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Laptop or Desktop

March 11, 2010 - Dave Hecei

When buying a new Mac you might be stuck on whether to get a desktop or go with a laptop. Each type has its own pros and cons. The performance differences between the Mac mini, the MacBooks, and iMac are so similar it really comes down to whether you need to be portable or not.

Having a laptop is liberating. With a laptop you can move from room to room and work anywhere in your house, even out on the back porch. To get the most out of a laptop it’s best to have a wireless network running in your home, usually referred to as Airport or WiFi. With WiFi you can access the Internet from any room in the house where you can get a WiFi signal. You can also get wireless printers and storage devices that allow you to print wirelessly and have a centralized space for your data files.

Apple makes some of the best, and very popular, laptops in the industry. They make three different models – MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro. The MacBook is the lowest priced Mac laptop with a price starting at $999. The MacBook Pros have more advanced features and the MacBook Air is the featherweight.

The MacBook is available with a 13-inch screen and is made from a solid piece of white polycarbonate plastic. This makes the MacBook feel more solid with a nice seamless body. The new MacBook has an amazing LED backlit widescreen LCD screen. The MacBook is great for anyone looking for a small, light, and durable laptop.

The MacBook Pro (Pro) is available with a 13, 15, or 17-inch screen. All of the latest Pro models have a unibody design where the body is machined from a solid slab of aluminum. This design is very solid feeling and looks amazing. There are ports for practically everything – Ethernet, Firewire 800, Mini DisplayPort, two USB 2.0, SD card slot, and audio in and out. The 17-inch Pro has three USB 2.0 and an ExpressCard/34 slot instead of the SD slot. The Pros also have a backlit keyboard and a multi-touch glass trackpad. The new Pros have both integrated nVidia 9400M and discrete ATI 9600M GT video. This allows you to choose between high-performance or longer battery life.

The MacBook Air is the smallest and lightest Mac laptop. It looks very similar to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, it does have the same screen. Since it does not have an optical drive, DVD/CD, it’s only 0.76 inches thick. The Air is also very light, coming in at only 3.0 pounds. Don’t confuse the Air with a netbook though, it is a full powered laptop with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at either 1.86GHz or 2.13GHz. Unfortunately the Air is lacking in ports. There is only one USB 2.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort, and audio out. To use Ethernet you need to use a USB adapter. Using this adaptor means that you now have no USB ports.

If you don’t need to be truly portable then a laptop is probably not a good choice. Laptops are generally more expensive than a desktop, have a limited screen size, little expandability, and a portable computer is more likely to be stolen. Another negative to buying a laptop is that they don’t last as long. Heat, vibration, accidental damage (including being dropped), and general life on the road can wreak havoc on computer components. On general, the life of a laptop is about half that of a desktop.

If you are interested in a desktop Mac most home users will be looking at the iMac. This is Apple’s all-in-one design that harkens all the way back to the first Mac. The iMac is available with either a 21.5-inch or 27-inch color LCD display. With lots of ports, expanding an iMac will not be difficult. The iMac is available with very fast processors, the Intel Core 2 Duo running at 3.06GHz. The 27-inch model is also available with the new Intel Core-i series processors, which have four cores. You can choose from the Core i5 or i7. The base models have a more basic 3D video system, but the upper models are available with discrete ATI Radeon 4000 series cards. If you plan on doing lots of graphics processing, 3D rendering, or gaming, then you will definitely want a model with discrete graphics.

Choosing between a desktop or a laptop can be a difficult one. Many MacBook owners also own a Mac desktop. To them, and I include myself, having a laptop is more of a convenience than a necessity. The ability to work on the road can be an important part of work, and even leisure.

If you are really having trouble deciding, the Apple Store is a great place to visit. At the Apple Stores that I have visited the staff are extremely knowledgeable and can be very helpful without being pushy. No matter which way you go, laptop or desktop, a Mac is always a great choice.


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