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Comparison between MacBook and Dell's Laptops

Review and comparison among Dell's Latitude Z, Inspiron 11z and MacBook Pro

Zico Mathews
Zico Mathews
Nov 7, 2009
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Ask your friend or any teenager having some money in their pocket, which brand would they like to buy if they were to buy a  computer? I guess their answers would vary from person to person and yet it's predictable that most people's answer would either be Apple's MacBook or Dell's Laptop. So, as an average teenager, I was wondering the other day which one should I buy. I was not really sure which one and so I did a little research on the net and asked some of my fellow elder friends, who studied abroad in Computer Science. Nevertheless, it's very difficult to decide which one is better. So, sharing my small research might just reveal to my readers what I am so confused about. You might just already have your own opinion and help me to chose the appropriate. Let's start with Dell's Laptop.

 

Dell's Laptop: Latitude Z and Dell Inspiron 11z

 

 

Latitude Z

About as slim as the Adamo and just half a pound heavier, Dell’s new ultra-thin laptop is a PC intended for business users who crave beauty and are willing to pay whatever it takes to get it.

At the basic level, the Dell Latitude Z is a notebook with a 16-inch HD display that runs Intel Core 2 Duo processor and offers a choice of up to two 256 GB solid state drives. It comes with multi-touch trackpad that supports gestures such as pinch and zoom.

But the device goes beyond that to offer some smooth features — a new kind of touchscreen, wireless charging and some solid security features.

Lets start with the touchscreen. Instead of a touchscreen display, the Latitude Z has touch functionality built along the frame of the notebook display.  Sliding your fingers vertically along the frame pops up a tool bar that lets you choose common applications like email, photos, and camera.

The Latitude Z has a two megapixel camera that goes significantly beyond the traditional webcam function. Hold your business card in front of the camera and it scans the card and saves the information to Microsoft Outlook contacts.  If you have a sheet of paper, you hold it in front of the camera and can choose to save it as a PDF.

The camera also has face-recognition capability. So, if turned on, it can detect when you step away from the computer and automatically lock the machine then.

Other security features include a fingerprint reader and contact less smart card reader so you can lock the computer by just waving your office badge over it.

Another interesting addition to the laptop is new hardware that supports a ‘Latitude On’ mode. The mode promises instant start up and offers always on connection to email, internet, contacts and calendar.

The idea is to bring the functionality of a BlackBerry that promises always synced email and calendar to a PC, says Steve Belt, vice president of business client engineering at Dell.

“We wanted to create something that would be the best of both worlds,” says Belt. “The Latitude On mode is fast and gives users gobs of battery life.”

In the ‘Latitude On’ mode, users don’t have access to all of Windows applications such as word processing and PowerPoint. Instead they can access e-mail and browse the internet with boot up times of less than a second. The trade off also brings with it extended battery life of up to 12 hours, says Dell.

Compare that to the idle mode of the laptop where boot up time can be a few seconds and emails are checked every few minutes. But then the battery life can extend up to two days. To switch back to Windows, users have to press a special power button on the laptop.

Quick Review:

  • According to Dell, it’s the world’s thinnest (14mm) 16-inch laptop, and it starts at $1,999.
  • The laptop has a slick, black cherry finish that makes it look black in certain light and burgundy in other light.
  • A backlighted keyboard.
  • A high-definition (1600×900) WLED display
  • Solid state disk drives
  • A 2 megapixel camera and carrying cases designed by Cole Haan and Timbuck2

But the Latitude Z’s real magic lies elsewhere.

For example, most laptops require brute force and crunching noises before making their way into docking stations. But not the Latitude Z.

It glides onto a shiny, thin platform that fuels the laptop via an inductive charging mechanism much like you would find with a fancy toothbrush that recharges on a stand. The platform then uses wireless communications to link with a small, rectangular docking station that handles a connection to the office network and monitor.

So, the executive looking to impress can buy a wireless mouse and wireless keyboard and then plop the Latitude Z onto the platform, revealing a one-cord (power) wonder. `

"But the most impressive feature on the Latitude Z may be the ability to check e-mail, calendar and contact information and to browse the Web via an instant-on software package."

