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Users of Windows XP (and, to a lesser extent, Windows Vista and 7) have an unhappy upgrade path ahead of them. Windows 8 has been widely criticized for its compromised approach that tries to span desktops and tablets but doesn’t work well on either, yet Microsoft shows no immediate sign that it intends to change course. Users simply don’t have a choice.

Or perhaps they do. While Windows has given desktop users the middle finger, Mac OS X has consistently improved. Maybe it’s time to ditch Windows entirely and pick up a MacBook Air instead.

The Air Is Affordable

Apple’s original MacBook Air was a beautiful machine and absurdly thin for its time, yet its price tag made it difficult to recommend. That’s changed, however, as an 11-inch Air is now $899 and the 13-inch Air is $999.

macbookair-1

Both have Intel Core i5 processors, four gigabytes of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive. While these specifications aren’t mind-blowing, they are on par with Windows 8.1 competitors like the Dell XPS 13, Samsung Series 9 and Lenovo U310. Some PC systems like the ASUS Zenbook UX301 and Acer Aspire S7 are hundreds more than the Air, making it a bargain by comparison.

Admittedly, there is a downside to the Air: the display. Apple has not yet upgraded it to Retina, so you’re dealing with 1366×768 on the 11-incher and 1440×900 on the 13-inch model. Most Windows laptops boast 1080p. However, both the Airs support output to 2560×1440 over Thunderbolt Why Apple's New Thunderbolt Port Is Awesome [Technology Explained] Why Apple's New Thunderbolt Port Is Awesome [Technology Explained] I/O ports aren’t a technology that folks spend a lot of time thinking about. Let’s face it – they’re not sexy. Still, ports are important. As the interface between your computer and everything else, your... Read More (and Thunderbolt-to-DisplayPort), which means you can pair either laptop with a large, high-resolution monitor.

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Extra Value

There’s more to a computer than the price, however. Users also need to consider what comes with the system. Most PC manufacturers offer little to no bundled software, but Apple still ships its hardware with a comprehensive suite.

garageband

The stars are undoubtedly iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand, a trio of media applications that rival the best paid software available for Windows. Users also receive Pages, Numbers and Keynote, Apple’s alternatives to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. And then there’s a roster of less important but still helpful tools like Contacts, Maps, Messages and Reminders. You’d have to spend a few hundred dollars, and several hours scouring the Internet for apps, to replicate Apple’s software on a Windows PC.

And don’t forget Mac OS X itself. All computers come with a free operating system but Apple also offers future updates for free. Microsoft only offers minor updates for free; any major revamp is sold as a new version which must be purchased. The next version of Windows will likely be out in 2015 or 2016, and it will almost certainly be priced around $80, which is what Microsoft currently asks for a Windows 8 upgrade How To Safely Upgrade To Windows 8.1 How To Safely Upgrade To Windows 8.1 Are horror stories of how Windows 8.1 upgrades went horribly wrong keeping you from upgrading yourself? If you are longing to try Windows 8.1, you can now learn from other people's lessons and upgrade safely! Read More license.

Unique Features

There are also a number of handy features available through Mac OS X that Windows can’t replicate without installing a significant number of third-party apps. Take social networking, for example. Apple has baked-in Facebook and Twitter, which means you can receive notifications from these social networks without a browser open, and you can quickly share links and photos directly from Finder, Safari or iPhoto. Adding social network support directly to the OS is much more convenient than using third-party apps that clutter your desktop and system tray.

osxhandof

With the upcoming OS X Yosemite What's New In OS X 10.10 "Yosemite"? What's New In OS X 10.10 "Yosemite"? OS X is evolving both in terms of looks and features, and just like last year's Mavericks update, Yosemite will be another free download. Read More , which will be released this fall, anyone who owns an iPhone or iPad can easily integrate these devices with their desktop via HandOff, a new feature that can route all messages and phone calls directly to your desktop. This works in reverse, too; so long as your iPhone is nearby you can make phone calls directly through the MacBook Air MacBook Air (Mid-2012) Review and Giveaway MacBook Air (Mid-2012) Review and Giveaway In my mind, people who purchase the MacBook Air have should have a clear idea of what they wish to accomplish with it. There's only one reason you should own a MacBook Air: for the... Read More (or any other Mac you own).

