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Mac user going back to the dark side... (1 Viewer)

Carlo_M

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...but not for good. :P Still doing 95% of my work on my Macbook Pro. Still loving the machine and OSX. Bear with me, I know this is the Mac forum (and I've been an active participant) but I will update this thread with my experiences from the Dark Side. It also acts as a cry out to Jobs to please release a screenless machine between the Mini and the Mac Pro.

Here's my situation. The desktop is dying. It's an XP machine from 4 years ago which I built, and my girlfriend uses it a lot for work/school. Yes, I know XP can be run on OSX, I used to use Bootcamp, now I've installed Parallels.

However I'm now caught in the "black hole" of Apple's PC line.

I have limited funds. I can't afford a Mac Pro at $2799. While my hardcore gaming days are behind me, I can't justify paying $799 for an underpowered Mini which is a PITA to upgrade. I'm not queasy about opening up an Apple, I upgraded the HD on my MBP and that was no picnic. I already have a great 20" Dell monitor (1600x1200) so the iMac would represent a waste of money due to the screen--I'd want the 24" but I don't have room to run dual monitors and don't want to part with the 20" Dell. Also, the 24" iMac would be $1799 minimum.

So I took the plunge, I just ordered $1000 in parts from Newegg.com and I'm going to use my access to Vista SP1 corporate license from work, since I do work from home. My first foray into Vista, and I've obviously heard some not so great things. But of course, I paid only $200 more than a Mac Mini, $700 less than a 24" iMac and $1700 less than a Mac Pro. Here's what I spec'd out:

Intel E8400 3.0GHz Wolfdale 45nm Dual Core CPU
ASUS P5Q-E Intel P45 Mobo (1600/1333 FSB, DDR1200, ATI Crossfire support, Firewire, eSATA, etc.)
4GB (2X2GB) Corsair Dominator PC8500 RAM
ASUS Radeon 4850 512MB GDDR3 video card
Seagate 7200.11 Barracuda 500GB HD 32MB cache 7200RPM
Samsung Lightscribe DVD-R
Antec Nine Hundred case (looks black Mac Pro'ish :D)
SeaSonic M12II SS-500GM 500W Power Supply - Modular Cabling!
htf_images_smilies_rock.gif


I gotta admit, I'm getting that "PC builder's rush" feeling again. It's just the inner geek in me getting out. But this time, it's going to be rapidly tempered with my wonderful last 2 years with OSX. Ultimately, as great as this rig is (I think of it as 85% of the hardware of a Mac Pro at 40% the price--weaker CPU, less cores faster clock speed, but more/faster RAM and Video) I know I'm going to be slapping Windows on it. Vista, no less. I do have an old XP disc around, but I have to admit I'm eager to see what Vista is like. If I don't like it I can always wipe it out and put XP on there.

All of the parts will arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday (I live in the same city as Newegg and they ship quickly). I'll build it the night it arrives (only have 30 days to return defective CPU/RAM). As I said, I'll update this thread because I think it will serve as an interesting timeline into my foray back into Windows. Chances are I'll end up spending 99.9% of the time on my MBP if the Vista experience goes sour. But I want to try and be fair in my assessment. SP1 is out and I hear it fixed a bit of what was wrong with Vista. But we'll see.

Wish me luck! And no BSODs! ;)

Of course the first thing I'm going to do is slap Safari and iTunes on there!
 

Sam Posten

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I'm right there with you Sir. As a gamer I cannot envision moving to either Vista or OSX. I would love a desktop that I can rig with a serious video card of my choosing that doesnt cost $3k, but that is not and is not likely to ever be the Apple way. So for now I use both. There's no shame in it. Horses for courses.
 

DaveF

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Carlo, sounds like a good decision. Apple has no products for someone with a $500 - $1000 budget, especially if they want to play games. It may be good business but it's a bummer for us aficionados.
 

Darren Lewis

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It is a pity that Apple don't make a base unit that's between the Mac Mini and the Mac Pro. Even if Apple offered the Mac Pro with a single Core 2 Duo or Quad instead of the expensive Dual Xeon setup it would be an option.

