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My current laptop is about due for an upgrade, er, complete replacement. Three of the keys were burned off by my obsessive use of a blow-dryer in the mornings when it is cold. The bottom plastic cover is cracked, bad battery, stained screen, and the actual system itself is just doing too many wacky things that it’s time to say goodbye.

Since I use GIS a lot in my field, I think it is wise to invest in a machine that can run ArcGIS VERY well. This will be the one program I will be using the most, so I need to have a powerful laptop that can handle the new ArcGIS 10 system requirements.

Given how cheap laptops have become (comparatively from a few years ago), and how quickly technology advances, I find it wise to spend the extra couple hundred bucks and get a mac-daddy of all laptops. But the thing is, online review sites just don’t do a good job at providing consistent and unbiased reviews of the absolutely best machines for those who basically want a desktop replacement in a lightweight, stylish format.

After surfing the web all day, here are my two final contenders:

MacBook Pro Retina Display, 13″, 2.5 GHz:


I NEVER thought I would succumb to agreeing that a Mac is, well, quite amazing. OK, I get it Mac-men advocates. I get it already! It is a superb machine, and with the student discount, the price is very reasonable and quite competitive.

My reasons for: This machine goes above and beyond the requirements for the ArcGIS 10, it comes with lots of free software, lightweight, there is room to grow with system requirements, the value will retain well for several years to come, the processing speed was one of the fastest I could find in a dependable machine, great battery life, and well, it’s just a neat laptop.

Why the Retina Display you ask?

Well, my reason is quite simple. I could get a 13-inch Non-Retina Display MBP for the same price as a 13-inch Retina Display MBP. I just lose a measly 0.4 GHz of processing speed. Really? To me, that’s a more than fair trade-off to have amazing visual graphics on my maps and flooding simulations (not to mention watching movies and browsing web photos). The 2.5GHz will be plenty for my purposes.

Concerns? The few times I’ve been on a Mac, I’ve hated not knowing how to navigate. I’m sure a few days’ practice will fix that, but I’m still nervous. Also, of course, ArcGIS will not run on a Mac Operating System. I would have to use the Mac Reboot or run parallel systems, thus taking away the system speed and RAM I so desperately fell in love with and splitting it between two OS’s. I could use Reboot and go through the pain of logging off and on several times a day. But oh it’s such a beautiful computer!

My second contender is:


A Samsung Series 9 Premium Ultrabook.

The pros: lighter than the Mac, uses the Windows OS which is good for ArcGIS, bigger screen for the same price, pretty good specs, great battery life (better than Mac actually), very stylish, familiarity, won’t have to run parallel OS’s or switch between Lion and Windows all day.

Cons: Not as fast as the Mac (which may pose a problem for ArcGIS), not as well-known brand in the US yet (though I have their smartphone and love it).

As you can see, my dilemma is between getting a better machine in the MacBook Pro as compared with the ease of use in a Windows PC for use specifically with ArcGIS. If only ESRI would create a Mac version of their software!

There are a few other Windows PC’s I have considered (a few Dells, one HP), but none just seem to measure up to the MBP. I’ll keep searching and make a decision before next Fall!

I bought the latest MacBook Pro, 15″, Retina Display (they are phasing out the non-Retinas).  I absolutely LOVE IT, and it runs extremely fast.  If you are considering this option, I say go for it, make sure you have the top specs, and run BootCamp Windows for your ESRI products.