John Gruber recently wrote about why going to a single computer (a Powerbook) is going to work for him in Full Metal Jacket. Naturally, his new philosophy reflects his personal needs. He does take a look at the opposite viewpoint using a single example (Jonathan Rentzsch), but his needs are overly specialized and overly rare. There are many more reasons one would want two machines.
To start, the big assumption for this article is that the user wants or needs a laptop. The reasons are fairly unimportant. I personally started with a laptop because I wanted mobility.
Being able to sit in bed, watch TV, or even (gasp) go to the bathroom with your computer is liberating. As if being able to move it around weren’t cool enough, I bought my first Powerbook when they first got Airport. I shelled out the big bucks for the card and Airport Base Station ($129 for the card if I remember correctly, $300 for the base station).
I seriously freaked my roommate out in college when I instant messaged him from the toilet for the first time. This is all very gratuitous, but I think it makes the point that laptops are simply cool. You want one.
I actually do a lot of my gaming on a PowerBook G4, 17-inch model with 1.5GHz processor, 1GB RAM and Radeon Mobility 9700 graphics (with 64MB VRAM). This is effective enough for a lot of games, although the Radeon Mobility comes up short dealing with games that have really advanced pixel and shading effects or tons and tons of polys.
He then hits on why a Powermac (or desktop) is still essential for gamers that like to live on the edge and play the latest games (as well as have some future life for future games). They simply have power that laptops can’t match. Their future also isn’t so bright.
You simply can’t compare a laptop to a desktop when it comes to upgrades. They can’t hold nearly the same amount of RAM (and the RAM for laptops is more expensive). You can’t replace the video card. You can’t put PCI cards in laptops. Heck, you can’t even get big hard drives to put in laptops.
If one wants the ability to add a massive amount of storage or use more interesting hardware peripherals, desktops (and Powermacs) are still where it’s at.
Let’s not mince words or pretend not to notice. The performance gap between Mac Powermacs and Powerbooks is massive. Hell, an iMac G5 will beat the piss out of a Powerbook. Even a Mac mini will give it a run for its money in several areas.
Until the Intel Powerbooks arrive, users with performance concerns need an iMac or Powermac. The Powerbooks may be nothing to sneeze at compared the machines of yesteryear, but they just aren’t that string.
Center of the Universe
I like having a Powermac stationary right on my desk because of the above reasons partly. Another part is that I use El Gato’s EyeTV DVR. I couldn’t use it to do anything but watch live TV or record while I was at the computer and had it tethered to the cable outlet. Again, we’re back to the tethering issue.
I’m actually thinking about getting a Mac mini to leave on all the time and pick up a lot of the Powermac’s responsibility. However, that won’t be enough for me to move to a Powerbook full-time as I’ll want an Intel Powermac to dual boot with Windows.
Your mileage may vary, but there’s still plenty of reason to use a laptop and desktop, at least for the time being.