Observations from a New Mac User

As someone that’s been almost exclusively using Windows computers for most of their life, it took me a long time to get to a point where I convinced myself that a MacBook Air was a good purchase. I could always justify a new Windows laptop or desktop computer by comparing the price of that and even an entry-level Mac. Then you start looking at Windows options that are in the same price range as that entry level Mac and you lose focus a little bit as you start seeing nearly top-of-the-line components in every area.

But the beauty of a Mac lies not just in the specs, but in the way the computer feels, looks and behaves. Even a MacBook Air feels like a perfectly constructed work of art, with nary a single spot on the computer that feels vulnerable or poorly put together. When you carry the computer, either open or closed, you aren’t worried that something is going to go wrong and cause you to drop it. This is especially noticeable on the housing behind the screen, which usually feels like one of the most brittle parts of a Windows laptop.

How I Eventually Gave In

I work in IT for a small company, where we exclusively use Windows computers. Maybe one day I will try and convince my company to start upgrading to Macs but, for the time being, Windows is best. I deal with a pretty large user base, with a varying level of computer skills, and the prospect of teaching them all an entirely new operating system gives me a headache. But one day my boss came in with her new MacBook and wanted me to set some stuff up for her. With only a limited background in iOS it took me a little while to learn my way around, but eventually everything just clicked. It definitely helps if you have some experience with an iPad or an iPhone, but the desktop version of iOS is kind of its’ own animal.

My first experience with a MacBook was OK, but I think my lack of familiarity with it probably prevented me from enjoying the computer experience very much.

A couple of months later I had another opportunity to work with that laptop, but this time I was moving around some files in iPhoto, iTunes and an iPad. This gave me more of an opportunity to see what iOS really was, and how everything functioned.

That’s when I really started to understand the oft-heard Apple line of “it just works.”

I’ve had iPods and iPads and other various Apple devices for years and experienced the frustration that a lot of Windows users do when they are switching computers, or upgrading devices, or trying to get their media files on to one of these gadgets. But Apple is going after a seamless ecosystem with all of their stuff, so seeing how communication and connection between these devices is supposed to work is truly a remarkable thing. Files transfer quickly, they’re recognized instantaneously, and you can understand how iTunes and the syncing process is supposed to occur.

 

Diving in Head First

observations from a new mac user

 

Once you start using an Apple product, especially a MacBook, it’s hard to stop. I slowly transitioned myself to iTunes for all of my media, then switched to Apple TV, an iPad and an iPhone.

All of this stuff integrates perfectly, especially Apple TV. For something that Apple has repeatedly referred to as a “hobby” it offers some remarkable integration. I was initially concerned that my MacBook Air didn’t have an HDMI port but, at least when I’m at home with my Apple TV, I don’t need it anyway. Apple TV and iOS have a feature called “mirroring” that you can turn on, which enables you to wirelessly transfer your laptop display to your Apple TV. There is a very slight mouse lag, which is to be expected, but for someone that has cumbersomely been connecting HDMI cables for years, the wireless freedom this offered was a breath of fresh air.

Then you start getting into AirPlay with the iPad and file syncing from phone to tablet to laptop and you start to understand what a truly integrated device environment is supposed to be. All of your files are everywhere with iCloud and Home Sharing (though I did go a little off the reservation and use Dropbox for a lot of cloud file storage), and all of your media is accessible from iTunes.

 

Some Additional Notes

  • You can stream purchased video from the iTunes store with your Apple TV. I feel like this is a pretty noteworthy feature, but it doesn’t seem like something that Apple is promoting heavily. I thought I would need to have one of my devices on and share the media with Apple TV, but that is not the case. It works the same way Netflix and Hulu do, just only with the content that you have rented or purchased. It is also worth mentioning that you can buy stuff directly from iTunes through the Apple TV.
  • Your Apple ID is going to be really important. I had set mine up ages ago when I got my first iPod nano, but I had shied away from using it much because I wasn’t buying a lot of media from the iTunes store. But once you go Apple, everything is connected with this email and password. If you have a weak password and an old, rarely-used email address as your Apple ID, you should definitely consider improving them
  • You are probably going to need a portable hard drive at some point. The MacBook Air does not come with enough storage, and I think most people with extensive music and video collections are going to fill up their solid state drive pretty quickly. You won’t need to keep it connected all the time, just when you want to watch a movie that’s stored on the drive. It’s also a good idea if you’re going for a long plane or car trip where you won’t have Internet access.

 

Some Negatives

  • It’s expensive to go full Mac. Really expensive.
  • There’s no Amazon Instant app on Apple TV. You can mirror it from a browser on your MacBook, but it is not an ideal solution. It also will only work with audio if you AirPlay it.
  • Having to re-buy programs and applications because you now need the Mac version.

 

I think that a lot of people would probably prefer iOS computers and devices if they gave them a chance, but there are so many obstacles to overcome when it comes to making the switch. Plus most of us have spent years in school and work familiarizing ourselves with Windows, and the prospect of throwing that out the window and starting over can be a little nerve-wracking. But I think that if you approach switching to Apple and Macs with an open mind, you will definitely find something about it that you prefer to the other options out there.