Help me buy a MacBook Pro

The post below was written a day or two ago and at the same time, I inquired with the tech department for a company for which I do some work about Mac compatibility with the company’s VPN. I was told, in no uncertain terms, to NOT buy a Mac. So, that leaves me with a problem. I can either go ahead and buy a Mac anyway (and probably not be able to use it for work), or I can just buy another damned PC. To be fair, when you understand how a VPN works – I can’t understand why it wouldn’t work on a Mac computer! You can learn more about how they work on a site like but anyhow. I guess I’ll have to get a Windows computer or I’ll have to keep searching for a VPN that is compatible with an Apple Macbook. There’s got to be one VPN on a site like CompareMyVPN that can help?

While on Friday I was certain I was going to do the former, I’m probably going to do the latter now unless I continue to look around at different VPN information and resources from sites like Indexsy and many others to hopefully get some knowledge on a working VPN for a Mac that my employment will happily accept this time.
Although I’m not sure they’ll allow the Mac anyway.

Which is sad.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time here going on and on about how I came to this decision. I’ve been a PC guy for years and years. Five and half years ago, I bought my first Dell Inspiron.Two years later, I bought another one. That one has since become a part of me. I baby the thing. I keep it better-maintained than anything else I own, including myself. I begged it, “Just make it to February 2010 and then you can rest.”

My reasoning was this. If I can push a computer a year or so past its point of implied obsolescence, I’ve saved myself enough money to buy a computer that will last me a while. Now, as much as I love this mountain of a machine, I think it’s time. I don’t think it will survive another World Series of Poker in Vegas. So, now, the MacBook Pro.

The new line is out and I’m 90% to buy one within the next four or five days. I just have no idea what I’m doing. I can rig up a PC exactly how I need it. I don’t know what to do with a Mac. So, your mission is this: help me decide what to buy.

What you need to know:

  • I’m a power user. At any given time, I am running five or six open tabs in my web browser, checking emails, running TweetDeck,
  • That’s how far I got before I got the return email about the VPN. If you’re interested in expanding your understanding of VPNs, take a look at vpn service reviews.

    Brad Willis

    Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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    26 Responses

    1. I can’t help you with anything other than this: I just had a pc die on me and because my girlfriend is a mac freak, and she would be sharing, I picked up a Macbook Pro a couple weeks ago. It took all of one hour for me to think to myself that I’d never buy a pc again. And I don’t even know how to do 90% of the stuff I’ll eventually know how to do. It’s faster, more intuitive, nicer, and after naming her Matilda she will always remind me of Jean Reno.

      Hope that helps.

    2. change100 says:

      As you already know, I am a complete technical idiot. For example, I don’t know wtf a VPN is.

      That said, I transferred all my data, imported my 50G music collection, set up all the outside applications I used on my PC (TweetDeck, Skype, bit torrenting software, Full Tilt, Stars, PokerTracker, etc.) and was completely up and running on my MacBook Pro in less than 24 hours. I got the 13″ model and it’s lighter than my 12.1″ Dell.

      I am in love with my MacBook Pro and I’m not ashamed to say it. Even Pauly thinks our relationship is bordering on inappropriate.

    3. Poker Shrink says:

      I was a Mac user from day one but in 2000 I moved to an area where high speed only supported PCs. So I switched, last year I switched back and have finally been happy with a computer that works as advertised. Move to Mac Otis, forget all the crap about Mac users paying too much for the same product. Macs simply are better computers.

    4. Katkin says:

      I’d probably go with something like this –

      I’ve had my current MacBook Pro for almost two years, and it does everything I need with no complaints. Like you, I often have multiple tabs open, along with Outlook, Tweetdeck, iTunes and, often, FTP. The machine handles it all with ease, though I do find that it can get a little warm after extended periods of use.


    5. BG says:

      I inquired with the tech department for a company for which I do some work about Mac compatibility with the company’s VPN. I was told, in no uncertain terms, to NOT buy a Mac.

      Why, exactly, are the incompatibilities? I have two VPNs to which I connect for work (one for my employer, one for my client), and here’s how they operate:

      Employer’s: Open a web page, enter username/password. A connection is made and programs that live on the VPN (e.g., MSIE, a reporting portal, but NOT a whole virtual desktop environment) become available for use.

      Client’s: I have an entire instance of Windows that runs as a virtual desktop on top of my own actual Windows desktop, and it’s only through this virtual environment that I can access my client’s IM and Intranet.

      Compatibility to the employer’s type of VPN is purely browser-based. If the browser can run a supported Java RTE, I can get in. The client’s instance does require Windows, but only because they chose to make it so goddamn complicated. Does your VPN require some sort of widget that sits on your desktop to enable access (like a SecurID RNG sort of thing? And if so, why do they make YOU use an RNG and give everyone at my table the ability to plug in their cheat codes to crack my Queens? But I digress…)? Is that the incompatibility? That the widget is Windows-only?

