One of the most common staff questions I receive is advice on home computer purchases. Most folks have similar needs: web surfing, email, digital photos, word processing and maybe some home movie creation. Based on these general needs, the purchase decision typically boils down to two major choices: Mac vs. Windows and Desktop vs. Laptop. I’ll take the hardware side of this question first and then discuss the software side.
About 2 years ago, advances in both hardware capabilities and component costs helped to turn the tide in favor of laptop computers. Prior to 2005 the majority of portables were significantly underpowered and overpriced when compared to desktop boxes. Coupled with the rise of home wireless gear and consumer desire to be digitally connected yet untethered to a tangled mash of wires, laptops are increasingly replacing their bulky desktop predecessors. In terms of pricing today, one can purchase a very speedy and capable laptop for about $1100.00.
As for platform choice, I almost always recommend a Mac. Why a Mac? Three major reasons:
1. Security and Online Safety – The virus, spam, malware and security situation in the Windows world continues to be brutal. Home users don’t have the benefit of an tech team to help handle Windows security and create a protected environment.
2. Usability – Apple has really perfected the art and design of making easy-to-use technology and software. Bundled Apple software tools such as iPhoto and iMovie are perfect for non-computer types because they are both easy to use and fun in a non-technical way.
3. Compatibility – Years ago, one could argue that a huge bifurcation between the Apple and Windows world existed. Fast forward to 2007 and we find that the compatibility issue has largely been rendered a moot point. Evolving web technologies helped to flatten the compatibility curve for Macs, Windows and Linux computer but that is a topic for another post.
So with these points in mind, my usual recommendation is a MacBook laptop. Besides being a fun little device, the new MacBooks are an awesome balance of speed, features, weight and portability. With our educator’s discount at the Apple Store Online, MacBooks are running about $1000.00 as of July 2007. Plus, Apple is currently offering a free iPod Nano with computer purchases until September 16th.