It's back to school season everyone! (Or, it has been for a little bit.) We all know that means it's time for Staples or OfficeMax advertisements to start showing up because we need some supplies! Speaking of supplies, laptops are more important than ever (or webcams for your computers) with online classes. When looking to buy laptops, you may be conflicted with the variety of options you have to choose from. While there are plenty of choices available to you, the Macbook light bulb might immediately blink away when you think of laptops.
If there was one thing that college YouTube vloggers like Elliot Choy, Yoora Jung, Katie Tracy, Paige Kaiser, Nicolas Chae, and many more have in common, it's that they all use Macbooks. Not even just these vloggers, Macbooks are a pretty common laptop to see around your very own campus. Whether it's an old Macbook Air or the newest 16-inch Macbook Pro, the all-familiar Apple logo isn't hard to find. These vloggers may give their own viewers and fans inspiration to get Macbooks of their own or they might want them simply because they look nice. Nothing's wrong with wanting or getting a Macbook, but what I'm suggesting is you give this a good read before you do.
Are you just an Apple hater?
Not necessarily. I'm a user of Apple products currently but I wasn't always. Growing up, I used mainly Windows and Android devices but I decided to get my first ever Macbook last year for the start of my college career (with my main driver still being a Windows desktop). Being a commuter, I'm able to have a device when I'm on the go and my Windows desktop when I'm home. After getting a taste of both Windows and MacOS, it's been rather interesting. In case you're curious, the Macbook I decided to get was the Macbook Air. (I got a student discount so it came with Beats too! But now you get AirPods.) I got it in silver and it's light, looks nice, and it feels cool to carry it around.
They may look cool, but...
While you can't deny the design of these Macbooks is aesthetically pleasing, let's dive into the insides of these machines. My current Macbook Air is the 2019 edition and I got the lowest trim available that year. It includes a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, with 8 GB of RAM, a 128 GB SSD and an Intel UHD Graphics 617. While all of that may sound impressive to you, it's really not. This device cost over $1,000 including the student discount. If they're making it that expensive, they could've at least have it include a quad-core processor. The 2019 13" Macbook Pro's lowest trim included a quad-core i5 but the device itself costed around $200 more than the Air. (And I personally don't believe it's worth the extra $200 for just two more cores.) What shocks me even more is that this expensive of a device only comes with a 128 GB SSD. If browsing the internet and watching Netflix were the only things you were to be doing, then that doesn't really matter. However, I definitely do not recommend this little of space if it were to be your main driver. You need to install applications, files, documents, and whatever you may need on a daily basis. Before any of that, the OS itself takes up a good chunk of space as well. Luckily, this doesn't affect me much as I have a separate main driver. However, a gripe of mine is that I have noticed the lack of power in my device as the fans will frequently run at full blast (which is very loud) which causes the keyboard to be unpleasantly warm from doing simple tasks like being in a Zoom call or having just a couple of Google Chrome tabs open. Furthermore, I would notice significant downfalls in battery percentage from minute tasks like connecting a headset through Bluetooth. The Macbook Air with a dual-core processor is not a powerful device, but I didn't expect it to be that lackluster.
If you're looking to buy one, you're in luck because this year's lowest trim of the Macbook Air comes with a base 256 GB SSD which is double the storage my device has. When you go to purchase a Macbook Air right now, you have the option of improving your processing power, and adding more space and memory. The 2020 Macbook Air comes with a base 1.1GHz 10th generation dual-core Intel Core i3 processor and an additional $100 is needed to boost it up to a quad-core i5, and $250 for a 1.2GHz quad-core i7. For RAM, the base is 8GB (again, I would expect more from a device worth $1,000) but an additional $200 needs to paid for 16GB which seems outrageous when you can buy an additional 16GB of RAM seperately for less than $100. If you're looking for more storage, 512 GB costs an additional $200, and 1 and 2 TB costing $400 and $800 respectively. Apple is really trying to grab those bills out of your wallet because the smarter option would be to buy a separate 1TB SSD for less than $90. However, the reason why you actually can't is because Apple makes these computers non-upgradeable in terms of hardware. A Vice article posted in 2016 by writer Jason Koebler mentioned how that year's newest Macbook Pro ended the ability to upgrade your parts once they get old and outdated (as you were able to with older Macbooks). The parts were (and still are for recent Macbooks) soldered into the device so "unless you're an expert microsolderer, the specs of the computer you buy are the specs you'll have until the end of its life.". You have to make wise decisions about the hardware you choose to be in your Macbooks because once you decide, there's no turning back. Technology improves constantly at a rapid pace, so once your Macbook becomes outdated the only option you would have is to just buy a whole new laptop.
