I'm in the market for a new laptop and so have a few queries. What I'm after is a high res screen (when I say high res I mean I want better than 1280x800) and good battery life. Obviously this tends to point me toward Apple.

Currently I have a dell xps and whilst it's powerful, it has a low res (1280x800) and REALLY bad battery life.

The main uses for me are general web browsing, visual studio development and really light gaming (football manager, maybe a small amount of terraria and minecraft).

Obviously I'd be looking to install Windows 7 via boot camp to facilitate these things (unless any of those games have mac versions) - but I'll definitely need it for Visual studio.

I've googled around a bit and I'm getting conflicting information regarding battery life when running windows 7. Does anyone have any sort of idea what you get for just web browsing on the latest macbook pro using windows 7? I listed Visual Studio above and I know development will eat battery but I tend to develop when plugged in as opposed to on the go.

How about general use? Are there any quirks or nuances?

I've never used OSX before so it'll be a learning curve but everyone has to start somewhere! I do already have apple products in the shape of an iPhone and so I know their products tend to be intuitive and simple to use.

Has anyone ever used visual studio etc on a macbook? What about development with the mac keyboard, good or a nuisance?

Is there anything I haven't thought of I'd need to consider?


3 Answers 3


I'm going to suggest that for development - as opposed to for gaming - you may want to consider setting up a Windows virtual machine using VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop. Both of these will apparently let you run them from a Bootcamp Windows partition so that you can boot into Windows for gaming but use a VM for other tasks, all using the same Windows installation. I have no personal experience with that, as I use a VM exclusively, mostly for Visual Studio as well.

The reason is that this will give you Visual Studio on your Mac desktop so that you can run Mac apps for everything else.

FAIR WARNING! If you start using a Mac, you will find Windows increasingly limiting and badly designed compared to OS X. I'm serious; I much prefer working in MacOS now, even though I spend most of my day in Win7.

  • I hadn't thought about VM. Are Parrallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion free? What sort of performance does a vm get on osx?
    – AndrewC
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 15:43
  • VMware is often on sale in Black Friday deals etc at stupid prices, usually costs about £40 (UK), Parallels usually costs more. You can fee free vm software (virtualdisk from Sun) but they aren't as powerful. With either Fusion or Parallels you can have as David said a separate bootcamp partition that boots into genuine windows, and also open up that same partition as a "virtual" machine when on OS X. I used to do this as my list of windows software used got smaller such that I was spending more time in OS X. Be warned, if you want to do this, cram that machine with RAM for performance
    – stuffe
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 15:48
  • 4GB RAM not be enough? Need to upgrade to 8GB? Does that effect battery?
    – AndrewC
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 15:53
  • There will be some impact, sure, but I have 8GB on my 15" MBP and battery life is still very very good. Also, for things like the MacUpdate (search for it) spring software bundle for discounts. I got Parallels plus 10 other programs this spring for only $50.
    – David
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 15:59
  • last question (I think) - I might buy this on finance rather than lump sum (simply cause I don't have the guts of 2 grand lying about). If I decide it's not for me can I sell it on or is this not allowed so long as I'm still paying it off?
    – AndrewC
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 16:01

You raised a lot of points that aren't necessarily a single question, so I will try my best to answer a few and ignore the ones I have no good advice on...

Firstly Games - I run an 11" Air which is the slowest machine you can buy from Apple. I play Minecraft on it, but because it's Java and thus interpreted it can get a little slow. On average gaming on Mac will be slower than Windows on the same hardware, usually because games in Direct X generally take advantage of your hardware far better than the OpenGL equivalent on Mac. But gaming is possible, I played Portal 2 all the way through and though it blew the fans it was perfectly acceptable.

