Blog Post

Time to get a desktop replacement system for JK

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

MBP 17You know me, Mr. Mobile Guy, always using small and svelte devices to maximize my productivity.  While I am mobile a lot of the time I do work a lot at my desk in my home office, particularly editing and producing audio podcasts and video product reviews.  I have been using high-end laptops as desktop replacements for many years, in fact it’s probably been 7 or 8 years since I’ve owned a desktop system.  I like having the system as an all-in-one unit, my only real requirement is that it have the horsepower needed to do the audio/ video stuff.  I’ve been doing my online due diligence to determine what the best solution is for me at this point in time, and what I’ve decided may surprise you.

While I’m not in the market for a desktop system I still researched them, partly to determine what a decent system costs these days, and partly to see what kind of hardware these system are stuffed with.  It didn’t take me long to determine that the systems with decent components are pretty costly, and I really didn’t want to dedicate enough of my scarce office real estate to set one up properly.  I did check the major vendors like MicroCenter, CompUSA (in case they had some good online close-out specials), Best Buy, and even some local PC builders.  After a lot of research I decided maintaining my philosophy of using a killer laptop would work best for my current needs.

I checked out some killer Vista-laden notebooks.  Since I’m going to do a lot of video editing I decided to limit my search to those notebooks with a 17” screen.  What I found was for the most part this put me in the media center category of notebook.  Now I don’t intend to use my system as a media center, at least I don’t feel a TV tuner is necessary, but these notebooks for the most part were the only ones with decent hardware components like I need.

I researched all the major players, HP, Toshiba, Dell, Gateway and Sony in particular, but I surprisingly came up short.  Much to my surprise most of these big honking notebooks come with integrated Intel graphics.  One thing for certain I know I want a notebook with dedicated graphics so I ruled most of these out.  The ones I found that did have dedicated graphics and all the other components I wanted, like a boatload of system memory, were in the very pricey category.  I even configured an Alienware notebook, undoubtably some of the highest performance notebooks around, and almost choked when I found that one configured like I want would cost almost $6,000!  That’s more than I paid for my first car.

I had a lot of conversations with Kevin Tofel and Matt Miller about my needs and it seemed one theme kept coming up.  For audio and video production you can’t beat a Mac.  Throw in the ability to run Vista in Parallels and you have all software bases covered.  So I hesitatingly began researching the MacBook Pro and found the heavyweight system I need in the 17” notebook from Apple.  The processor is a 2.33 GHz Core 2 Duo, it’s available with up to 3 GB of RAM for running heavy video apps and Vista at the same time, the 160 GB hard drive will store a ton of audio and video projects, and the 17” widescreen running at 1680 x 1050 is more than enough to do video stuff.  I really liked the fact that Apple puts the ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 with 256 MB of video RAM in the MacBook Pro, too.

Looking at the total hardware package the 17” MacBook Pro is the system that will do all that I want and let me run Vista too, so my existing software library will still be applicable on the Mac.  When I compare the MBP with similarly equipped Vista notebooks the price is not that high.  The MBP is a very high-end notebook and is price competitive with other notebooks with similar hardware components.  So I did it, I pulled the trigger on the 17” MacBook Pro which should be here in a few days.  I’ll share my experiences of my journey into the orchard which should be fun.  Don’t worry though, my Tablet PC will still be my main daily field system.  I’d get a hernia carrying the 7 pound Mac around. 

28 Responses to “Time to get a desktop replacement system for JK”

  1. “Perfectly rational decision process, what surprises me is how civil the reactions are — Mac/PC tends to be a religious divide for a lot of people.”

    Those are the people who need to step away from the computer and go outside every now and then. :)

  2. Nice one James. As a recent convert to Macs myself I’ve got to say I’ve not regretted my purchase, although expensive for me, for one minute. It’s a complete replacement for my ancient windows comp. and if it wasn’t for my need for the TabletPC I would be hard pressed to go back to a Windows system. I dunno Mac OSX just seems to flow so much better and like a couple of posters have said – it just works :)

  3. Perfectly rational decision process, what surprises me is how civil the reactions are — Mac/PC tends to be a religious divide for a lot of people.

