2012 Macbook Pro: Why I will Buy One this Year

Allow me to describe my current state of affairs: I have never owned an Apple computer. I have used many Apple computers in college, but the value equation has always tipped heavily in favor of anonymous, utilitarian Windows appliances. I have only recently stepped gingerly into the Apple whirlwind with the addition of an iPad2 to my collection of computing gadgets.

I could go on and on about the virtues of my PC: quad-core i7 processor, a solid state drive, liquid cooling ... true home computing bliss. Just one problem: like a pet horse, my PC is impossible to take anywhere!

Recently, I realized that my nascent blog and other web projects would require me to spend much more time online. To meet all of my obligations, I definitely need to bring more computing power while on the go. Neither my smartphone nor my iPad would suffice as substitutes for my all-mighty desktop. They simply do not have the industrial-strength processing, screen real estate, nor sufficient ergonomic virtues to help me get through extended periods of work.

With these facts in mind, I set out in search of a new laptop. I attended CES 2012 earlier this year, and from the products displayed by vendors, this year promises to be the year of the laptop. I figured that my choices of light, portable easy-to-use laptops would be numerous.

Laptops come in all shapes and sizes. Light and Portable!

So...this year continues to promise numerous laptop products, but true choices are few. Why? A discussion with a vendor representative from a certain very well-known and very well-respected laptop manufacturer at the CES made the situation very plain. Let me paraphrase part of my discussion with said representative:

Techverve: I like this particular laptop on display: what are the specifications for this new model, and when can I buy it? It looks very promising, with the i7 processor, the 3-D screen, the light weight, and back-lit chicklet keys?

Representative: Well, we really can't tell you at this point because we really haven't finalized our pricing and feature set. All of these great laptops you see here are merely prototypes. We will probably decide which feature set will be included once we see what the "competition" does. We all know who they are talking about.

Apparently, most manufacturers are taking this tact, whether or not it makes business sense. I searched high and low, far and wide, to find ANYTHING outside of the Mac sphere of influence that could promise a satisfactory computing experience. I thought I finally found one from another well-known laptop manufacturer.

The laptop that I decided to purchase featured a brushed aluminum body, a solid-state hard drive, a 15-inch 1080p display, an i7 dual-core processor, and enough output ports to shake a stick at. An apples to Apples (pun!) comparison made me giddy: I was about to save nearly a thousand dollars over a comparable Macbook Pro (MBP). Woo hoo!

Without ever owning a MBP, I knew my purchase was a mistake within hours of using it. The truth is, the laptop I purchased was practically advertised as a Windows version of an MBP, clearly designed in a rush to capture the budget-minded like myself.

Why was the purchase so disappointing? I think my expectations were very high. My favorable experience with my iPad2 made me expect an equally pleasant experience with other brands. Yes, I was saving money over an MBP, but the laptop I purchased was still pretty darn expensive. There is much more to a laptop's design than just specifications. This one turned out to have a very noisy fan that vainly tried to keep the bottom surface from overheating. Though the machine looked expensive in photos, there were many plastic parts that did not fit at the seams. The weight distribution made the body unbalanced and very unwieldy to carry around. When returning the laptop, I was repeatedly asked whether I wanted to be diverted to tech support. Argh. Overall, it was a very unsatisfying experience.

So, fast forward a few days. I had to know why the Mac experience was so much better, so I made a quick jaunt to the Pasadena Apple store. I headed straight to the MB Pro table and fiddled with the laptop for a good 20 minutes, making as many qualitative comparisons as possible to my recently returned machine. These are the things that really stood out as superior.

1. Balance: I lifted the laptop, and it felt very secure with a very even weight distribution.

2. Quality: I can't say enough about the unibody structure. Smooth to the touch with no sharp edges or protruding parts.

3. Looks: up close, the MBP looks expensive, and the controls are superb: the keys and buttons all felt like they were DESIGNED, not just stuck on as an afterthought.

4. Control Pad: the Apple control pad is just a pleasure to use. It is SOOO much more responsive than other laptops, especially when making multi-touch gestures.

5. Mac OS: I acknowledge that the OS has always been easy to navigate, and it is clearly designed to be very well integrated with Apple hardware. For example, the OS response to multi-touch gestures is both smooth and instantaneous, no matter what application you happen to be using. Just try it on laptops from other manufacturers and you will get this point.

Add in the advent of superb open-source software, and the value scale has definitely tipped towards Apple. I would have purchased one already, but I am willing to wait a couple more months. Rumor has it that there will be a new15-inch MBP coming with the arrival of Intel's cooler-running Ivy Bridge i7 processors in late May. Even more tantalizing is the potential of having the superb retina display technology that has been raved about in the recently released iPad.

Much like the Canon 5D Mark III that I wrote about in a previous blog, the upcoming 2012 MBP is definitely on my purchasing radar. I am not one to be swayed by the numerous Apple product placements in movies, or celebrity endorsements. But Mark Zuckerberg uses an MBP, and that's good enough for me. Are you planning on buying a laptop this year? If so, will it be a Macbook Pro?  

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