What laptop

A friend recently asked me what laptop to get after his had died (fortunately no data was lost – clever man!). His question was really “Windows of Mac”? The requirements were photos, email, music, Office.

It is an oft asked question, so I thought I would post my reply.

How old is the laptop? I ask because there are three possibilities to consider, based on available finances.

  1. The cheapest option is to keep the laptop and install Ubuntu on it. They are about to release the Disco Dingo (next week), though you can install Cosmich Cuttlefish (current release) now and then upgrade.
    Of course, it is a new environment to learn, but the benefits are:

    1. It is a free option, and Ubuntu comes with all the software you need, along with reguar free updates
    2. Ubuntu works nicely on lower powered hardware, and you can even have versions that will work on really really old hardware (e.g. ½ gig RAM)
    3. You won’t need a new laptop, though depending on the problem that occurred you might want to replace the hard disk
    4. You can install Ubuntu on a memory stick and then boot from that to try before you install
    5. Ubuntu has become much easier to use and more stable over the years, and now looks pretty great
    6. Personally I don’t think you need to bother with AV. I know purists will say that you always need AV, but Linux is inherantly more secure and I have never had a problem with viruses on Linux)
  2.  The mid range option is to buy a new Windows laptop. Personally I don’t like Windows. You would then need to ensure yo have the correct Office licenses installed (unless, of course, you opt for a free office solution such as Libre Office, the one that comes with Ubuntu). You would also need to ensure the new laptop has a DVD player, or you have an external USB-enabled one: a lot of new laptops no longer have these.
    Benefits are:

    1. A familiar operating environment
    2. I can’t think of another, if you have the specific requirements you mentioned and are not after some esoteric piece of software that only works for Windows
  3. The high end option is to buy a Macbook. This will be more expensive than Windows (unless you aim for a high end Windows machine, where prices are suprisingly similar). Macbooks do not come with DVD players so you would need to have software based files to play or an external DVD player.
    Benefits are:

    1. I personally love the build quality, though some people do complain about the keyboard (since they are so thin, Apple changed the mechanism and this is not to everyone’s taste. Best try before you buy)
    2. The OS is more stable than Windows
    3. You won’t need to buy MS Office. You can, of course, but Apple’s Office system is supplied and is very good
    4. Personally I don’t think you need to bother with AV. I know purists will say that you always need AV, but Unix is inherantly more secure and I have never had a problem with viruses on my Macs)
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