And that’s just the start. HandOff will also let users transfer open application sessions from a Mac to an iOS device and vice versa. Working on a project in Pages and want to take it with you? No problem! A simple swipe of a notification on your iPad is all that’s required to transfer your session. All of the typical OS X apps support this  feature and third-party developers can enable it, as well.

The Desktop Is Still The Desktop

Perhaps the most striking part of sitting down in front of a MacBook Air is how comfortable the interface feels compared to a modern Windows desktop. Anyone who has used a PC desktop or laptop in the past will likely find themselves at home quickly. There’s no start menu, but there is a desktop, a dock which works like a taskbar and start menu combined, and a file system that, though obviously arranged a bit different from Windows, works as you’d expect a desktop file system to work. Nothing feels strange, unusual, half-baked or hobbled.

This is strange because Mac OS X isn’t Windows. By all rights using it should not feel so familiar, but the decision to layer Metro interface elements over the desktop in Windows 8 has created this odd situation.

osxdesktop

Desktop search is the perfect example. In Windows 8 it works like you’d expect it to work on a tablet. The search field expands from the right side and then takes up a limited portion of your view. Results are viewed in a list that’s short on space and thus must be scrolled (or swiped) through frequently. All of this makes sense on a tablet where space is limited and swiping from the side of the screen is a common form of navigation, but none of it makes any sense on a laptop or desktop.

OS X Yosemite, by contrast, puts search smack in the middle of the desktop, where there’s plenty of space to display relevant results. Your search is also retained in memory if you click outside the search window, a simple convenience that Windows 8 does not support.

In short, desktop search for the Mac (the feature is called Spotlight) works the way you’d expect a desktop application to work, while Microsoft’s latest take on the feature operates like a mobile app – and this is just one example. A number of Windows 8’s core interface features, including the Start Screen, Settings menu and Share menu, suffer similar woes.

Conclusion

You can, of course, purchase a Windows laptop for far less than a MacBook Air. The least expensive PC notebooks are just $299. But remember, those entry-level examples lack the battery life, portability and performance of the Air. If you want something similar, you’ll need to buy an ultrabook, and most of those hover around $1,000 (and some are much more).

And while the Air is the most versatile option, it’s not the only affordable choice. Apple’s desktop Mac Mini starts at $599 and boasts a more powerful processor than the Air, though it has a mechanical hard drive instead of an SSD, and the basic iMac is $1,299. You could also consider a refurbished machine Buying A Refurbished Mac? Here’s What You Need To Know Buying A Refurbished Mac? Here’s What You Need To Know No one wants to lay down a wad of cash for a dinged-up, battered second-hand computer - here’s what you need to know on your search for a pristine, but affordable, refurb. Read More , as Macs are known for their reliability and longevity.

What do you think? Can OS X really replace Windows XP, or should users make do with Windows 8? Let us know in the comments.

  1. Anonymous
    November 25, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Paid "review" detected.

  2. Dante
    July 14, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    Mac...It just works!

  3. Philip Jones
    July 1, 2014 at 12:22 am

    I've a friend who replaced his XP machine 18 months ago with a very nice new Lenovo laptop running Win7. After it had crashed and refused to boot for the fourth time he asked me if Ubuntu would work on it. So we tried a live DVD of 14.04, he liked the look of it and it installed with no fuss at all.
    He's quickly adapted to the Unity desktop and has more assurance after a couple of months than he ever had with Win7 about what the computer will do when he left clicks and right clicks. As a result he's making more use of his machine and getting more enjoyment from computing.
    His Win7 partition is still there to be resurrected if he wishes but so far he's had no interest in going back into it.
    Is he a youngster, the sort you'd expect to adapt easily to new ways? Not really, he'll celebrate his 80th birthday next year!
    On the basis of his experience it seems to me modern Linux OS's have an awful lot to offer PC users. I certainly have mainly used Linux for the last 4 years and would hate to have to go back to the Windows world.

