Why a MacBook in Favor of Windows or Linux Laptops

As discussed in a recent blog post, I was in the market for a laptop. Several days after I had written about that topic and spent countless hours researching pros and cons, I had made the decision and went out to buy one. As the title suggests, it resulted in the most expensive product of the three options I was looking at and I’m here to write about it. This, however, is not the review as it would clearly blow up this piece. I’ll leave that for another day (I have written >1000 words already *tease*). In this blog post I’ll be explaining myself. Why I went with the MacBook Pro over the much more affordable and better equipped non-Mac laptops.

Why not Windows or Linux?

As mentioned in that other post, I was open to basically all relevant hardware and software combinations that are available. Neither the stalwart Windows nor the developer focused Linux made it though, and that is in part attributed to the hardware and in part to the OS. But let’s go through it in chronological order.

The first thing I did was to install a Linux distro on my gaming PC, to gauge whether it would be usable as a daily driver for non-gaming tasks. In theory it would’ve provided all that I needed, although I would have had to make a decision about my use of OneDrive and Microsoft’s Office 365 service before going out to buy a computer. Putting that aside for a moment, the first obstacle was the installation itself. I tried Fedora and Ubuntu, and none of the two managed to output anything on my monitor out of the box. I was kind of expecting that because it’s DisplayPort based. So, I dragged my TV to my desk and attached it via HDMI. Lo and behold, I got an image and was able to install the OS, install the NVIDIA display driver and then use the PC monitor instead of the TV.

Off to a good start, Linux. But I didn’t want to base my decision on the installation procedure, especially since I had expected that and was pretty sure that on a notebook’s integrated screen it was likely going to work smoothly. Once the system was installed, I did what I was planning to use the notebook for and that is coding, writing some blog posts, manage my finances in Excel (like a cave-man) and, once in a while, watch videos on YouTube or some Basketball games on a streaming service. That’s where it started to fall apart. 

Although I had access to all my OneDrive files through the web interface it was just too cumbersome, even for only those few files I usually change. Adding to that, I still don’t particularly like LibreOffice. I could have gotten over that if there were a similarly nice cloud storage offering like Microsoft’s Office 365. It’s just too good of a deal. And it’s not just on my desktop computer but on my phone and tablet as well. There would have to be a very good reason to leave all of that behind and giving up convenience, mobility and using a software I’m not a fan.

The second thing that bothered me was tearing in videos. Usually this is a problem of computer games when the syncing between the monitor and the graphics card has been disabled. I couldn’t manage to get rid of that in a decent amount of time. I want to use my computer productively to get something done (matching Microsoft’s marketing perfectly 😅), not to tinker around with the OS. It was especially bad because my graphics card and monitor form this nice G-Sync bond that is supposed to get rid of tearing at any refresh rate – mostly in games, of course, but I think you get where I’m coming from. So, Linux dropped from the list of available options pretty quickly. If I had had different requirements, the outcome may have been differently.

Windows didn’t make it not because it’s Windows but because of the hardware. I went to a local retailer and looked at a few laptops, especially the latest version of the HP Spectre X360 13-inch, the one with the chamfered edges. It is an extremely good value for the price – if you can get over the 1500€ that are, in fact, a freaking lot of money. But, in this category of computers this is a good deal. The one I had intended to buy comes with 16GB of RAM, 512GB of flash-based storage and an 8thgen Intel Core i7. On top of that, the device has a touchscreen and a pen. Out of the box. Neither Microsoft nor Apple tablets come bundled with a pen (any more in case of Microsoft).

The catch however was two-fold. Although the device is a stunning piece of engineering and definitely an eye-catcher, it wasn’t exactly to my taste. But that would have been mitigated by the price-value proposition. 

Image taken from PCMag

What killed it was the screen. I was in the market for the Full-HD version, not the 4K display. I mean, Windows and app-scaling anyone? Full-HD is enough for a 13-inch device. On first glance, it showed sharp text and nice colors. But when I looked at it more closely, especially on white background – as one can encounter on web sites or in Word documents – I could see a moiré pattern. And it was pretty bad. And as soon as you see something like that there is no way to unsee it. Surprised at what I discovered, I panicked and went to look at other laptops, like Microsoft’s Surface line or other HP laptops that were on display. All of them showed the same effect, some more obvious and some more restrained. I was very baffled because way back I had owned a Surface Pro 3and never noticed this. I reasoned that it must have had to do with the touch-layer of the screen and the very bright light in the show room. Still, once seen… I also took a look at the Apple line of laptops and none of them showed the same signs. The MacBook displays were simply perfect. Rather disappointed I left the store without a laptop. I was willing to buy the HP Spectre then and there. But not like that.

The other laptop I was considering was a Dell XPS 13 but unfortunately I couldn’t get my hands on one to assure me that the screen is fine. And although it is not as aggressively styled as the Spectre, despite being a good-looking laptop, the different colors on the outside of the screen and chassis compared to the insides make it look like it’s not a cohesive thing, but rather something… just glued together. It’s a first world problem to have, I know. But hey, when you plan on spending over a thousand bucks then it better not have too many obvious downsides.

Image taken from Dell

So, either I was willing to put up with Schrödinger’s screen that may or may not show ugly patterns on white backgrounds in my home environment, or I had to rethink buying a MacBook with worse hardware specs for a lot more money. 

Well, that question has been answered and my developer’s / writer’s review will be coming soon. There won’t be any synthetic and mostly irrelevant benchmarks, which means I will not be reiterating everything that has already been written at the time the devices were announced. Stay tuned.

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