      It’s my understanding that there’s a program called “Parallels” which will allow you to run a Windows desktop environment in parallel with your Mac desktop. Maybe this solves the problem?

      I have the last-gen 13″ MBP, bought in August, 2009. Couldn’t be happier. I’m currently running open browser (FF) tabs for four pages, two self-contained browser “apps” for Google Voice and GMail, Tweetdeck, and Adium, and the thing is barely breaking a sweat.

    6. BG says:

      Meant to note that my last-gen 13″ MBP was the entry-level model in the MBP series.

    7. otis says:

      Regarding the VPN…

      It runs through a separate program. Once the program is running on the computer (user name, password, etc), I access the system via browser.

    8. Glenn Staton says:

      Buy the Mac. Other than the upfront cost, nobody ever regrets buying a Mac.

      Most flavors of VPN are available for OSX, but IT departments are notorious for only supporting/understanding Windows products.

      Even if the VPN doesn’t work, you always have the option of running a dual-boot with Windows XP or 7. Parallels is also a great choice for running a Virtual Machine. Both are much easier than they sound.

      Macbook Pros run Windows 7 better than most dedicated PCs out there, with the added super-bonus of having OSX for your personal stuff.

      I use Dell products daily, and have few complaints, but using a MBP is so much better of an experience. It almost completely removes the “how do I do that?” element and lets you focus on your writing, photos, design or whatever.

    9. Damien says:

      Screen size is going to be your biggest concern. I had a 17″ I absolutely loved, but it was a pain to travel with. I have a 13″ now, it’s a little cramped while traveling but way worth it to travel lighter.

      I doubt you are going to tax the processor. Don’t skimp on the RAM if you are going to run Windows under virtualization. Two operating systems require twice as much RAM as one.

      Parallels Desktop is worth it just for the piece of mind, never worry about not being able to do anything because it’s windows only.

    10. KenP says:

      I understand there is an attractive lady down the street that does thing different from you wife. Why not?

      The current version of Windows looks more “macish” and doesn’t carry a learning curve. When computing the cost of the cult machine vs the evil empire, don’t forget all those paid for apps that you own. And, what about the learning curve for ones that you can’t just buy/replace?

      What you use is up to you. Same went for selecting a wife. I don’t think you did that a couple of weeks before a the most important time in your life/year. It’d be annoying to break in a new way of doing things at this time.

      Use the old one through the WSOP. Shop and decide after. The old friend is still chugging. Then you can shop Dell’s outlet store — the only place to buy for those without a purchase order. Look around for an Apple store and play with one or get Change drunk and take her’s over for a bit.

      A two year old laptop is hardly on its last leg!

    11. Absinthe says:

      MATTE SCREEN. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. At least not without sparklepower, and I don’t know the HTML for that. Buy as much hard drive space as you can get, as much screen real estate as you can afford and will be comfortable carrying, don’t sweat anything else like processor speed etc – even the entry-level MBPs will give you more horsepower than you need.

      But get the matte screen. Otherwise you’ve got glare and smudges aplenty.

    12. Shelly says:

      Mac’s come with BootCamp which allows you to dual-boot it with Windows. Maybe you can run Windows on it to access your company’s VPN, then love all of its Mac glory whenever you’re not working on it?

      I’ve run XP, Vista, and Windows 7 on all of my Mac’s with no problems. (Windows actually runs better on Mac hardware than PC hardware, in my experience). The latest install was Win7 on a 17″ MacBook Pro, a few months ago. Works great (though I just use it for gaming. Otherwise, I say in Mac OS X Land).

    13. Timmy says:

      Here is what I know about VPN. It’s IP and browser based. I can VPN into CU without issue every time. Mac/Windows compatibility is almost a non-issue now-a-days as it pertains to documents and net access. As IE is the worst frickin’ browser in the world, I can guarantee anything that IE does Safari will do. When IE 9 comes out shortly, it’s going to finally, FINALLY, have a slight chance at being less than suckass. If you really want to know if there are current issues between VPNs Macs/Windows, give me a little information about your VPN and I’ll consult with the gurus at Clemson on Monday.

      I’ve never had a software issue except for one, converting a windows proprietary audio codec to something else. I still did it, it just took me a while to figure out the best way. Also, a large portion of great mac software is open-source and subsequently free.

      New program: Open–>Drag to Applications folder–>Done. No restart
      Delete program: Drag/drop in trashcan–>Done. No restart.
      Memory-sucking Antivirus: Don’t need it.
      Mixed environment Windows/Mac Home Networking: Cake
      Running Windows: Parallels Rocks!
      Stream to your Xbox: No problem
      Widgets = Awesome

      If for some reason you have to re-install your OS, slip in your OS disk and re-install via “archive and install”. All programs and settings remain untouched. The OS simply reinstalls. Done.

      And the best part of it all, it just works every single time.

