BUYING A LAPTOP PC OR MAC

promo_lead_snow_ship_20090828Our niece just asked us if she should ask for a PC or a Mac for her birthday, as she gets ready to go off to college. We told her to go with a Mac, if  money isn’t an issue, because her fellow college students will likely have Macs. In business, PCs are far more common.

Mac users have fewer viruses and spyware. Of course, that’s only because it’s a smaller market and fewer hackers aim at it.

The Mac’s new “Snow Leopard” operating system takes up less than half the hard disk space that Leopard did. It’s also  faster and can capture your movements on screen and save them as a video. You can get a Macbook from the Apple store for $999.

MacbookHowever, if you have favorite Windows programs, you will need to buy software such as the “Parallels” software for the Mac or its equivalent, so that your Windows programs will run. And that means you also need a copy of Windows, which is pricey.

Then there’s the netbook. They’re lightweight and very affordable ($300 to $500) but can have limited battery life, small screens, cramped keyboards, and less hard disk space than regular laptops. They’re also slower when doing things like video editing or streaming videos on the web. The better models however  should be fine, if you’re buying a laptop to do simple things like word processing and email. (One of Joy’s favorite new books “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” was written entirely on one, using the free OpenOffice.org.) You can also do your word processing using the free Google Documents and store everything  in your private space in the  Google “cloud.”

In fact, Joy says if she were a cost-conscious student today, she’d choose the new $355 Windows-based “eeePC 1005ha” netbook from Asus (http://amazon.twi.bz/cb), one of the best-selling laptops at Amazon.com. It comes with Windows XP, has a 10.5 hour battery life, and weighs less than 3 pounds, which could be important when you’re hauling it around campus.

Avoiding viruses and spyware is fairly easy if you use the free Avira anti-virus and the free Spybot Search and Destroy (both from download.com). The eeePC lacks a CD drive, so it would probably be a good idea to get an external plug-and-play CD drive for $59: http://amazon.twi.bz/db.

The Toshiba netbook has also gotten some good buzz.  So has the new sub-$300 Acer Aspire.  PCWorld.com and PCmag.com are good sources for more reviews.

If your laptop has Vista Home Premium on it, Microsoft is offering college students an upgrade to the new Windows 7 for $30, instead of the usual $120 asking price.

2 Responses to “BUYING A LAPTOP PC OR MAC”

  1. You can run windows on your mac without buying parallels using Boot Camp. There’s a blurb about it here:

    http://www.apple.com/macosx/compatibility/

  2. Yes, that’s true. We should have mentioned that and Fusion. Thanks for the comment.