Skip to comments.Mac Vs Dell: In search of the detail laptop
Posted on 05/09/2011 9:41:48 PM PDT by This Just In
Good day. We are on the verge of investing in a laptop for our child. Our child will be heading off to college and will be using this tool especially for composing music. We are not particularly concerned about the gaming capabilities.
Our family's considering either a Mac or Dell. If money were no object, we would purchase the MacPro, but that is unlikely. Here are the main issues were are concerned about:
1. reliability 2. customer assistance 3. durability 4. expansion options
Would any of you recommend purchasing a refurbished laptop? If so, why? If not, why? Is there any other brand you would recommend (Lenovo, HP, etc.)? If so, why?
Have I failed to consider other important issues/specifics?
Any further recommendations or advice would be deeply appreciated.
Whatever you buy, get the best warranty they offer. If you get a Mac, get the complete Apple Protection Plan. I had two major issues with the iMac I bought three years ago, in one instance they gave me a brand new machine, in the second instance, they replaced the LCD.
Neither cost me a dime.
In the name of God, stay away from Dell!
Is he going to be composing music because that's what he's majoring in, or will he be doing it purely as a hobby?
I have a child who dates a music major, and I know the software that they use at her conservatory is MAC-based. She had to buy a MAC, and I think she actually purchased it through her program, and it came with some specific software pre-installed.
I put it together on Dell’s site. It’s a 17” core i7 w a 2gb video card, 8gb of RAM and Blu-Ray burner. It’s overkill for Photoshop work, but I can also play Fallout: New Vegas at full spec.
I recently took my 3.5 year old (out of extended warranty) MacBook Pro in for service and learned how many Apple computers become “refurbs”.
I asked if a loaner was available and they said “no, but you can buy a new one and return it any time before two weeks are up.” I told them I didn’t think this was very good for them, I would be making a new computer into a used one, and they replied that this is how they get most of their refurbs.
So, I plunked down my credit card on a brand new 17” MacBook Pro, and returned it a week later. Full refund. I wiped the hard drive clean and reinstalled the system on it. And off it went to refurb land.
After this experience I would have no hesitation to buy a refurb laptop from Apple. You want the 3-year Applecare policy anyway — three years of warranty and free tech support by phone are very appealing. And the technician will be located in the US or Canada and will be a native english speaker. No tech support from lower Botswanaland here, like with a Dell. A friend bought a Dell and his required 3 or 4 home visits by a tech with very limited english. And the original support call was to someone in India, speaking very non-standard english which was very difficult to understand over the phone.
The only downside I can see is that the only ones Apple does this with are the “standard” ones on their website. As soon as you want to customize in any way, a refurb is going to be one returned for a defect.
Your son should probably do the research in terms of the best platform for his needs. If you’re going to finance it, you may want to get a new machine with a decent warranty. BTW, creative folks tend to favor macs.
My Dell refurb served me very well, bought it in 2003, on its last legs now. So I don't know why I bought a mac, think it was my photo forum, and moved over to that (had it here ready). I needed more memory for my photos which use a lot.
Anyway I've been going nutz over this garage band it has installed. At first I didn't think much of it because it's got a guitar icon, but apple had an article about a guy who never could play music in Texas and just loved garage band (an easier version is on ipads).
So I downloaded the rest of the piano lessons (free and learned long ago but doesn't hurt to review), and started watching videos to see what could be done with it. Looks like any kind of music. And another very steep learning curve. The keyboard still has a pro interface I can't afford right now, so I got a call from my granddaughter in LA and was asking if her bf had gotten my keyboard working again when they borrowed it (B4 they left), said yes. It's an Alesis QS8 with weighted keys.
So in about 5 minutes I get an email, she bought me a different interface with connector cables at amazon for 5 bucks; it's on its way, hope it works.
I don't know. My family seems to lean toward macs, think they are easier. I sure didn't at first; everything was bass acward compared to my pc. But I made a YT video already and am finally getting along with it very well.
I was advised if I get another pc (in the best of all worlds I want both), get a Vostro. A tech told me it's a business model, and they tend to last longer than the home pc's.
If you can manage the money, I'd recommend you get her a mac, a Macbook Pro if you can afford it. But first go to the apple site and YT and look for garage band tutorials and see what you and she thinks. Something for everyone with those, mixing tracks, editing, adding loops, picking other computer instruments.
You can interface some guitars with it, too. I don't know what instrument(s) she plays and if the record feature would work without a cable, must be some way to do it.
Not a hobby. Music Composition major, and our child has already composed several pieces (using our PC music software, as well as composing music by long hand).
Would this be overkill (heavy, bulky) for a college student?
I suspect many refurbished systems are due to buyer’s remorse and not necessarily to a technical defect. No matter the reason why it was sent back, the computer is gone over thoroughly and all defects are fixed, including cosmetic damage to the case. The computer is then repacked to factory standards. You can’t tell a refurbished computer from a new one other than saving yourself many hundreds of dollars because they can’t sell it as a new one.
I would definitely check with the school, because it's probably likely that they have a software package that they use in classroom activities, and I'd wager that software is probably MAC-based.
