3 Years With Mac - Back to PC

Several years ago I was fed up with the PC. I was tired of the inconsistent UX, the constant security updates & my heavy brick of a laptop. So I switched to the Mac. A sleek, relatively lightweight, 2010 Macbook Pro with an i7,  GeForce 330m & 8GB of RAM. My personal needs were all taken care of with the iLife / iWork suite and I loved the consistency of how it all worked together. 

Fast forward to 2014 and my computing needs have changed. I'm doing 3D at home again (3ds Max), building my own HDR sky domes, pursuing a Photography hobby and in general burning through a ton of RAM and disk space. There isn't currently a Mac laptop with more than 16GB of RAM and I wanted the ability to add multiple internal drives for storage... There's not much in the laptop world when you want 32GB of RAM - your mainstream choices are Boxx, Dell, HP & Lenovo. I ended up going with Dell and chose a Precision m4800. It has 32GB of RAM, a Quadro GPU, i7 CPU and up to 3 internal drives. It's perfect for my needs today.

First Impressions. Again...

I grew up building PC's and have worked with PC's all my professional career. They tend to have their quirks which is what appealed to me 3 years ago buying a Mac... Firing up the Dell was "interesting" and reminded me why I went Mac. Ugh. Much of my initial disdain was no doubt the result of being subjected to Windows 8 for the first time - but that's one of the advantages of Apple since they control hardware and OS. In my case the hardware worked fine but I missed the refinements from the Mac like magnetic power adapters and a magnetic lid w/o mechanical latch. The industrial styling of the Dell is ok but the graceful unibody Macbook Pro is better IMHO. There's not the slightest creak or shift in a MBP as you open / close the lid or move it around. It's all one piece of metal and that really gives it a nice, solid feel. The Dell on the other hand, while it seems solidly built feels like its assembled from multiple pieces. There are creaks and groans when you adjust the screen or pick it up. 

Speaking of the screen - I'm totally surprised it's this bad. My MBP was built in April 2010 and my replacement Dell Precision m4800 was built in early 2014. Nearly 4 years later and Dell is shipping a screen that's so inferior to the MBP it's ridiculous. The contrast & viewing angle on the Dell panel isn't even comparable - it's an inferior screen. Really seems odd on a professional workstation class notebook. Good thing I'll be driving external displays... 

Windows 8 Metro UI needs to go. I already have it starting straight into the Desktop but the split-personality of Metro & Desktop seems really poorly done IMHO. I'm not using a touch screen - clearly that's what Metro's UI designers were targeting... 

What I Like...

I've focused primarily on the things I don't like about the Dell or that surprised me about it. That's not the whole story though - there are some really nice features as well.

  • 32GB of RAM
  • Excessive amounts of internal storage.  I could scale to 3 drives - 3 TB of SSD storage or 5TB spinning / SSD. 
  • I'm on one platform now. I was spending a lot of time shuttling files back and forth between Mac & Bootcamp / Windows. Installing duplicate applications to handle needs on both ends. Now its just one platform. That's time saved.
  • Officially supported docking station.
  • Numeric keypad! 
  • The Dell handles heat better than the MBP. No doubt because it's thicker so air circulates. My MBP metal case could probably be used to cook eggs - not good for a "lap" top. 
  • Long battery life. If you keep the brightness on the low side and the Intel GPU going instead of the Quadro you should be able to eek out 8 hours. Dell says you can get 16 hours with an extra battery slice. The new MBP has great battery life too - so I'm not saying the Dell is better just that it *also* has good battery life.
  • I can take my work with me anywhere. This is a desktop replacement - even with all its quirks it's a good one overall. 
  • PC pricing. I scored this Dell as a refurb for a killer deal. I literally spent *half* what I would have buying a Mac - and because of the ridiculous savings on Dell refurbs I even spent considerably less than HP, Lenovo or Boxx.

What I'll Miss...

  • Apple design. There's no way around this - Apple designs every little detail in hardware & software. I'll miss that.
  • iLife / iWork. Apple has a great selection of apps for everyday tasks.  
  • Thin and lightweight are words no longer in my vocabulary. I know I have more power now but still - I'll miss the grab-n-go weight of the MBP.
  • Rigidity of the Macbook Pro unibody frame. The dell has some creaks to it - I hadn't realized I'd miss the "silence" of opening / closing the Mac.
  • Less fingerprints. My old MBP didn't fingerprint as quickly / badly as the dark plastic on the Dell. 


Overall I'm really happy. When you look at my complaints they're all pretty minor. Yes the PC has quirks. Still... However the quirks are manageable and in exchange I'm getting a really flexible machine with tons of RAM. The only serious issue that bugs me even as I write this is the laptop screen contrast. I expected better - it's a good thing I plan on using dual external screens most of the time... So if you're like me and thinking of going back to the PC - give it a try. 

What do you think? Have you had a similar experience or maybe disagree completely? Let me know in the comments below!