back beyond green rolling hills…

…of “bliss

My beloved MacBook Pro 4,1 (early 2008) started to become a bit flaky in the last weeks and the transitions from PAL to HD and full HD video material in my work left me more and more frustrated with render times, so i began to think about a replacement for my slightly aged digital companion.

The new MacBook pro models i’ve had my hands on a few times seemed to be perfect machines. Super slim, amazingly powerful, and with stunning retina display option. But it wasn’t just the price that gave me headaches. If i really have to spend more than 2K on a laptop i want it to last as long as my old one (min. 5 years). Would it? As far as i remember i had to replace hard drives twice in the last years, also two new batteries, upgrade RAM, and so on. The usual stuff. Looking at the tech specs and service manuals of the new MacBook Pro models i really started to worry… soldered RAM? a glued battery? sealed chassis?
From my experience a battery doesn’t really survive longer than two to three years in heavy duty use and mobility and if I really need to spend that much cash on a new machine it should be maintainable.

I have to admit, i am a bit of an Apple fanboy, not hardcore evangelist, but i always liked Apple’s mix of cutting edge technology, software innovations, service, and their consideration of digital media professionals. With the release of OS X in 2001 i switched to a Mac after 10 years of PC and Windows 95/98/2000/XP frustration, endless days of re-installating a broken or trashed OS, driver incompatibilities, hardware failures, and so on. I was amazed by the revolutionary step from the almost dead MacOS 9 system to a full scale UNIX system with a new approach of a graphical user interface. I switched and never wanted to go back. PC technology developed so quickly, following Apples inventions and computers got better and better, but Microsoft seemed to be stuck in a dead end, even with their releases of Vista and Windows 7. From a media professional point of view Linux is not really an option so I always stayed a happy Mac user. Apple created version after version of better and better systems and my computer seemed to be faster with every new release.

Now in the need of new hardware and also a bit frustrated by Apple’s new approach on sealed and soldered hardware (clearly as consumer products and not pro gear) i was forced to really pay attention to the market and also dare to look beyond the Apple basket. I plunged into the quest for PC notebooks in the same range of speed, memory and features as the MacBook Pros, read through countless hardware reviews, and looked at models in different stores. Eventually I found myself looking at three different Notebooks by Dell and Lenovo that looked amazing from a technical point of view and fairly nice from a design point of view (yes i admit i care about that). But *sigh* … Windows….seriously?

During my work in the last months I stumbled over Microsoft’s new Windows 8 that colleagues had running on their computers, and i was really surprised! A well designed new operating system without drop shadows, semi transparent window borders, weirdly placed and hidden system settings, annoyingly long loading times, what happened??? Compared to the new look and feel of Windows 8 even MacOS seemed a bit dated…

Eventually I dared…

I switched back! Back to the PC world, back to Windows!

The computer that convinced me the most was the Lenovo ThinkPad W530 workstation model. A multicore i7 CPU, up to 32 gigs of RAM (!!!), Nvidia Optimus switchable GPUs, up to three Hard Drives, a spillwater proof drainage system, one button to remove the battery, one screw to get to the main hard drive, one lever to release the optical UltraBay drive and replace it with another hard drive while the system is running, Full HD Screen with hardware color calibrator, all combined with the great Thinkpad typical 80s sci-fi matt black japanese lunchbox design. Price: under 2K. Definetly upgradable and maintainable in the next years. An amazing piece of professional hardware.

So far i really love it. Especially in combination with Windows 8. I can totally not relate to the online shitstorms of hardcore Windows users complaining about the missing Start button, confusing gesture control and “Metro” design annoyances. It took me five minutes to read through a help file to figure out the gestures and keyboard short cuts to feel at home in the system and about 1 hour playing around to figure out the overall concept and look and feel.

Do I miss MacOS X? Hmm…not really. A bit. But just a little. Nah…

Having been on Mac for the last 10 years, here are some things I noticed, being (back) on a Windows system:

– From Finder to Explorer: Cut and paste of files actually works! Opening ZIP files without third party software too! And so much more…. how was I actually able to work with Finder?

– I miss the very simple layout of the MacOS settings. Windows has improved A LOT in making the settings more intuitive (especially with the new “Spotlight” style search system) but it still feels a bit weird to get around the sections.

– Transition from Alt/Command to Ctrl/Win/Alt button layout: it was really hard to not accidentally hit Alt or Win just from the habit of thumb-shooting the Command key. Now after a week, i am almost used to it, just the Photoshop shortcuts will probably take another few weeks to fully master.

– Right click? Oh what a pleasure! More than one mouse button! Nuff said…

– Multitouch gestures on the trackpad: totally works the same way as on a Mac

– to be continued in the next weeks…especially how the switch will affect my media arts / VJ life…

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