Specs (e.g. speed, RAM, storage, battery life)
Ease of use
Compatibility with school’s tech
I will use my hypothetical laptop to work on the same document at home and at school, and to hook up to the projector in my classroom. I will use it to display visualizations on the front board and to run software that allows students to answer questions from their iPads, displaying the class’s aggregate data for class-wide analysis.
PC: Asus ZenBook UX305A-ASM1
I found the 305F listed as “best budget ultrabook” in an article from PCWorld (Ung & Riofrio, 2016). The website I’m using to compare specs (specout.com) recommended the 305A, so that’s what I’m using.
Mac: Apple Macbook Air 11-inch (mid-2013).
Found when searching for a comparable Mac to the PC I’d been looking for on specout, with criteria that it must be a portable ultrabook under $1,000. I believe the only reason it fit my price range is that it’s old enough that the site expects me to buy it used.
The PC’s screen is bigger and it has more pixels/inch (so better graphics), but the Mac has a higher processor speed, so better performance. Folded up, the Mac is wider, but weighs nearly half a pound less than the PC, which is a good 20% of its weight. The PC, on the other hand, has a larger cache, so might run faster. The battery life on the two laptops is comprabale, but the PC’s is expected to last 10 hours compared to the Mac’s 9. The PC has significantly better RAM—twice as much as the Mac, so I can multitask, and also holds twice as much data in storage. The PC also has two physical slots for RAM cards, while the Mac does not appear to have any.
Ease of use:
The PC runs Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, while the Mac runs OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Windows 10 is what I currently run on my home laptop, and I am fairly familiar with it. I’m not sure what OS my school’s desktop runs, but it is a Mac, so I could probably find my way around it either way. I personally haven’t had many domain-specific technological problems with either.
Both Operating Systems currently have some form of an App Store, offering both free and paid applications. The usual problem with Macs is finding games that run on them, but since this is a work-laptop, that should not be a factor. One problem is that my online textbook for Statistics requires Java to run its simulations, which can’t be done on a Mac currently, but it also can’t be done without great difficulty on a PC.
Compatibility with school’s tech:
My school runs Macs. Every student and member of the faculty has a school-issued iPad, and the iPads connect very easily to the computer screen using AirPlay. In addition, while both laptops I am comparing can access Bluetooth and WiFi, only the Mac has DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) connectivity.
The PC has an Amazon rating of 3.9/5 stars, with 634 customer reviews. 52% of people who review it give it 5 stars, with only 12% giving 1 star. The top-rated critical review decides on 3 stars, and their main problems are the screen, the trackpad, and the WiFi. People in general also seem to be upset about the lack of a backlit keyboard, which is a thing I have never noticed on previous laptops, perhaps because I am a touch-typist.
The Mac has an Amazon rating of 4.6/5 stars, with a whopping 77% rating it 5 stars and only 7% rating it one star. The most top-rated critical review is 3 stars, and the main problems they have are with connecting old devices.
The spec comparison site I’ve been has a “Smart Rating” feature based on expert ratings, specs, and dimensions, all compiled in a complex algorithm whose basis can be viewed if one wishes, and ranked out of 100. The Mac I chose gets an 88, while the PC gets a 94.
The PC sells in-stock on Amazon for $650 in the less popular color, or used from $500 in “Very Good” condition, including shipping.
The Mac sells in-stock on Amazon for $850, or used from $500 plus shipping, in “Good” condition.
This is a tough game. The PC won in 3 categories, including a narrow win in price and a win in specs that could be rectified by changing the order details on the Mac. The Mac won by a landslide in user ratings, but some of this could be accounted for by the notorious “Mac fanboys.”
I suppose, in my hypothetical scenario, I will have to buy a Mac, with the tiebreaker being compatibility with my current school’s equipment.
Ung, G. M., & Riofrio, M. (2016, January 18). The best laptops of 2016: Budget PCs, 2-in-1s, Ultrabooks and more. Retrieved January 27, 2016, from http://www.pcworld.com/article/2854456/laptop-computers/the-best-pc-laptops-of-the-year.html