  4. Micah.
    June 26, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Buy a MacBook...and install Windows?

    Because that's the realistic option. Some of us need our software to work, and lots won't work on a Mac.

    Easy solution: if you could upgrade to 8, you could upgrade to 7. Just run 7. On your MacBook even.

  5. Richard B
    June 24, 2014 at 3:10 am

    If you're going to suggest an entire OS swap, you'd probably want to go with something that has an interface more inline XP. Something along the lines of Zorin OS or Linux Mint.

    • More
      June 24, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      Linux has zero software support which Windows has billions. I would upgrade to Windows 7 or 8. Windows 8 works better on old hardware than Windows 7.

  6. Andy
    June 23, 2014 at 12:44 am

    Ridiculous article. Most Windows XP users now are old grandparents who barely know how to use computers or people who don't want to spend money. Most of them are desktop users anyways. And yet, this article suggests these people switch to a
    1. 11-inch laptop
    2. Completely new operating system
    3. A computer that costs at least $900?

  7. Anonymous
    June 22, 2014 at 1:08 am

    bahahahaha oh primitive apple. you kill me

  8. J.m. H
    June 21, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I'm going to have to disagree with MacConvert and I would have posted this as a reply to his comment if I could. Linux has gotten much easier just since 2007 since I started using it and now it's so easy to use parents and grandparents are switching to it happily. Yes, there are some things that Linux does differently but the same can be said about OSX.

    I suggest anyone who thinks Linux is too much for some of their WinXP using friends to handle should go download the disk image for Linux Mint and put it on a USB flash drive. Then boot off the drive and put Mint through its paces for a while. You don't have to install it to give it a try and you'll be able to access everything on your hard drive. You may be surprised how easy it is for even the least computer-savvy person to use.

    • Art Hackett
      June 24, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      You're right, I would be. You guys keep on bangin' away, tweakin' n' tunin' till you get all your little blue lights and water cooling purring away just right so your "I'm a big boy now" games work good n' proper like.

  9. Chris Lee
    June 21, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    "iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand, a trio of media applications that rival the best paid software available for Windows. "

    You've got to be kidding.

  10. Frans Jungschläger
    June 21, 2014 at 11:35 am

    You can also use Linux Mint LTS versions to replace Windows.
    Linux has a free download of ISO-installation images and free automatic updates. Also about 40000 user programs.

  11. Pieter
    June 21, 2014 at 6:50 am

    I'm calling BS on this entire article. MacBook Airs are very expensive. As a comparison, Lenovo has laptops with just about the same specs as the 1200 $ Air for as low as 650 $. That's almost half the price and we're not even looking at budget brands. For 1200 $ you can buy a high quality laptop with much higher specs, if you put together your own desktop you can get even more bang for your buck.

    Windows 8 is not as awful as some say and with a little tweaking you can get around all of the weird touch interfaces (also, each update takes it closer to Windows 7). It's also a lot safer and faster than any version of Windows that came before it.

    Windows is not bundled with a lot of software but the amount of free software available for Windows is insane and if you are willing to pay a few bucks for software your choice is multiplied several times.

    Also not mentioned in the article is the, still, horrible gaming library on Macs. So if you want to play games, it would make sense to use Windows.

  12. JP Dimmers
    June 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

    Not so fast.... windows 7 is pretty good. Would prefer it to the current distros of Maverick.

  13. Rob Mitchell
    June 20, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    I've used many, many systems over the last 28 years and my current MacBookPro is the best machine ever, hands-down.

    • foo
      June 20, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      That's what I say about my Thinkpad W510 as well.

  14. Dwayne Bagley
    June 20, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    The Windows 8 debacle and an awful 3 hour passage to India while trying to install Office 365 (coupled with my overwhelmingly positive experience with iOS) is exactly why I decided to switch to a Mac. No driver upgrade issues, no hardware incompatibility, no problems sharing files, no regrets, no complaints. My only question is why I didn't do it sooner. People schlepping along with Windows are missing out.