      I suggest purchasing the fastest processor that you can afford with memory maxed out. Don’t get anything less than 4GB RAM.

    14. Elizabeth says:

      I was gearing up for a full paragraph of pro-mac prose, but see that’s already been taken care of. The only thing I wanted to add was in response to someone’s concern about the “learning curve” needed when switching to mac. Hahahahahahahahahahaah. Ahem. PC users are so cute. No curve. MBP it. You’ll be happy you did

    15. Jeff says:

      I doubt the access to the VPN is machine dependant, worse case is that it is OS dependant.

      I suggest you buy a top of the line MacBook Pro, I love mine, and then run Windows on it also using a VM program similar to

      If you need some more help send me a note and I will see what I can do…


      Jeff M

    16. Jeff says:


      I have no affiliation with, or Apple. I just really like to the design, feel, and “it just works” ability of my new MacBook Pro.

    17. BJ Nemeth says:

      I remember when I was seemingly the only person in the poker industry with a Mac. My, how things have changed!

    18. There shouldn’t be any reason the VPN access won’t work with a Mac, it’s an OS independent service. Other than the inbuilt VPN client in OSX, there are a ton of free open source clients that you can use. I expect they’re telling you that it won’t work because they just don’t support Macs and have no idea how to configure them.

      I work in IT, and use a Mac without any problems, so if you get one and have any issues drop me an email and I’ll help where I can.

    19. Matt Volk says:

      Get the Mac.

      Go to the Apple store and compare the matte and glossy screens. The 13″ MBP is glossy only, BTW. On the 15″, the matte screen is a $150 upcharge compared to the base glossy screen, because it requires a resolution upgrade.

      I have an old Macbook and installed Parallels & Win 7 on it on a whim, and it works amazingly well.

      The Mac’s big weakness is printer drivers, make sure yours works with OSX 10.6.

    20. 23skidoo says:

      Along the lines of what Timmy and BG said. I’m not sure what VPN they are using that does not work on a mac. I know Secureclient has has some issues with compatibility, but PPTP should work no matter. Worst case scenario you can run windows via parallels or vmware to connect to the VPN. This will increase the software cost a bit, but you will not suffer any memory issues.

      I use a mac for work and run parallels. I have no issues with any of my VPN’s and the sucker just cruises on both the mac and xp sides. Just don’t be shy with the ram, get 4Gb at least. I have the last iteration of the MacBook Pro.

    21. rj says:

      Get the Mac and install Parallels or VMWare Fusion. I have to make several VPN connections that are Windows-only, and using the virtual machine works wonderfully. I can demo for you if you’d like.

    22. KenP says:

      You are getting some really horrid advice on which model to get.

    23. Astin says:

      Go Mac. Reasons why covered above. Dual-boot Windows for the VPN work. There’s NO way it’s hardware-dependent, and Macs are all Intel-based now anyway. It’s just the standard “tech department is a Windows department” issue. If you require special software for the VPN, and it’s only Windows-based, then that’s what the dual-boot is for. Or a VMware to run a virtual Windows machine in OSX.

      I’m a PC guy. Desktop is Windows 7. Bought a Mac (13″ aluminum) when I finally decided to get a laptop. Why? Only one that had all the features I wanted. The PC laptop industry is fragmented. You can get tough and ugly, low power and slick and weak, etc.. Once you price in all the options a Mac has, your price difference is pretty minor. Love my Macbook, and I use it more than my PC.. and that’s saying something considering one is 13″ and the other has a 27″ monitor on it. Even my older model can handle multiple tabs, Tweetie, movies/music, IM, Full Tilt, and Photoshop CS5. You’re not giving up any real power.

      Also (and this is the big one for me) – PC laptop keyboards are FUCKED. Backslash in the wrong damned place leads to a lot of inadvertent “/” where you mean to hit “Enter”. Macs have a full-sized keyboard with the keys in the right places. This might make a difference, if, you know, you type a lot.

      Or maybe your current one already has that problem and you’ve adapted.

    24. Driving through G-Vegas Wednesday around dinnertime if you wanna meet at Across the Border and play with my machine. I got the MBP 15.4″ with 4GB RAM, 2.53GH Intel Core Duo processor. It does everything a Windows machine would do, except crash and get viruses. And the backlit keyboard is soooooo cool.

    25. BadBlood says:

      Remember how much you love Ecco shoes? Well, I finally bought a pair. This is exactly the same situation. And Ecco shoes will dual boot into casual comfort wear from its initial business attire mode.

    26. Brian says:

      Go with the Mac. Like Astin said, it’s mostly because the IS department doesn’t know anything about them. It should work with the VPN, and if it doesn’t, you have a bunch of options.

      Currently, I use VMWare to run Windows XP on my mac for the two programs I have that don’t run on the mac. You can even port the OS from your old laptop into the virtual machine.

      You shouldn’t have any problems switching over.