Laptops

How to select the best Mac laptops for enterprise users

Erik Eckel breaks down the Mac line of laptops and recommends the best models for business uses and job roles.

Erik Eckel breaks down the Mac line of laptops and recommends the best models for business uses and job roles.

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No longer should IT professionals debate the role of Macintosh computers in the enterprise. A recent Yankee Group survey of 750 global IT administrators and executives reveals 80 percent are using Macs.

In some enterprise environments, Mac Pros are the standard Apple desktop. Unless a non-traveling Mac is being deployed simply to test compatibility and provide access to OS X-based applications -- in which case, a Mac Mini may suffice -- businesses usually tap Mac Pros to fulfill advanced video editing, video production and graphic design tasks.

In an era where employee mobility, Wi-Fi, and cellular broadband are prevalent, the question now, really, is which Mac laptop to deploy. While Apple (and other manufacturer) laptop shipments cooled in early 2009, Mac designers debuted new MacBook Pro models to rave reviews. The newly redesigned MacBook Pro models provide business users with the choice of three sizes. The 13-, 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro laptops anchor Apple's mobile lineup that also boasts the 13-inch MacBook Air and entry-level MacBook models.

Which Apple laptop is best for your organization's users depends upon several factors, including job role. For example, a MacBook Pro may be the best choice for a graphic artist, engineer or developer, while a MacBook Air may be the best choice for a C-level executive.

Here are quick overviews of each Apple laptop, as well as my recommendations as to the types of users each serves best.

MacBook

Don't be fooled by the MacBook's "entry-level" moniker. Apple's base MacBook can run circles around most standard Windows laptops. Thanks to a well-powered Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 1066MHz frontside bus, 2GB DDR2 RAM, DVD burner, 5-hour battery, gigabit Ethernet NIC, integrated 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, integrated Bluetooth 2.1 , 13.3-inch display, and potent NVIDIA GeForce 9400M video card, the standard MacBook is a capable machine.

Who's it for?

Keep in mind this is just one consultant's opinion, but based on the way I've seen hundreds of different client organizations and users leverage computers and software, I'm comfortable making these recommendations. Production staff, sales personnel, marketing professionals, technical users, human resource professionals, nonprofit centers, finance employees, health care professionals, and others requiring performance, security, stability and reliability will find the MacBook an appropriate choice.

MacBook Pro

Available in three sizes, Apple's high-performance MacBook Pros can be configured with an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU running faster than 3GHz. Even standard MacBook Pro models include a minimum of 2GB of DDR3 RAM. Upgrading to the MacBook Pro line also brings other benefits, including long battery life (up to seven hours on the 13- and 15-inch models and eight hours on the 17-inch version) and sizable hard disks. Serious photo, video and graphic arts professionals also can specify optional video cards that include up to 512GB of dedicated GDDR3 memory.

Who's it for?

MacBook Pros deliver serious performance in a proven mobile computing platform. With the ability (of any Intel-powered Mac) to dual-boot Windows using Bootcamp, Parallels Desktop for Mac or VMware Fusion, compatibility issues are nonexistent. Thus, developers, systems engineers, CAD staff, graphic artists, photographers and marketing design staff, presenters, Web developers, publishers, video production teams, scientific research crews, musicians, and other users requiring high performance and efficient video, audio, and print production capabilities will find the MacBook Pro appropriate to their needs.

MacBook Air

With a slower but energy-saving Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, no integrated optical drive and optional solid-state hard disk, the ultra-lightweight MacBook Air powers office productivity applications, Internet use, and email access well. Apple's ultra-mobile laptop, however, is not the best choice for powering demanding applications. In fact, it's likely the least appropriate model for most enterprise users. Staff regularly running video production software, scientific tools, compilers, renderers, and other demanding applications should instead opt for a MacBook Pro (or Mac Pro).

Who's it for?

Apple's MacBook Air is designed for a specific niche: highly mobile staff. The model's compactness (it fits inside a traditional manila business envelope and weighs just three pounds) makes it a great choice for C-level executives constantly on the go. Be wary, though, whenever considering the MacBook Air for other enterprise employees. The model's energy-saving CPU and smaller storage, combined with no internal optical drive, make it a computer best used by employees running nothing but basic applications.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

7 comments
old george
old george

Erik, Great and helpful article. Thank you. I think I'll be getting the new MBA. Being that this baby will be commuting with me, what type of case would be best to protect it from the daily bumps and bangs?

TNT
TNT

There are times when a Mac is a good solution, but there are also times it's not. And not all Apple's hardware is equal. For instance, if you give presentations at various locations and depend on using on-location hardware like video projectors and such, stick with a PC. The non-standard video ports on Macs make them less than ideal for presentations. If your adapter is lost or malfunctions, chances are good the venue won't have one you can borrow. And if you need to move your presentation to their computer you'll encounter difficulty with fonts and display issues when converting to their (likely) Windows-based projection system. So I take issue with the articles pitch to assign Macs for most any position in the company. Second, for enterprise use I would not recommend the Air or MacBook lines. Go MacBook Pro or not at all. While the technical specs in the lower lines may be sufficient the hardware is not built to the same standard. I have only two MacBooks left in my organization, all others have been replaced with MacBook Pros. My plan is to never buy another MacBook or Mac Air laptop again. In a hostile environment like a high school our users need better construction. This goes for you too, IBeHim. I would recommend the 17" Macbook Pro for video editing on location. A friend of mine travels all over the world doing video production work, it's what he uses and it does a great job. Anything less and you're looking to be disappointed.

IBeHim
IBeHim

OK, if I were to use a MAC for video editing using finial cut, what would you recommend. This would be used for remote shoots. Thanks

mshipman
mshipman

Until Macs have proven Enterprise Management available to the platform any discerning IT department should take a pass. For years IT has been responsible to prove compliance and lower TOC. In the current Mac environment that isn't possible.

Red-Dog
Red-Dog

Just think outside the box and choose a Windows laptop for total compatability.

rdawson
rdawson

Macs do have it available. You can do this from the Apple Server remote administration utility. I highly recommend going to Apple's website and looking at the X-Serve features. There are also third party devices and applications that allow you to manage Macs as well. Kace provides one as do others.

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