MacBook Air or PC laptop? - What to get for a teen?

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Fapcop

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So, since I’m known as the IT guy among my friends, I got a hard one the other day: Which laptop to get for a 16 year old?

If it was just school work, any cheapo Chromebook would be my recommendation, but he’d also like to do some video editing and (lightish) gaming like Valorant on it.

Back in the old days, shit was simple: Macs come with really good software, iMovies, Pages, lots of games on Steam run on Mac. And if worst comes to worst, just use Bootcamp, right?

(Sure, you usually get more RAM and HD with a PC, but that’s not THAT big of a deal, since Macs keep their prices way better.)

Enter the goddamn 2020 M1 MacBook Air with NO Bootcamp, and which can only run goddamn ARM Windows in Parallels, and I’m kind of at a loss what to advice.

So I figured Id ask my fellow kiwis.

On one hand, the M1 seems to be quite powerful both in terms of CPU and GPU.
It comes with great software, and there’s Rosetta 2 and Parallels.

On the other hand, there are FINALLY some nice AMD Zen machines with pretty powerful GPUs for less than 1000$.

No goddamn Bootcamp, fucking binary translation and Steam doesn’t even come for the M1 yet. (Guess it could be emulated in Rosetta 2?) The M1 GPU looks pretty powerful on paper but what will actual games performance look like.

Windows has also gotten better in Windows 10, so you don’t need to reset your machine every six months, right?

The kid is pretty bright and already has an iPhone and iPad. He’s not that well versed in neither Windows nor OSX (Lol don’t ask about Linux), but he’s bright and can learn.

So lemme hear it. What would you say in this situation?

MacBook Air and M1? Hope it’s as powerful in reality as it is on paper and Rosetta2/Parallels with X86 emulation will come around?

Or a Zen/Nvidia combo with twice the RAM and HD for slightly less or the same price?

(Is there even a good, free video editing suite like iMovie on the PC? There’s gotta be, right?)
 

FluffyTet

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I'd say the m1 macbook, but with a storage upgrade. For video processing using handbrake, I get anywhere from 150-700 frames per second encoding (x264 via videotoolkit). Games supposedly work just as good if not better too. Havn't tested myself tho.

Crossover works for windows apps but bootcamp, and all virtualization software just don't work at all, so keep that in mind. Also runs pretty cool under high load.

if portability isn't needed you can get a mac mini for like, 650 with the same spec load and then use the savings to juice it up.
 

Full Race Replay

Hi my names Full Race Replay but you can call me F
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i would not recommend anyone use windows, especially the latest versions, so you would consider between apple m1 and a laptop that boots linux.

Apple m1 chips are really really fast, especially for video processing, and macos is normie-friendly like windows. However, you have horrible usb C ports.

My advice is ask your customer how tech savy he is and if he is familiar with linux, and if so hook him up with a laptop at his price-point and boot linux, and if not get a m1 macbook pro. There are lots of benchmarks for the m1 chip online regarding video editing which you can compare against other laptops.
 

themasterlurker

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If he's doing high intensity video editing and stuff and already has other Apple stuff then go for a macbook, but if he's just doing gaymen then any laptop with a decent dedicated GPU works
 

The Last Stand

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Productivity, get a MacBook. All around machine, get a Windows PC.

I'd say the edge for a Windows PC. One, too many people his age have Macs. He'll stand out. Two, more compatibility.
 

Least Concern

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@Fapcop
No goddamn Bootcamp, fucking binary translation and Steam doesn’t even come for the M1 yet. (Guess it could be emulated in Rosetta 2?) The M1 GPU looks pretty powerful on paper but what will actual games performance look like.
Yes, Steam works fine on Rosetta 2, as do all the games that ran fine on my previous Intel Mac. I'm satisfied with the GPU performance too, though I don't do much AAA gaming anymore. Minecraft is the only thing that ran noticeably poorer on my M1 system than it did on Intel, but that was fixed by following the instructions in this article which walks you through installing an M1-optimized Java runtime and then using a third-party launcher to make Minecraft run under it.

Another pro on the Mac side that hasn't been mentioned yet is that the battery life of the M1 MBA is unreal. You can easily get eight to ten hours out of the thing under normal non-gaming use. No other laptop in its market segment can even come close.
 

Alex Yiik

What the hell is going on!?!?!?
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Does he have a preference? Is there a reason he can't just try out some models in a Best Buy and decide which he likes using more?

A reasonable intelligent kid can figure out either operating system just fine. If he's a casual user then the differences in software compatibility and hardware expandability probably don't matter to him.