  15. Victor
    June 20, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    This doesn't make sense. Your wrote this article to recommend osx to those still using xp. However, those machines running xp are mostly because BUSINESS machines. That means that the owners and users are not looking to play games, web browse, or other entertainment applications/distractions.

    Also, no matter how much you may love the aesthetics of osx, in business it is not practical or efficient. With osx, a machine with good hardware - one that won't become irrelevant or bloated within four years - would run you in the 2.5 - 3K price range. That money alone will buy you 2-3 non-osx machines with the same or better hardware. And no, the software that comes bundled in osx is no excuse for the price tag. You can get free - source code included - software for windows, linux, and osx easily. It is way more advance too.

    I am just saying this because I use linux and windows at work and for school - except for my physics research labs where I use osx. While I am primarily a penguin lover, I don't see why people would purchase macs. Unless your a lazy computer-programmer or developing ios apps, you can do everything more efficiently and effectively in linux.

    I admit that osx is a much better operating system than windows simply because it based on unix philosophy - something I wish windows would do. However, to the average computer user, this is complete and utter gibberish. No one cares for unix systems unless they are computer programmers or system admins. And this is just my opinion but for the most part the people who I run into with macs usually don't have a clue about computers. They are usually liberal arts majors or people who like to follow trends or aesthetics - they would have been much better off if they had purchased a chromebook.

    In short, there is no reason why a current xp user should switch to mac. Your article is just empty rhetoric.

    • MacConvert
      June 20, 2014 at 6:05 pm

      I totally disagree with Linux being a viable replacement for XP users. First off if you are still using XP it suggests you are resistant to change. Also most likely nowhere near tech savvy. Linux, even if you get one of those distros that mimic the windows desktop would be unusable to anyone who is not familiar with basic tech support. Also if you are trying to install it on a computer that was purchased with XP, your hardware most likely would not work unless you do a considerable amount of tweaking to Linux, but wait! They can't because the shell commands would send them screaming for the hills. I suggest a live distro disc first if you are curious about Linux, but don't dive into that pool without a life jacket unless you know how to swim.

      Mac's by nature are meant to be simple to use. They are made for people who are not tech savvy, but they can be used by the tech savvy. Macs are practically idiot proof. Also the average freeware that you can find that runs on Windows (VLC, Handbrake..) and a host of others have Mac versions. The two worlds are no longer mutually exclusive.

  16. MrDubsDubs
    June 20, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    No way, I don't want a shit crapbook. I recently purchased an iPhone 5s, I regret buying this piece of cra** everyday, I'm probably gonna sell it and buy a WP, they perform better anyway. I rather suggest you all go to Windows 7 or one of the many flavors of Linux.

    • Howard B
      June 20, 2014 at 3:37 pm

      Windows Phone may perform better than iOS...but you'll be hard-pressed to find apps for it. Android FTW.

    • Howard B
      June 20, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      Why would I want an OS with training wheels I can't take off?
      As for price, I can buy a Windows laptop for $500 that outperforms a $800 MacBook - it will have more RAM, a bigger HD (probably a decent HDD, which I can upgrade to an SSD/HDD combo for under $100), and Classic Shell gets rid of the Windows 8.1 nonsense. I'd need to do a hell of a lot more to OS X to make it comfortable, and I'd be missing out on hundreds of apps and games that won't ever be ported to Mac.

    • Art Hackett
      June 24, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      So Howard, Unix =training wheels. Do you write your documents and messages in hex?

    • Art Hackett
      June 24, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      Or is that you don't know how to take "training wheels" off?

  17. Keith S
    June 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    I don't want to come across as an Apple hater - far from it, I love the platform. But your logic isn't making sense to me.

    A user who can't adapt to the changes Windows 8 brings won't like the changes required to become comfortable on OS X either. There's a better chance whatever software that person is using will work on Windows 8 than it will on OS X - actually, there's no chance of legacy Windows software working in OS X and at least there's some chance of it working in 8.

