Mac Products 2010

DisCONNECT isn’t dead. Primarily that’s because it isn’t actually alive, but also because I have been trying to get around to posting more articles, but shit gets busy, you know? Ah, probably not, who cares, just read the article so the Mac fanboys can go apeshit or something.

In general I’m a lot kinder to Apple than most PC users. I’m a bit more forgiving with Apple because I recognise what they’re trying to do with their hardware/software integration, and although it’s probably an outdated concept today, it does have its benefits. Essentially they try to tie hardware and software together as a tight bundle, which does improve stability and in some cases performance. When you only have to support a small amount of base hardware profiles with a piece of software, you can optimise things a lot better than a piece of software which has to accomodate lots and lots of different profiles. Of course Macs are incredibly expensive given what kind of hardware is inside them. Is it worth it? For no other reason than to sound like a complete tool, here’s my thoughts on the current Mac products and accessories.

Mac Pro: $3499
The Mac Pro is a Mac desktop with a form factor similar to my current desktop PC. Now genreally Macs tend to have nice form factors that don’t take up an obscene amount of desk space. The Mac Pro doesn’t in this case; it’s big. It also doesn’t come with a monitor. The base price I quoted has a 2.8ghz quad core Intel Xeon processor with 3GB of RAM, a 1TB HDD, and an ATI HD5770. For comparison, my i7 920 (4 phyiscal/8 logical core) 4GB system with 2x64GB SSDs in RAID0, 1TB regular HDD space, monitor, Bluray drive and so on, probably only cost me about $2300 in today’s money. With that massive price gap, it’s pretty hard to justify the cost of this monstrosity.
Verdict: Not worth it.

iMac: $1599
This is a bit more like it. The iMac is a desktop Mac with a great form factor; it’s basically a big screen with all the rest of the hardware sitting behind it. The specs for the base model I’ve quoted are 21.5″ screen, Core i3 @ 3.06, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD and an ATI HD 4670/256MB. You can modify parts of these specs if you want. In all, it’s not such a bad package, but again you could beat that value with a custom built PC. That said, the form factor is fantastic and the screen isn’t bad, so there are merits in owning one of these. If you’re more inclined towards OS X then the attraction is stronger I suppose. Really my biggest problem with it is the weak graphics card, but at least they didn’t use an Intel integrated chipset, but for the price I’d expect something much beefier.
Verdict: For a desktop with this form factor, I’d say it’s a strong contender. For raw power? Not so much.

Mac Mini: $999/$1399
Here’s a fun idea; take a computer, shrink it into a 1.4″ thin box, and ship it without a screen, or any sort of peripherals at all. In all the Mac Mini is an interesting concept and it’s one of the smallest desktops you can find. I have an old portable HDD which is only slightly smaller than this box. The specs are modest; 2.4ghz C2D, 320GB HDD and a Geforce 320M video chipset. It’s essentially a laptop, without the screen, keyboard, and other attached stuff. Given the price, it’s hard to wonder why you shouldn’t just spend the extra $300 and get a Macbook. The other price I’ve quoted is for a MacMini with Snow Leopard Server installed and 2x500GB HDDs installed. Now that’s a cool idea for a home server; low power device, tiny footprint, and a decent amount of space. But look at that price! IMO, ditch the Mac Mini and keep the server at the $999 price.
Verdict: Is the extra $300 that bad that you can’t get a MacBook? You’d probably spend that amount getting the keyboard, mouse, and monitor if you don’t have them already.

MacBook Air: $1999
Are you kidding me? Underpowered, overpriced, and completely pointless. It’s just a thin laptop, and nobody needs a laptop that thin.
Verdict: Crap.

MacBook/Pro: $1249/$1499
In my opinion, which doesn’t count for much, the MacBooks are Apple’s best Mac computer products. The MacBook’s biggest drawcard is that it has a nice design with good build quality, decent hardware, and a fantastic screen. The MacBook Pro only takes that even further. My main complaint is the use of the weaker mobile graphics solutions, but apart from that I’d say they are definitely worth checking out. I personally own a MacBook and it’s probably one of the nicer laptops I’ve ever owned.
Verdict: Worth checking out.

Airport Express: $149
Interesting concept; make a tiny wireless access point that plugs into a power point like a DC adapter. The main benefit I suppose is that it has the capability to allow iTunes to stream media to it, which it then can output to any sort of audio device that you plug it into, like a standard set of speakers or an amplifier. The device itself only has one ethernet port and a USB port for a printer, as well as the audio minijack. For the price you could probably get a better modem/router combo though, and if you had an ADSL2+ modem or something, that’s your ethernet port gone.
Verdict: Not a bad idea, but value for money? Questionable.

Time Capsule 1TB: $399
One thing I never got around to was setting up the data backup on my home server. Instead I just copied my important profile documents onto the server and ensured that Windows synced them up with offline files so that I keep two copies in case the server goes tango uniform. This device is a combination of a wireless access point, a backup system, and network attached storage. The access point component combines 802.11n wireless with a few ethernet ports, and allows you to access the hard drive as a form of network attached storage, which is pretty useful. The backup system (Time Machine) only works with Mac OS X Leopard and Snow Leopard. The biggest problem? There’s some major reliability problems with this device, which is a shame because it’s not a bad idea.
Verdict: It’s a good idea, and the price isn’t that bad either. It’s just poorly executed.

Magic Trackpad: $99
Generally I try to avoid using trackpads. They shit me. I don’t mind the ones that come with the MacBooks because they’re an actual button, preventing me from accidentally tapping when I don’t want to. I can understand Apple wanting to include more “touching” (heh) in their products thanks to the success of the iPad/iPhone, but this is going too far. I seriously cannot imagine why somebody would want to use this thing. It’s just an oversized trackpad!
Verdict: Pointless.

Magic Mouse: $99
At first glance, this thing seems absurd. It’s a mouse without buttons. Basically it’s a combination of a trackpad and a mouse. The pointer is moved using the mouse, but the input is directed using the touch surface. It looks confusing to use, and probably a bit difficult. Also it has a few tracking issues and isn’t as good as mice from a giant like Logitech. It comes standard with new iMacs though.
Verdict: Comes free, but $99 for this? No way.

Overall: Interesting
There’s a lot of questionable stuff on the Mac product lineup; the Mac Pro is borderline retarded, and the less said about the Magic Mouse or Trackpad, the better. That said though their MacBook lineup is still quite reasoanble, and they have some interesting products with Airport Express and Time Capsule. They need to fix issues with these devices before they can break away from their stigma of being Apple products though. As for the iMac; apart from the price to performance ratio, it’s a fairly capable system with a fantastic form factor that might be worth checking out if you’re looking to switch. You’ve probably noticed that I’ve said nothing about iPods, iPhones or iPads. It’s not worth mentioning except to say that it’s clearly Apple’s new focus, so I wonder what will become of their computer market?

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