Which car is your Mac?

It’s an overused analogy to compare Macs to car brands. I can’t even describe how many times I’ve seen “Macs are Mercedes, PCs are Kia” from blog commenters. It’s pretty rare to take things farther than that, probably since most tech blog commenters are simply trolls looking for attention.

But, Ben Brooks specializes in looking at things differently and in greater depth. He published an excellent article today comparing Mac models to their equivalent car. For the most part, his points are dead on. Almost no one truly needs the power that they buy, whether it be a pickup truck, SUV, or Mac Pro. He wisely leaves off the lowly and outdated MacBook, since there really is no reason to buy one anymore. He justly lavishes praise on the 13″ Air, but he also gets a bit too harsh on the 13″ MacBook Pro:

MacBook Pro 13″: It’s a Geo Tracker. Ok, well it’s really not that bad, but it is stuck in the same rut that the 17″ model is. You get all the bad things of the “Pro” line (size and weight) without the benefits of the “Air” line. It truly is the mini-SUV of the Mac line-up — far too small to be supremely useful, with limited power and a funky size class.

I like the 13″ Pro for those exact reasons. It’s not as minimal as the Air, giving you an optical drive, more capacity, and longer battery life. At the same time, it’s smaller and lighter than the majority of PC 13″ laptops.

I doubt that Ben hangs out on college campuses, but I can tell you that the 13″ Pro far outstrips any other computer model at my university by a very wide margin. Part of this is undoubtedly the newness of the 2nd generation MacBook Air, but I do think that the 13″ Pro is better for the everyday student (and likely most consumers as well). Many still need the Pro’s optical disc to install software like Office – it’s not the best suite available, but it is unquestionably the standard. Even those who, like Ben and I, opt for something like iWork, Office is still necessary for some things. And Office, in its conservative way, cannot be installed without an optical drive. Sure, you can get an external, but try explaining why that’s a better option when a regular user asks.

Not only that, but the drive space probably wouldn’t be enough to accommodate most students. From what I’ve read and heard on his podcast, Ben deals mainly with text files, so the lack of space probably isn’t a big deal to him. I wouldn’t say the same about the general consumer though. Between movies, music, and backlogs of important files, I barely scrape by on my ancient 120 GB internal drive, and the Air’s base 128 GB capacity would seem appallingly low to most people today. I know it’s an incredibly fast SSD, but again it’s tough to persuade someone that 128 GB is enough in the days of incredibly cheap and spacious drives on most other computers. An external drive solves my woes, but that’s also a foreign concept to most.

I’m using students as my primary example, but that’s because I know the most about that demographic. I don’t think I’m wrong about their needs being similar to the general population, but of course there will be exceptions. I personally would welcome the opportunity to switch to an Air since I know how to use external hard drives and delete old files to leverage my space as best I can. Obviously Ben can too. I’m just not convinced yet that the everyday consumer should take the plunge. Wait about a year, when SSD prices fall a bit and big-name software is more widely distributed online, and that’s a different story. For now, the 13″ Pro seems like the best all-around choice to me, and the students here seem to agree.

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