Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Macbook Comparison

I work at the Beverly Arts Center, in Chicago. I have found that many arts people prefer Apple laptops to any other brand. Why is this? The long standing art-computer myth is that Apple computers are superior for doing art work and 3D design. Now I will concede that at one point in time this was true – but this is no longer the case and has not been for some time. The simple fact is that Apple computers use essentially the same hardware as any other computer you will buy: same processor, ram, hard drive, etc. In addition to the hardware all being essentially the same, all of the applications you are going to be running to do arts work (in most cases this is Adobe software, such as Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign) run on both the Windows and Mac platforms.

Following I am going to do a series of comparisons between a couple different Macbook Pros and other laptops, of different brands, that are of comparable price.* Note: I round off all prices to the nearest whole five dollars because I dislike that whole “1.99$” mind game.

Round – 1:
Macbook Pro #1
Cost: 1,200$
Size: 13 inches
Processor: 2.26GHz Dual Core
RAM: 2gigs DDR3
Hard drive: 160gigs – SATA 5400RPM
Graphics Card: nVidia 9400M – 256meg Shared

Asus G50VT-X6
Cost: 1,250$
Size: 15.4 inches
Processor: 2.53GHz Dual Core
RAM: 4gigs DDR2
Hard drive: 320gigs – SATA7200RPM
Graphics Card: nVidia 9800M GS – 512meg Dedicated DDR3

HP Pavilion dv7-1270us
Cost: 1200$
Size: 17 inches
Processor: 2.4GHz Dual Core
RAM: 4gigs DDR2
Hard drive: 320gig – SATA 5400RPM
Graphics Card: nVidia 9600 – 512meg Dedicated DDR2

Round – 2:
Macbook Pro #2
Cost: 2,500$
Size: 17 inches
Processor: 2.8GHz Dual Core
RAM: 4gigs DDR3
Hard drive: 500gig – SATA 5400RPM
Graphics Card: nVidia 9600

Asus G71G-Q2
Cost: 2,250$
Size: 17 inches
Processor: 2.0GHz Quad Core
RAM: 6gig DDR2
Hard drive: 640gigs – x2 SATA 7200RPM
Graphics Card: nVidia 9800M GS – 512meg Dedicated DDR3

HP HDX 18-1180US
Cost: 1,800$
Size: 18.4 inches
Processor: 2.0GHz Quad Core
RAM: 4gigs DDR2
Hard drive: 500gigs – SATA 5400RPM
Graphics Card: nVidia 9600M GT – 512megs dedicated DDR3

Alrighty, the information posted above is a wonderful comparison for those who under stand it all. For those who are a bit hazy, or want to read my thoughts on the above specifications, let me break down a few of the more important facts about the above information.

Round 1 – Breakdown

First off lets take a peek at the processors – all three of them are Intel Dual cores; two cores means twice the power. Your processor is like the heart of your computer, the stronger it beats the faster everything is going to run. The processor in each of the non-Apple laptops listed are quicker than the Macbook; in the case of the Asus over 10% faster, for nearly the same price.

RAM stands for “Random Access Memory”; it stores short term information on your computer and data that has not yet been written to the hard drive (among other things). The more RAM a system has the better it is able to multi-task (meaning having many applications running at once). I will concede that the Macbook is using the slightly newer DDR3, but even with this advantage the Macbook only possesses half the total memory of the other systems. Even with the slightly slower DDR2 the fact that they have 4gigs makes each of the other laptops far superior to the 2gigs of DDR3 the Macbook has.

Most people are familiar with the purpose of their computer's hard drive. It is where all your information is stored. This again is an area where the Macbook get crushed by other laptops of comparable price. The Macbook only stocks a 160gig by default while each of the other two have 320gigs – so twice as much. Also in the case of the Asus the hard drive is 7200RPM (reads per minute) as compared to the 5400RPM in the other two – meaning it will access your data faster.

Last point between the three systems is the graphics cards. Again the Macbook gets crushed. Possessing only a 9400M, it is slower technology compared to the HP's 9600M GS and the Asus's 9800M GS. In addition to being slower technology, the graphics card in the Macbook is “shared” memory. Meaning that it has to take from the already reduced amount of RAM the Mac has to dedicated to video processes.

Whew, Round 1 over! I think you can tell for yourself who the winner is here...

Round 2 – Breakdown

The first thing I am going to mention here is the price of the three laptops compared in round two – the Macbook is 2.5k, while the Asus is 2.25k, and lastly the HP is weighing in at 1.8k. The main reason for the price difference is that they where the closest Asus and HP I could find in price to the highest end Macbook (on the site I order from), but do not let their lower price mislead you the Macbook is still in for a tough fight this round.

Point one is processer once again, now at first glance it may appear that the Macbook is far superior to the other two weighing in at 2.8GHz while the other two are only 2.0GHz. Now take a closer look – I'll wait. Ok, notice anything? Thats right the Macbook is packing the same old dual core it had in round one only slightly faster. Each of the other two brands knows that a high end laptop needs a high end processor – they are packing quad cores. Just as dual core means that the system is as good as have two processors a quad core means it is as good as having four. Another way to think of it is cores is to a processor as horsepower is to a car engine, the more the better typically.