There is a 0% chance that a 16 year old with no knowledge of Linux would feel anything other than resentment after getting a Linux machine.
 

Rusty Crab

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As a linux user, I can say with confidence that desktop linux is still not ready for prime time productivity. Many people have deluded themselves into thinking it is and will defend it to the death, but will also then ramble for hours about their adventures creatively solving problems that simply do not exist on windows or mac. Linux is great, but not for reasons that most people are interested in.

Macs are extremely expensive and give you substandard hardware. Their appeal is that they "just work" for people that know literally nothing about computers. They also "just fail" at very high rates due to poor thermal management. The sooner you wean yourself off that ecosystem, the better.

Windows is a botnet, yes. But also if you're writing school papers and playing call of duty, Uncle Sam is not going to be very interested in that. Being privacy conscious is a good thing, but you need to ask finer grained questions about "what am I hiding and from who".

Overall, I still recommend windows for most users that want to be productive.
 

Agent Abe Caprine

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Valorant doesn't have a Mac version and I doubt this kid wants to mess around with Bootcamp for that.
 

Least Concern

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I forgot to mention: If you decide to go for the Mac, wait a week. Apple is going to have one of their fancy product announcement streams next Tuesday and, while I don't think there's going to be any new laptop announcements, it's still a possibility.
 

Fapcop

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Thanks for all the replies folks!

Yeah it’s not an easy call. The M1 is really a beast of a processor, the software is
good and Macs keep their value better.

On the other hand I’ve seen nice Windows machines with 16 GB RAM, a 512GB SSD and 4GB Nvidia 1650 for less than an 8GB/256SSD MacBook.

(Windows machines that you can repair and expand!)

I just wish Bootcamp was still an option you know? Messing around with ARM Windows, Rosetta2, etc. sounds like it could be a hassle.

1. Is Windows still as horrible as it used to be, or have things gotten better? (Virus, slowdown over time, etc.)

(One of the reasons I used to recommend Macs to people were the “it just works works”, but they’ve taken shit too far with locking everything down. Like needing to mess with commandlines and shit every time I dare install something that isn’t from their store?! WTF?!)

2. Are there any decent free or cheap video editors for Windows? I recall at one point a lot of professionals started switching from Macs back to PCs because the lack of expandability and prices.


Productivity, get a MacBook. All around machine, get a Windows PC.
I'd say the edge for a Windows PC. One, too many people his age have Macs. He'll stand out. Two, more compatibility.
Looks like Valorant might actually swing the vote, lol, since it’s not available for Mac and won’t work in Parallels as far as I can see.

And yeah, at one point the last decade, Macs just went from being “our little thing” or something you got because you wanted to stand out, to the exact opposite.

Kinda makes you feel old as fuck, lol!

I forgot to mention: If you decide to go for the Mac, wait a week. Apple is going to have one of their fancy product announcement streams next Tuesday and, while I don't think there's going to be any new laptop announcements, it's still a possibility.
Yeah, which is why they’ve already started with the “Holy shit, new model coming! Here are some free Airbuds and a price cut!”

But it’s for a 16 birthday with a date soon, so...

(Personally I’m so tired of the whole “wait with X there’s a new Y coming” every year that I just recommend people buy newish used stuff. You’ll rarely have the latest for long anyways, so might as well save some money. It’s like with cars these days that lose 25% of the value the minute you drive it off the lot,)
 

Least Concern

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(One of the reasons I used to recommend Macs to people were the “it just works works”, but they’ve taken shit too far with locking everything down. Like needing to mess with commandlines and shit every time I dare install something that isn’t from their store?! WTF?!)

Not so. Apps which are not downloaded from the App Store but still "signed" by a developer with a proper Apple developer ID will just work. Unsigned apps will still work too if you know the the trick; if you double-click an app and get the "can't run this unsigned app" error, right-click on the app instead and select "Open" from the menu. This time you'll get a dialog box that will give you the option of running the app anyway. That's only necessary the first time you run it; after you authorize it, it can be opened as normal (though you'll have to reauthorize it after downloading a new version of the same app). It's really rare that this workaround is necessary in practice, though; I mostly encounter it with apps from smaller open source projects and indie games whose developers can't be assed to pay the $100 a year or whatever it is now to get a developer ID.
 
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DNA_JACKED

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Get a used business laptop for $200-300 and put a SSD in it. The kids 16, even if he takes care of his stuff he's old enough to save his own cash and buy a PC.

At the very least have him meet you halfway.

Also, unnlues you are doing audio work for the love of god get a PC, mac's are rediculoualy overpriced and impossible to repair. There is no other software advantage anymore, that hasn't been the case since 2010