Is a MacBook Pro worth the money when I can buy the same configuration for half of the price?

The reasons have nothing to do with Linux.

Someone surveyed how long people used their laptops before deciding they needed a new one. For Windows users, it was every 2.5 years. For Mac users, it was every 5 years. That empirical fact alone says the average Mac laptop is the same price as the average Windows laptop since what you pay for is depreciation (that is, the cost per year of useful operation, not just the initial cost).

Check out what Consumer Reports has to say about Mac versus all the Windows brands, concerning satisfaction with customer support and with reliability. Satisfaction with Apple customer support has topped the list year after year, and by a wide margin. Macs are also the least likely to experience hardware failures, and when they do, a trip to the nearest Apple store usually gets the problem fixed quickly and painlessly, even if they have to give you a completely new machine and transfer all your data.

James Dixon has already pointed out the cost of battling viruses and malware on a Windows machine. Macs are all but impervious to such things. The very earliest Macs (1984 until OS X came out) could get viruses, but ever since OS X, you have to go out of your way to import malware into a Mac. What is the value, in dollars, of having a malware-free system? Hard to calculate, but it seems very high to me.

The larger companies I have worked at where the CIO (or CFO) insisted that everyone have Windows laptops because they are supposedly “cheaper” have then had to maintain armies of system administrators to deal with the malware, questions about the cryptic user interface, setting up printers and networks, etc. I saw company-wide announcements every few days that everyone must reboot their Windows laptops because of a suspected security breach. “Cheaper”? No.

Increasingly, I see people bringing their Macs from home to get work done, using the company-enforced Windows laptop only for those things (like secure access) that have to be done with their IT-supported system. I’ve experimented with comparing my productivity doing similar tasks, and I can get something done on a Mac laptop in about half the time it takes me on a Windows laptop, all things considered.

MacBook Pros are far cheaper than any Windows computer if you do the math right. Compared to my Windows-bound co-workers:

  • I reboot my machine about once a month instead of once a day.
  • I can shut the lid any time I want to without fearing my OS will freeze.
  • I spend zero hours a year battling viruses and malware.
  • I spend zero hours a year installing device drivers and dealing with hardware issues.
  • My laptop freezes only about once a year.
  • When I need to kill an application. It dies. The first time, every time.
  • Switching between applications is significantly faster.

This saves me per year, about 20 hours in productivity.

The average revenue per employee in a software company is about $200k in the USA. The number of hours worked per year is 2000. So each employee, on average, needs to generate $100 per hour in revenue. Even for an average employee, the Macbook Pro saves about $2000 a year in productivity. A Macbook Pro will last 3–4 years, giving you a $6–8k saving. If you are a senior software engineer you are probably looking at $10–20k. Subtract that from the purchase price and it saves the company way more than it costs when compared to a Windows laptop.

In my position I estimate the cost of my MacBook Pro to be $4000–5000, and a Windows laptop would cost the company $20,000 to $55,000.

It depends. It depends on how you intend to use it.

First of all, in terms of expense, I checked just one competitor and at this time, the MacBook Pro 15-inch in the base configuration is $1999 vs. a very similarly-configured Dell XPS 15-inch laptop being $1449 (although the Dell has a much better display adapter). When you get into this price range, you can almost take price out of the equation because clearly, you are looking for the very finest tool for whatever it is that you are trying to do.

The Mac runs OS X and you may find that your business requires certain software that is only available for Mac. In that case, the MacBook Pro is most certainly worth it because it may be the only laptop that can do the job. Plus, the MacBook Pro can also be configured to boot Windows if that is needed for certain software available only on Windows.

On the other hand, there are plenty of people arguing the case that Macs are somehow inherently better than Windows PCs, and unfortunately for them, they are wrong. They are better for certain use cases, and I may be over-generalizing when I put it this way, but I will come right out and say it: If you are computer-savvy, like Windows and how it operates, you will likely find the Mac difficult to use. If you are not particularly computer-savvy, are the type to find yourself constantly having issues with your Windows PC/laptop, having to call your nephew to re-install Windows (again!), then YES, by all means, get yourself the Mac. Apple has created an entire ecosystem for those that have fat wallets and thin interest in computing in general, and it has made them many billions of dollars for good reason.

MacBook Pro: Great if you want to run the software only for Mac or if you are computer-savvy and love the UNIX terminal. It is also great hardware and Apple enthusiasts claim that Apple stands by their products (your mileage may vary).

