Sunday, April 3, 2011

All laptops are created equal ?

I'm not one of those people who falls in love with a bit of technology or talks about "how powerful" a piece of technology or software is. But, I must admit -sometimes one piece of kit does the job just a little better than another.
As mentioned in the other page regarding our journey into apple software and hardware - my own views were rather guarded. I had been a long time win user and only "tried" apple hardware to see if it was better for photographic purposes than win. My opinion in this regard is still undecided. When I first entered the realm of apple I argued quite heatedly with "apple" friends about the need for virus protection (surely you needed it - it only stood to reason).
I was (and still am) using a 15inch macbook pro for my personal purposes. I must admit, over time I have really come to like the apple software and especially their hardware. I enjoy working on my MBP for both work and personal purposes. The trackpad (I have not experienced on any other laptop I have used), the backlight keyboard (I know - not unique), the slim, light design. All made for an enjoyable and easy experience.
Twelve months ago we decided to embark on a 1 to 1 apple laptop for the students. Because of costing limitations and insurances from apple - it was decided that we would purchase MacBooks (the white ones). These had been proven in the US - suitable for students and would stand up to the job. It was necessary for the two class teachers, who would conduct the classes, to also have a macbook. These two would be upgraded to 4G of memory as well as run Fusions (for win XP).
The teachers would be encouraged to treat the laptops as their own. Take them from school to home, work directly onto them, returning each day to attach them to smartboards etc. This proved very successful and showed us the way forward regarding the deployment of class laptops for teachers. "Ownership" - had a high baring on productivity.
I was one of these teachers using a macbook and transferring it from home to school. I must admit the convenience of doing so was very productive. To be able to work directly onto the machine, set it up the way you wished, organise your folders to your manner of thinking - I found increased my productivity greatly. But, probably more importantly, increased my organisational skills. While you still drowned in a pile of paper - if you couldn't locate that worksheet or file - you knew where you had a copy on the laptop. The buzz of working like this lasted for quite a while.
Over time I found myself drifting back to my macbook pro. I didn't notice at first, but if I was doing something in low light - the illuminated keyboard of the pro was very handy. I had dropbox set up on both computers - so saving between the two wasn't an issue. But I found myself using my pro more and more and the white - less and less. Surely this defeated the purpose and convenience  of being able to work and plan on the same machine? So I started to examine my own rationale to why.
Let me say - there is nothing wrong with the white mac. It is reliable, sturdy and I certainly didn't notice any major difference in speed. But when you are working on the same machine for extended hours of the day (both at work and at home) - it's the little things that start to add up.
I noticed the difference in the keyboard, the illuminated keys as well as a difference in the key pressure. The weight of the machine was slightly less. The pad - a nicer and smoother feel. A built in SD card reader (handy for school cameras - which all seem to use SD cards). It came with 4G of Ram - as opposed to ordering it separately (needed to run Fusions more smoothly). All in all - seems like a nicer to machine to work on - and the price difference of $200!  If you include the extra Ram cost ($120) - then the difference is actually $80!
On the next round of laptops I was able to forward a convincing argument for equipping the teachers (who were going to be using theirs a lot more extensively than the students) with the Pro's.
Like all things in life - some things are not necessarily created equal.

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