MacBook Amateur

MacBook or MacBook Pro? It was an agonizing decision. If the hours I spent thinking about this question were billable I would have surely made up the $700 price difference between Apple’s two Intel-based laptop lines. Ultimately, however, it came down to three things:

  1. Price
  2. Performance
  3. Coolness factor

To me, the first two items are inextricably related; a computer’s performance must go a long way toward justifying its price. (No matter how Steve Jobs tried to spin it, this was, of course, one of the biggest problems with the PowerPC architecture.) When one looks at the technical specifications of the currently-available 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook (part number MA255LL/A) and the 15″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro (MA600LL) side by side, it becomes apparent that their hardware differences are few. These machines contain the same dual-core Intel CPU, the same memory bus, even the same SuperDrive. Pro buyers are therefore paying a $700 premium for upgraded graphics in the form of a superior video card with its own onboard video RAM, and of course the extra two diagonal inches of screen real estate.

I think a laptop should be portable, by definition. Two inches of display may not increase the weight of a computer much, but it certainly increases its physical dimensions. I’m just a medium-sized guy, so what need do I have for a super-sized screen? And would it even fit on my desk? (Yes, but just barely.) I determined that the 15″ screen was not important to me.

What of performance? Luckily, the ever-pragmatic staff at Ars Technica provided all the answers I needed in a recent review/benchmark of the MacBook. To summarize, while the MacBook Pro did have a performance advantage, it was a surprisingly narrow margin. I considered my laptop needs — I really only need to run Firefox, Terminal, Adium, NetNewsWire, and Cuppa — and concluded that the video card was also not important to me.

Everyone wants to be cool. My specific brand of coolness dictates a shiny laptop as an accessory. Here the MacBook wins hands-down. Why? The MacBook Pro looks exactly like the PowerBook G4 that Apple has been manufacturing since 2003. Can we get an update, here, Apple? Well, apparently so: in the form of the newly (and quite radically) redesigned MacBook, with its wide screen, its weird but usable keyboard, and its magnets everywhere — not just the MagSafe power connector, which the MacBook Pro shares, but also that nifty magnetic latch, which is currently unique in Apple’s product lines.

Conclusion: the MacBook wins! And my pocketbook wins, too!