Jun 21, 2009

Mac user: Don't underestimate the case

A case is a crucial part of a computer. Aside from the obvious fact that without a case, all you have is a pile of chips and cables, the case of a computer plays an important role in how you interact with it. Microsoft ads, and some of their users, may dismiss Macs as "more about looks" than anything else, but a Mac user looks at it differently. Fact is, it isn't always about performance; a bad case can make or (literally and figuratively) break a good computer, particularly on the mobile scene.

Let's take a look at the "unibody" MacBook Pros, as an example. They start from a solid block of aluminum and are shaven down to form the case. The design is simple, everything is well laid out. The keyboard is considered to be well designed, and the case is solid. The screen is vibrant, and it's durable thanks to the glass. Finally, the MacBook Pro is a very nice looking machine.

What does the case lack? Excessive decals, extra texture where it is not needed, and lights flashing all over the place. That's my style, the extras aren't what I like. I focus on 3 things: the trackpad, the keyboard, and the screen. The design of a Mac is focused.

In contrast, let's take a look at many PC cases. They have buttons on the front, the side, on the screen, and next to the keyboard. There are switches all over the place. On most of these switches, there is an orange or blue light that stares at you, and can easily light up a dark room. And the case is made of plastic, much more likely to crack and break than aluminum. Am I generalizing here? Sure. But that's what I see when I roam the laptop aisles at Best Buy and Future Shop: ugly designs that are impractical for me, and drag attention away from what you really want: the screen.

Portability comes with it, as well. My MacBook Pro is really quite thin; Apple focuses on making their portables as portable as possible. No large rubber feet to boost the laptop off the ground, either: only small ones that add a few millimeters to the height, if that. In contrast, some other laptops have some shape added to them, or those big rubber feet. It makes them much more difficult to throw into a bag, and I find that it makes them more difficult to use.

A lot of what I'm saying is, admittedly, based entirely on opinion. But can you honestly say that if you saw a sleek, good-looking laptop that feels perfect for you, and another laptop that was twice as thick, had blaring fans, but also packed a more powerful processor and was $200 cheaper, that you would jump for the second laptop?

As a Mac user, I might be a bit more sensitive to these matters. Maybe I pay that extra $200 because I'm far too anal about the design. But the design is what you use. Power simply isn't as important to me, it's more about the experience of using the power.

Of course, that isn't the only reason I always spring for a Mac, but those reasons are for another day. For now, I'll leave you with a question: do you buy a computer based purely on power, or does design and feel come into play for you?

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