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!
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 .
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 hinge, sporadically, makes some clicking noise when opening the laptop. 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.
* My model actually experienced damage at the hinge after a couple of years of use. I will do a more detailed post. For the time being, be careful if you have a laptop with a similar chassis, and don’t leave the screen constantly open for prolonged time (weeks or months) as I did.
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…
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. I actually prefer the Apollo screen balance, as cool temperature helps me concentrate better. This is not a very important aspect though, as color balance can be tweaked.
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.
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**.
* Actually, that might be wrong. Here lsusb when plugging my Behringher UMC202HD in the different ports:
[crocoduck@arch ~]$ # Plugged the soundcard in the left port [crocoduck@arch ~]$ lsusb Bus 003 Device 002: ID 8087:8001 Intel Corp. Bus 003 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0003 Linux Foundation 3.0 root hub Bus 001 Device 004: ID 058f:3822 Alcor Micro Corp. Bus 001 Device 003: ID 8087:07dc Intel Corp. Bus 001 Device 005: ID 1397:0507 BEHRINGER International GmbH Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub [crocoduck@arch ~]$ # Plugged the soundcard in the right port [crocoduck@arch ~]$ lsusb Bus 003 Device 002: ID 8087:8001 Intel Corp. Bus 003 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0003 Linux Foundation 3.0 root hub Bus 001 Device 004: ID 058f:3822 Alcor Micro Corp. Bus 001 Device 003: ID 8087:07dc Intel Corp. Bus 001 Device 006: ID 1397:0507 BEHRINGER International GmbH Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
Regardless of the port the soundcard is plugged in, the Bus in which it is registered is Bus 001. Perhaps, this happens because the soundcard is USB 2.0 hardware, and Bus 001 seems to be the bus for external USB 2,0 functionality on this machine.
** 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 (but it could also be an electrical thing).
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. 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!
* This might have been a PortAudio problem though, as I wrote my application using that back-end. I did not troubleshoot that completely, but I found that tweaking few things produces reliability on Mac too.
No surprises here instead. My Apollo configuration, which has twice the RAM and same hard drive size of the Mac Book Air model, was 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 (at the time of this review), 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.
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 least 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.
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, but the Apple product is much sturdier. As such, it is up to you to decide which one is the best your tasks.