For some people, the thought of an all-in-one iMac is off-putting. What if I want to upgrade the hard drive or graphics card later on? I've already got a perfectly good monitor etc... But for others it's the best thing ever.

Good luck with the build Carlo, it's certainly a nice spec machine. Vista was a complete disaster for me when I tried it, but I still use XP on my laptop (until I can save up and justify replacing it with a Mac Laptop). If Windows doesn't work out, you could always try Linux on your new desktop. The modern distros like Ubuntu are very user-friendly with a great community to back them up.
 

Parker Clack

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Carlo:

I have Vista on three machines at home and all of them run without a hitch. I picked up an HP dual core with 2G of RAM and 500G HD for my daughter for around $500 that is a fantastic machine. I also have two Gateway machines with Quad core AMDs with 2G of RAM, 1T of HD and HD/Blu-ray drives that I picked for under $900 each and use them as an HTPC without a hicup one.

It looks like you are building a quality machine and I think you will like Vista more than you think.

And yes I have an iMac and I use it all the time. It is a great machine and wouldn't trade it for anything. But I wouldn't trade in my PCs running Vista either.
 

Carlo_M

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Thanks for the words of advice. I have to admit, going to OSX 2 years ago was a revelation. Around that time, Vista launched and I tried to help some relatives with their new laptops (bought from CC and BB) and found the experience frustrating. Part of it was me being unfamiliar with Vista. Part was still being in the honeymoon phase with OSX.

When I was mulling over what to do with regards to the new PC I needed, I played with an HP a week ago at BB and it was running Vista SP1. Maybe it was because SP1 made it more stable, maybe the hardware made Vista snappier than my relatives' laptops (which I'm sure were cheap $700-$800 laptops), maybe I just was more open to Vista because I knew I was edging towards building another Windows machine. I didn't find the experience offputting. Sure there are major differences, and I've already read that if I go with 64 bit (to take advantage of all 4GBs of RAM) I'm going to have to use only signed drivers, but whatever. I'm going to try and go into this with an open mind and hope for the best.

But I will admit that I just dug out my old XP SP2 disc just in case... :D
 

Carlo_M

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Ah...plus ce change, plus ce meme chose...

My Vista disc from work was a bad burn [they have the master on a network drive and burn DVDs for staff use, mine was a coaster]. So instead of fussing and trying to get a re-burn from the IT department [and I took the day off to build the PC so I didn't want to go back to work!], I just decided to install XP SP3. Working like a charm, and much snappier. I'll give myself a couple of days to see if I decide I want to try Vista.
 

Carlo_M

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:laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

In all seriousness, if I'm able to get a good burn of Vista from IT in the next few days, and I haven't fully invested in the XP setup yet, I might still give it a whirl. Since I'm doing my hardcore computing on my Macbook Pro, the desktop is more for light computing, browsing and my girlfriend's use, and she doesn't have anything important on it yet.
 

Carlo_M

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Well, wonders never cease. I've now been dual booting and running Vista Enterprise SP1 (32-bit) for about a week.

I can totally sympathize with those critics who complained about it being a resource hog, and I read a lot about how older PCs needed to have a throttled down version of Vista (i.e. no Aero) in order to run it smoothly.

I will say this, if you have a new, high horsepower machine, Vista runs quite well. With my above config, all of my components scored a 5.9 on the Vista experience, except for my CPU which scored a 5.6. I knew I should have sprung for the quad core 3.0GHz chip ;)

Seriously though, Vista for me has run so snappy, it's ridiculous. And its Superfetch, which is a cause for consternation for those with lower powered systems, runs well for me. First time loading of Office 2007 happens near-instantaneously (sub 1 second, I'm serious, whether it's Word, Excel or Powerpoint) and I understand that's largely due to the Superfetch task.

The Aero interface is clearly MS's attempt to bring up their GUI to Apple standards, and it does have some nice visual bells and whistles, and displays fonts much better onscreen than XP did.

So far, so good. I'm not sure I'll ever go back to my XP partition, save for programs that absolutely will not run on Vista, but it's nice to know its there.

Still love my MBP first and foremost, though. Just nice to have a decent Windows machine for the times when I have to use it and don't want to go through Parallels. Overall though, a much better experience with Vista than I anticipated.
 

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