Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

Summary: Would you buy your student kid a Mac at three or four times the price of a non-Apple laptop if you knew it might not last the year?

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware
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Chris Dawson, resident ZDNet Education blogger and friendly counterpart, considered whether buying a Mac for college would indeed be the best computer to buy for college.

While his points are valid and bless him, I value his professional opinion as anyone should. However the 'Mac issue' poses some interesting thoughts for which whoever the person may be who buys the technological bulk for the student needs to consider. Because frankly, more often than not it isn't the student themselves.

Enterprise networks run the Windows platform and not Mac's. Universities more often than not apply with these facts and run Windows also.

In my experience, some universities with higher rates of international students and therefore greater budgets, may well make provisions for 'Mac labs' as part of their computer rooms. The University of Edinburgh for example have a number of public access Mac machines for students to use.

Apple however has taken over other major PC manufacturers in the student laptop space, such as HP, Dell and Toshiba.

I can also understand and vouch for the fact that multimedia technology students, including those doing film and photography may well get a better experience through applications and hardware support from Mac machines. You can always tell the 'creative' and 'arty' student by the fact they have a MacBook in their very presence.

But - and here is the big caveat, as most universities run the Windows operating system throughout, the compatibility between Mac's and PC's are still not there. Ubuntu struggles at times, as does Mac OS X, because they're simply not Windows and that's one of the the simple reasons for it.

Mac's are expensive and should be considered as an investment, more than anything else. But seeing as the Generation Y are on the most part spendthrifts and technology abusers - with beer, popcorn and various other 'fluids' spilling over onto them in due course of the academic year, a bog standard laptop bought each year for three years makes up the cost of a basic MacBook.

So unless you buy the Mac yourself, as a student and not as a parent, then you should be fine provided you are careful with it. Get a cheap laptop with Windows included - or convert a free Windows Server edition to a desktop, client operating system. Otherwise, you'll be playing a constant game of Russian Roulette with your money every time you even go near it.

Would you buy your student kid a Mac at three or four times the price of a non-Apple laptop if you knew it might not last the year?

Topics: Apple, Hardware

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180 comments
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  • Great blog post, thanks for the excellent advice

    I hope people take your advice, for their sake.
    NonZealot
    • Except his advice is inaccurate and little dated. [nt]

      [nt]
      olePigeon
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @olePigeon <br>Why?<br>I bought my son a 500$ Toshiba with WIn7.<br>Thank god!<br>It wasn't more than 4 months and someone literally ran over him (running) and it all went flying.<br>$500 is easier to replace than a Mac.....<br><br>And to head off the fan-boys; it's Win7 and it just works.
        rhonin
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @zenwalker

        Agreed. My Windows 7 computers just work every single time I have to replace something, which isn't often.
        Heck, half the time I can just plug-in, boot up, and Windows 7 installs all the drivers for the thing itself and it's the latest version of the drivers as well.

        Mac's are too expensive for what you are getting and Linux PC's are too 'techie' for the average person to use. Heck, even as a techie myself, I run from Linux lately after finding out that it is NEAR IMPOSSIBLE to get it working with some laptop wireless cards.
        Lerianis10
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @zenwalker Second all of that.
        ZackCDLVI
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @olePigeon

        Actually, buying a dated Mac has thus far been a better investment for me than most of the PCs my fellow students have bought.

        I own four Macs: iMac G4 (2002), PowerBook G3 Pismo (2000), iBook G3 (1999, mmm, tangerine), and PowerBook 180 (1992-1994). The lot of them cost sub-$1000. The only times I have ever had to use a Windows PC for college work are when I was taking a course on MS Office 2007 (and even then I got away with using Office 08 much of the time) and now that I'm taking a programming course for PCs.

        The older Macs aren't nearly as big a target for thieves, are tougher than your average PC, and are even cheaper than most PCs. Did I mention my PowerBook G3 has a ten-hour battery life?

        Just my 2c.
        RevolutionEagle
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @zenwalker; @Lerianis10

        I'm not arguing against buying a PC, I'm just stating that the Blogger is misinformed and his information is outdated. There is no risk buying a Mac for use at any university or college.

        His main points are just flat out wrong.

        * Enterprise platforms may run on Windows, but OS X integrates with ActiveDirectory, Windows file sharing services, etc. Not to mention you can just simply run Windows on a Mac.

        * His assumption that you can single out Mac users as artsy and creative is doubly wrong. Take a look in any computer science class room. Before Apple moved to OS X, it was probably 99% PCs running Windows, Linux, or UNIX. Now if you walk into a computer science class, you're going to see probably a good 25% of those computers are Macs. With a Mac you can run [i]all[/i] the major development suites for [i]all[/i] the major operating systems.

