I bought a brand new iMac on Tuesday. I’m pretty sure this will come as a surprise to some, so I figured I might as well offer some background information about this choice – maybe it’ll help other people who are also pondering what to buy as their next computer.
Not a switcher!
I’m far from new to buying Macs. I bought my first Mac somewhere in 2004 – an iMac G4, one of Apple’s most beautiful machines of all time – and since then, have purchased several other Macs, both new and used. My favourite by far was my trusty 12.1″ iBook G4, but I’ve also owned a PowerMac G4 Cube, a MacBook Air, an original iMac, and I still have a partially disassembled PowerMac dual G4 450Mhz lying around somewhere.
Even though I grew up with DOS, Windows 3.x, and the MSX (I personally never owned one – my best friend at the time did), I laid my eyes on BeOS in 2001, and since then, my perspective on computers changed completely – and it never changed back. BeOS made me realise just how much the popular platforms of the time sucked, and when Be went under, it felt like somebody took my wonderfully perfect Italian espresso away and tried to force me to drink those sugared-and-milked-to-death crap some people have the guts to call coffee.
I didn’t like Windows XP. I liked Linux, but at the time – 2002-2003 – it still had a while to go before it reached a state where I could actively rely on it. Not entirely unsurprisingly, I ended up in Apple’s arms, and became an instant fan of both Panther and Tiger. I’ve virtually always owned a Mac since then, except for the last 12 months or so. I didn’t like the iOS-ification of Mac OS X, and in the meantime, Windows had made huge strides, culminating in Windows 7 which I find a very good operating system all things considered.
But yes, I still believe we’d have been further along had BeOS succeeded.
In any case, my personal life changed completely as well. I’ve now got two university degrees, and two years ago I started my own business which supplies me with a decent enough income. This means that instead of computers being a hobby thing, the computer has suddenly become one of my most valuable possessions – if my computer breaks down, I can’t earn money. If I can’t earn money, I can’t buy coffee. And if I can’t buy coffee, I’ll go nuts.
These past few months I’ve come to realise that when your computer is that of a crucial aspect of your life, you simply can’t rely on self-built computers anymore. I had three desktop computers – main, backup, and emergency – and within the timespan of a few weeks, they all died. As in, some deep motherboard troubles that I can’t fix. Of course, all just out of warranty. And even if they were still within warranty, the process of dealing with faceless Asus or whatever and sending over my equipment sure didn’t seem appealing.
So, I decided I needed to do things differently. I needed a new computer – and instead of just wanting the cheapest and fastest machine possible, I now had to take things like service and proximity of authorised repair points into account. And you know the cold and harsh truth?
Apple bests every other player in this business when it comes to this aspect.
There’s no Dell store. There’s no authorised HP repair service I can just walk into with my machine. There’s no Asus store close by. In fact – they don’t exist at all. There’s no one to talk to face-to-face. There’s no place where I’m valued as a customer instead of a wallet with legs.
By this point, I’m sure some of you are already hitting up the comment section, arguing that I’m just as much of a wallet with legs for Apple – and of course, you’re right. However, this is where it’s very good to be Dutch, because we have a very old – founded in the early ’80s – chain of independent Apple retailers. They grew out of an attic a few towns south of where I live, and they’re now the number one Apple retailer of the country, by far. We’re talking stores all over the country (26 of them), but their oldest store, the one that started it all three decades ago, is still only a few towns south.
I’ve been a long-time customer there, and in 2005, I interviewed the original founder and then-owner of the company for OSNews. The most important thing to remember here is that even though they’re the largest chain of Apple retailers in The Netherlands – far larger than Apple itself, which only has one store in Amsterdam – they’re not actually owned by Apple.
This means that when you talk to their employees, you’re not talking to Apple employees who are forced to abide by Apple’s rules and employee handbooks; you’re talking to people who can say whatever they want about Apple. This means they go the extra mile for loyal customers, something ordinary Apple Store employees won’t do. An off-the-record extra here, a small beneficial change there, a few honest conversations about the dark and shady sides of Apple to boot.
This may seem small and inconsequential, but it actually means a world of difference. This is the only real store with actual people in it that I can talk to whenever I have a problem with my computer. No other brand has this, at least not in The Netherlands or near the hick town in the middle of nowhere I call home. This has huge value to me.
And so, opting for a Mac was actually not that odd of a choice.
‘The next big thing’-syndrome
Several people in the OSNews comments, on Twitter, and yes, even the store employees themselves pointed out that right now might not be the best moment to buy a new iMac, since a redesign is supposedly right around the corner. I was actually aware of this before I drove to the store, but I still opted to forge ahead. Why?
First, even if a new iMac is right around the corner, it will probably not be announced in the coming two weeks. Add to that another few weeks before it’s available in The Netherlands, and another week of shipping delays, and I’d be without a desktop computer for 5-6 weeks. This would mean I’d have to rely fully on my ZenBook – since it’s my only computer left, if it’d break, I’d be without a computer, and thus, without income.
Second, since rumour has it we’re looking at a complete redesign, it’ll most likely suffer from its far share of bugs and early adopter issues. As a long-time Apple customer, I learned one thing: don’t buy rev. A Apple stuff. There’s a considerable chance it’ll break, fall apart, have weird issues, or otherwise not perform as it’s supposed to. This won’t be an issue with the current iMac.
Third, there’s always something new right around the corner. Today people are telling me ‘wait for the redesigned iMac!’. When the redesigned iMac is here, they’ll say ‘wait for rev. B to fix the issues!’. When rev. B is here, they’ll say ‘wait for the next refresh, when it gets better processors’. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Take from it what you will
And so, I settled on a 21.5″ 1920×1080 iMac, with a Core i5 2.5Ghz processor, Radeon 6750 512MB graphics chip, and 8GB of RAM. I had the sales guy replace the crappy Magic Mouse with a Magic Trackpad (since I have my own mouse preference anyway) just for the hell of it – and I find myself actually using the Magic Trackpad with my left hand for switching virtual desktops and scrolling and such.
And it may take the most powerful machine I’ve ever owned (yes, it is for me), but it seems Apple has finally gotten its act together performance and responsiveness-wise. No longer do window operations feel covered in sticky syrup, and application loading and effects are all buttery smooth and instant. Multitasking and resource allocation have improved considerably these past few releases – a friend of mine and I started recording for our own let’s play YouTube channel (first video and second video – and yes, this is a shameless plug), and the iMac can easily render 1080p videos and still dynamically allocate enough power for me to continue to do other stuff without even so much as a hiccup.
Lastly, I have to mention that Windows 8 has played a role in my decision – a small role, but a role nonetheless. I tried, I really did, for months – but Metro just plain sucks balls. There’s no way around it. I’m about as open to different platforms and operating systems as is humanly possible, and while I think Metro will be great for tablets, it has absolutely no place on desktops and workstations, and it boggles my mind that Microsoft is actually forging ahead with this.
The desktop is legacy, and will receive little to no attention from Microsoft. I see nothing in Metro that is not utterly detrimental to my job – in fact, I can’t even do my job in Metro. I have no intention of investing in that platform, and when I spend well over a â‚¬1000 for a computer, I’m buying for keeps.
So, there you have it. Do with it as you please, and take from it what you will. While OS X still has enough that annoys me (my eyes still burn whenever I look at crap like Address Book or iCal), at least it’s a proper desktop operating system.