The turn of the Mac: switching from PC to an Apple MacBook

Twelve South BookArc holding MacBook Pro

I recently purchased an Apple MacBook Pro for my business, Awdesign Digital, having used PCs for as long as I can remember. This was a response to becoming increasingly frustrated with my existing computers since going full-time self-employed in early 2019.

Up till now I have used two Windows-based machines: a desktop PC purchased in 2011 and an Acer Aspire laptop bought in 2013. While fine for day-to-day use, using Microsoft Office packages and web browsing, they aren’t really cut out for memory-hungry tasks like graphic design and video editing.

Opening applications that I use regularly, e.g. Adobe Illustrator and Premiere, can take several minutes, and from a cold start I found it often took up to 45 minutes to get fully up and running on a work day. With the MacBook I’ve managed to do the same in 90 seconds.

Issues affecting PC performance

I appreciate there are a number of factors causing my PCs to run slowly:

  • Age – as mentioned, they are nine and seven years old respectively… very old in computing terms.
  • Hardware – my PCs use standard hard disk drives (HDD) while my MacBook runs off solid state drives (SSD). Used in mobile pen drives, these are much faster, more robust and use less energy due to no moving parts.
  • Software – both PCs have had several updates to their operating systems since purchase. Both currently run the 64-bit version of Windows 10.
  • Updates – Windows is prone to downloading and installing new features in the background, often without warning. This can cause them to grind almost to a halt.

Investing in my business

I was able to reinvest some money set aside for the HMRC into my business following my tax return at the start of April.

I previously used Macs during my time at Edinburgh Napier University, both as a student and occasionally in my role as a Web Officer. This means I’m already familiar with the operating system (macOS) and speed at which they operate. Having also owned Apple iPhones and iPads over the past decade, the seamless integration offered by owning a MacBook was also a factor in my move away from PC.

Choosing a model

iMac vs MacBook

The nature of my work as a freelancer means that I often visit clients for meetings. It also helps to work away from home on occasion, sometimes for a change of scene or for peace and quiet (e.g. on Mondays when my wife doesn’t work and my children land in from school at 3pm). I’m generally based at home from Tuesday to Friday so the chosen model needs to function effectively there too.

One of the key selling points of the MacBook Pro for me is its ability to act as a desktop when running in closed-lid (or closed-clamshell) mode. When plugged into a power supply and external monitor and paired with an external keyboard and mouse, the laptop can run while shut.

Office setup
MacBook Pro (beside the printer) running in closed-display mode with iPad as a second monitor using Sidecar

To enable this setup and organise my home workspace, I purchased a Magic Keyboard with numeric keypad and Magic Mouse 2, as well as a Twelve South BookArc stand which holds the MacBook vertically.

The MacBook Pro supports the use of the built-in display at the same time as up to two 4K monitors or one 5K monitor. A compatible iPad can also act as an external monitor through Apple’s Airplay functionality, called Sidecar.

Multiple monitors including iPad
Multiple display mode using the MacBook screen, an external monitor and an iPad

New vs used MacBook

Apple offers a range of certified refurbished equipment on their website in addition to new models. These items are generally trade-ins against newer products. Each is reset to its factory settings, cleaned up and dispatched in as close to new condition as possible. They often retail for about £300 less than newer items.

I managed to buy a certified refurbished 2018 MacBook Pro and peripherals for little more than a similarly spec’d new machine. There’s very little difference between the 2018 and 2019 models in terms of features so I was happy to spend less and upgrade on the available storage.

First impressions of the MacBook Pro

I’ve now been using my MacBook for just shy of a month and am delighted with how it performs. It just works; booting up fully in under 30 seconds and waking from sleep instantly. It’s often ready to work before I am!

The Sidecar function has reintroduced a second monitor to my setup for the first time since leaving Edinburgh Napier; I didn’t realise how much I relied on it before! I also like the multiple desktop feature which allows applications to be spread over a range of screens.

Mission control on MacBook Pro
Mission control on the MacBook showing different desktop configurations

I also installed a low-cost app called Magnet. This allows me to arrange open windows in different areas of the screen as required. This is particularly useful when populating website content from another source file.

Magnet options
Window position options in Magnet

All MacBook Pro models from 2018 onward feature a Touch Bar, rather than the traditional function keys (i.e. F1 – F12). The options on this glass touchscreen, located above the keyboard, change depending on what application is running. Some programmes like Adobe Photoshop have a range of button sets that appear based on the tool selected.

Emojis on MacBook Pro Touchbar
Touchbar showing the Emopji keyboard

The Touch Bar also features Touch ID which allows users to log in to the MacBook or authorise purchases in the App Store or through Apple Pay. I find this a great help in my creative workflow as it puts the functions I need at my fingertips… literally.

Summary

I’ve considered the purchase of an Apple computer at various times over the years, but the price often put me off. They seem overpriced compared to the PC alternative (they probably are), but I feel it’s been a worthwhile investment for me, resulting in reduced time and frustration when getting my work done.

On client visits, I often used an iPad to show progress as it loaded quickly and was more reliable than my laptop. I’m pleased that I now have a computer that is as trustworthy. Its flexibility in working well as a desktop machine is also a bonus.

I’d happily recommend a MacBook Pro to anyone looking to invest in new kit for their business.

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