Buying a new laptop

With a new financial year comes new gadgets. For me, this means a new laptop to replace the slowly-dying dinosaur weighing down my backpack.

Tech has come a long way since I last made a laptop purchase. I paid a princely sum for the 64 bits and 6GB of RAM Dell I'm carrying around today. Worth it? I think so. It's given me a good couple of years, despite a dropping a hard drive and a 2GB RAM stick. It still chugs along, but it's time for a change.

So what to get?

Here are my requirements:

  • Thin and light - call it an ultrabook if you want, but I just want something I can carry without back-pain.
  • At least 8GB RAM - I'll want to be able to run Visual Studio, SQL Server, and maybe even a VM or two. 8GB is my acceptable minimum.
  • An SSD hard disk - surely I don't need to spell this out.
  • USB 3.0 - This will let me compliment the SSD with decent storage with decent speeds.
  • Fairly good screen resolution - at least 900px high I think. My current 768px really annoys me.
  • Either 13" or 15" - this is my preferred size for a workable laptop.

So what's on offer?

Well, it turns out not much. The only laptop that really fits the bill in every respect appears to be the new 13" MacBook Air.

Now I'm clearly not a Mac user so I'd love to hear an alternative if you have one. However, rest assured that if you point me at a Windows machine that nearly meets those specs - I've almost certainly seen and dismissed it.

So why would I pay the "Apple-Tax" if I'm not a Mac user? It's a good question, so here are my current justifications:

  1. What's the alternative? - Honestly, I haven't seen any Windows laptop that meets every one of the requirements above. Should I just compromise somewhere? Just to avoid getting a Mac? I'm not that anti-Apple. And sure, I could always wait for the next version of X, but that's a never-ending game.
  2. Macs can boot into Windows just fine - So if I'm going to boot into Windows, why buy a Mac? Firstly, for reason #1 above. Secondly, maybe I'll want to wrap an HTML5 app in PhoneGap and deploy to the app store... Who knows :)
  3. Recommendations from friends - many people I know use a MacBook as their primary device and spend most of their time either in Windows (using BootCamp) or using Windows software (using Parallels or VMWare Fusion). Without exception, they're full of glowing praise. Not, "yeah, it's pretty good", but usually, "it's the best laptop I've ever had by a mile".

Ultimately it comes down to one question for me: If, after 6 months, I never boot into OSX, have I made the wrong decision? Based on the three points above, I'm fairly confident the answer is no.

I know some people feel pretty strongly about this so I'd love your comments. If you think I'm about to make a mistake, let me know why! Seriously. I might even listen.

Damian Brady

I'm an Australian developer, speaker, and author specialising in DevOps, developer process, and software architecture. I love Octopus Deploy, Visual Studio Team Services, and reducing process waste.