I’ve been blogging and publishing niche sites full time since 2012. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years.
Since I started, I’ve blown through 4 laptops which puts me on track for ripping through a laptop about every 1.5 years or so.
Laptops I’ve had are:
- Toshiba (PC): can’t remember any specs, but not that great;
- HP (PC): with i7 processor – first fairly powerful laptop. I believe I spent $1,750 CAD;
- Dell (PC): with i7 processor – it was reasonably good costing $1,350 CAD; and
- Macbook Pro: current computer costing $3,500 CAD.
For a long time I was a staunch PC guy. My reasoning was not based on price. It was based on software compatibility. I didn’t like the idea that a lot of software I needed wouldn’t work on a Mac.
However, these days, software compatibility is no longer an issue between PC and Mac (for the most part) for two reasons:
- Most software programs make a Mac compatible version; and
- More and more software is on the cloud (which I’m very happy about).
Since compatibility isn’t much of an issue, I decided to try my luck with a Mac. I didn’t mess around. I opted for one of the better ones just to see how good (or bad) it is.
I’ve now had my Macbook Pro for about 4 months after using PC for my entire adult life. Overall, I think I’m qualified to provide a solid opinion on what’s the best laptop for working online.
Table of Contents
Here it goes.
I’ll start with a disclaimer. I’m not a computer tech guy. I don’t know much about operating systems or hardware. This blog post is merely a layman’s opinion based on a blogger/website publisher who uses a laptop many hours of the day to earn a living. Therefore, I’m sure my pros and cons are fairly naive, but I suspect there are many like me who only care about superficial matters such as convenience, speed and ease-of-use.
My preferred laptop/operating system: I have to go with Mac over PC (Windows). At first it took a bit getting used to the minor differences in UX, commands, etc. However, once I got over that hump, the Mac benefits far outweigh any PC benefits (which seem like a distant memory).
Long Answer (Pros of each)
If you want a layman’s details (pros and cons of each), here they are.
PC (Windows) Pros:
Word Documents: My biggest annoyance with Mac is the word processor called Pages. Specifically, it takes forever extracting images from Pages. It can be done, but it’s an annoying process. With Word, you can simply save any image as a picture to your computer. Not so with Pages. It’s so annoying I now export Pages as docx and deal with that. I’m sure there are better solutions, but I’ve yet to discover them.
Yes, I know I can get Word for Mac, but I’ve decided to use Google Docs instead which works great.
Excel: My second biggest annoyance with Mac is spreadsheet software which is called “Numbers”. While it can produce some great charts, it doesn’t perform copy functions like Excel. I’ve yet to learn the Numbers methods, but I’ve had a heck of a time with the spreadsheet and it’s been very inefficient. So much so, I just use Google Sheets (which is awesome).
Like Word, I know I can get Excel for Mac, but instead I use Google Sheets which I like.
Both Pages and Numbers on Mac take a long time to load as well.
Folder organization: I love how Windows automatically puts folders into a symmetrical grid inside folders. With Macs, the folders end up all over the place and I need to scroll around looking for them. It’s such a pain, I just search in folders in list view. I wish Mac would automatically grid them with auto-fit inside the folder so I don’t have to scroll around.
Security measures (lack of): I still haven’t figured out how to get rid of the password requirement on Mac. Apple products generally are a pretty heavy handed when it comes to security. That said, it’s probably not a terrible idea to have my laptop password protected given I haul my laptop around a lot and my entire business and personal life is on it.
Saving files: I find the saving trees on PC (Windows) much easier and more intuitive. The side scrolling trees on Mac are annoying.
Photoshop and Fireworks for PC: My Photoshop and Fireworks license (v. 3) was/is an expensive license. By switching to Mac, I no longer can use those programs and I have no intention buying it for Mac. I’m now using cloud options such as Canva which generally does the job for me, but I do miss Photoshop and Fireworks from time to time.
.txt documents: These are easy to open from scratch on Windows. On Mac, the only way I’ve been able to use these is by exporting a Pages document (Mac’s word processor) as a plain text document. It’s horribly inefficient and so I use this only when I absolutely need to. When I had a PC, I worked in .txt documents all the time (more than Word docs).
Mac Pros and Cons
Boot up time is short: I just flip up the lid, enter my password and it’s up and running seconds. It’s not quite as fast as an iPad, but it’s way faster than any PC I’ve ever had.
Never crashes: My last PC computer (Dell) just wouldn’t boot one morning out of the blue. With every PC I’ve had, they would crash routinely. My Mac has never crashed (knock on wood).
Image/file transfer and management: I love how I can drag images from web pages or anywhere. This ability alone saved me untold hours of time.
Integrates with my iPhone and iPad: Since I have an iPhone and iPad, it’s great having everything seamlessly integrated, including photos, etc.
Large trackpad and terrific keyboard: The Macbook Pro is the first laptop I’ve ever had that I enjoy using without a separate keyword and mouse. The keyboard is amazing and the trackpad makes navigating and moving files etc. very, very easy.
