Entroware Apollo VS Mac Book Air

ArchMac
Screenshots of the machines. Damn Fedora’s wallpapers are pretty!

There has been some interested comment on my previous posts (here and here) about the Entroware Apollo. Recently I got a Mac Book Air from the company I work with. As such I though a comparison with a laptop with similar design would be useful for people considering to buy an Entroware. So let’s dig in the comparison!

Battery Life

Apollo’s battery life dropped to the 4 hours mark after 6 months of heavy usage with Arch Linux + TLP. During this period I used the laptop daily for more than 8 hours a day, running charging-discharging cycles between 80% and 20% charge. At the very beginning the battery was used to last 5/6 hours for similar loads.

On the other hand, the specs for the Mac Book Air advertise 12 hours of battery life, but I actually never observed more than 8 hours. This is probably  due to the use I make of the Laptops at work, which involves resource hungry software. Still, the Mac can usually last from one to three hours more depending on the loads (see the comments here and this post for more details about battery life and power consumption of the Apollo, considering also load).

It is worth noting that the Entroware Apollo takes a lot of time to recharge while the Mac does it very quickly .

Construction quality

Here is where the Mac shines. The Apollo is quite good. It is not rugged but it does not feel fragile at the same time. However, screws on the back plate tend to get loose over time and the monitor junction makes some click noise when opening the laptop sometimes. On the other hand the Mac feels more compact, each part more steady and overall better designed/realized. Of course, this makes sense considering that the Mac case is designed for the Apple line of products only, while the Apollo case allows for easy customization. As always, it is a matter of compromises. Weight and size are similar.

Mouse Pad

They both kinda suck. The Apollo one is kinda OK once you get used to. It is only slow on the scrolling, but that can be tweaked if you want to bother (I just use a mouse with both). However, I am not sure the Mac one is better as I feel the gestures stress too much the tendons. And that one cannot be configured that much…

Display

Maybe few people will be surprised… But the Apollo wins this one. Resolution and color balance are way better on the Apollo, as you can see from the picture. I was surprised that the so much praised Retina display has such a “not sharp” picture. I also like much more the size and how the screen is fitted in the case. Edit: this comparison is not very fair. Thanks Francesco Servida to point it out.

The Apollo 1000 comes with a 13.3″ 1920 X 1080 Led display while the Mac Book Air comes with a 13.3″ 1440 X 900 display. The different monitor resolution and technology probably contributes to the difference in battery duration.

Mac color balance seems reddish if compared the Apollo display, which is a plus for me as cool temperature helps me concentrate better. This is not a very important aspect though, as color can be balanced.

More important is whether higher resolution or higher battery life is important for you. In my case, for example, as I have to code a lot, I am very happy to see text as sharply as I can. Every little pixel helps preventing feeling my eyes fatigued at the end of the day (that is why I use an external monitor with the Mac, by the way). However, if you are often on the go, that 2/3 hours more you can squeeze out of a Mac Book Air are going to be very important.

Ports

Very similar hardware setup. As a note, the buses on the Apollo 1000 are separate. This is way better for audio as it prevents dropouts. I am not sure whether this is the case on the Mac.
* it actually seems not. I tested the Mac with a Behringer FCA1616 on one port and a passive USB hub with keyboard and mouse on the other. When moving the mouse very significant port related noise is captured in the audio streams, suggesting that the buses are not separated.

Audio capability

Mac is often praised for this, but the only good reason to use a Mac for audio is to like the software it can run. While using the Mac to perform scientific electro-acoustics measurements I have seen a lot of dropouts in the collected samples even without pushing the system. This is not acceptable for a machine believed to be the standard of quality for audio. I am indeed using the Apollo for that as I can pretty much avoid dropouts and obtain, as such, a reliable data collection. I guess that as long as music making is concerned there will not be significant differences though. As I said: if you like Mac OS music software then go for it!

Price

No surprises here instead. My Apollo configuration, which has twice the RAM and same hard drive size of the Mac Book Air model, is around £200 cheaper than it. The Mac comes with an i5 while I got an i3, but I think that an i3 is better for small laptops as it prevents eventual heating problems. Still, if you compare with the most expensive Mac Book Air of the line, the Apollo is around 250 pounds cheaper even by mounting an i7. You can get as high as having an i7 and a full TB SSD drive and still a slightly cheaper product.

Software

Well, nothing much to say here as you can install what you like. However, I was surprised that the so much praised Mac OS is such a pain to work with. GUI is counter intuitive and gestures/animations slow down work considerably. Parallel desktops and monitors are hard and inefficient to manage. GNOME 3 is far superior in this regard and much more configurable, although it is probably the less configurable of the Linux GUIs out of there. However, this is pretty much personal taste.

The real objective pain of working with Mac OS is the release cycle and vendor lock in. An example will clarify. Let’s say you purchased expensive commercial software a year or two ago. Now it is not currently supported by Mac OS. But it was expensive and you do not want to buy it again. Result: you have do downgrade dependencies packages or do other interventions to make it run. And when it runs it is unstable. I will be honest: I do not understand what makes companies to stick with commercial operating systems.

Conclusion

These laptops are pretty similar but with important differences, mainly price, screen resolution and battery life. The Apple machines offers longer battery life, while the Apollo offers similar or higher performances at a much cheaper price. All in the same form factor (although the Mac appears more solid somewhat). As such, it is up to you to decide which one is the best your tasks.

6 thoughts on “Entroware Apollo VS Mac Book Air

  1. Hi, i read your review and i disagree about the display capabilities of the MBA (or the ease of use os OSX vs Gnome3+Arch, but as you said it’s personal 😉 ), indeed the MBA display is probably looking less sharper than the Apollo one, but from your review it seems you’re comparing an 11″ MBA (9 hours battery life) to a 13″ FullHD Apollo, which is pretty unfair, and even in the case it’s the 13″ MBA it’s a 1440×900 display vs a FullHD display. As for color balance i can’t judge as i don’t have an apollo on hands, if it really is better than the MBA which i already consider one of the best available on consumer market, then i am indeed impressed.

    This wasn’t to bash your display review, just i think it should keep on account the actual characteristics of the MBA. (And as a sidenote, the retina display is only on the MBPros & the new Macbook http://www.apple.com/mac/compare/ )

    Have a nice day
    Francesco

    Like

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