mac vs. pc follow up – hardware

A few months ago I wrote about my experiences with two laptops, a Macbook and a HP Compaq nc8430. At the time I did a quick rant on which one I preferred, namely the Mac. The full article can be read here. After that time, the Mac unfortunately had to be returned, as it was on loan. So I was left with the HP Compaq. Have my thoughts changed at all? Have I softened to the HP’s charms or is it still a stormy relationship with wistful glances back at the Mac ex?

Well, at the time I mentioned that the Mac was clearly a better designed product. And having struggled through for the last seven months I can honestly say that I am still right. The HP Compaq is built for a particular buying sector. The buyers in that sector are constrained by tight corporate rules and budgets. Those rules and ever decreasing budgets mean that the product, the laptop, is always going to be a compromise in some form or another. In terms of hardware, some of the compromise is going to be on design. Some on materials. It’s evident to anyone picking up the HP Compaq nc8430 that it is a brick. The overall design is fairly bland, innocuous, black. That is what the buyers in these corporate markets prefer. They dont want something that is going to look out of place in a meeting room. It screams – I conform! There are features, its not an underperforming processor inside, the graphics card is quite good. The problem is that it’s all been squeezed in as small a space as they can get it into. The result – its hot. Not in the nice sense. Woe betide the person who uses it on their lap without a cushion or book to protect their legs. This baby get’s very warm. The exhuast from the vent on the left hand side attests to this. Dont block it! Also don”t expect to be able to chuck the 8430 into a small bag and go. It’s heavy, and with the power supply you are looking at a fairly hefty load.

The keyboard is fairly useable, although I have had problems with some of the keys. I initially had problems with the touchpad, as my thumb kept brushing against it and causing it to jump the cursor. The Mac keyboard seemed to be better and more responsive. The screen is OK, but not as nice as the screen on the Mac. So, what am I going on about? Well, the thing about the Mac was, it was so light and portable, you really didn’t need a heavy case to carry it around in. The power supply was small enough, and the lead clipped magnetically to the side of the Mac, ready to flip away if you tripped over the lead. Which is something that has happened weith the nc8430, almost causing the thing to fall of the table onto the floor. Battery life on the 8430 isn’t that great, you really need to be near a power supply if you are going to use for a long time. The Mac, in comparison, had a much better battery life. The 8430 has to power the video card, then power the fan that keeps it cool. That battery will let you down if you depend on it. To sell the laptop to corporate buyers, it’s got a fingerprint scanner. Oh, that doesnt seem to work in Vista, just XP.

So, it’s heavy, it’s hot, and its a series of compromises. Yes, I still prefer the Macbook. It came into my life and turned it upside down. Then left. I am left with the HP Compaq nc8430, a longer term partner, less fun, but still here. Both are miles better than a desktop PC.

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