This page outlines the advantages and disadvantages of using Apple Macintosh computers in comparison to Windows PCs, and tries to explain the main differences between the various MacBook models.
ISS Support for Apple Products
ISS do not have any specific support for Apple Macintosh computers, but do operate a 'best efforts' policy. What this means is that we will try to make as many facilities compatible with Apple products as we can and will offer as much support as we are able to. Some ISS staff use Apple computers, but most are not Apple experts and we may not be able to answer all of your questions or fix your problems.
Reasons for Buying an Apple Computer
- They may be used in your department
- Less prone to attack by virus/malware
- Designed to be simple to use
- Good multimedia capabilities
- Run Apple, Windows and Unix software on the same computer
- Long battery life
- Visually appealing and good build quality
- High specifications give the computer a long useful life span, resulting in high residual values for secondhand machines
- Good "green" credentials
Reasons for Not Buying an Apple Computer
- Some software may not be available (such as MS Access)
- Initial purchase price can make Macs appear to be more expensive than Windows PCs
- You may struggle to access some ISS facilities
- ISS support is limited and you may need to sort out some problems on your own
The Apple Laptop Range Explained
MacBook Pro 13"
The body on a MacBook Pro laptop is machined from a solid block of aluminium, resulting in a slim, lightweight laptop. The 13" MacBook Pro is the smallest (and therefore lightest) in the range (weighing in at 2kg), but even the least expensive model is well specified. The processor is either a 2.4GHz Dual Core Intel i5 or 2.8GHz Dual Core Intel i7. RAM is 4GB as standard, but can be expanded up to 8GB. Other standard items on the MacBook Pro are a high speed Firewire connection, an even faster Thunderbolt port and an SD Card slot. Prices start just under £860
MacBook Pro 15"
The 15.4" screen MacBook Pro makes this model a more conventional laptop size, and the increased size causes the laptop weight to rise to approximately 2.5kg. The 15" MacBooks come with Intel Quad Core i7 processors and fast graphics cards with dedicated RAM (rather than using up some of the main system RAM), making them significantly faster than the 13" models. The larger screen provides an increased screen resolution of 1440 x 900 pixels and there is the option of a higher resolution (1680 x 1050) screen, either glossy or antiglare. Prices start at just around £1330.
MacBook Pro 17"
A larger screen increases the weight to 3kg (which is a similar weight as many 15" Windows laptops). Specifications are similar to the faster models of 15" MacBook Pro (including the high performance graphics card and optional antiglare screen). Screen resolution is increased to 1920 x 1200 and there is an ExpressCard slot, but no SD Card slot. Prices start at £1785.
The MacBook Air is Apple's ultra lightweight solution. It is available in two screen sizes - 13" is a conventional small laptop size, while the 11" model is more like a netbook. Both are very light (approximately 1kg for the 11" and 1.3kg for the 13"). This weight saving comes at the cost of reduced facilities in comparison to the other MacBooks. There is no built-in optical drive and no socket to connect to a wired network, but an external USB CD/DVD drive can be used for installation of software, multimedia discs, etc, and a USB Ethernet adaptor can be used to connect to the campus network, but if such devices are going to be used frequently, a MacBook Pro would probably be a better choice. Battery life is a claimed 5 hours on the 11" model and 7 hour on the 13". On the up side, these laptops include solid-state hard drives, which are quick and robust, and the 13" model has a very high resolution screen (1440 x 900 pixels), equivalent to that on a 15" MacBook Pro. Prices start at £730 for the 11"c model or £945 for the 13". The 13" model is probably the one to go for, but a MacBook or MacBook Pro is better value unless the light weight of the Air is important to you.
PDAs, iPhones and iPods
While it is possible to get Windows Mobile devices to synchronise with Macs, it requires additional 3rd party software. If you want a PDA to work with your Mac, a better option is an iPhone or an iPod Touch. The iPod Touch is basically an iPhone without the mobile phone and will synchronise email, calendar and contacts. Email and web browsing can be used over the wireless network and there are thousands of other downloadable applications. It's also quite good at playing music and films.
Please note that the battery life figures are taken fron Apple's technical specifications and are given purely as a guideline. Actual results may be lower, particularly if using the computer for intensive applications such a multimedia work.
All Apple computers (but not iPods and iPhones) purchased through the the Apple Store for Higher Education include a 3 year parts and labour warranty and 1 year telephone support. This telephone support can be extended to 3 years by purchasing the extended Applecare Warranty.
What's in the box
Apple computers come with a range of useful software applications. Safari is included the standard web browser, though other web browsers, such as Firefox, can be downloaded. Mail, Address Book and the iCal calendar application provide functionality similar to Outlook. Time Machine is provided as an automatic data backup application to Apple Time Capsule wireless hard drives or a physically connected hard drive (via USB or Firewire). iLife is a software suite that provides iPhoto, iMovie and iWeb for photo, movie and web page editing, and GarageBand for simple music recording.
University Provided Software
Members of staff can install Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac on to University owned computers and personal computers used for home working under the Microsoft Campus Agreement. Please note that Microsoft's Access application is not available for the Mac. If Windows is installed on the Mac (see below), any Windows applications, including Access can then be used.
Versions of Symantec Antivirus, Maple, Matlab and SPSS are available for the Mac through the University's site licence agreements.
Using Microsoft Windows on a Mac
There may be occasions when you need to use Windows applications on your Mac. It is possible to use Apple's BootCamp application to 'dual boot' a Mac, allowing you to choose whether to start the computer as a Mac (running the OSX operating system) or as a Windows PC. Alternatively, software such as Parallels or VM-Fusion may be purchased to enable you to run Windows as a 'virtual machine' on top of the Apple OSX desktop. If you intend to do this, it is advisable to specify a computer with at least 4GB RAM.
Windows can be installed on University owned Macs under the Microsoft Campus Agreement at no additional cost to the price of the computer - contact the ISS Service Desk for further details. A full Microsoft Windows licence will need to be purchased for Macs that are not owned by the University.
Please note that if you run Windows on a Mac, you will need to install Windows antivirus software and perform regular Windows updates as with a conventional Windows PC.
The Apple Store
Apple offer significant discounts to Higher Education customers. To access these prices go to the online Apple Store for Higher Education. This site is only accessible via the University network or VPN.
Please note, ISS are not directly involved in the sale of computers, but are simply offering examples that match our specifications. A full list of University preferred PC, laptop and printer suppliers can be found on the strategic purchasing webpage.
Please contact ISS service desk for further assistance X10987 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated 5th March, 2012 by Heath Boffeyemail me at