Heresy: The best Windows Vista Notebook is an Apple MacBook Pro!

I should start with a foreword. I have never owned a Mac or considered owning one. I got my first PC in the early 1980s and have been using them ever since. I never thought I would ever consider getting an Apple computer, but when Apple switched to Intel processors and then released Bootcamp, it became a possibility.

In general, I like notebook PCs with a 17” screen and 1920*1200 resolution to display more information, have more open windows and play games. The downside of notebooks with 17” screens is that they have a tendency to be heavy (10+ pounds with the AC adapter) and have short battery lives. When the MacBook Pros came out a year ago I considered getting one but the graphic card was way too underpowered for playing PC games and I settled for a Dell Inspiron 1705. When the Dell died (my notebooks die often as they get roughed up in all the travel I do), I ordered a Dell 1720 mid-June. However, Dell kept pushing the delivery date back. It was first delayed to July 17, then August 1 and then on August 1 they said the delivery would be in September. Annoyed, I cancelled the order and started looking for alternatives.

I looked at all the alternatives: Sony, Toshiba, Gateway, Alienware, but could not find a 17” notebook that had made any progress on weight and battery life. I am not even sure why I ended up looking at the Apple website, but was surprised to see that the new MacBook Pro 17” notebooks had Nvidia 8600M GT cards. I would have preferred an 8700 card, but the 8600 is good enough for most of the games I play. I ordered my first Apple. I got the high resolution glossy screen (most online reviews suggest glare is not an issue, in fact it might be better than their matte screen for glare) and 7,200 RPM hard drive. Two days later, the computer arrived.

Setting up Vista Home Premium was extremely easy. You download Bootcamp from Apple.com, install it, burn a CD of Apple drivers for Vista, install Vista and then run the CD that you burned. Everything worked perfectly. I installed Office, all my applications and games and it worked like a charm. With a 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo processor, the 7,200 RPM drive and 2Gb of Ram, it’s very fast. At under 8 pounds, it’s the lightest and most stylish 17” notebook on the market. Battery life has also been impressive at over 2 hours of continuous use in Power Saver Mode (I could barely get 80 minutes on the Dell).

At first, the lack of right mouse click and the fact that many keys were not working as expected were annoying, but then I found Input Remapper. This software allows you to use fn + left mouse click to get a right mouse click and gives you all the traditional Windows keyboard functions: alt-F4, delete, etc. Ever since I installed it, the MacBook Pro has truly become the best Windows notebook I ever had! You can download Input Remapper at:

http://www.olofsson.info/index.html?inputremapper.html

Now I am hooked. It would not surprise me if all the future notebooks I get are made by Apple. Apple should really offer a Windows Vista pre-install option on its notebook. I heard the counter argument that it would allow for unfavorable side by side price comparisons with Dell, but I don’t buy it. Apple computers are more expensive than similarly powered PCs. Everyone knows it. My MacBook Pro cost 33% more than the equivalent Dell, but it does not matter. It’s stylish, light, well designed and I am willing to pay a premium for it. I am convinced they would sell millions of those if they had Vista and Office pre-install options.

Regardless, I am now a fan!

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  • I’m using a Sony Vaio SZ4 (european name I think, 13.3″ screen), it packs a powerful punch, yet is portable. For regular work I use a 24″ external screen, with external mouse and keyboard. Gives me the best of both worlds: lots of screen real estate for 80% of the time, portability for the 20% of the time I am on the go.

  • Fabrice, that looks like a 15″ in the picture.

    Also, I’m not sure why Apple’s Vista drivers don’t support it, but the trackpad has inbuilt right-click support if you tap with two fingers instead of one. It’s very convenient.

  • Its interesting to about these work arounds for the lack of a right click but thats what I don’t understand about Apple … why on earth don’t they build in right click mouse functionality!!

    I bet they would sell a lot more laptops if they did.

  • Fabrice- i switched to Mac a year ago and it was the best decision ever. Couple things- Jace is dead-on with his right-click suggestion. Go to System Prefs > Keyboard Mouse > Trackpad and check the box that says “place two fingers…” – using this for right-click becomes second nature.

    You should give a look at the latest version of Parallels- they support all the native 3d graphics acceleration now that was previously the hangup that required people to use Bootcamp for gaming. Plus you can actually load a bootcamp image from Parallels so now there’s no need to reboot to get your PC – you can run it virtually. And multiple snapshots… fuggetaboutit-> http://www.scrollinondubs.com/2007/07/17/multiple-snapshots-in-parallels-3/
    I work throughout the day with an instance of XP running virtually on my right monitor and it actually runs faster than it did on my dell laptop.

    @David- because they don’t follow convention for convention’s sake. they innovate and improve the interface. if they designed by committee at Apple I can assure you the iPod would not have the elegant interface that it does.

    sean

  • Fabrice, I’m predicting you’ll look back on this post and laugh. I didn’t get the whole apple thing until I got one, about 6 months ago. I’m no fanboy or anti MS, my needs are practical, but I use my macbook pro 10 hours a day and it’s nothing short of an inspirational piece of design (hardware and software).

    So, you wanted a better PC, that’s fine, but just out of curiosity, forget your PC needs and give the mac a go on it’s own strengths. You might just rediscover the joys of computers.

  • With you 100%. Cracked for my first Mac last winter. It would seem that there is a power surge going on (not in Iraq) but of PC users moving to Mac. My number one enjoyment is the bootup time. And the right click workarounds are enough for me.

  • I’m in the same boat, Mac Pro 17″ with Bootcamp for a few months (although still on XP rather than Vista). Always thought the second button absence was a nuisance, but it turns it’s not, because:

    – without any additional settings, placing two fingers on the trackpad and then hitting the click button acts as a right-click

    and

    – using an external Mac mouse with one button, clicking slightly on the right side of the mouse does work as a right-click as well (sounds strange but it just works)

    Personally, also really like two-finger scrolling (holding to fingers on the touchpad and moving them up and down).

    Also noticed that battery life is even better when running on Mac OS, so watching a film/working on a long flight works better under it.

    On a negative side, having some problems with Windows updates (won’t install), sometimes don’t hibernate/standby properly…

  • My webcam was working on Bootcamp 1.2, but since upgrading to 1.3 it doesn’t. Bootcamp 1.4 is now available, but haven’t tried upgrading yet.

    Which one are you running?

  • I have to agree with Magee. I switched to Apple back in 2005 and have since found that most of the Mac software is actually far better than the corresponding Windows apps and almost all of it is compatible (ie save on one OS and open in the other). Keynote, Pages, and Camino are some examples. I can even sync my Treo with ical. Plus, Macs have their own cool features… I can program mine to do tasks (Applescript), I love my widgets (Dashboard), and searching is a breeze with spotlight.