Drifting OT: Mac vs. PC laptops

Subject: Drifting OT: Mac vs. PC laptops
From: Matt Ion <soundy -at- SOUNDY -dot- ORG>
Date: Tue, 2 Mar 1999 10:27:33 -0800

On Tue, 2 Mar 1999 12:24:10 -0500, Bell, John wrote:

>Both Wintel laptops and Mac laptops can accept external monitors,
>keyboards, and mice. For both platforms docking stations make the
>use of these external devices easier.

Well spoken! In fact, there really are very few differences in features,
functions and capabilities between PC and Mac notebook computers, aside
from those that exist in their operating systems.

>There are a few differences between the Mac and PC use of external
>devices however.

Yes, but be careful of over-generalizations!

>1) Mice. PC laptops detect external mice only on bootup. If you
>disconnect the mouse while the computer is on, it reverts to the
>touchpad and cannot recognize the mouse again until you reboot.

This is a generalization. My IBM ThinkPad 380ED has no problem with me
plugging and unplugging the external mouse at will, at least not under
OS/2 (haven't tried it on the Win95 partition; I hardly ever use that).
The built-in TrackPoint works the same with or without the mouse, whether
it was plugged in at bootup, or "hot-plugged". Note that this is with a
PS/2-style mouse, but from my experience it should work the same with a
serial mouse.

Come to think of it, my wife's ThinkPad 750C running Win95 doesn't have a
problem with hot-plugging the mouse, either. I suspect in your case, it's
specific to the laptop models in question.

>2) SCSI devices. With a PC laptop I'm not sure you can easily add
>extra devices such as hard drives, zip/jaz drives, scanners, CD-ROMs
>and so on. With my Mac laptop I have a SCSI port and can quickly
>attach any of those external devices when needed.

Most PC laptops don't have a built-in SCSI bus, although PCMCIA SCSI cards
are available. Again, it's dependant on the particular model. Some do
have built-in SCSI, some have built-in video input, or DVD, or other

>3) Quick networking. Most top of the line laptops have Ethernet ports.
>However, when you need to quickly network two or more computers and
>you don't have an Ethernet hub handy, Macs can always set up an ad hoc
>AppleTalk network using simple cables. Although not as fast as Ethernet,
>anyone can set up an Appletalk network in about 5 minutes (faster if
>you've done it before and know the names of the two control panels
>you need).

Most major PC operating systems support parallel-port networking between
two computers; a driver is loaded that emulates a standard network
interface via the printer ports, allowing the use of all common network
protocols - TCP/IP, NetBEUI, and IPX/SPX (Novell). The only "special"
consideration is that you need a "LapLink" type parallel cable (male
connectors on both ends, and some wires crossed over).

>4) Hot swapping. The new Mac G3 Powerbooks support hot swapping. You
>can pull out a hard drive and replace it with a zip drive or floppy drive
>while the computer is still on. I think it has to be in "sleep" mode, but
>I'm not sure.

Most up-scale PC laptops support this; in fact, most of them that have
multi-device bays allow it. Some have to be hibernated, others don't.
It's largely dependant on the individual hardware design.

>There is a limitation with monitors on any laptop. The display resolution is
>limited by the video controller in the laptop, and that may not equal the
>resolution you might get with a desktop computer. For example, my
>desktop computer supports resolutions up to 1024 x 1280. Whereas a
>laptop (depends on price, model) might top out at 768 x 1024.

These limitations are always in place, with any system, desktop or laptop.
Screen resolution, refresh rate and color depth are all inter-related and
dependant on the video controller's capabilities, amount of video memory,
*and* the capabilities of the display device. The card must have both the
memory to handle the amount of data required for a given resolution and
color depth (for example, 1024 * 768 * 3 bytes [24 bits-per-pixel, or 16.7
million colors] needs 2,359,296 bytes... the next step up is 4MB video
RAM), plus the processing speed to move that amount of data around at the
desired refresh rate.

My server has a 4MB ATI 3D Rage II card that, with its 4MB add-on card, is
capable of full-color (32-bit) display at 1600x1200 resolution and at
least a 75Hz non-interlaced vertical refresh rate, but my AcerView 56L
monitor only supports up to 1280x1024. My ThinkPad's NeoMagic128 chipset
will do up to 1024x768, and its 2MB video RAM allows up to 16-bit color
(64k colors) at that resolution, but the LCD display is limited to 800x600
(also at 16-bit color). Dropping down to 640x480 resolution allows full
24-bit color - this is a direct function of the amount of video memory.

>I use a Mac laptop for both Wintel and Mac oriented customers. I find that
>my choice of platform does not affect my work or productivity for my
>Wintel work, due to the number of Mac solutions that enable the Mac to
>work seamlessly in a Wintel environment. However the reverse is not
>true. If I limited myself by purchasing Wintel hardware, I could not easily
>do business in the Mac world, which thanks to the iMac is heating
>up rapidly.

This is very true!

>The choice of laptop vs. desktop is more a matter of comfort. I use both
>daily and I love my laptop because I can use it anywhere: airplane, front
>porch, at the park, in the living room, and so on. I've adapted to the
>smaller keyboard and monitor, but some people cannot.

It's worth noting that laptop keyboards are not typically "smaller" in
terms of key size, they're only more compact, with ancillary keys (cursor,
Ctrl, Alt, etc.) being packed more tightly around the edges, and generally
lacking a separate numeric keypad. I have no problem going between my
ThinkPad's keyboard and a standard 101-key beast. And I've become so
accustomed to the convenience of the ThinkPad's TrackPoint pointing
device, I often find myself reaching for it on other keyboards.

>Another laptop vs. desktop issue is speed. Laptops generally run slower than
>desktops, due to both processor speed and disk access times. Laptop hard
>disks generally have longer access times than desktop models, I'm guessing
>that they need to be more tolerant of shock, and that design issue forces
>some compromises. Laptop CPUs are generally slower than desktop CPUs, due
>to power requirements and heat dissipation.

An important consideration, to be sure, although most people would never
notice the difference between a similarly-spec'd laptop and desktop. Cost
is probably a bigger issue - given similar processor, drive-space and
memory specs, a laptop can cost 50-100% more than a comparable desktop,
mostly because of the factors you mention above and the usual additional
cost of shrinking technology. LCD displays are also still quite expensive
to manufacture, espcially "active" TFT displays (example: my ThinkPad has
an FRSTN "passive" display and 2GB drive; the next model up had a TFT
display and 3GB drive and cost $1100 more... very little of that price
difference had to do with the larger drive size).

But I ramble...

When it comes right down to it, there are very few differences between Mac
and PC laptops other than those that exist between the Mac and PC
platforms in general. Features and functions (hot-swappable component,
hardware capabilities, included interfaces, etc.) are more a matter of
individual model design than of one platform vs. the other. Laptop vs.
desktop is probably a more important consideration, and cost is likely to
be the biggest issue in that battle, rather than any technical items.

In short: you should have no problem getting along simply using whichever
option works best for YOU.

Your friend and mine,
<All standard disclaimers apply>
"Reality is in alpha test on protoype hardware."

The diurnal introduction into the alimentary system of a single example
of any of a variety of species of pomes has been demonstrated to have
an ameliorative effect to the dread felt by iatrophobes, by rendering
the necessity of the presence of the object of such iatrophobia that
much less likely. (Or, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.)

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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