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Converted by a convertible

Right from the get go, I need to make an admission: I’m what’s often politely referred to as an ‘Apple fanboi’ (and not so politely referred to as a Mac bigot).

I love everything Apple, am constantly surrounded by ‘iDevices’ and for my sins tend to be the guy that my friends and family call when they want help or support with their Macs, iPhones and iPads (yes, they do experience issues from time to time).

It comes with the territory when you’ve been using an operating system and its accompanying applications for more than a decade. In my case, I’ve been using Apple for 16 years now.

Before you judge, you need to know that Linux people are the same.

And those brave souls that used Windows NT back in the day (because they were prepared to trade aesthetics and ‘consumery functionality’ for rock solid stability) know what I’m talking about too.

Yes, today it’s a little different.

Mac is far more mainstream and commonplace – especially in the content industry.

I’ve nonetheless felt – for maybe for about a year or so now – that my blind Mac-committedness and complete immersion in the Steve Jobs walled garden has caused me to be a little jaded, and to pass some undue (possibly harsh) criticism on the Windows ecosystem.

An experiment

To be clear, I do have some Windows in my life.

Two of my home machines run Windows 10. And on the whole I’m quite happy with them.

Since I don’t use them for much other than playing the odd game and running a home media centre, I’m hardly qualified to talk about how the OS fares as a day-to-day companion.

So when Intel offered me a 5th-Generation Core i5-powered Lenovo Yoga 500 (the kind that folds and contorts itself into a tablet, media viewing device and standard notebook) for the holidays, I was kind of intrigued to give the whole PC ecosystem another go.

The last time I did this was about five years ago. And I went straight back to Mac.

There’s gold in them hills

This time around, after a month spent making extensive use of the Yoga 500, Windows 10 and Office 2016, I might just consider switching back and forth between my trusty Macbook Pro and the Yoga for a little while longer.

That’s because, quite honestly, the PC does things my Mac doesn’t.

Now, before you get ahead of yourself, my Mac does whole bunch of things the PC doesn’t either. But by undertaking this experiment, I’ve discovered that both machines have a place in my usage scenario.

Each has strengths, but if push came to shove I could get by just fine with either machine.

Obviously, I’m more familiar with the Mac ecosystem. So, things like video editing, audio editing and working with the graphics packages I use on a daily basis will always be easier in the Apple world.

When it comes to typing up articles, proofing artwork, doing e-mail, web browsing and being generally productive, both ecosystems get the job done with ease.

And while the Mac does have some edge in the battery life stakes (it is quite remarkable how long the battery lasts), I wouldn’t feel particularly hard done by the Yoga’s claimed four hours.

Touch and convertibility

As a differentiator, the Yoga has a touch screen. For some time now, I’ve felt that these were overrated (at least in the PC/notebook world) and that this is probably the main reason Apple have steered clear of this trend on its Macbooks and Macbook Pros.

I’m surprised to say however, that the Yoga’s touch screen and ‘contortability’ has crept into my life rather quickly in the short period I’ve been using it. And I would certainly miss it when it’s gone.

It’s something you don’t know you need until you’ve used it for a while.

Folding the machine over into tablet mode and using touch input to whizz around Windows 10 has been super convenient whenever I’m on a couch or comfy chair – whether it’s at home or waiting in a client’s reception area.

The tablet configuration has also been really convenient in meetings, where I’ve been able to sit back in my chair and scroll through presentations and lengthy documents with touch.

I was particularly impressed by how easily the Yoga detected what mode of operation it was in, or for that matter, the fact that I’d changed from notebook to tablet mode – and adapted the user interface accordingly.

Some credit should also be passed Microsoft’s way here, for making Windows 10’s standard and tablet user modes perfectly suited to those two primary modes of operation.

While I don’t think the Yoga’s tablet mode could every replace my Sony Xperia Tab or iPad Air (I’m lucky enough to have purpose-built media consumption tablets in my life), having the ability to switch to a touch-driven tablet mode on one’s PC, has clear benefits.

Having used the Yoga as a media consumption machine for a few weeks, I can honestly see how touch and its tablet-type operation would be great for someone who doesn’t have the budget for a separate notebook and tablet purchase.

WiDi = Win

I was also massively impressed by how well the Yoga’s media capabilities are extended by Intel’s Wireless Display (WiDi) technology.

As part of the experiment, Intel sent me an Actiontec Screenbeam Pro Business Edition WiDi receiver – essentially a little box that you connect up to a display like a big screen TV, a flat panel monitor or a projector and wirelessly push content at.

It’s just like connecting an external monitor to your computer over HDMI, DVI or VGA. You can either duplicate your display onto the WiDi receiver or extend it onto the WiDi receiver. And all of this can be done at a clear, crisp 1080p resolution.

I had tons of fun firing a movie or episode of a TV series available on ShowMax or Netflix at my big screen TV without the need to connect a single wire. It was quick, reliable and extremely high quality.

It’s as simple as using Airplay and an Apple TV in the Mac ecosystem, except there’s no limitations on app support.

The uses for this do, of course, extend outside of the home media space.

WiDi has a great business case for boardrooms and auditoriums, where presenters will no longer have to fuss and fiddle with cables to get their machines connected to a big screen or projector.

Looking forward to 6th-Gen

The Yoga I was sent was powered by Intel’s 5th-Gen machine (Broadwell) architecture, but the newer models in the market use 6th-Gen technology (Skylake) and take capabilities a big step up.

They’re par-for-par 60% faster (or offer 60% better battery life for the same performance level), take WiDi capabilities up to a 4k resolution and with Intel’s Realsense 3D camera tech, allow for depth perception.

This means users can safely sign-in with their face instead of a username and password, but that they can take pictures with the camera and accurately gauge the dimensions of objects.

Because of its power efficiency, 6th gen Intel Core technology is also great for new form factors. So thinner, lighter and ever more adaptable machines – there’s already some great designs out there (detachable screens that convert into tablets for example).

So ultimately, yes, colour me converted.

I’m totally not ready to throw my Mac in the bin, but looking forward to being in the enviable position of being able to choose to use the Yoga 500 or Mac on any given day.

I doubt I’ll have too many regrets.

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