I did look at the specs for Vostro awhile back. What people didn’t like were there weren’t enough USB ports, only 4 I think.
I have already contacted the music dept. They did not have any specific recommendations other than what’s required on their Notebook Guide page. They did not emphasize or encourage students to purchase a Mac.
Our three kids each took a MacBook to college. One is now in grad school using the same 6 year old machine. One is a senior and one is a sophomore. Reliability has been very good on all three machines. We always have some sort of problem, so we have always bought the extended warranty and gotten our money’s worth out of it. Other writers are correct - - see if he college or department your child is attending has special requirements. That seems to be less the case lately than five years ago.
Our kids were all raised on Macs (Mom used to work at Apple), so it was a very comfortable environment for the kids when headed to college. Kids really don’t need any more stress their freshman year than absolutely necessary, so avoiding the problems of learning a new OS can be a big help.
Lastly, it was a lot easier for me to troubleshoot problems remotely on the Mac than on the PCs. Things “just work” on the Mac.
The complete care covers anything that may happen to the machine, spills, drops, etc. My wife dropped a laptop onto a tile floor and broke it into multiple pieces. We had the complete care waaranty on it. Dell sent her a new one and she sent the broken one back to them in the same box. No hassle and fast.
It’s on the heavy side, as it’s a desktop replacement. And probably overkill, unless you’re an avid gamer or multimedia user. I’d imagine the typical college student would do just fine with a 15” core i5.
Pardon the absence. I’m currently comparing the XPS with the MacbookPro. My eyes are glazing over.
Good luck. Macs are very nice too.
Get a refurbished one from the Dell website.
Same as new. Same warranty.
Sometimes refurbished just means it is out of production or someone opened a box. Could mean anything.
Buy a back up hard drive from Seagate. They are only $50-$100 bucks but will come in mighty handy if the laptop hard drives decides to spin or something fuses.
Always run Spybot and F-prot for protection against spyware, viruses and scareware.
Spybot is free but you might consider donating $5 bucks. They don’t care.
F-prot has a free version but you should purchase the commercial version. This is what ISP’s and Fortune 2000 companies use and it’s smoking.
Next, download and install Malware bytes. When the college kid picks up a virus they can wait 2-3 hours while Malware zaps that thing.
As for Word, Excel, etc. Save some big time bucks here. Order the student version of Microsoft office suite and you save big time bucks. Don’t order this if the PC you bought already has it.
If it’s me, I say go with the Dell Studio 17. It’s made for multimedia and will perform just fine for almost amything. Great prices in the Dell outlet:
You could even go to Costco and just buy anything they offer. They will all be great.
You could just buy something at Costco. All the computers are good to great.
Quick and easy shopping.
No brain drain trying to get a PHD in computers.
Personally I use to build my computers for gaming and that was the only choice.
Today, laptops can handle just about anything that is graphics intensive and I don’t build computers anymore.
The difference between computers today boils down to some really specific features that aren’t necessarily imperatives.
Don’t forget a printer. Lexmark makes a better inkjet with consumables that cost less than HP.
But either way. There isn’t much to get hung up anymore.
It’s like Ford’s and Chevy’s....personal preference but, no real difference.
Latitude has a clunky keyboard and mouse.
Go with the Studio.
Big deal with the XPS at the time is the extended customer care, which I do not need. Same hardware, same performance.
Refurbished doesn’t mean anything specific. It’s a catch all term.
Most music-related software these days is both Mac and IBM, but some isn’t. Most peripherals are either USB2 or firewire, so definitely get both kinds of ports. Most musicians are using two or more (usually more) gigs of memory. For desktop based systems, 7200 rpm hard drives are the norm, but you probably won’t find one on a laptop.
Just for what it’s worth, here’s a couple of articles extolling both kinds:
The debate is truly never ending. Mostly, I think I’d forget trying to surprise him. Give him a check (or a budget), and tell him to pick out what he wants.
We live in Nomansland. The nearest Costco is (I’m guessing) a 5 hr. drive. Thanks for the info.
I would not buy refurbished period. I heard of a lot of nightmares.
I own a Dell Inspirion 1764. It’s an Intel i5 Core, 8 Gigs of RAM and 600 GBS of Hard Drive with Windows 7 Premium. I can’t complain. Oh I did buy Office Pro 10 off of Ebay for $135. It’s normally $499.00 if you buy it in the store.
Did you ever consider the iPad 2?
Then just buy a Dell Studio which is designed for multimedia.
Get it off their outlet site.
I’d recommend a piano. Guess I was born too long ago ....
Has the school specified what type of music programs will be needed? If not, the following info may not matter: For recording on a PC, Sonar is most often used, but there are even free recording programs available on the net.
On Mac, as another Freeper mentioned, Garageband is quite good and comes free with a Mac. If your son ever needs a truly professional recording program, he can buy Logic later, and as “things work together on a Mac”, Mac puts all previous Garageband recordings into Logic for you. Logic also notates and can do charts of music. So even though a Mac is more expensive, it covers most everything.
It all depends, of course, on what type of music programs the school will require.
I’m a video editor and I mix a considerable amount of audio as well.