The software fires up the moment you open the laptop and connects right to a wireless network without Windows.

(Under the hood, it’s Linux running on top of an ARM chip on a mini-motherboard that provides this quick access feature. You’re basically talking about most of the components needed to run an iPhone being hitched to a large battery. So, the computer can run in instant-on mode for days.)

Some users Dell surveyed spent 70 percent of their time working in the instant-on mode. Microsoft is sure to take note of that figure. Windows has turned into a clunky cup holder.

The wireless bits and pieces do impress, but seem more about form than function. You still have to put a plug into the docking station even if the laptop then uses inductive recharging.

These are nifty features but the question is does it deserve the $2000 price tag — more than the Adamo? And if that’s not enough for a sticker shock, accessories such as wireless docking and an inductive charging stand will cost extra.

“This is designed for impression makers and executives on the go,” said Todd Forsythe, the vice president of life-cycle management at Dell.

 

Dell Inspiron 11z

The 11.6-inch laptops that constitute Dell's Inspiron 11z range sport ultra-low-voltage Intel processors, which qualifies them as thin-and-light ultra-portables, rather than just large netbooks. The range starts at about £350.

Slim, solid and stylish
Dell can knock together a good-looking laptop when it wants to. The 11z is a stylish machine, and the standard black livery can be offset with a choice of different lid colours. The white lid is rather fetching.

For this kind of money, you'll only get a plastic case, but the 11z feels solid enough. At 26mm thick, it's pretty slim, although the six-cell battery pokes from the underside by another 22mm. It's easily one of the better-looking low-cost laptops.

A common complaint about 10.1-inch netbooks is that their 1,024x600-pixel screens limit what you can do with Windows, but the 11z's 11.6-inch, LED-backlit display suffers from no such problems. Its resolution of 1,366x768 pixels is more than enough to show a full-width Web page, and tall enough to accommodate any dialogue box. The screen's image quality is excellent, too.

The extra case width needed to accommodate the 11.6-inch screen also leaves room for a full-width keyboard. While the low-profile keys are closely packed, they're wide enough for comfortable typing. Although largely free from flex, the keyboard does feel rather hollow. This doesn't adversely affect how comfortable the keyboard is to type on -- it just feels strange.

Trackpad despair
The 11z's large, wide-aspect trackpad initially is only a distraction. Its apparent inability to smoothly track a fingertip will lead you to plug in a USB mouse.

The trackpad is a multi-touch model that lacks separate buttons. Instead, its two bottom corners are used for clicking. This isn't a problem in itself, but our trackpad's multi-touch sensitivity appeared to be shot, and, with one finger resting on the left corner and another swiping the pad, the 11z insisted on either interpreting this as a pinching gesture for zooming, or simply sending the cursor to random positions on the screen. The 11z is let down badly as a result.

No powerhouse
With an ultra-low-voltage Intel Pentium SU4100 dual-core processor running at 1.3GHz, the 11z was never going to be a blistering performer. Its PCMark05 score of 2,886 indicates that it's best-suited to running office-type applications. Even so, this is still a better score than that of some costlier ultra-low-voltage ultra-portables, such as the MSI X340.

On the other hand, the Intel GMA 4500MHD GPU's performance is best not mentioned (oh, alright -- it scored 611 in 3DMark06), but at least it's enough to run Windows 7's translucent Aero interface smoothly.

The optional six-cell battery costs an extra £45. While it adds considerably to the 11z's otherwise slim profile, it also adds greatly to its battery life. In Battery Eater's intensive Classic test, the laptop lasted for a little over 3 hours, and stretched to almost 7.5 hours in the less demanding Reader's test.


There's much to like about the Dell Inspiron 11z. It's a capable ultra-low-voltage, ultra-portable laptop at a very low price. The only problem is that the multi-touch trackpad is deeply flawed, and having to carry a separate USB mouse almost defeats the object of buying such a lightweight laptop in the first place.

