MacBook Air v. Windows PC Out of the Box Experience

The moment you get your new computer home and are ready to open it is always an exciting thing. Each time it happens there is anticipation. Such was the experience the day I received my new Apple MacBook Air, the first Mac I have ever owned. Immediately, the difference is evident between the user experience of unboxing a Mac versus the first time you open a notebook with Windows.


Right away there is a different. Open a Windows computer and you have tons of paper and paraphernalia to sift through. What is all this stuff? The average use will immediately feel overwhelmed. It doesn’t take long to get through it, but it can be daunting.

By contrast, opening a Mac is just as exciting, but the packaging is elegant and simple. Notice below the simplicity of the packaging and above the difference in the MacBook Air v. a recent notebook I reviewed.

Initial Boot Up

Booting a Mac for the first time was similar to many of the initial experiences of booting a PC, but there was one big different – speed. I’m not talking about how fast the MacBook Air boots; it is fast. I’m talking about the steps one must take to get from hitting the power button to actually doing something with the machine. On my MacBook Air it took just a few minutes. Some Windows PCs take a half an hour or more. There is the configuration of settings in Windows and often registration of multiple applications.

Booting a Mac for the first time was not dissimilar – there is configuration decisions to make. But there are just not as many. And with the Mac all the software comes from one place – Apple. So there is far less time spent activating and registering software.

My unboxing and first boot of the new MacBook Air 13,3-inch model

Many Windows PCs require the installation of extra software, often called crapware by those who prefer a simple setup. PC venders make extra money from the many antivirus companies who pay the likes of HP and Dell to install their programs. But many of these applications slow down the system and take up space.

There is a lot of software on the Apple computer. My MacBook came with all the integrated applications like iCal, Mail, Safari and iTunes (see top image below). But these are for the most part useful applications that I feel like I may actually use. When I boot up a Windows computer with all the extra junk on it, I spend the first hour or more uninstalling this stuff. PC Decrapifier can help. But who wants to uninstall a bunch of junk right out of the box?

Most average users don’t bother to remove all of these programs. The result is they have a dozen programs loading each time Windows starts up adding minutes in the worst case scenario to the time it takes to start a Windows PC.

My Mac didn’t have much at all loading. And thanks in part to the hardware it was ready to use pretty quickly.

Ready for Use

A Mac is ready to use out of the box for more than one reasons. For the average consumer, a notebook computer is going to be used to surf the web, check email, touch up some snapshots or splice together some clips taken with a video camera, and probably create some documents for work or school. Of all of those things, one could do them both on Mac or a PC.

On the PC side there is now a download required to get the photo and video apps. A user will have to get the Windows Live Essentials, which are very good, but should come on the PC already. And to get online or check email, the user will have to use Internet Explorer, which most hard-core computer users will agree is a less satisfying Internet experience than most web browsers out there including Safari. To check email, the user will have to either use web mail, which many are doing now, or again download the Mail application that is in Windows Live Essentials. It is not bad, but why isn’t it installed already?

Mac users get Windows iLife 11, the new suite of applications that will help tweak those family vacation snapshots with iPhoto, put together a decent movie of the day at the beach with iMovie, and even help edit some audio with Garage Band. Other less touted applications are iDVD and iWeb for creating DVDs and web sites, respectively. The suite is very good.

Mac users also have Mail and Safari which make going online much more enjoyable than having to download a mail app or use Internet Explorer on a PC. The only downside for the Mac was the document editing. Unless you get iWork or Microsoft Office pre-installed from Apple, all you have is TextEdit. Windows has Notepad. Same basic tool. Both are okay for putting words down, but neither are enough for what the average consumer needs. The difference is nearly every PC out there has some kind of office suite installed from the factory. It might be a 60 day trial version of Microsoft Office. It could be something else like Corel WordPerfect Office or even OpenOffice. Machines boxed a while ago may still have the horrible Microsoft Works. The point is the vast majority of Windows PCs have something more useful than a basic text editor. Apple, for all they are charing for their machines, ought to throw in iWork too or at least install the 30 day trial that can be downloaded from their website.

The out of the box experience of the MacBook Air versus nearly a dozen experiences of opening and booting up a Windows PC over the years is similar. As a technology enthusiast I get all excited no matter which kind of box I’m taking a knife to. But now that I’ve opened a Mac I get why Apple consumers are so in love with the whole Apple experience. It is much more pleasing and for the majority of uses more functional. It is simple and straight forward while setting up a Windows PC is a little more complicated. And we have not even talked about the need to tweak a dozen settings in Windows to make it perform to its fullest potential, while a Mac feels like it is running pretty fast right away.

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