Being a proud MacBook Pro owner, I often find myself in a precarious situation. I do most of my computing in the Windows environment, and only a certain percentage of the things I do for work require me to have a foot in the OS X platform.
I often ask myself if I would have chosen a MacBook Pro if I could stick to Windows as a single primary operating environment. The MacBook Pro offers a lot to its user both in terms of aesthetic quality and features. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have everything, and many laptops currently being sold by leading OEMs offer similar hardware specifications at a lower price. In addition, features such as integrated 3G/4G wireless haven’t found their way to the MacBook Pro line at this point.
There are many reasons I would recommend a MacBook to someone, though if Windows is your operating system of choice, there are plenty of alternatives out there that could exceed your expectations without overstretching your budget.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that you’re quite happy living in the Windows environment and don’t necessarily want to switch to OS X. You can install Windows on a Mac and it’ll run just fine, if not better than many of the similarly priced options in the greater Windows hardware market. This is strictly a comparison of hardware and user experience that comes from these differences.
Many of the Ultrabooks made today have integrated touchscreens. This is due, in part, to the very touch-friendly environment found in Windows 8. If you’re going to pick up a new laptop with Windows 8 pre-installed, you might as well consider a touchscreen since much of its functionality is enhanced when one is present.
In addition, many OEMs have opted to produce Ultrabooks that double as tablets. You get a little of both worlds in that deal, and the MacBook is simply not designed with any of this functionality in mind. It’s made to run OS X very well, and even Windows 7, but Windows 8 is an entirely new experience for users and you’re probably best off buying a laptop that takes this into account.
The Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook Convertible is one example of a slim and light Ultrabook that can convert into a tablet for users who prefer the option. This is a favorite form factor in the health industry where having a keyboard and trackpad isn’t always practical, but still useful when it is.
More Design / Aesthetic Options
Variety is the spice of life, and few would argue against choice being a good thing for the consumer. If you want a pink laptop, there are plenty of them out there being made by leading OEMs that don’t compromise on specs or features. The same could be said if you prefer a larger and more powerful gaming machine with multiple video cards and colorful lighting that makes it look like it fell off of a UFO.
There is a lot to be said about the aesthetic quality of many Windows-based laptops out there. Apple has a reputation for design, but you really just get one basic look with the option to buy cases and shells that modify it slightly. You’re still pretty much limited, and there are plenty of people out there who actually prefer a plastic textured finish on a laptop to the smooth aluminum unibody found on the MacBook.
Integrated 4G Wireless as an Option
If you like being connected while on the road without having to rely on an external wireless modem or Wi-Fi, then a MacBook probably wouldn’t be your first choice. Integrated 3G/4G connectivity is a feature Apple hasn’t quite embraced beyond its tablets and phones.
Back in 2011, there were a lot of rumors that Apple was going to start shipping MacBooks with built-in cellular support, but this hasn’t happened as of yet. It could happen soon, though.
For now, if you want the convenience of mobile data on the go on a laptop, you’re stuck with choosing a non-Apple product.
Normally, I wouldn’t bring up price as a big factor in this decision. You don’t get an aluminum body, glass screen, or the same level of support with many other OEMs as you do with Apple. You pay for this advantage and it comes at a premium. Apple makes premium products whether you opt to use OS X or not. There are many Windows laptops out there that cost more than Apple’s.
Where price comes at a clear advantage is in relation to the budget user. A comparable non-Apple laptop from most leading OEMs tends to come at a lower price than the MacBook. You might not get the same material quality, but you could be very happy with a system that costs you $500 rather than $1,000.
You Live in the Windows Ecosystem Already
If you already live in the Windows ecosystem and don’t have any compelling reason to switch, you really don’t have to. Many users invest heavily in software that only runs on Windows, and switching operating systems is a messy situation for them. You can run Windows on a MacBook, but I’d argue that there’s little reason for most users to buy a MacBook if they don’t want OS X.
The Windows ecosystem is full of brilliant options that in many cases exceed Apple’s offerings in both experience and value. There’s likely something out there that has exactly what you’re looking for at a reasonable price.
If you’re a Windows user in the market for a new laptop and your friends are pushing you to buy a MacBook, just keep in mind that there are plenty of compelling reasons to go with an alternative. You definitely don’t need a MacBook to have a good Windows experience.
What about you? What do you look for in a laptop?