When people tell me they have a computer-related problem, or ask me for advice about computers, the first answer I give is usually along the lines of, “Get a Mac.” And then I’ll try my best to help them deal with the situation at hand.
Up until a few years ago, most people justify Windows-based computers solely in terms of cost. What few people take into account is Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). After a couple years, most off-the-shelf PCs are showing their age, and unless you are, or have access to, a great IT professional, using that computer becomes more painful.
Its been a decade since I’ve been forced to use a Windows machine on a daily basis, and for that I’m grateful. I remember rebooting right before lunch or right after, to avoid the inevitable slow-down. I remember losing work to the dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). Luckily, I’ve only had to deal with malware infections a couple of times, and only on other people’s computers.
Be forewarned – this is some pretty nerdy stuff…
So, let’s get back to the Total Cost of Ownership subject again. About six years ago, my wife and I each purchased brand new MacBooks. These were plastic-cased models that came in either white or black. (She chose white, I chose black.) Last year, my wife’s MacBook begin having some hardware issues (probably from being stepped on by young children…) so I bought her a new MacBook Pro for Mother’s Day. So her MacBook, which was not well cared for I must admit, held on strong for 5 solid years as her primary computer. Considering an original purchase price of around $1,500 – that means it cost about $300 per year.
When the new computer line-up was announced at Apple’s WorldWide Developer Conference earlier this month, I knew it was time for me to upgrade. Yes, the new Retina-display MacBook Pro looks and performs stunningly, but I’d rather save a few hundred dollars and a couple pounds. So I went with a 13-inch MacBook Air, built-to-order with a 2.0 GHz Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB internal solid-state drive. Total cost with tax: around $1,800. Which is what I paid for my black MacBook six years ago.
That means that I too paid about $300 per year to own a computer that gave me no trouble whatsoever. But was the upgrade worth it? Has technology improved enough to justify this purchase?
By the Numbers: 2012 MacBook Air vs. 2006 MacBook
Using the free Xbench tool, I ran the same test on my old MacBook and my new MacBook Air. Below are the results:
Overall, the new MacBook Air performs 3 times better than the old MacBook. Despite the fact that both computers use processors clocked at 2.0 GHz, the new computer is 2.5 times faster. Graphics performance is up almost 4 times better. The real increase though is in memory performance (5.7 times) and the disk test shows an increase of 7.6 times!
To break down why the disk performance is so much better, here are some read and write speeds:
As you can see, the difference in performance between the old “spinning disk” and the new solid-state drive is incredible. Even more impressive considering that I replaced the original drive in my MacBook with a faster 7200 RPM drive a couple years ago.
What’s the Point?
Sure, you can buy a lightweight laptop from Dell or Acer that costs a lot less than my MacBook Air cost me. But how long will it last? Those cheap PC laptops are partially subsidized through the manufacturer installing lots of additional “crapware” that bogs the computer down. So you’ll either need to reformat the drive and re-install everything yourself, or pay someone to do it for you. Me: After turning on my computer for the first time, I plugged in my backup drive and transferred everything through Time Machine from my old computer to the new one. After running Software Update, I was back in business.
But here’s the best part…
My wife’s old white MacBook and my old black MacBook are sitting side by side on my kids’ desk. Because they still work! Sure, my wife’s computer can be temperamental when you use it as a laptop, but plugged into an external monitor, with and external keyboard and mouse – it works just fine for my son to hack Minecraft with. And my daughters cannot believe how great their “new” computer is – now that I added a pink keyboard cover to it.
My guess is that by the time both of those old MacBooks are completely done, we’ll have gotten 10 solid years out of them. How’s your old PC laptop holding up these days?