FWIW, I own a 1st gen MBP, a 3+ year old eMachines notebook, a 6-year old
Dell Inspiron and have worked with just about anything from SGI workstations
to custom-built-from-scratch PCs.
While owning MBP, I only had one battery recall. However, this is not
because there are no other problems, but rather because Apple refuses to
recognize them as such. Here are some of the perpetuating issues seconded by
various blogs/sites (please note that while some of these pertain only to
the first-gen MBPs, consider them as a broader view of Apple's offering):
1) I can't keep it on my lap since it is scalding hot as soon as the laptop
reaches its operating temperature. Heck, at times I cannot even keep my
wrist on the computer as the left side gets uncomfortably warm. FWIW, I also
run a fan applet at all times which keeps fan running at constant speeds of
2000+ RPM. Let's just say this does not help much.
2) There is a CPU whine which according to some reports can pollute
recording even if it is only recording internal "silence" (no mic internal
3) Uselessly positioned microphone which prevents its use for video
conferencing due to its dubious proximity to the speaker.
4) Very fragile slot-loading drives (this has been pretty much the case
since Ti powerbooks)
5) Underclocked x1600 (only on first-gen 15-inch MBPs) so that its
performance is hardly that of a x1400.
6) Design flaws such as hard edges on the laptop (once opened) forcing you
to type most of the time with your hands in the air and the ubiquitous
7) whatever you buy from Apple first-gen, please be prepared to be their
beta tester for free.
Regarding reliability, I have students every so often knocking on my doors
with crashing Macbooks, often for very dubious reasons, so this leads me to
believe that if you don't know what you are doing, you will crash just about
any OS on the planet.
While DELL is a far cry from what it used to be future looks more hopeful
with Michael Dell back. FWIW, my memories of dealing with them quite a while
ago lean slightly to the positive side. I remember buying a refurb Inspiron
8000 with 800MHz P3 when 1GHz was pretty much the limit. In a matter of a
month the motherboard died. Over the next year after two exchanges (one of
this was my fault, the other was the aforesaid motherboard issue) I ended up
with a 1.8GHz P4 Inspiron 8200 with more RAM and better video plus 1600x1200
screen. Eventually I upgraded Geforce2Go to Geforce4Go and added some
memory. Later I also had an option of going to Radeon 9000 but never
bothered to since by that time I had moved onto my new laptop. 6 years later
this laptop still works just fine.
My next purchase was M6807 from eMachines. This thing to this day continues
to run despite 2 high drops, spilled soy sauce over the keyboard and
generally ~8+ hours of daily use. Now that it is over 3 years old, its
battery lasts only ~30-40 minutes (ironically the battery levels show 0%
after few minutes of use, but the notebook can run for another 20-30 minutes
even after that point as long as you disable mandatory shutdown in power
settings) and there are visible blemishes due to use, but so far it seems to
be still working ok. This is not to say that I did not have to send it in
two times over this period of time, once to repair a cracked hinge (part of
a recall) and once because of a faulty BIOS update.
Are either Dell or eMachines as pretty as my MBP? No way.
Do they have their own quirks and/or issues? You bet.
Are they as functional? Pretty much so.
What should you get? My advice is don't listen to individual experiences as
they are commonly very biased. Rather, look for what is within your budget
and perhaps more importantly what you are most comfortable with. Do some
hands-on research on your own and take the plunge (many companies nowadays
allow purchases with an unconditional 30-day return policy; my suggestion is
use this as an opportunity to make an informed decision).
Ivica Ico Bukvic, D.M.A.
Composition, Music Technology, CCTAD, and CHCI
Dept. of Music - 0240
Blacksburg, VA 24061
(540) 231-5034 (fax)