The Switch: Journal of an Apple Fanboy’s Move to the PC – Part 2
Part 2: Buying a PC is Difficult for a Long Time Mac User
By Bill Pryor
Buying any Apple product online is really easy. Let’s say you’re considering a laptop for editing. Go to the Apple site, go to Mac, click on the laptops icon, then click on the one you want. There are about five 13” and two 15” options. Basically, do you want the slower or faster processor, the retina display or lower resolution screen? There are other options such as choosing how much memory, etc. But in 5 minutes you can pretty much make a decision because your customization options are limited.
Not so with buying a PC laptop. Go to the HP website, for instance, and try to find their high end workstation PCs. Dell’s site may be a bit better. The Lenovo site is probably the best and it’s really easy to quickly find everything; Toshiba’s site isn’t bad.
However, it took me hours of searching and trying to converse via text with an online representative to find out the difference between a Toshiba Qosmio X70 and X75 series. On the Toshiba site everything in that category is X70, but if you’ve found an X75 number at one of the retail stores and search for it on the Toshiba site, you can find it. But what’s the difference? I found an X70 series and an X75 with exactly the same specs. Was one newer? Was the X75 somehow better because it had a bigger number, or was it inferior because it had a bigger number (like Canon 5DIII vs 6D—higher number = cheaper camera).
I didn’t get any satisfaction from the obviously non-English speaking person I corresponded with online. But a few days later I ran across an offhand comment by one reviewer who mentioned that the X75 series was the same as the X70 but the X75 computers were non-customized. In other words, you go Best Buy, etc., you’re going to find an X75. You go to Toshiba online you will find the X70 which you can order customized the way you want. The exact same computer can have different numbers.
Then there are processors. Different manufacturers will have the (apparently) same i7 processor but the letters after the numbers will be different. Even though the specs are the same. What’s that all about?
With some sites it’s nearly impossible to find whether the computer has a 5400 rpm drive or a 7200. I was on one retail site and the specs on a certain laptop said 5400. I sent an online question asking if that computer was available with a 7200 rpm drive. The answer I got back was that it had a 7200 rpm drive. I emailed back that their specs said 5400, so who’s right? I never got a response.
Sometimes you’ll find the perfect laptop but it has a lower resolution than full HD screen. Then you find one from the same manufacturer with the proper screen and it’ll have a slower hard drive, or a lesser graphics card. It always seemed like there was one little thing out of place.
If you are a long time Mac user like me and know only enough about a PC to be dangerous to yourself, you’re going to have to do a lot of research, wade through a ton of websites and comments and reviews and spend hours cross checking to sift the fact from the fiction before you are competent enough to figure out what will work for you. And like anything you read on the Internet, you have to figure out what’s fact, what’s opinion and what’s just plain wrong.
After a couple of months during which I probably logged over 100 hours online, at a conservative estimate, I decided I would go for a gaming laptop, the Toshiba Qosmio X70, with two internal 7200 rpm drives, the i7 processor, 16 gigs of memory and the Nvidia 770 graphics card. This will be a more powerful computer than the 2012 desktop I’m using now.
What made me aware of gaming computers was Videoguys.com. For studio type work they naturally recommend an HP, Lenovo or Dell workstation, but they also say that some gaming computers work just fine and their graphics cards light up the Premiere Pro Mercury Playback Engine for faster rendering. They have the Toshiba in house running all the major editing systems with no trouble, so that’s the one I got. Videoguys.com is a great place. If you want a DIY system, you can find a list of all the parts you’ll need and can buy them there at reasonable prices. They have good deals on software a lot too, and often post crossgrade prices before others.
For long time PC users, all the variations available probably make sense. For me, it was difficult to sort through it all. With a Mac you have very few choices, with a PC you have too many choices.
Some serious editors probably will ask how come I didn’t pop for a workstation laptop, like the Lenovo 540. Well, I’m not working in a production house and don’t really want to spend another thousand bucks to get the best when a gaming computer will do everything I want. Especially using Sony Vegas because it seems to get more from less than Avid or Premiere Pro.
And, the gaming computers seem to be built fairly rugged (though not as tank-like as the Lenovo W540) because people who play computer games can get excited and pound on the keyboards, spill Coke and cheese curl crumbs and all. Also, they keep them running at maximum processor power for hours or days—the gaming laptops supposedly have excellent cooling systems, and that was a problem with the last laptop I edited with, the old 17” Mac Pro.
Overall you can get more for your money with a gaming laptop. The Toshiba Qosmio I ordered was just over $1500. The equivalent workstation would have cost me over $1,000 more. I couldn’t see the cost/value relationship there.
Part 3: In the third part of this series of articles I’ll discuss the frustrations I know I’m going to have in learning to edit on a PC while learning new software at the same time.
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