When I left university in 1998, one of the first things I did was to invest in a laptop. They were expensive things back then and my shiny new IBM ThinkPad 770ED cost nearly $8000 in today’s money.
It was really an amazing machine for its time – including a video capture card, 128MB RAM, a 5GB hard disk, and a beautiful 14″ screen. It also weighed 8lb and the palm rest peeled, leaving black dust all over your hands, but anyhow. The point it was just as powerful as the desktop PC it replaced, and that transformed the kind of work I could do on the move.
But from there I found that I needed a laptop every 12-24 months. I’ve had at least 14 laptops over those 17 years (not including replacements under warranty), including the Apple PowerBook G4, Dell Latitude C400, C810, C410, C420, C610, C630, E5510, two E6410s and two MacBook Airs, and my current machine, the MacBook Pro 15″.
Quite often I’d flip between a light, anemic machine, and a powerful, heavy machine. I could never decide the compromise that fitted me best. The MacBook Air probably suited me least, because my demanding needs would mean they overheated and crashed regularly. When I accidentally dropped my Air, I went on the look for a new machine.
I have nothing but incredible praise for what I bought next, the MacBook Pro 15″. I have had on average a laptop a year for 17 years, including warranty replacements, and the Pro has lasted 3 years and is still going strong. It has travelled a million miles, it has a few dents, but the battery is still 5 hours if you are frugal, and it’s still quick. And I haven’t had to reinstall Windows every 3 months, and I’ve rarely had a Blue Screen of Death.
And so my Pro is entering its twilight years, and I’m considering its replacement. The Pro is just 0.5lb heavier than my Ultrabook Dell C400 with its diminutive 12″ screen. I’m usually lugging a few days clothes with me, so I’m not too bothered about the size. I don’t think I’ll be going back to an Ultralight machine again – not least because the Pro is built like a tank, and when you travel every day, not having to service your computer is a big deal.
I’m also scared because I don’t want to go back to a life where I needed IT support. According to IBM, Macs require less support, and my anecdotal evidence supports this. Provided my email, VPN and corporate systems like Time and Expenses work, I rarely contact IT. Nothing against my IT folks of course, not contacting them is a good thing.
But here’s the kicker: wow, there is an amazing choice of machines on the market. At the SAP TechEd keynote in Las Vegas, I recently had a Lenovo Yoga 900 Pro on loan for a few days. I liked it so much, I “accidentally” left with it and had to ship it back to them. It’s a giant tablet that turns into a PC, and weighs next to nothing. Amazing machine.
And then you just have to look at the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, and the Surface Book, to see at how well Microsoft is playing Apple’s game. And what’s more, Windows 10 Pro is a really nice system – the Lenovo Yoga was a pleasure with it. Huge respect to Microsoft for finally taking the leadership in the device market, rather than letting OEMs control it. Judging by the quality of the Lenovo Yoga, this has already paid off.
The Surface devices feature Intel’s latest Skylake i7 CPU and are shipping on November 20th. I assume that Apple also have Skylake MacBook Pros coming shortly (rumors say Q4 2014 or Q1 2015). The current Broadwell MacBook Pro doesn’t excite me because they are only incrementally better than the Mid-2012 Ivy Bridge model that I have. Typically Apple overhauls its Pro range every 3 years, so I have high expectations.
I’m suspect about the Surface Pro, because I actually spend increasing amounts of time in front of the laptop. I find I can create content – emails, presentations, documents, so much faster than on an equivalent tablet, and the keyboard is only OK. Interestingly I liked the Lenovo Yoga most on a plane – you get a full 30 minutes of extra work on takeoff and landing, by flipping the keyboard and using it as a tablet.
What amazing times we live in, where we have such incredibly powerful and portable machines available. Question is… do I switch to a Microsoft device or stick with another MacBook Pro? And will the moniker “laplet” stick? Probably not!