Furthermore, I am disappointed with the lack of ports available to you on a device worth more than a grand (and Apple continues to do this with their newest line of Macbooks). On my 2019 Macbook Air, you are only provided just two Thunderbolt-3 ports (or USB-C), and one headphone jack. It doesn't even include an SD card reader which is a huge deal for people like photographers. While it may seem like they were going for a minimalistic design, I find it flabbergasting. If you look at the other devices you have laying around in your house, you will most likely realize that not all of them support USB-C. There still is a vast array of devices that don't support USB-C, and if you want to plug in those devices with your Macbook you would need to buy a separate adapter (which I had to purchase). Additionally, you wouldn't even be able to plug in an external display because of the lack of an HDMI port (or ports in general). If you want to buy a multiport adapter (includes Thunderbolt-3, HDMI, and USB-A), it will cost you an additional $69.
In a nutshell, I firmly believe that Macbooks are not worth their price for stronger performance. If you look at the Acer Nitro 5 for example, it comes with a quad-core Intel Core i5 9th generation processor, 256 GB SSD, 15.6" screen, 8 GB of RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1560 graphics card, and more. This laptop offers a bigger screen, great processing power, and a strong graphics card which allows for gaming as well. On top of that, it offers many more ports than a Macbook Air or Pro does. It can do all of your everyday tasks and even more. All of this is offered at its base trim, and it only costs around $800 which is a much better bang for your buck compared to the Macbook Air. More importantly, devices like the Acer Nitro 5 are upgradeable so you can change parts when necessary instead of having to buy a whole new laptop completely.
So what you're saying is, I shouldn't buy a Macbook?
As I've stated previously, I do not recommend buying a Macbook if you're looking for stronger performance and power. For greater power, you would need to spend far beyond what your budget might be on a laptop when there are cheaper options with even greater power than the base trim Macbook Air and Pro models have to offer. Also, I firmly doubt that many students will randomly have a grand rolling around to spend on a laptop. While the student discount does include AirPods, you get only about $100 off the actual laptop itself. If you're considering it, the new 16" Macbook Pro is a fairly powerful device but the base trim will cost you around $2,400, so you can try adding this to your wishlist.
If you're not looking to do anything too CPU intensive on your laptop and you're just looking for an everyday computer, options like the Acer Inspire 5 can and will do most of the things you are capable of doing on one of those base trim Macbooks, and it's only around $400. Spending an extra $600 on a laptop when you don't have to may not be the smartest choice, but to each to their own, right?
However, if you do have the money to spend on a Macbook then you shouldn't be ashamed of getting one. There are plenty of reasons as to why students would opt in for a Macbook. The biggest of them all, in my opinion, would be because they're in the "Apple ecosystem". Essentially, this means that all or most of your technological devices in your household are Apple products, and Apple has done a great job with fluid connectivity across its devices. If you're in a mainly Apple household, then I don't see why you wouldn't get a Macbook if you could afford it. You could sync your data from your iCloud across several devices seamlessly which makes all of your stored information very accessible. Macbooks definitely get the job done if you're simply just trying to do work on them. If you are trying to game on a Macbook, you probably will not have a great time (especially at the base trims). Or maybe you've used MacOS for your whole life and that's just what you're comfortable with. Moreover, you have the chance to trade-in your Macbook once it starts to become a little outdated to get some money off your next Macbook purchase! The amount you get off will vary depending on the model of the laptop, the condition, and if you bring the charger with you as well. (This trade-in service is not just limited to their Macbooks!) Even if being in the Apple ecosystem doesn't apply to you, you have every right to get one if you just simply want one.
While I have my fair share of gripes about my Macbook Air, it still does its job just fine but I highly recommend digging into more research of the laptops you're considering. Laptops are big investments and you shouldn't jump the gun on them. All in all, do I regret buying a Macbook Air? No. But do I think it was worth its price? Clearly not.