        There's a good chance that computer science and applied science students will be using Macs, not just the creative and artsy students.

        * Macs are more expensive, but they're a good value; they also have an exceptionally high resale value. According to Consumer Reports, Macs have fewer returns for hardware problems (higher quality), their users are more satisfied with the product, and Apple's customer support has continuously outperformed any other company.

        The one point I do agree with is carelessness. A Mac is more expensive, so if you just want to give you kid a computer that he or she can pretty much throw away and you can replace 3 or 4 times, then yes, a bargain PC will be worth it.
        olePigeon
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        My Mac runs more and better software than a PC. It can run windows when it has to (seldom) and be a Mac the rest of the time. Why settle for less, unless you can't afford it. If you are short money just buy a used Mac instead.
        HiramWalker
      • Zack's got it all wrong

        I believe Chris Dawson does K-12... And while I do believe most K-12 schools run windows servers, it's totally irrelevant... Macs connect to anything... When it comes to Universities/College, (my world), more and more are going Mac in the server rooms... But that too is totally irrelevant... Macs connect to anything... Regardless of that, even the diehard stuck in the past windows universities are Mac friendly (offering students Mac versions of software alongside the windows versions).

        Zack's argument that if a person is a total klutz/slob, they should go with a cheap product is a valid argument... But people also tend to be more protective of something they value... They treat it better, they like it more, and they are more likely to take care of it. And here's the real kicker, they are more likely to use it.

        So, say your kid is getting ready to go off to college (mine is almost there), what are you going to get them? A computer they want and desire, or a hunk of carp windows PC they would rather leave in the dorm?

        The fact is that kids want Macs, not PCs... (Granted they may tell some of you loser parents that they prefer windows... Just to keep you from getting all butt hurt). If you want a reality check, just do what I do 5 days a week, stroll through a college campus and either look around or talk to a few kids.

        And for all you out of touch, Mac hater parents out there... You're kids already know you don't have a grasp on reality.... The more Mac hate you show, the more credibility you lose.
        i8thecat
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @HiramWalker<br><i>My Mac runs more and better software than a PC. It can run windows when it has to (seldom) and be a Mac the rest of the time. Why settle for less, unless you can't afford it. If you are short money just buy a used Mac instead. </i><br><br>Hiram - I not only doubt that, I know that.<br>After a hard day at school, my son loves to boot up some of his favorites games which ARE NOT OUT for the Mac. and they don't run in Win on Mac.<br><br>All work and no play.... etc....
        rhonin
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @olePigeon <br>His assumption that you can single out Mac users as artsy and creative is doubly wrong. Take a look in any computer science class room. Before Apple moved to OS X, it was probably 99% PCs running Windows, Linux, or UNIX. Now if you walk into a computer science class, you're going to see probably a good 25% of those computers are Macs. With a Mac you can run all the major development suites for all the major operating systems.
        <a href="http://www.thesanfranciscolocksmith.com">locksmith san francisco</a> | <a href="http://www.yoursanfranciscoplumber.com">plumber san francisco</a>
        gogiants
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @olePigeon
        Maybe this is a <a href="http://www.esigns.com">Signs</a> to make the change? PC has been wonderful, but we can only see the rapid growth as a sign of improvement.
        StephAugstine
    • ... but but but but Apple gives me taste

      Owning an iWhatNot makes my naked body look like a shiny Emperor, or so it goes.
      LBiege
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @LBiege - Don't forget 'creative' and 'arty'.

        I'm gonna puke.
        babyboomer57
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @LBiege ....i like you lol
        executive_zombie
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @LBiege Great article! Thanks for sharing, I'm glad to see such a strong response to the community!
        - <a href="http://www.JonathanAdkins.net">Jonathan Adkins</a>
        PlasticMice
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @LBiege Nice..... LOL
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        eschwartzk
    • Most students need battery life.

      @NonZealot And most PC's just don't have the stamina of a Mac. 8 hours on one charge is hard to beat.
      ashdude
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @ashdude

        Stamina? LMAO!

        While doing nothing, my Dell Studio i7 8GB DDR3 RAM also gives me 8+ hours on one charge. Now do some serious compiles, or play some intense games, (oh I forgot Macs do not play real games) and it becomes a different matter. Doing nothing simply means cruising the Internet, emailing, typing some Word document or doing some Excel spreadsheet. Heh, I can also do better on all aspects with a thowaway Asus eee 10" Netbook 1GB RAM 160GB HDD for $240 @ tigerdirect or newegg.
        WinTard
      • RE: Mac vs. PC: Playing Russian Roulette at college

        @ashdude I agree; unless you have a netbook, Mac's have pretty good battery life in my opinion.
        zwhittaker