Thinking About Macs as Cars and Trying to Figure Out What the Hell You Should Buy

Marco Arment posted some great advice about Mac buying decisions and he is right on his thoughts about the new iMacs being more disposable like laptops are seen. Since I am also a car nut, I find it much easier to break down the current slate of Macs by applying a car type to each model. This makes the decision process easier for most people.

Mac Pro: This is your workhorse truck. Its the big Chevy/Ford barreling down the road with all sorts of crap mounted to the bed. Maybe you have a fifth-wheel setup, maybe a toolbox with an oil pump on it. Perhaps you have a fancy rack carrying a ladder and some doug fir. Trucks are highly versatile machines that bear the brunt of the hard tax labor. Of course they can always be cleaned up and driven into the city — but that’s a bit over kill. Good luck finding parking too. Often your truck will be too big for parking garages and too big for parallel spots.

iMac: You know those large sedans that you see people driving around so comfortably in? That’s what we have here, lots of power for your average drive and plenty of room and creature comforts for those riding along. You can take it into the city with ease — though parking garages and valets are your domain. Old ladies drive these, so do car services and so do “normal” people. This isn’t the car for most people, often it is too much car, but for a great many this will be a perfect car.

MacBook Pro 17″: Stupid — I mean it’s a really big SUV. Think Hummer, or Ford Excursion — both that have seen end of life because of the limited market. This is a car without the full benefits of a truck, while still having all the downsides of the truck. Such as not being able to fit in parking garages, or in parallel stalls — all while not having the versatility of a truck. Basically you get all of the bad, without much of the good.

MacBook Pro 15″: This is the workhorse of the everyday man, best represented by your average SUV. It has all the benefits of a “normal” car and some of the power and versatility benefits of the truck. You can take it most everywhere and do most everything with it — certainly there are tasks best suited to trucks (like moving), but these are tasks most people don’t face that often. For the average person, this purchase represents a “safe” choice.

MacBook Pro 13″: It’s a Geo Tracker. Ok, well it’s really not that bad, but it is stuck in the same rut that the 17″ model is. You get all the bad things of the “Pro” line (size and weight) without the benefits of the “Air” line. It truly is the mini-SUV of the Mac line-up — far too small to be supremely useful, with limited power and a funky size class.

MacBook Air 13″: Mid-sized Sedan all the way. It’s the car that most of us should be driving instead of the SUV that we convinced ourselves that we needed. You get all the power you need for most everyday life driving around, enough room to comfortably fit four when needed and yet a perfect size for taking into the city and parking anywhere. You can haul groceries, golf clubs, or take and extended road trip — sure there will be some times of the year when this car isn’t right — it will be the right car 90% of the time for 90% of people.

MacBook Air 11″: This is your two-door car (not to be confused with a sports coupe, which is a different class) it isn’t as practical as an everyday driver for most, but makes a very nice secondary car. You get a smaller more efficient package, while sacrificing room for people and luggage.

iPad: I am including this because I have an analogy and because some are considering it as a secondary computer. The iPad is really the motorcycle of the Mac line-up. You can get a great many places with it and go where cars won’t fit, but you do so at a sacrifice to overall utility of the vehicle. Passenger support is limited and you can’t carry much with you. You can however park it on the sidewalk, or annoy the crap out of everyone else around you with how “small” it is as you dive in and out of traffic.

iPhone: Same reasons for including the iPad, except I don’t know where the iPhone exactly fits here. Initially I was billing it as a bicycle, but I don’t think that fits. I think the best fit for the iPhone is actually your shoes. You can go most anywhere with just your shoes, but you are going to get damned tired of using just your shoes after a few miles. Yet your shoes are always with you.

The Key

So how do we decode the above information? Here’s a limited key for you:

  • Luggage = storage space (think hard drives).
  • “Going into the City” and Parking = storing your computer and carrying it with you.
  • Versatility and Utility = ports and expandability.
  • Passengers = nothing really.
  • “Creature Comforts” = things like backlight keyboards.
  • Power = CPU, RAM, ports.

So while it makes sense to buy a truck and also have a small two-door car as a secondary, it doesn’t make sense to buy a Truck and a large sedan. It also doesn’t make a ton of sense to buy and SUV if you never go off-road or drive in poor weather. Likewise it doesn’t make sense to buy a mid-sized sedan if you have a need to go off-road or drive in snow on a fairly regular basis.

P.S. I am aware I left out Mac minis and the MacBook. There are many reasons, but suffice to say I don’t seem them as compelling options for anyone over what is currently listed here. Much more niche, like say smart cars (small, pointless and expensive) and oh Scions (the appeal of being cheap, but to get something decent it’s going to cost you the price of a ‘regular’ car).

Originally posted for members on: May 5, 2011
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