Mutli track compilations can be tough on a CPU, especially in real-time editing. I’d be looking at a “SandyBridge” i5 with at least 6gig’s of RAM on Win7.
About the BEST multimedia laptop you can hope for, reasonably priced, would be a “Sager” notebook. In the field you see then often among the pros. I would not overlook Sager. You can only get them from Sager directly. My 2nd choice would be an Asus, they are generally rock solid machines.
I have and use both. 1 Sanger i7 and an Asus SandyBridge i7 ...as well we have few Asus netbooks for other things. The SandyBridge CPU is a whole lot of bang for the buck.
A serious music creation machine is not the same as spreadsheets and word processing machine, its much closer to what an engineering major would need — ie: a gaming rig minus the uber-best-video card.
MacBook Pro is the best however get theft insurance if it is going to be taken to school.
Cost of ownership will be less with the Mac. I've never bought extended warranty, hardware is better, no virus/spyware to buy and maintain, fiddle with, update, etc. Much less maintenance and breakdown. With Mac, security worries less, reliability higher, efficiency higher (faster to use, less time working on the computer, more time working), durability longer, ease of use higher, software updates easier, backup process much easier, learning curve less. The cost of comparable hardware in a PC is higher than a Mac.
The only good reason I know for the average user (not one who likes to fiddle and hot rod) to buy a PC is because they have to run applications that are only available for the PC and they don't want to fiddle with a dual boot on the Mac.
Electronic devices typically have a high failure rate early in life, and at the end of life, and a low failure rate in the middle. By buying a refurbished unit, you avoid the early failures and move right into the "sweet spot".
Mrs. Prince of Space
I would suggest the Mac if your child is majoring in music. I was always a “Windows” person and a musician friend got me a Mac. I’ve had this laptop for four years and it shows absolutely no signs of slow-down nor have I had any major crashes.
As another poster suggested, you can always load Windows onto a Mac and run the Windows programs when needed.
I would suggest upgrading the RAM when you get one though. Music/videos programs can be memory hogs!!
I doubt a music student needs anything super powerful. netbook might be the way to go.
Both of my kids were sent off with MacBooks. My son graduated as a chem major and still has his as he’s heading for grad school. My daughter just finished her freshman year. She is also a musician and plays with music composition and has enjoyed using the Garage Band. The two of them each swear by their laptops.
One good Mac will last quite a while. I've used Macs for video and audio editing for years. Rarely had to upgrade the machine itself, just the software. My first Mac Pro was the Titanium laptop bought in 2000. Didn't need to get another one until 7 years later. And then I got a desktop Mac in 2005. All are still useable today, although the Titanium laptop is obsolete in regards to the video/audio software.
1. I have purchased several refurbished Apple products and have never had a problem.
2. We have both platforms in our high school band office, the Windows because the district makes us, the Macs so we can get work done.
3. Your son will most likely be using Finale or Sibelius (or both) for music writing. I find these are much more stable on our Macs.
4. The Garage Band app that comes with the Mac is no toy - I am very impressed with this “Logic lite” program and use it frequently.
5. The other bundled software is also superb. Keynote, which is Apple’s version of Power Point, works seamlessly with other programs, and in my experience produces much more polished results.
6. Go with the most powerful model that you can afford.
I’ve never owned a Mac or Apple computer product (not including iPod, etc).
Every time I look at one at a store I think they beat the “cool” factor over Windows PC’s by a factor of 10, but then I just don’t know if they’d be as useful for me for the higher price involved.
After reading all of your posts, and spending A LOT of time at both the Dell and Apple websites, we’ve decided to purchase the MacBook Pro (also bought the Logic Express software). We were able to include a student discount, so that helped.
Your comments were of great help to us, so we thank you all for the time spent sharing your advice and experience. A student is about to be a very happy human.
Good choice. I think you’ll be happy with it. The student discount will help with software too.
Get plenty of ram when you buy it and it will last a long time.
By the way, if you are considering referbs Apple also sells referbished models. You can find them here: http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/specialdeals/mac?mco=OTY2ODY3Nw
Only a couple of things to add. My background is in software development on the PC side, but my house has both Mac’s and PC’s.
As mentioned by other posters, what software is in use by everyone else is a critical question. If most of the work is occurring on, or the teacher is more fond of, a particular platform it’s always best to go native. Conversions just add another step in an already long process for an assignment.
If I were buying for a lug around around school device I would seriously look at the Mac Book Air, it’s a very powerful device now, and the SSD(solid state no moving parts to fail) drive are excellent for that application.
Another plus on going to the MAc route is that you can run virtual machine software that would enable your kid to run windows software on the mac. You end up with both worlds available.
Happy to help. Talon is absolutely right — max out on RAM now if you can afford it. Everything just runs better when you have lots of “headroom” on memory.
We bought our kids desktops when they went into High School, then laptops when they went off to college. Bought our oldest a new laptop for grad school because her freshman machine was over 5 years old. I’m looking forward to the day when we can STOP buying computers!
If you dont get plenty right at the start then you run the risk of limping along for years with not enough and telling yourself that ‘one of these days’ you will spring for some more. DON’T! Just get plenty from the start and be much happier with your computer.