So…I Bought an iMac [Part 1]

I bought an iMac. I can’t believe I just typed that.

For anyone that’s known me for any length of time, that statement will be shocking. I’m still in disbelief in myself. And this isn’t a “I’m going to dabble in OS X”, this is a “I spent $2800 on a 27″ 5K iMac with the 4Ghz Core i7 CPU, a 512 GB SSD, and 32 GB of after-market RAM and will dive in head-first to learning to use a Mac as well as I can use Windows”.

For some, who have watched my severe dislike – some might even say at times hate – of all things Apple slowly melt away over the past six years, this may have seemed inevitable. I’ve certainly had some interesting conversations on Facebook over the past few months as I’ve slowly come around to the idea of really going all in on OS X. But how did I get here? How did one of the most ardent anti-Apple and pro-Windows/Microsoft guys there was get to the point of making the leap? As they say, all journeys begin with a single step (or maybe it’s more akin to falling off a cliff).

Around 2009, I bought a 3rd Gen iPod Touch. I really wanted to understand the app ecosystem of the iPhone – back then I was a hard-core Windows Mobile guy. Windows Mobile had had apps for much longer than the iPhone, but why were the iPhone apps seemingly so much better, and so much easier to get onto the phone? I felt a bit disgusted with myself for buying an Apple product; I made jokes about bursting into flames when I crossed the doorway of the Apple store. Yet when I opened the package and saw the care with which Apple presented the product, and admired the hardware design, I couldn’t help but be impressed. It didn’t take long for me to grasp the power of a centralized, default app store with easy billing – it broke down all the barriers other mobile platforms struggled with. It was eye-opening. The UI was fast and smooth.

2010 was a rough year professionally for me, and in the wake of losing a Microsoft writing contract (which was 80% of my income at the time), I wanted to amp up my technology consulting – and I knew I was woefully ignorant of what was happening on the Mac side of the fence. I bought a Mac Mini, and in a couple of unboxing videos, you can tell what impressed me (and what didn’t). The product really grew on me, even as I struggled to figure out even the simplest of things. Watching this stream-of-consciousness video almost five years later makes me chuckle – I can tell how impressed I was with the setup experience (well, most of it) and how shocked I was at how different it was from setting up a new Windows PC. No crapware? No OEM pop-up windows and warnings about the anti-virus software being out of date? You just…use it?

water-buffalo-fresh-water

I dabbled with the Mac Mini, but never truly dived in and embraced it. I always joked I was like a retarded water buffalo (see above) using OS X because I had to think about everything far too much and I moved slowly through every screen. The Mac Mini got some use here and there, but ultimately using it was a huge struggle for me because it was so foreign and un-intuitive. There’s nothing automatically easier to use about a Mac in day to day operation, and in fact it’s harder to adapt toย the more of a Windows power user you are.

Late in 2010 I bought another iPod Touch for myself, and gave my son the one I bought in 2009. He loved it and there were so many great educational apps and games for it – things almost impossible to find on other platforms. There were now three Apple devices in my home.

In 2011, I bought a second generation iPad. I scorned the first-gen iPad, wondering why anyone would want something so much larger than a phone – thus, not as portable – but so inferior to a laptop in functionality. I watched some people buy an iPad and not know what to do with it. Yet I also watched others rave about how wonderful tablets were. I first bought a Motorola Xoom, one of the early Android tablets. I was amazed by the hardware, but severely let down by the UI and the apps. All the apps were awful monstrosities of phone apps scaled up without any thought to the UX. I returned it after two weeks and very begrudgingly bought an iPad 2 – but kept both long enough to do this comparison video. At first I fell into the “What do I do with this thing?” camp with the iPad, but soon the apps and the overall stability and ease of use won me over. And the battery life – that amazing battery life – let me do something I could never do with my Windows Phone: leave it unplugged for a day or two, pick it up the next day, and still have it function. That was simply a game-changer for me because I truly dislike having to constantly charge my devices.

2012 saw the introduction of the iPad Retina (aka the iPad 3) and it won me over immediately – the sharpness of the screen was mind-blowing. By this point I was using my iPad constantly. I ordered an iPad Retina, and my wife became the new owner of the iPad 2. I remember being pissed at Apple when they introduced another new iPad six month later with a new connector.

Later in 2012? An iPad Mini for my son.

2013? An iPad Air for me.

2014? An iPad Air 2 for me.

2015? An iPad Mini 4 for my son.

My daughter now uses the iPad Mini. We have four iPads in our home, and only one Android tablet (a Nexus 7, which I think is superb, is our dedicated music player). There have been other Android tablets, and a couple of Amazon Fire tablets, but we’re truly an iPad household. All our iPads get regular use; I walk around the house with mine. My phone stays in my office most of the time – my iPad gets more regular use than any phone, laptop, or desktop PC I own. That’s a scary statement for me to type.