    I've been using Windows 8.1 Update 1 on a Surface Pro 1 (at work) and a second-gen Acer R7 (personally) and I've come to like it a lot. If Apple would take their MacBook Air, rip the keyboard out and mount a multitouch screen where the keyboard was, I'd have bought one without a second thought - I want full laptop power and the ability to use it as a tablet as the situation dictates. Apple's not chasing that market, I came to terms with it, and bought my R7. Not a perfect machine - the screen doesn't fold completely flat in tablet mode, it's big for a tablet, but I find it not too heavy as a "clipboard" to take notes on and I prefer its 15.6" screen over the Surface's 10" any day of the week.

    To be clear - I've been using both Windows and OS X for years. I like both, and until 8.1u1 have been leaning strongly towards the Mac. But Apple doesn't make what I want, which is a compromise machine no matter how you look at it, but Microsoft's product is evolving favorably and for the work workhorse and the portable/personal category, it's become my go-to. I'll happily recommend either at this point, depending on what I think the user needs.

  18. Clive R
    June 20, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    The pricing is just not competitive - a decent 14" windows laptop can be bought for under £400 - I nearly always source Free software of which there is plenty so fail to see how over £900 can be called a good deal? It is very easy to customise the way that windows 8 desktop works using one of many free or very low cost solutions - So I can replace the tiled interface with a windows 7 style desktop - can I replace the Mac desktop with a touch screen tiled one if I want to?

  19. SR
    June 20, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Somehow I think that people who havent upgraded to Windows 7 or 8 are the ones who's computer is too old to do so. And for a lot of people, $900 is a lot of money. I really cant see people considering a Macbook Air just so that they can use MacOS X. Windows 8 Pro can be had for around $70 online, or for the more adventurous Linux can also do the job for nothing.

    Surely a better suggestion would have been the MacMini anyway, which starts at $599?

  20. techno
    June 20, 2014 at 2:58 am

    Wow, harsh crowd. I'm not a Mac fan, it's just not my bag, but there are some things OSX has going for it. It has an app store, which makes new apps dead simple to find and purchase. It's hard to break because it hides all the features that could cause inadvertent breakage and it mostly works out of the box, though I don't recall if the software package comes with and office suite, I do know that Mac software tends to be a fairly consistent quality level. Personally I think if you were going to switch from Windows due to interface, I'd think it would be to something like Linux Mint or in a bit Elementary OS, or maybe just Ubuntu with Mate. I think it offers all the benefits of a Mac for no extra cost and the performance on a lower end computer will seem a bit snappier, plus with WINE there's a possibility that you can emulate XP on that applications you just can't live without. Is it perfect? Nope. I'm a die hard linux user (typing on an Arch install right now), but there are some lacking spots, though they really are less and less every day. So is a Macbook Air a perfct suggestion? No. Is it a valid one? Of course. Some people are going to absolutely love OSX. Not having to play is a feature to some people, who want decisions made for them, and that's okay.

  21. John
    June 20, 2014 at 1:36 am

    I don't like apple. Never have, never will. When a system is simple enough that a 2 year old can use it(think leap frog people) there is an issue. This is a dumbing down of technology that needs to stop.

    If technology were to all go this way, in 30 years no one would even begin to know how to do basic programming. This is only an example, but I just don't see this as a positive.

    • Mr G
      June 20, 2014 at 2:42 pm

      Wow...a little harsh. You seem to be confusing two totally different types of computer users: those who get under the hood and code, and those who use it for productivity. And frankly, what's wrong with a computer being easy enough for the average person to be productive on?

      That's like complaining because you don't have to be able to tear an engine apart blindfolded and put it back together in order to drive a car from New York City to Chicago.

      There will always be people who know how to do programming, it's just that most people don't have any need to do it...never did, and never will. I know how to program; I've taught Pascal, C++, and Java. Now ask me how often I use that compared with Word, Excel, Safari, iTunes, and other things that help me be creative and productive.

  22. holes
    June 19, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    A XP user would HATE Mac OS X. Its nothing like Windows. Windows 8 is much cheaper and a easier transition.

