Moved to PC from Mac - my experience

Started Jun 6, 2020 | Discussions thread
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awojtas
awojtas New Member • Posts: 17
Moved to PC from Mac - my experience
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I've moved from:

Macbook Pro 15" Retina mid-2014, quad-core i7-4770HQ, 16GB RAM, 1TB aftermarket NVMe SSD, Intel Iris Pro graphics

to:

Dell XPS 15 9560 with 4K screen, i7-7700HQ, 16GB RAM, 1TB NVMe SSD, nVidia 1050 dedicated graphics

Why?

My MBPr was a lovely machine that served me for years but here's why I changed:

1) The screen laminate was starting to lift at the edges.

2) The aftermarket Sabrent Rocket 1TB SSD was much faster than the original 512GB, but I went from 8hrs to 4-5hrs battery life, which meant one of the compelling reasons for owning a Macbook vaporised.

3) Good PC laptops had come down in price.

4) To replace my MBPr with a new MBPr with dedicated graphics and 1TB storage while avoiding the 2016-2019 terrible keyboard phase was going to cost a freaking arm and a leg for similar specs (NZ$5k new), which prompted me to start to looking elsewhere.

And, 5) I was starting to want for faster performance. A processor with HEVC decoding on chip, DDR4 memory, dedicated graphics for the odd game and for LR to use, and something that wouldn't lag dramatically when editing the 40mp raw files from my smartphone of all things. (Edit - forgot to add this reason when I first submitted the post!)

I chose a second-hand Dell XPS 15 9560 to dip my toes in and see what it's like on the other side. All the XPS 15 models seem like they may suffer from thermal issues but the 9560 seemed a reasonable point to dive in, and the people complaining appeared to be serious gamers with a more intense than my workload would be.

The great:

  • Lightroom performance is significantly faster than I thought it would be. The 7th-gen i7 is only 25-30% faster in most benchmarks so I didn't expect much. Perhaps the DDR4 memory makes a difference? Or that Lightroom can use the nVidia 1050 GPU to help out? Whatever the reason, Lightroom feels much much faster on the same catalog and same images and same presets.
  • The 4K screen is incredible. Yes, battery life takes a hit, but that screen is incredible. I liked Apple's Retina screens, but this is a noticeable step forward.
  • Opening applications like Lightroom and Photoshop are much faster. The SSD in the XPS 15 is much faster than the one in the Macbook Pro, so that's somewhat expected. I think it's also partly that macOS does an application verification process everytime you load something (that's ignoring the super slow 10-20sec verification process it does the first time you load an app), whereas I guess Windows seems to do that more seamlessly.
  • The Dell XPS 15 is very similar size and weight to the Macbook Pro Retina 15.
  • I love that I can upgrade the XPS - I've already put a new XPG SX8200 Pro SSD in and changed the nasty Killer Wifi card to an Intel AX200, both very reasonably priced and easy to do. Changing the SSD in the Mac was unsupported and left it with degraded power management.
  • It's nice to be able to run Visual Studio natively and not deal with Visual Studio for Mac.

The same:

  • Keyboard on the Dell is on par to the Mac, which I'm surprised by. Most reviews I read said they weren't very impressed, but I can type pretty quickly on it. I think the Mac had a better feel marginally, but the Dell is quite good. Same with the trackpad - pretty decent for a Windows laptop.
    I use a Dell Latitude at work and the keyboard on that is much better for dev work with dedicated pg up/down and home/end keys. If I could change one thing about the XPS, it would be to have those as dedicated keys - but since I'm coming from a Mac, it's no worse for me on the XPS, and at least I don't have to remember the mapping of Command -> Win key and so on when I'm RDPing to a Windows machine anymore.
    Also I do like Windows' text navigation shortcuts (Ctrl+Left/RightArrow etc), I never really got used to whether it was Option+Arrow or whatever on Mac, seemed to vary by application and the inconsistency meant I couldn't depend on it. An odd weak spot in macOS.

The bad:

  • Windows 10 and a high-DPI screen is still a little under-cooked. It's so much better than it was, but there's room to go (I'm on Windows 10 v2004). For example, the "Open..." dialog that uses Windows Explorer opens so small you can see only 3 icons by default. It's fine if I resize it, but that's annoying to do every time I open it. I've got Windows set to 225% scaling. 200% was just a tad too small, 250% (the recommended) a bit too big for my liking. I'd still pick the 4K screen over the 1080p, I'm assuming Windows will improve.
  • Lightroom is butt-ugly on Windows. The text doesn't line up nicely, the sizing is odd, every so often there's weird tiny non-high-DPI-aware checkboxes (e.g. "Manage presets" dialog). It's a dog's breakfast actually and I hope Adobe are embarrassed. The UI quality is night and day, Lightroom on macOS wins hands down. It's like the Adobe UI people just gave up on Windows.
  • I miss the macOS "maximise to new virtual desktop" button. Windows desperately needs that. I do like the new virtual desktops, but again, like high-DPI it feels under-cooked. At least Lightroom remembers if you closed it full-screen (the Shift+F twice option) and re-opens in the same state.
  • The battery life in the XPS 15 is poor. I've under-volted it, and the temperature is pretty low (40deg celsius while writing this with LR open in background) so I haven't re-pasted anything, but the 4K screen eats battery. I'm getting about 4hrs with a medium workload. It is second-hand so I may replace the battery at some point, powercfg /batteryreport is showing 81 out of the 97whr originally.
  • Windows drivers... nope, I didn't miss you.

So that's my initial thoughts - your mileage may vary and of course everyone's needs are different. I'm happy with the switch and don't regret it, there'll always be pros and cons.

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