Traditionally, buying a Macbook has always meant that you shell out more than what you would for a Windows laptop with equivalent hardware. But with the 2013 Macbook Air models, things have changed. There's no longer a "Mac Premium" or an "Apple Tax" as going with a Windows machine would mean spending the same amount. In fact, the Macbook is cheaper!
I was in the market for a new laptop. I'm not a Mac guy—I still use a PC dual-booting between Linux and Windows and wanted a notebook PC that gives me the same setup. But there were a few requirements:
Fantastic battery life: Even "very good" would not do, I needed a minimum of a full work day without charging, which is 8-9 hours for me.
Lightweight & portable: I needed to be able to take this notebook with me anywhere I go without thinking twice about the weight I have to carry around. This also meant a smaller screen, preferably 11 inches, but 13 inches would do as well.
Powerful: I test software, I edit images, I usually have at least 15 tabs open in Chrome—this could not be a machine that would buckle under that pressure. It's good if it ran on Intel's new Haswell processors because of the graphics chipset boost, but obviously, a dedicated graphics card was better. And yeah, an SSD was a must.
So I started searching for something which would do what I wanted. I have always eschewed buying a Macbook because it was usually more expensive than a Windows laptop with equivalent hardware. But surfing through all the options in India, I got a surprising result: the new Macbook Air is actually cheaper than any 11-inch or 13-inch high-end Windows ultrabook.
The Macbook Air has an 11-inch screen (1366x768 pixels), 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 Haswell processor, Intel HD5000 graphics, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 128GB SSD. It clocks over 10 hours of battery life.
The closest competitor is the Sony Vaio Pro, which has the same inner hardware, but boasts an 11-inch touchscreen with a FullHD 1920x1080 pixels resolution. In our review, it clocks a little over 6 hours of battery life.
The Macbook Air costs Rs. 61,990 in stores, and you can get a further Rs. 5000 discount or buy an Apple product of that price (depending on where you purchase the device). The 11" Sony Vaio Pro costs Rs. 69,990 and discounts are in the range of Rs. 3000 to Rs. 5000. Both the laptops also come in 13-inch versions with a similar price difference.
The Macbook Air is actually a good Rs. 10,000 lesser than a Windows laptop with similar specs. The screen and the battery life are all that separate these two. Other Windows machines with similar specs are priced far higher than the Sony Vaio Pro. Some of the other Windows makers like Lenovo and Dell should be coming out with competing machines soon, but the price would be similar to the Sony Vaio Pro at best.
For a price-sensitive market like India, this is a radical shift in what Apple has always offered. I'm not going to get into a Mac vs. Windows war here. I find both have their merits and as a gamer, I'd always pick Windows. But there's no doubt that Mac is a more stable operating system, and doesn't slow down with usage like Microsoft's offering.
The larger point, though, is that the argument of a Macbook Air or a similar Windows laptop now no longer includes an "Apple Tax". If anything, a Macbook Air is cheaper.