High-end non-Mac Windows/Linux/other laptops: Windows is great for gaming or if you want the latest version of most software, Linux not so much. As far as hardware goes, it is a complete crapshoot and you should know what you are doing. Apple only updates the MacBook Pro every couple of years, so they don’t have a bunch of different models of products to support. A lot of these other hardware vendors are selling dozens of different laptops, and constantly moving on to a newer model, so a couple of years down the road, they really might not care at all that the latest version of Windows does not wake up from sleep when you close the laptop lid!

I have honestly tried using Macs so many times. I cannot stand the user interface, although I do agree with OS X fans that it is beautiful and has a certain elegance to it. When Macs are broken, it is much more difficult for me to determine how to resolve the issues. However, my expertise is in Windows, so I am not the common case. I have owned and maintained many Windows PCs and laptops for the whole family [we currently have 4] and we do not generally have the hardware issues, malware, etc. that everyone seems to think is so common on Windows PCs. However, many of my family and friends will bring me their infected systems, so of course, I am aware that it happens.

My recommendations for anyone that wants to buy a PC rather than a Mac:

  1. Don’t allow price to be your primary factor in your choice. Set a range of prices that are suitable and then look within the range.
  2. For desktops, always look for the unit that is going to be upgradeable. Today’s PCs can last for a decade or longer. Skip the small-form-factor units unless you have a real need to get a thin system. Go with a traditional tower that takes a standard-sized motherboard, power supply, etc.
  3. For laptops, always look for a unit that has a great CPU, display adapter, and screen. These cannot be upgraded. Make sure that you are comfortable with the design of the keyboard/touchpad and if you want one that is backlit, look for it. Consider how long you intend to use the laptop and any/all features you want.
  4. Whether laptop or desktop, you should get one with a solid-state drive, and if that is not possible in your price range, it should be the first upgrade that you make to the unit.
  5. If you are not familiar with the most common means of malware infection, you should learn because it is a lot easier to prevent malware than it is to eliminate an infection. Learn and practice safe computing. Keep your operating system and software up to date with the most recent security vulnerability fixes.
  6. This should go without saying but buy a reputable brand. The PC market is constantly evolving, and better-quality brands change as time passes. Currently, I favor HP and Lenovo.
  7. Don’t install unnecessary software, especially anything that starts on boot. A lot of free software that you download (Google Chrome, Firefox, Java, AVG, Avast, Adobe Reader, etc.) will default to installing some horrible browser toolbar or other crapware unless you opt-out of it.
  8. Only install software from reputable vendors, you know, like Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc., and/or only download it from reputable sources, you know, like the corporate website of those big companies. That means don’t gamble and download pirated software using BitTorrent.

For Mac buyers, I make these recommendations:

  1. You might as well buy the top of the line because they are all expensive. You will be as future-proof as possible if you go straight for the top.
  2. Don’t be pretentious about owning a Mac. They aren’t any better. They are just different. You may be making the smart choice for your particular needs, but there is no need to be a jerk about it.
  3. Your Mac is not malware-proof. If you believe it is, then you have been the victim of very good marketing on the part of Apple. The same poor practices that get PCs infected can/will compromise security on your Mac. To show that I am not full of baloney on this issue, I submit this as evidence:
    Researcher cracks Mac in 10 seconds at PWN2OWN, wins $5k
    Make sure that your Mac is always up to date with all of the latest software vulnerability patches. Visit only reputable websites. Install only reputable software from reputable sources.
  4. If something goes wrong with your Mac, there is an appointment process with the Mac Geniuses. You can’t just walk into the Apple store and have them fix it even though about 5 guys are standing around seemingly doing nothing. Genius is a job title, and there is no IQ test to get the title, so don’t be surprised when they don’t seem to know anything other than the fact that they can send your Apple product back for repair/replacement, or they cannot send it back for repair/replacement because it is too old or you have violated the warranty by submerging it in water or whatever.
  5. Enjoy your Mac. Macs are beautiful, and the hardware is fantastic. Apple makes great computers, and you have chosen to purchase a computer that will likely last a long time and even maintain some value if you choose to sell it later. The fact that Apple is one of the most profitable companies on earth and makes so few models means that they are more likely to care whether your 5-yr-old Mac works as it should with the latest version of OS X. And there is something to be said for that!

My personal opinion is that, YES they are worth the money. In 5 years you will be glad you bought one.

Thank you for reading, and remember to clap!

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