Shifting Needs

Some time ago I predicted that in the future I could see myself moving from a tower to a laptop as my primary system. And while I didn't think this would happen so soon — I thought I'd at least live out the life of my current 8-core Mac Pro — I now find myself seriously considering making the switch sometime in the very near future. I suppose if you live in New York it will happen sooner or later. Everything here comes down to space.

Decisions, Decisions

On a recent furniture-moving — and the resultant space-assessing — binge, I've started wanting to clean my life of unnecessary possessions. (Admittedly, a few episodes of that Hoarders show have helped to spur this on as well.) So I've been looking around the house for things I might reduce or cut altogether, space-saving measures. Since computers are a large part of my life, they naturally come under consideration. And when I honestly survey my computer usage I have to admit, I hardly ever use my tower anymore. Instead, my "primary computer" — if you can define "primary computer" as the computer you use the most — is my bajillion-year-old PowerBook Titanium. Yes, you heard me right. Titanium. Shit is old.

So... Old... So... Slow...

There are a bunch of reasons I prefer portability to power these days. One is that I'm doing far more lightweight work. Once was a time when I did a great deal of video work, and that meant compression. And working on and compressing video taxes nearly every resource a computer has, particularly the processor. These days, however, you can reverse most of that: I'm not doing much video at all lately (I've mostly shifted to drawing, which requires no computer resources whatsoever), and video is far less taxing than it once was. In fact, unless you're compressing numerous (like more than three or four) streams of video simultaneously, you'll probably do about as well on any of Apple's MacBook Pros. They're all plenty fast enough for most basic video needs. And my waning creation of video, and the increasingly powerful nature of computers have converged to make my video needs quite basic indeed.

The other big draw to the portability camp is space. I live in New York, and as any New Yorker knows, space is at a premium. A desktop system takes up all sorts of space. Not just the tower itself either. You need a desk, for one thing. You need all manner of cable, for another. And I keep my tower plugged into a giant Tripplite power conditioner, which also takes up a bunch of space. The square footage used by my tower system in my small Manhattan apartment is sinful at this point. It's just wrong. Especially considering that I hardly ever use it. And I hardly ever use it partly because it's become so ungainly to use, its crazy jumble of cables and peripherals all shoved together in a hot mass of discomfort at my small desk in my tiny office. Replaced by a laptop, the major problems associated with a tower go away.

So I'm considering the 17" MacBook Pro. Since this will be replacing my tower, I would like something that has a bit of screen real estate and resolution. I mean, I'll still be doing some video, after all. The 17" also boasts longer battery life. It seems to me the best balance between the power and comfort of a desktop system and the portability and space-saving of a laptop. Plenty big for serious work, and yet, while not the most portable in the lineup, still plenty small to easily stow away when not in use.

The one big drawback to the 17" is the immense price tag it carries. For about $800 less I could get a 15" model, which, though perhaps not ideal, would certainly be plenty of machine for my current needs, and even more portable. And it's got that cool SD slot.

So I'm a bit on the fence. I suppose to some extent it comes down to how much cash I can get for my tower. I'm currently considering an even trade with a friend of mine for her 17", and if that goes through I think I'd be pretty pleased.

Nevertheless, I've never used a 17" MacBook Pro for any length of time. I'd be curious to hear from any 17" users on their experiences. Is the 17" comparable — or better, or worse — than a Desktop system? What are the drawbacks of these beasts? How inconvenient are they to lug around? Are they good for video?

I'd also love to hear from desktop-to-laptop switchers. Anyone out there make the switch? Are you glad you did? Do you miss your desktop system?

I've read all the MacBook reviews I could find, and they're glowing. But if you have any experiences you'd like to share, feel free to leave them in the comments. They'd be most welcome.