Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The failed Apple experiment

The setup

I've long admired Apple products from afar. With the switch to OS X (based on Unix) and Intel processors, my interest was further piqued. The stability and security of Linux with a clean UI and consistent UX make Macs a very attractive choice. The problem: price. At two to three times the cost of equivalent PCs, Mac prices simply aren't competitive.

But I began thinking. If Mac hardware really is better (as most Apple fanatics would attest), I could buy a used Mac for about the same price as a new PC, and it should last me nearly as long. Boy, was I wrong.

Warning signs

Being frugal, I thought I'd save as much money as possible by buying a late-model first generation Macbook Pro. I quickly realized this wasn't a good idea when I discovered there was a design flaw that caused the graphics to fail. Apple covered the issue for four years beyond the date of purchase, but most of these were more than four years old by this point.

So I opted for an early-model second generation Macbook Pro instead. It was nearly--but not quite--four years old, but the laptop I was replacing it with was an HP that was over seven years old. So the Macbook was a step up in every way: it was newer, faster, and better quality. If I got seven years out of an HP, sureley I could get five more years out of the Mac. I was abruptly awakened from this dream.

The first few weeks it was incredible. The build quality was astounding, and I immediately fell in love with OS X. It worked flawlessly, and being a Linux fan I loved that BSD was running under the hood and I could do much of my work in the terminal without too many adjustments.

The first straw

One day I powered it on and realized my wifi wasn't working. I clicked on the wifi icon at the top of the screen only to be greeted by:

WiFi: No Hardware Installed
That's odd; I was pretty sure I had wifi hardware the previous day. I tried a few things and it started working again, but the problem came back with more and more frequency. Then the entire laptop would completely freeze. I googled the issue, and finding tens of thousands of results, I combed through them and tried everything in the book. After a while it became apparent it was a hardware flaw. The only resolution I was able to find was to disable the wifi hardware, and buy a USB wifi adapter, which wasn't a good solution considering it only has two USB ports.

The second straw

Not too long after that I turned the Macbook on and it took a very long time to boot, nearly 15 minutes. It showed a progress bar on the screen during this time. I found out this indicates an issue with the hard drive. To make matters worse, I opened the cover to the compartment that houses the battery and the hard drive, and the hard drive was less than two years old, meaning it had already been replaced once. Great--broken wifi and a failing hard drive. My impression of Mac hardware was quickly worsening.

The last straw

As if it couldn't get any worse, I was using the laptop on battery power one day when all of a sudden it turned off. It didn't shut down; it completely lost power. I turned it on again, and the battery still had most of its charge left. I was originally impressed that I was getting 2-3 hours of use out of a nearly four-year-old battery in between charges. But now, the laptop would completely lose power even when the battery had plenty of charge. It could happen at 50% battery capacity, or 90%. The battery still has less than 100 cycles on it (Apple says it should last for 300), but it's now effectively worthless. Yet another apparent hardware flaw. Unfortunately Apple replacement parts are just as overpriced as Apple products; they want $130 for a new battery.

The last resort

The computer was way out of warranty, but I thought if I reached out to Apple they might fix the two issues that were evident hardware design flaws (the wifi and the battery) and not a result of normal wear and tear. First I tried chatting with their support, but they want $20 just to chat with them regarding a computer that's out of warranty. I called; same thing. Finally I took it to an Apple store, where they did a free diagnostic. But after the diagnostic the only thing they offered was to fix it for a price that's higher than the computer's worth.

Lesson learned

So I'm left with a laptop that I can only use if it's plugged in, I only have one available USB port, and the hard drive might be on it's way out. It's evident my Apple experiment was a failure. Oh well. At least I learned my lesson. It's the first and last Apple product I will ever own. I can get a brand new Thinkpad for less than I paid for a used Macbook Pro, and I'll stick with Linux. Dear Apple: let me know when you start selling OS X for PCs. Until then, goodbye.


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