My wife and I still use Android phones and I can’t see myself buying iPhones any time soon, but given how I started writing this post, maybe I shouldn’t be making any bold predictions about the future. I care much more about having choices in screen size, memory cards, materials, shape, colour, design, etc. on a phone than on a tablet. A phone is a deeply personal device, and Apple’s lack of product selection in phones is a real negative for me. At least they now come in two sizes. Woo. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I still love using Windows and know that Microsoft did a great job with Windows 10. What they’re doing with the Surface Pro and Surface Book is fantastic – if I hadn’t bought a Dell XPS 13 a few months ago (I never did write about why I returned the Asus UX305), a Surface Book might have been in my future.

So why did I pull the trigger and buy an iMac? That’s an answer for the next post…but now you know how I got here.

Continue reading part two.

  • blindfish

    So why did you return the Asus UX305? I’m trying to decide between that and the Dell XPS13 (with standard HD) so came across your posts, which I found really helpful. There’s also the recently released refresh of the HP Envy 13 – which is almost as cheap as the Asus (in the UK anyway) but with a spec similar to the Dell. The lack of any reviews for the HP machine (anywhere!) makes me slightly suspicious though: didn’t they send out early review models? Why not…
    I’m a front end web dev so at most might want to run Node in a VM; but otherwise have modest requirements. I also have the same aversion to Apple products (and for similar reasons); though I note you’ve overcome these to some extent ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Hey Blindfish! I’m remiss in writing up why I returned the UX305 and went for the Dell XPS 13 again. I’m WORLD CLASS at starting to write blog posts, and not so great at finishing them. Then there comes this awkward point where the blog post is so old, I ask myself “Why even bother?”. That’s what happened here.

    OK, so on the Asus: I used it for a full month, and generally really liked it. The one thing that niggled at me though was the CPU: I use Lightroom very frequently on my laptop, and the UX305 struggled to keep up in some ways. Not all the time, and in general I’d say if you’ve got more patience than me, it wouldn’t be an issue. But I also keep my laptops for 2-3 years, so I wanted to invest in something that I could keep for that long. I truly think the UX305 is a superb device though and recommend it highly, especially for the price.

    I went for the Dell XPS 13 1080p Core i5 8 GB RAM 256 GB SSD: it cost more than the Asus obviously, but that extra headroom on the CPU makes a world of difference. Lightroom SCREAMS on this, although today I noticed Lightroom was pounding my Dell so hard the mouse cursor couldn’t even move smoothly. So maybe there’s no such thing as a laptop that can handle Lightroom smoothly – Adobe always seems to have more work to do optimizing that product. I recently upgraded the SSD to a 512 GB model, after a painful experience being an early adopter of a Samsung 950 PRO NVMe version. Will blog about that here later. ๐Ÿ™‚

    The new HP Envy 13 looks SWEET. I love the design, and for the Core i5 version with a 256 GB SSD is only $929, which is a couple hundred less than I paid for my XPS 13. Speaking from experience, HP makes to many different laptops, it’s hard for reviewers to keep up – and a lot of the times, the PR teams in companies only have the resources to promote the flagship products.

    If you’re running a VM, the 8 GB RAM ceiling on the Asus and HP may be an issue; the new Dell XPS 13 has a 16 GB option I’ve read. I will say that with all the high DPI issues that Windows has a platform – and 90% of them are due to third party apps – I’d strongly use you to stay with a 1080p display. I was really mad at all the problems I saw with the 3200 x 1800 display on the Dell…

    Anyway, hope this helps, and thanks for reading my blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Oh, and on the whole Apple thing, yeah, I overcame my aversion bit by bit over the years. There’s a blog post coming on the how/why of that too…I just need to finish it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • blindfish

    Thanks for taking the time to post such a comprehensive reply. I’ve read mixed reviews of the Core M; but also a fascinating, and super-technical, article on how Asus nailed it with their implementation (http://cyberparse.co.uk/2015/04/08/analyzing-intel-core-m-performance-how-5y10-can-beat-5y71-the-oems-dilemma/).

    I’m pretty patient (I remember tape loading games on computers in the 80s!) and intend to dual boot Linux; so I expect the Asus performance should meet my needs… But I don’t like having niggling doubts, so might shell out for the zenbook i5 (or if the Envy ever gets a (good) review I’ll settle for that). The Dell does look good; but I worry about Dell’s reliability and the long term impact of squeezing so much into such a small package. I don’t buy laptops often at all; so am probably a little over-cautious. (The last one was a Core 2 Duo Sony Vaio in around 2004: it still runs Linux well enough for day to day stuff but the fan is way too noisy now!)

    Anyway, thanks again and good luck with the Apple!

  • You’re welcome! What I suggest is buying the Microsoft Store version of the UX305 – they have a great return policy, and a very clean software build. Also, given the Skylake chips out now, I have to think Asus has a new model coming out soon…might want to wait for that.