    Let us know how things work out; I know people who are thrilled with Parallels (haven’t tried it myself) and I’ve had mixed experiences with XP and bootcamp.


  4. Well, I guess sooner or later we at are gonna all say we “GottaMac”, and I am gonna have to take a bite of the Apple (my lips tremble at the thought though). I have to admit to not having much experience in the last few years on Macs, but have been most hesitant to jump back into the “orchard”. There is only so much time in a day to learn and use a computer, and part of my hesitancy is that once I enter the orchard, my time gazing through the “Windows” will be challenged. What’s a geek to do?

    The one consistent thing I keep hearing though, is the audio/video production issue. If you knew how much time we spend at GottaBeMobile getting videos produced, you would understand the lure. It is a great feature of our site, but takes so much time. If a MacBook would help that, then I am all for it.

    Be interesting to see how well Mobile Tech Manor fares with video, etc. now. I assume the Mac has a lighting enhancement feature? Past history proves you may need that one James! :)

  5. My problem is that I tend to carry both my Samsung Q1 and my MacBook Amateur (aka not Pro) back and forth from home to office because I enjoy using both! Maybe, I need that Modbook. Hmmm… :)

  6. Congrats James on your new Macbook Pro. I got my Macbook Pro in November and use it as a desktop replacement; I use my Samsung Q1P daily for work but the Mac works great. I have been doing videos of movies, pictures on DVD’s and the whole works with no problems so far. Also if you have a WiFi “N” it’s much faster for over the air video and audio. You guys can also use iChat with the built in video camera and works great. I also recommend you get some external hard drives for your video. Am running Mac OS X, Windows XP Pro, Vista Business Edition, using bootcamp and Parallels works great and you’ll find out that your 160GB hard drive will be less then you expected.

  7. I went through the same thing recently and replaced my Dell desktop with an HP dv9000t notebook. I currently dual booting with Vista and Ubuntu. It supports two 7200rpm sata drives and 2G ram.

    Fully loaded with the Nvidia 512MB graphics card and an HD-DVD would set you about 3k. 400 less if you forgo the HD-DVD (which I regret that I spent money on that)

  8. Aaron Walker

    Ah James, seems the Apple pixie dust fairy has been pretty busy at JKonTheRun! I agree with some of the other posters who talked about value. I have always agreed with you though, the “P” in “PC” for personal computers is just that – personal.

    Nothing against Apple, having used them extensively at work for the last four years (and our IT folks did a pretty good job of keeping us up to date with each new hardware/software, release/update).

    It didn’t make me a convert, much to the chagrin of some of my co-workers. (Macs still crash, still have hardware /software conflicts, still break down just like any computer.)

    And, as I watched new folks in the office run up their credit card debt at with each Mac Book Pro purchase (some for nothing more extensive than checking e-mails and synching iPods), I smiled as I happily paid as much as HALF to a THIRD LESS for a similarly or (more often) better equipped desktop, laptop and finally a tablet.

    Do I like the looks of Apple? Can’t deny it, they are absolutely lovely to look at. But I found I really liked the look of green staying in my wallet a whole lot more :D

  9. R Boylinr

    The Mac has Firewire 800 built in. You can keep large video files on a similar HD, editing them in real time. This is definitely a Pro feature.

  10. Tablet PC User

    I’m surprised it took JK this long to get a Mac after KCT ordered his! Are you guys going to invite Dave Ciccone back on the podcast now so that the 4 of you could chat? All of you have Macs now.

    Interestingly, I was able to configure a 17″ HP laptop(1680 x 1050), Vista Ultimate x64, 320 GB HD, HD-DVD Drive & DVD+/-R DL burner, 2 GB RAM, Core 2 Duo T7200, 512 MB GeForce Go 7600, 802.11 A/B/G wireless + bluetooth, HP media remote, built-in webcam with light, free shipping, 2 year warranty = USD$2,779.98! Throw in some rebates and you could be looking at under $2,500 for the same specs.

    But we know JK just wanted to play with a mac and keep the familiarity of Windows nearby.