  23. Bruce Barnes
    June 19, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    There's another alternative, namely the Chromebook. It has the small size and great portability of the Macbook Air, the interface is intuitive and the price and performance can't be beat. Refurbs start at $119.99 on Newegg and better, faster, and new ones don't cost much more than $300. Mind you, even the slow ones are faster than many Windows laptops.

    Oh, and if you break it or lose it your data isn't lost.

  24. ATEngineer
    June 19, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Clickbait. A dubious suggestion from a fanboy?... what terrible suggestion.

    You can take a reasonably priced good performing Windows PC/tablet Win7/8 and make it look and act exactly like XP. Classic shell start menu, themes, etc. Yeah, it requires techy know-how to setup but it is feasible and not costly.

    What can you change about OSX to make it familiar for an XP user? It is overpriced hardware and unalterable GUI. And don't forget that in short order you'll be shafted by Apple when you have to buy a new laptop just to run the newer OS versions. I have an older (7 year) macbook that is utterly unusable now because it can't upgrade and is critically hobbled (be design) by OS "upgrades".

    • Fred
      June 19, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      Hmmm. I'm using a 2008 Macbook that is running the latest Mac OS, Mavericks, and will also be able to run the next version - so that's about 8 years. Not bad. And perhaps you should look at the specs on a MacBook Air, then peruse the Dell and HP sites for similarly equipped laptops and see who is overpriced. And running Lion or Mountain Lion by no means renders your Mac "unusable."

  25. Keith
    June 19, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    If they haven't taken the time and/or the money to upgrade from XP to anything, why would they look at Mac. It's going to cost them money and they'll have to learn another, although nice, operating system.

    Want to spend little money, get a great deal, and do what you've most likely have been doing all along (internet), safely; Chromebook!

  26. Caleb
    June 19, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Does this really solve anything though? I never got on board with the whole "hate on Windows 8" bandwagon, so maybe I missed something, but aren't people up in arms mostly because change is scary? Is changing from XP to OSX really that much easier for people who panic when using a new UI than the change from XP to Windows 8?

  27. John
    June 19, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    I made the switch a few years back to OS X from Windows as my desktop OS. Haven't looked back. Everything runs smooth, and I enjoy the interface. BUT for people on a budget, Linux Mint is a VERY nice distro. Kubuntu is also another OS that is easy on the eyes, and the learning curve isn't too sharp.

  28. Dave P
    June 19, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    "the battery life, portability and performance of the Air" for $299... Chromebook ;)

  29. Bobby
    June 19, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Many users stuck with XP due to add-ons either hardware or software that could not be upgraded to Vista. Or in some cases because they did not want to have to retrain staff, and yet suggest a whole new OS, which would also mean that every single program they now run, also be replaced.

  30. MacConvert
    June 19, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    I used to think it was the most expensive overrated piece of hardware too until I got one. Now I can't imagine life with out it. Oh Macbook.. where had I been all your life.

    • Sashi
      June 19, 2014 at 7:18 pm

      I'm with you there. I remember when I was in the market for a new ultrabook and some of the options were so expensive that it would have been cheaper and more sensible to get a Macbook Air. I love it, too.

  31. AreUInsane!
    June 19, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Many people clinch to XP because they can't or want to, spend a lot of money upgrading and you want those people to jump to the most expensive overrated piece of hardware/brand out there. You clearly most be insane.

  32. Bill
    June 19, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    For the rest of us who aren't made of money (and a little squeamish about Apple's suicide net adorned sweatshops) I'd suggest looking at Linux

    • Johnny S
      June 19, 2014 at 5:18 pm

      Yes I agree, even as the price of some of Apple's products seem to be more reasonable, I can still get something with far better specs for the same price.

      Many flavors of Ubuntu could work well on an older computer. By far the leanest one that I was able to test is Lubuntu.

      Personally, I think I will move to Xubuntu or Linux Mint down the line.

  33. Chinmay S
    June 19, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Yes, Macbook Air is a great option. My next laptop would be defintely a Macbook.

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