Second battery - hard to quantify, the received wisdom is that you won't quite get the same battery when running Win as when running Mac OS X, the thought being that Win is generally a little more resource intensive when idling etc. I should't imagine vast changes, and to be fair a comparison is hard to make because you won't be running the same software. Visual Studio v X Code, who's to say whether one is more efficient from a resource perspective than another. Down to usage, I imagine, and most people will get different results. With general browsing and such I would expect broadly comparable results for a straight run from full to flat, but would expect the Mac to kill Windows for extended sleep performance.

Lastly, Development - If you type # a lot, be prepared for having to hunt for it as there isn't a key for it... ALT-3 will give you the hash - can be irritating when I use it with shell programming for comments etc, so depending on your language and if you use it or not it may irritate. Likewise the lack of a separate "delete" key in addition to backspace. CRTL-Backspace gives you delete, which on a laptop is doubly irritating as CRTL isn't the corner key (FN is), which makes it hard for me to hit when touch typing. Of course you can get an external keyboard which fixes the latter problem, which is exactly what I did.

OS X is surprisingly simple, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's not complex if you want to get into it. Features like Applescript, Automator combined with the Unix shell underpinnings make it very powerful should you choose to look for it. It had a few stupid things like only resizing windows from 1 corner until Lion was released that I always thought would never change and thankfully have. I was in your situation, I bought a Macbook for the machine, thinking I would bootcamp into Windows and just play with OS X now and then. Within 3 months I was down to a single windows program, and these days I don't have a bootcamp partition at all.

  • thanks! The conflicting info I was getting was basically some sites said Windows on a mac would only last about 90 minutes to other sites saying you get about 80% of the osx battery time (which I think would give around 3-4 hours?)
    – AndrewC
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 15:34
  • When I ran Windows (XP, so may not be representative) I can't say I ever noticed any difference when in constant use, but I did not that under sleep it used way way more juice than the Mac OS, which is probably down to drivers and such. I can't even estimate with Windows 7, so I won't try :)
    – stuffe
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 15:39
  • @stuffe You should mention with your keyboard comment (about the # key) that you have a non-US keyboard. US keyboards on Macs are the same as US keyboards on Windows machines in all the important ways.
    – Cajunluke
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 17:11
  • Well, other than lacking Home/End keys on the standard keyboards. These are probably the biggest shift usage.
    – David
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 17:17
  • @cajunluke Must admit, that not having a US keyboard, I assumed it was standard - a US/Non-US PC keyboard are typically identical other than @ and " placement. The OP is in Canada, I have no idea whether that counts as US or not from a keyboard perspective ?!
    – stuffe
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 17:30

Somethings that annoy me greatly about developing on Mac hardware in a windows environment. Though mostly via RDP.

  • No (easily accessible) # Key
  • Ctrl = command and command = Ctrl but in the weirdest possible ways.
  • Home/End behave weirdly

I'd second stuffe's opinion on using an external PC keyboard if you are trying to do development.

I have run Server 2008 R2 as my primary OS on a 13" inch macbook pro for around 3 months. Noticed no real difference in battery life so I'd imagine that you'd be fine with windows 7, if not better since its a 'desktop' OS.

That being said, I do personally believe if you aren't intending to use OS X as your primary OS then you should probably not buy a mac.

  • i'd most likely use OSX for when I'm browsing etc. When I need to do work I'd have to boot into windows. In terms of battery how many hours do you tend to get?
    – AndrewC
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 15:32
  • Most people find that the Apple provided estimate are generally accurate, almost to the point of being too generous. I regularly for example get almost 20% over the stated time on my iPad. If you take 80% off the provided figures it would be ballpark, but I wouldn't hold me to it, just in case ;)
    – stuffe
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 15:35
  • sweet as a nut!
    – AndrewC
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 15:40
  • @Michael My Mac keyboard has a # key (shift-3). Do you have a non-US keyboard?
    – Cajunluke
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 17:12
  • @CajunLuke Yeah, alt+3 will get me a # though its not marked on my keyboard and I always forget the combination. On a UK keyboard. Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 17:43

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