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Now, I'd like to focus on the next most talked about Laptop, that is MacBook Pro

 

 

MacBook

 

Macs have long been touted for their excellent design and ease of use, but have been knocked for their relativey high cost. With its new $999 MacBook—a slightly stripped down MacBook Pro in a plastic chassis—Apple has delivered a notebook that not only offers similar performance to its higher-end cousin, but is now price competitive with Windows 7 machines that have similar specs. Considering its long battery life—not to mention Apple’s excellent Snow Leopard operating system and first-rate customer support—the new MacBook is a strong buy. You just have to be willing to sacrifice some features.

Design

If you were to take a 13-inch MacBook Pro and replace the metal exterior with plastic, you’d pretty much have the MacBook. Its gleaming white glossy plastic interior and exterior--including the keyboard--continues the clean aesthetic of previous Macs, and hides fingerprints well, too. Like the MacBook Pros, this thin and light system also features a sturdy unibody construction. The result is a design that feels like it will stand the test of time.

While the aluminum-clad MacBook Pros with their black keyboards are definitely sleek, the all-white MacBook seems somewhat friendlier. The bottom panel, held in place by 8 screws, is coated in a soft light gray rubber, which keeps it from slipping around on a desk, and feels comfortable on your lap.

At 13.0 x 9.1 x 1.1 inches and weighing 4.7 pounds, the MacBook slightly larger and heavier than the 13-inch MacBook Pro (12.8 x 8.9 x 1.0 inches, 4.4 pounds), but isn’t too great a difference that we couldn’t carry it in our messenger bag. 

To illustrate just how good the internals are on the MacBook, just compare them to the current base 13-inch MacBook Pro. Both have a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo with a 3MB L2 cache, a 1066 MHz frontside bus and a 2GB default RAM. They also have a really similar LED backlit display, which eliminates the problem of narrowed viewing angles that we docked the first generation unibody MacBooks for, and both now have the same contrast ratio. The only difference is that the Pro has a 60% greater color gamut.


The new body


The rounded edges and a reduced number of seams make the new MacBook appear to be a flattened marshmallow. A glossy, rubber-bottomed marshmallow. It's an immediately more appealing shape than the previous generation of white MacBooks, marking the end of the transition of Apple laptops to unibody construction. That rubber bottom is also pretty satisfying, both in the fact that it grips surfaces better to not slide around, and because it's a more thigh-friendly material when the machine heats up. The whole body is more solid, thanks to an aluminum sheet and some more structural supports found in the teardown.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Unlike the MacBook Pros, the MacBook’s keyboard is not backlit; some concessions have to be made for the price. However, that seems to be the only concession. Not only is the island-style keyboard well-spaced, but the keys themselves were comfortable to the touch, and were snappy in response.

 

Apple has also brought the same touchpad as on its other notebooks: it doubles as the touchpad and the touch button. At 4.0 x 3.0 inches, not only is this trackpad the largest we’ve ever tested, but is very low friction, too. Like the 13-inch MacBook Pro, Apple’s honed the design: we were able to effortlessly press down on the button without thinking about the fact that there’s no dedicated touch button (nevermind two).

The multitouch gestures work smoothly, too. By pushing four fingers toward the top of the touchpad, we were able to fling windows up toward the top of the screen, exposing a clean desktop. When we used two fingers to zoom in and out of pages in Safari 4, the onscreen response was very quick. More importantly, it wasn’t jerky and finicky, like the touchpad/button combo on the HP Envy 13. We were able to rest our left thumb on the pad and still move the cursor around without the notebook misinterpreting our movements.

In general, the build quality is more solid and more "Pro" than ever before, despite the material being polycarbonate instead of aluminum. It's like trading up from a Toyota Yaris to a Camry—not luxury, but it's a noticeable difference.

Display and Audio

The 13.3-inch LED-backlit matte display on the MacBook has a resolution of 1280 x 800, and images were bright and crisp. However, this system doesn’t have the same 60 percent greater color gamut as the MacBook Pro line, so photo editors will want to think twice. Vieweing angles were excellent from side to side, but the image degraded quickly when we tilted the screen forward. We didn’t see any artifacts in darker scenes when watching videos streamed from Hulu, or when we watched a DVD.

