Debates rage in personal computers. Which is better, Mac or Windows PCs? Brand comparisons aside, a better question might be, “Which Mac would you rather have?”
Personal preferences aside, an even better and more topical question is, “Which Mac is closer to the perfect model?” That changes the criteria substantially. First, we assume that a Mac is closer to perfection than a comparable Windows PC.
There’s no argument there. Second, we have to establish some kind of acceptable, weighted criteria for perfect. Is a perfect Mac merely one that is more popular and outsells the others? Or, is it the most powerful Mac? Or, is it the Mac model which gets used the most?
If the criteria is heavily weighted on plain old CPU horsepower, the MacPro would be a winner. But horsepower only makes what we do on the Mac go faster. Arguably, all Macs are fast at churning through basic tasks.
A MacPro may import music to iTunes faster, or rip through some movie file compressions quicker than a Mac mini, but for basic uses—iWork and iLife and Office for Mac—all Macs are fast. Power is nice but it’s not the top draw.
Remarkably, there’s barely $2,000 separating the lowly Mac mini with the low end of the beastly MacPro line. If you don’t have the coin for what you want (perfection), you’ll have settle for what you can afford.
That means that price, though a consideration, is of lower weight in the overall criteria list. What we consider perfect may not be affordable, but that does not make it less perfect.
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and esoteric elements get transferred to sales, the MacBook Pro line might be the most beautiful. Yes, there’s an industrial strength quality to the MacPro, but it’s big, heavy, cumbersome, and seldom confused with elegant.
The Mac mini gets dismissed from the beauty list because it’s, well, nothing to write home about, eye of the beholder or otherwise.
That leaves the aluminum clad MacBook models competing against the iMac, which has a bigger screen. One model may be slightly faster than another, but not by much. There’s another factor that begins to outweigh both power and beauty.
My experience with desktop Macs tells me one thing. Size does matter. Screen real estate is important. Anyone with an old 15-inch iMac that moved to a 17-inch iMac, probably felt deprived with the smaller screen when they moved to a 20-inch iMac.
With 24-inch iMacs sitting on the desktop it’s difficult to go backwards, to a smaller screen, and not feel cheated. A large screen iMac, or even the MacPro or Mac mini attached to Apple’s lovely 24-inch Cinema Display, makes it tough to deny that screen size is valuable and desired.
If screen size matters, for the majority of Mac owners, portability matters more. The Mac mini gets a nod for being somewhat portable, until you realize you need a screen to use the Mac.
There’s little question that the iMac models, and any of the MacPro models, are less portable than the Mac notebooks, the most portable of which is the MacBook Air. The 17-inch MacBook Pro just doesn’t have the same backpack or briefcase capability as the Air.
While the Air is a great portable due to the lower weight and thin dimensions, it also has some shortcomings, including storage space, RAM, CPU, battery life, and a higher price tag than more powerful Mac notebooks.
The Perfect Mac
That means the quest for a perfect Mac has led us to the MacBook Pro line. I dismiss the white plastic MacBook, though compelling due to a lower price point, as aimed at schools, rather than the rest of us who love a substantive feel.
If the MacBook Pro line is the home of the perfect Mac, which Mac is it? The 17-inch model, though to die for, just doesn’t carry well—it’s heavy and bulky. That leaves the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models in a nearly dead heat.
Our friend Dan Knight of Low End Mac argues MacBook Pro vs. iMac. At Mac360, we think the decision is really which MacBook Pro.
The winner, and not by much, is the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Why? Apple finally made the smallest Mac notebook the best notebook. It’s nearly as fast as the more expensive, large screen MacBook Pro models. The new version comes with both the SD card slot and FireWire, and seven hours of battery life.
Other than a smaller screen, what’s not to like? Ah, that screen. It’s an LED backlit model with all the green doohickeys. The real strength lies in the trends of the future. Portability is king.
Being able to take a full-fledged, powerful, elegantly constructed Mac in a backpack is highly valuable; even more so than the Mac in your pocket, an iPhone. One is a real computing device with few shortcomings, and one wants to be, sacrificing capability for portability.
Hands down, Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro is the perfect Mac and carries weight in portability, beauty, power, and price, far more than any other Mac. What’s your perfect Mac?