What are specs?

File 28-08-2017, 20 01 56

For many people the need for the best possible specifications when buying a phone, computer or tablet ranks high in their purchase checklist.

This is a normal thought process, particularly with computers, because the assumption is that the best speed creates a better experience and that it is more likely to create extra longevity. A purchase of the best possible product available, in terms of raw specification numbers, is completely logical.

Or is it?

I was about to purchase a new iMac to replace my beloved 2011 model and instead decided to purchase a second-hand MacBook (the first version). Only one USB-C port, limited specifications in comparison to the MacBook Pro and limited storage capacity alongside a quirky keyboard that I was not sure I would be able to use comfortably.

Well, fast forward a few months and it is, in my mind, the best Mac I have owned to date. It is fast (enough), it has enough storage if I am rigorous with using iCloud and Dropbox and it is able to do everything I need for my freelance work. Even the keyboard has proved to be excellent for me and I sometimes struggle when using deeper keys.

However, the real benefits come in being able to work anywhere I like. In being able to hide it in my rucksack and work during my lunch break, in the garden and basically anywhere else. This is of course kind of true for all laptops, but with the MacBook being so light a then it is much more apparent. Portability can outweigh sheer power if you need to write when you have a spare moment and if your laptop just happens to be with you because it is so easy to carry.

Perhaps we should think about specs in terms of more than just numbers or perhaps we already do? I use an iPhone, not because it is more powerful and all Android devices, but because it works so well for me, and in my opinion is a more refined phone that offers a ‘get it done’ experience without any real hassle.

You can’t measure these things unfortunately and only experiencing the products will help you to understand, but my underpowered flat-keyboarded MacBook is the best I have owned.

2 thoughts on “What are specs?

  1. I’m mostly with you, specs are overrated, mostly small quantitative differences if you can tell at all. But the one spec that still curtails my purchases is Gb of storage. My laptop (an old work Macbook Air circa 2013) is fantastic, but its 512Gb feels on the low side of ok. While Dropbox is a great complementary technology, it’s kind of a contradiction for me (unless there’s a more deft way of using it I should study) – I have the option of having everything in Dropbox, where it’s shared between machines and archived but I have to have local disk big enough for it (I know there’s some ways of doing partial local archives, but it really removes the grace and simplicity of it) OR I can make more use of local removable storage.

    It’s a $400 bump for a Macbook Air to go from 128Gb to 512Gb, and a $300 bump for a Macbook to go from 256 to 512, bundled along with a processor bump – but like you imply, those other spec bumps don’t seem to matter much.

    Apple uses storage as semi-artificial price differentiators across their products, iPhones, iPads, and Macs. While I hope they use more robust technology than a typical SD card, say, sometimes it’s a frustrating bit of Apple Tax.

  2. It should be based on what you want to do with your computer and what is your tolerance for speed versus the money you’re willing to pay. Unfortunately this only works if you never upgrade your software or want to try new things.

    I have a 2009 MacBook Pro. It would take about 2 minutes to boot. Then I put a solid state drive in and it took less than 30 seconds to boot. Or in more practical terms, MS Word would take about 30 seconds to load. A long time when you’re itching to write something. Now it’s about 10 seconds.

    Now the upgrade thing. On my maxed out 2014 iMac, Word 2011 took about 5 seconds to load. I picked up Word 2016 and it takes double that. Annoying since I upgraded because support for Word 2011 was ending and Word 2016 doesn’t really have any new features.

    If you always had to use high performance products, then specs mean something. For most people who do the basics such as email, internet, some word processing, even a 5 year old machine would do fine.

    Games are a different story. Game developers are always pushing the limits. I’m playing The Witcher 3 in Bootcamp at 2560×1440 but on high not ultra. Still looks damn good. I suppose in a few years it would be cheaper to buy a PC for gaming rather than a new iMac. Decisions, decisions.

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