While the speakers on the MacBook were loud, producing enough sound to fill a room, they were lacking in bass. Higher sounds, such as the drums and guitar riffs in The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Gold Lion” tended to be overwhelming and somewhat harsh.

 

 

Ports and Webcam

 

The one area where we’d like to see Apple splurge a bit more is with its port and slot selection. The MacBook has two USB, mini DisplayPort, Ethernet, and a headphone jack on the left side; on the right is the slot for the SuperDrive DVD burner. Considering their ubiquity (you can find them on $300 netbooks), we’d prefer an SD Card slot, as well as at least one more USB port. The Dell Studio XPS 13, for example, has all of the above, as well as FireWire and HDMI.

When conversing with a friend over Google Chat, he said that our image was clear, and the embedded mic picked up our sound well, but the camera on the MacBook had a hard time adjusting to lower-light conditions. 

 

Benchmark and BatteryLife

Comparing the 13-inch aluminum unibody MacBook of 2008 to the 13-inch aluminum unibody MacBook Pro to the 13-inch MacBook now shows that there really isn't a big difference between the three models. The small discrepancies fall inside the margin of error, and some change can probably be attributed to the fact that the first two machines were running Leopard, whereas the machine we have now is running Snow Leopard.

Just as the transition to non-replaceable batteries increased MacBook Pro runtime, so too has the transition benefited the Macbook. Except for the fact that there's no external battery display on this unit for some reason, and that there's no infrared port for Apple Remotes.

The new MacBook ran 4 hours and 12 minutes, longer than the two most recent MacBook Pros, using the same metrics as we did before: Wi-Fi on, keyboard backlight on low, non-stop H.264 movie playback. In real-world circumstances, that battery life can only get better. Our testing is processor-intensive.

What's also interesting, according to the teardown, is that the battery is only 60 watt-hours vs. 55 on the old one, yet it gets a lot more battery life. This is probably due to internal optimizations that Apple made, not just because there's a fatter battery.

 

Negative Effects

  • A consequence of having an improved, unibody construction is that you can no longer replace the battery yourself. It also means that native battery life will be longer, as demonstrated in the testing above. In fact, unlike Pro machines where people really do want to swap batteries for extended field use, an improved internal battery will serve regular users much better.

 

  • For some reason, Apple decided to make the entire area surrounding the keyboard as glossy as the outer shell, meaning that your wrists have a more sticky feel when you're typing. It's not a huge deal, but it is less usable when compared to previous generations or the MacBook Pro line.

 

  • Again, like the Magic Mouse, the white polycarbonate (plastic) will get scratched easily, and will show scratches if you look at it from a certain angle. It doesn't diminish performance, but it is annoying if you're anal about your stuff.

 

The unibody construction was an inevitable upgrade to the MacBook line, and one that brings many more benefits than it does faults. There shouldn't be a drastic change in the MacBook design any time soon, so now is probably the furthest away from the next generation as you're going to get.



Wrapup of the Pros and Cons of MacBook

 

  • Polycarbonate unibody construction looks, feels great


  • Has just about the same specs as the 13-inch MacBook Pro, so you're getting a good deal


  • Finally get Pro stuff like the multitouch glass trackpad


  • Glossy wrist area is slightly too sticky


  • Can't swap out batteries, but you do get longer life in return


  • Firewire port is gone

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Conclusion

Considering the looks, features, price and battery life of MacBook Pro, I am really intimidated and thought it would be a  better choice to buy one for myself, but some of my friends tell me otherwise. A tough choice though, since both are attractive and feature rich. By the end of this month I'll decide which one to buy. So let me do some more research while I expect some feedback from my friends and peers to help me buy the right and best one.

Author's note: Buying Laptops can be a very tedious to decide which is the best. So I tried to share my views with the readers and expecting some feedback to help me decide, which issues should one be concerned
Keywords: Apple's MacBook, Dell's Laptop, Latitude Z, Dell Inspiron 11z, Review, Benchmark, Comparing, Pros and Cons, Technology, Laptops



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