MacBook Pro vs. the PC competition

About The Author

CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

Round one: design

Good looks aren't everything.

Proudly declaring "Designed by Apple in California" on all of its packaging, Apple has helped fetishise clean product design — and the MacBook Pro is no exception. With a sleek aluminium case and minimalist, unibody design, the MacBook Pro inspires a desire to cradle it protectively. That said, the Dell Studio XPS 13 is no slouch in the aesthetics department; although its plastic construction makes it look cheaper than the MacBook, the stylish grey accents, military lines, leather and white LEDs should be pleasing to most eyes. Unlike the Mac you also have a choice of colours — white, red or black.

But as any designer will tell you, good looks will get you only so far. In the case of laptops, a great design is one that's functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. Apple's dedication to simplicity and minimalism has resulted in some truly elegant innovations. The multi-touch touchpad here is a prime example: it lets you scroll through documents and web pages by dragging two fingers across it, right-click by tapping two fingers, access Exposé by swiping four fingers vertically or switch applications by doing the same horizontally. You can also navigate through images by swiping three fingers, and pinch your fingers to zoom, or rotate them to, yep, rotate the image. It's an elegant system that you soon find you can't live without.

It also has a backlit keyboard that automatically adjusts to changes in ambient light levels (so long as it's dark enough first) and the MagSafe power connector, which gracefully detaches from the laptop if you accidentally trip over the cord. The screen even closes softly with a satisfyingly soft "whump".

(Credit: Apple)

PCs have caught up on the Mac in recent years, with the Dell featuring a multi-touch touchpad as well. Sadly it's tiny and nowhere near as advanced as the touchpad in the Asus U80V let alone the Macbook, with only two-finger scrolling enabled.

It also has a backlit keyboard that, unlike the Mac, allows the user to turn it on and set the brightness in the daylight — on the Mac, you'll need a third party tool to achieve this. On the flip side, the Dell features no ambient sensor at all, meaning that if you forget to turn off the backlight, you're potentially wasting battery.

Both feature chiclet-style keyboards, buttons that illuminates LEDs to tell you how much battery is left and glossy screens; the first two being good, the latter annoying in high light situations or if a light-source is near.

(Credit: Dell)

While the powdered grey plastic, leather and white LEDs of the Studio XPS go some way to adding to the style, the Dell fails to reach the same simple elegance of the MacBook Pro, and while the Dell cuts a smaller figure than the Apple in width, depth and height, it loses out on weight, at 2.20kg compared to the MacBook's 2.04kg.

A warning about heat: the MacBook can get uncomfortable after prolonged use, but the Dell gets searingly hot when running intensive tasks such as games. We frequently had to move it off our laps, reminding us of why companies like to call these "notebooks" instead of "laptops" these days.

The winner? Despite the closing gap in the style stakes, it's still the MacBook Pro for its innovative usability features and stunning good looks. Does that make us shallow?

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Round 6 Round 7 Round 8
Apple
Dell


Add Your Comment 183


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rclemens posted a comment   
Australia

PC's require the use of a virus scanner and Mac's do not. Virus scanners use up resources. They should have placed a virus scanner on the PC and then tested the two. The outcome would have been different and Mac would have been a much better performer in all categories.

 

EdipB posted a comment   
Australia

Apple lets you chuck on windows. Isn't that freedom enough? :P

 

Ribbet06 posted a comment   
Australia

I'd rather buy a pimped PC for the same amount of the basic Macbook Pro. I do get mad at my crappy pc, but I'm just not sure about the exclusivity of Apple, I like my freedom lol.

 

akaked posted a comment   
Switzerland

I am an Engineer and University Professor. My last computer was a MacBook Pro 15.4'', 2.8 GHz and at this moment i own a MacBook Pro 13.3, 2.7 GHz i7 processor and it cost to me 1407 euros (about 1970 US dollars). The graphic card, an Intel HD 3000, it is fraud. This mac don't worth the money it cost. I need some software that don't exist for mac however, virtualization it is a crap on this mac. Ok, you could say that i should buy a MacBook Pro 15.4''! But it cost a lot and i have also to use virtualization. Ok you could say that i could use BootCamp! BootCamp??? To do dual-boot? For that i buy a PC and use linux! At this moment i switch my MacBook Pro 13.3'' for a Toshiba Tecra R840-10T that cost me 1010 euros (about 1414 US dollars)! Toshiba has an excellent processor, excellent battery life, excellent graphic card and cost less 300 euros (about 420 US dollars)! The only thing that i don't like on Toshiba is the OS, that is, the Windows OS, but i will never have to make dual-boot or virtualization. Macs are to expensive. They are well constructed, not excellent hardware but very well fitted. Another advantage of Macs is the OS. Mac OS X (Unix) is great, fantastic, but Mac definitely don't worth the money they cost!

 

idiotphone4lover posted a comment   
Australia

And the winner is - Windows 7 !

 

Mac+PC=Linux posted a comment   

I'm getting tired of reviewers. A of the time when they compare two popular products they end up with a draw.

 

kp posted a reply   

I agree. It's so annoying!

 

Craig Simms posted a reply   
Australia

Last time we ran this the Apple won -- this article is quite old now, so it's probably time for a refresh.

 

Somedude posted a comment   

Without being overly prejudiced against Apple, I'm not a huge fan of OSX. Installing windows isn't a concern but (from what I've heard) Apple offers terrible support driver-wise for Windows. It's been like that for a while now, so I'm starting to think that they're doing it on purpose or something. For that reason, I will never touch a Mac, because I'm essentially locked into their inflexible OS (or choose to opt for a subpar Windows experience on their machines) that offers barely any advantages over Windows. Seeing how everything on a Mac can be done on Windows, but not the other way around, I'd take a Windows-based machine any day.

If anyone wants "prestige" associated with Macs, then PCs have their options with the premium Sony Vaio line.

 

AnnK posted a comment   

After a year with an IPhone, my first Apple product I plunged & bought a MAC Book Pro 13". I have never been so disappointed with a computer in my life & I bought my first computer a Kay Pro XT in 1985. I would strongly recommend buying a PC product for anyone contaminating purchasing an Apple. And don't mention ITunes, OMG


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