  11. It’s a shame the Toshiba Tecra M7 was discontinued before you had a chance to consider it as a desktop replacement. My Toshiba R25 is pretty similar but less powerful and it processes my web videos just fine. In fact, with the Core 2 Duo processor, I can set the video to process on one core and continue working normally on lighter stuff, like blogging and web surfing. Unless you plan on stepping up to DVD-quality videos, the M7 had more than enough muscle and without sacrificing pen input. Of course, I think its screen was only 14″, but personally I’d prefer a smaller integrated screen and use a larger external monitor at the desk (I’d have pulled the trigger on a widescreen LCD already, but we’re shopping for new living space).

    Anyway, there’s certainly nothing wrong with a MacBook Pro (except the lack of pen input). Should serve your needs very well, and you’re quite right about it being competitively priced. Just looking at components, it appears higher priced than the other guys, but one must also consider design and the subtle features, like running Intel’s replacement for BIOS. And I’m assuming it has draft-N wifi and a Firewire port, both great options for data transfer. Should work out quite well for you.

  12. Joshua A. Hall

    Here is the link to the blog. I know you like home theatre. They use a macmini as a media server. What is cool is that all the music, pictures & video is available to your macbook with front row.

    The link is


    Joshua A. Hall

  13. You can configure a 17″ Dell laptop to the same specs as the Mac Book Pro for about $500 less. Add in a 25% off coupon that Dell continually runs and the savings go down even more.

    Did I mention that the graphics card would be a Nvidia Go 7900GS instead of the relatively underpowered X1600. Oh yeah, and you can even flash the 7900GS to the 7900GTX firmware and realize 3DMark2005 scores of over 8000.

    One Caveat though, if you use the M1705 as the base system you can only configure the CPU up to 2.13GHz. This shouldn’t be a huge dealbreaker though because we all know that the processor speed isn’t the limiting factor on computer performance.

    The MBP is a nice purchase. But for my money the Dell offers a whole lot more for a whole lot less.

  14. Joshua A. Hall


    That is great. I am looking forward to the video podcasts. I emailed Kevin about maybe doing a enhanced version of Motr. I think you went with a great choice for podcast and video machine. The built in software is a wonderful. If you subscribe to Engadget you will see what I am talking about. The picture changes to what you are talking about and a link is right there to go to the website. The use of GarageBand and iMovie will be a boon to your website. Thanks for all the great work you and Kevin are doing. The podcast (HTGUYS) has a neat way of soliciting money for thier efforts. At the bottom of each page is were you can buy them a coffee. What is cool is that they have different sizes, so donations can be picked from intstead of arbitrary.


    Joshua A. Hall

  15. Don’t forget to stock up on some external hard drives. You will quickly fill your disk with video (and audio) information. Everyone thinks that the 160 GB (or fill in the blank size) will be enough until they start working with video. My favorite drive right now is the WD 160 GB 2.5″ passport, can’t go wrong for ~$120 at my local costco.

    Good luck with your MBP. Some of us are stuck with our old PowerBooks with no Parallels :(
    However I am using a new X60 Tablet courtesy of work (wow).

  16. >>>With Parallels, why not get two for the price of one.

    That’s my thinking too. But for portability, right now only a Win-based UMPC will do for me.

    BTW, I submitted this to MacSurfer. Ha!

  17. I would have approached the analysis a little differently. I would have compared the price of the finally configured laptop to a desktop and evaluated the price delta. I woul then compared the $ differential to evaluate whether to invest in greater desk top performance vs the cost in $/performance for the laptop given the rare occasions when its pirtability would matter.

  18. John Hancock

    Did you look at the Toshiba P100? They now have a model with an nVidia 7900GTX/512 video option and it is way below $6,000, in fact mine was about the AU$4,000 mark I believe which is less in US currency. Probably about $3,000. I say I believe because it was an insurance job.

    This range is specifically aimed at gamers and is newly released and from the sounds of your requirements probably would have fitted the bill.

  19. Neil Ingram

    Congrats JK,

    You will not regret your decision, I use a MAC for home and an R2H for my mobile needs.
    Looking forward to your reading your thoughts.