Moving onto RAM the HP starts to show it's price tag a small bit, it is still only packing 4gigs of DDR2. The Apple has upped it's game and is now stocking 4gigs of DDR3. Asus is not about to slack behind how ever, it is now stocking 6gigs of DDR2.

Hard drive is again a close comparison between the HP and the Apple, the both come in with identical 5400RPM 500gig drives. Have no fear though, Asus is again going to come in and mop up the competition. This time stocking dual 320gig 7200RPM drives (for a total of 640gigs of space), two hard drives is useful because this way if one is ever to fail you still have a second place too store stuff. And for you more intense computer users out there it means the system is raid ready.

Lastly are the graphics cards again. For the third time in a row the HP, which is 700$ less, ties with the Apple. Again, three for three, the Asus comes in and crushes the both of them with its 9800 compared to their 9600s.

Post game banter – Last Thoughts

A couple other things worth noting is that the Macbook does have a slightly lighter and smaller design. In my personal opinion though if you are looking for light and compact do yourself a favor and go get a netbook – they are easily under 600$ for a quick one. Another thing Apple boasts on it's website is a lengthy battery life time for all of it's Macbook, while I will say that odds are it is going to out last the HP or the Asus by a bit your battery life is directly linked to what you are doing on the system. If you are only typing papers your battery is going to last much longer than if you are playing a 3D game or even just connected to wifi or playing audio. One of my friends had said that the reason they liked Apple is because they are an international company (which I will agree is useful for warranties/services when traveling over seas) while this is true they are not the only international company out there. Asus is one as well along with several others. Lastly if some sort of great hate for Windows/Microsoft is what is keeping you buying Apple again (And trust me if anyone under stands disliking Microsoft I can), there are other alternatives out there other than Windows and Mac (Such as Fedora or Ubuntu).

Also worth noting is that for the average computer user out there looking to buy a laptop – all of the laptops listed above are easily over kill. Most people will not notice terribly much difference between these higher end laptops and one that only costs five or six hundred dollars in their every day tasks.

Anyone who has spent a bit of time with me knows that I am decently anti-Apple, for many reasons including them being over priced for what they are, even so I did my best to try and present a fair comparison here if anyone feels there is anything I missed please feel free to drop a comment here or send me a message and I will consider adjusting the information/adding to it. Also drop a comment if you found any of this useful or interesting.

~Jeff Hoogland

*All Apple prices/specs where accessed from on 06/09/09. All comparisons prices where done via on the same date.


  1. While this is, for the most part, fair, there are a few other things to consider that sway things a little bit more toward Apple's side:

    1) Apple has, in my experience (not as a Macbook user, but as an iPod owner), had better customer service (in general) than any other computer manufacturer I've spoken with.

    2) Multitouch trackpad: I don't think any of the other major manufacturers have done this yet, and my friend Eric absolutely swears by it... I haven't used it myself extensively, but it seems pretty useful.

    3) Student discounts/deals: Apple offers some pretty decent discounts and deals to students, and that can often tip the odds

    Otherwise, yeah, I agree with you: get something else and be happier. I'm an advocate of having a desktop and a netbook, but that's probably because I'm just a cheap bastard.

    Also I feel like the gap in desktop prices is even more ridiculous when it comes to Macs versus other brands (though, to be fair, I remember working out a fully-specced Alienware versus a similarly-specced Mac Pro once and finding the Mac Pro to actually be a better deal)... Something to think about in the future?

  2. Customer service is kinda hit or miss with any company - sometimes it is great and other times not so much.

    As I type this I am using my Asus EEE PC with a multi-touch track pad :)

    As for student discounts I never looked into anything like this but if they exist they must not be advertised - two of my friends both recently bought Macbooks (very obviously for school) and recieved no such discount.

    Personally I do not own a desktop (or plan on owning one ever again) so I really do not keep up on hardware specs/prices of them so not sure if I would be the best person to compare and Mac-Desktop and a standard one.

    Thanks for the comment :)

  3. Jeff, your definition of what RAM does is off a bit. You said it's where stuff is kept that's waiting to be stored on the disk. Actually it is used for a lot more than that. It's main use however is to hold the program that's being run by the CPU.

  4. I added a few key words to make my meaning more clear - it was a bit muddled. Thanks for pointing it out.


  5. The student discount is actually very easily gotten, all you have to ask for it, or if you are on their website, go to the education site, which is very easily accessed.

    Go to
    Press Store
    Press Education store

    All prices are then properly adjusted.

    Recently ending with the end of the back to school sale, a macbook regular, with student discount, with a 100 dollar discount on printers, some costing 100 dollars, plus a free ipod touch 8gig or 200$ discount on larger sizes was 950$.

    Assuming you theoretically wanted said 100$ printer, and that 200$ ipod, that would lower the effective price of the macbook from 950, to 650.

    Thats really not that bad. Macbook pro 13.3 inch (my perfered size) would be 900 effectively, under same circumstances.

    When you throw in sales like that, things get a heck of a lot more muddled, in value.