The mouse (a HUGE con): Okay, Apple is known for smart design and I agree generally they get design right. But in order to charge the wireless Apple mouse, the charging cord plugs into the bottom of the mouse so it’s unusable while charging. This is just a crazy oversight. Now I have to make sure I plug the mouse in over night to avoid mouse down time. I should have listed to the guy at the Apple store who suggested a wireless bluetooth Logitech mouse.
No USB connections: I had to shell out for two adaptors to plugin in a USB splitter (from which I run another splitter). I wish Mac’s included two USB ports from which to run splitters.
Not touchscreen (con): My Dell laptop had a touchscreen. I didn’t use the feature much so it wasn’t a big deal, but it was cool now and again. You’d think given Apple being cutting edge with touch screens that the latest Macbook Pro would have a touch screen.
Double finger tap on trackpad is same as right click: Once you get used to this, it’s an amazingly efficient feature while working on the laptop alone.
Cost (con): I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the elephant in the room. My Macbook Pro cost more than twice my last PC. That’s not chump change and should definitely factor into your decision especially when starting out.
The Dock: I like the dock on Mac more than PC. The dock is a row of icons that sits at the bottom of the screen allowing me to quickly open various programs. It’s akin to shortcuts on a PC. The icons are more prominent and it’s easy to add programs/software to the dock. It’s a joy to use.
Integration with mobile devices: I really like how my Mac laptop integrates with my iPhone and iPad. This is a nice benefit which enables me to handle issues outside of work on my phone or tablet. While it’s never ideal working on a smart phone, at least I can deal with problems if/when they arise.
Screenshots are instant: When using a PC, I paid for Snagit. With Mac, I can grab a screenshot instantly pressing Command + Shift + 4. This is super handy and I use it all the time.
Built-in image editor: I suspect Windows has a built-in image editor, but I had Fireworks installed then so I just used that. Mac does have an okay image editor which I use from time-to-time. It’s not great, but it works.
External monitor set up super easy: I had a tough time getting external monitors to work properly on PC (Windows). The extended display settings was a major pain. I finally got it to work, but it drove me nuts. On Mac, it’s a breeze. I just bought a USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter, which has an HDMP plug adaptor, plugged in the HDMI cable from the monitor and it worked. There were no settings to mess around with. I love it when technology works so easily.
Safari vs. Chrome
Fortunately Chrome runs just fine on Mac. I don’t like Safari on a laptop, probably because I’m used to Chrome. I love Chrome because I can easily change which folder files are downloaded into which is a feature I use all the time (it’s done in Advanced settings).
I also don’t like Safari’s tab display. It’s hard to identify the different tabs forcing me to look carefully, which is a bit of a time-suck and annoyance.
Desktop vs. laptop?
I’ve never had a desktop computer since going full time online. I like being mobile too much. Besides, I can add a second and even a third monitor to a laptop as well as get a full-size wireless keyboard so there’s no reason to limit myself with a desktop.
These days laptops are plenty powerful for blogging and website publishing. Perhaps if I were a video editor or graphic designer I’d get a hyper powerful desktop, but for what I do, laptops are plenty fast enough and powerful enough.
Can you be a full time internet marekter with an iPad?
Perhaps you have an iPad (or some tablet) and prefer not spending money on a laptop.
The question is, could you build niche sites and/or run some form of internet marketing business on a tablet?
I think you could, but you wouldn’t be nearly as efficient as having a laptop with a second monitor. However, if you like the challenge, it no doubt could be done.
My set up
While I love the Macbook Pro’s keyboard and trackpad, I still do the lion’s share of my work at a desk with a second large (32″) monitor, wireless keyboard and wireless mouse.
For the life of me I don’t understand why all employers don’t buy all employees who work at a computer a second monitor. Efficiency sky-rockets and to limit efficiency for the sake of a $100 purchase is crazy. When I was partner in a professional services firm, I saw that every person in the place had two large monitors.
Come to think of it, I should hold myself out as a high-priced corporate efficiency consultant and go in and charge tens of thousands of dollars for a 1 sentence report that says “buy everyone on a computer a second monitor”. That alone would be worth millions to any sizeable company.
How do I connect my external monitor to the Macbook pro laptop?
I’m lucky that I have an Apple store just down the road from my office. It’s been helpful going there to get help when I was setting my my Mac and accessories.
To attach the external 32″ monitor (LG), I bought two USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapters. These are must-have adaptors because I could plug in my external monitor as well as my USB splitters. I bought a third one for use at home.
What should you buy?
If on a budget, PC is best. I certainly don’t think the Mac benefits outweigh PC so much that if on a budget you should spend more than you can afford. Macs are expensive; arguably, overpriced.
If price is not a concern, go with Mac.
Do I regret buying a Mac?
No. I like it now. The benefits outweigh the problems and that alone is worth it to me.
One final point. I never tried the Microsoft Surface. I was tempted to buy the Surface laptop because I’ve read good things about it. I really like how it doubles as a tablet. My problem is when a laptop dies, I don’t want to take the time to research and test options. I had it in my head to give Mac a try and so I just went and bought it. I think if you’re one to do your due diligence, it’s worth playing around on a Surface laptop.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.