to do some computing on the go — here are a few things to consider before buying.
Apple computers are generally more expensive than comparable Windows-based laptops. In a way, you are paying for the Apple name, but the philosophy behind that name relies on the company’s commitment to offering solid technology, ease of use and quality design. Apple’s lowest-priced offering is the MacBook Air, which starts at $999. A similar PC will sell for $799 or less. On the higher end, a fully loaded MacBook Pro sells for $2,799, while a comparable Microsoft Surface laptop comes in at $200 less.
UNDER THE HOOD
Laptop prices vary depending on how much processing and graphical power you want, as well as the amount of memory and hard disk space available. Most laptops have limited, or no, upgrade options, and this is especially true with Macs. You always want to purchase as much as you can so that your machine doesn’t become obsolete sooner than expected. Some PC laptops can take memory and hard drive updates, which may lengthen their lifespans.
There is only one Apple, which means the company controls the way all their laptops look. The sleek, lightweight and elegant designs are what other companies seek to emulate. On the PC front, the variety of manufacturers means you have more choice, and competition has produced some stylish options from Dell, HP and Microsoft.
If you have a piece of software that you use all the time, make sure there is a version for the operating system that comes with your laptop. Most major software programs, such as Microsoft Office or Adobe’s applications, can be used with both Apple and Windows-based computers.
EASE OF USE
While Macs are not perfect, Apple computers tend to be a better choice for people who are not tech savvy or who don’t enjoy fiddling with systems settings and drivers. On the other hand, PCs have gotten much better at guaranteeing plug-and-play compatibility and easier software installations.
If you want to play the latest games on your lap- top, you will want to buy a PC. While Mac users can play games, this is the area where Apple cannot compete with Windows-based devices. There are more games available for PCs, and more are developed all the time. Gamers may also want to invest in a dedicated gaming laptop from a specialty company like Origin or Razer. Also, Dell has its Alienware line for gaming.
Even the best-protected PC is more at risk of viruses and malware than a relatively unprotected Mac. PCs are so prevalent that it makes sense for hackers to focus on that market rather than target OSX. For most Mac users, the system’s built-in security is more than enough to ensure peace of mind — never forget security upgrades for either, though.
DEVICE OF THE MONTH
Most new laptops have ditched the optical media reader, but there are still plenty of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays in the world. The Pioneer BDR-XS06 can read and burn to all these formats using a USB 3.0 connection. It is also compatible with both Mac OSX and Windows operating systems. MSRP $119.99.