TL;DR / executive summary: I can build a Lenovo T400 with twice the battery life, identical technical specs, identical antivurs software, an identical warrantee (minus the loaner laptop program w/ UVA) for $500 less than the UVA Macbook 'deal'. You can buy a backup laptop/netbook for that $500 if the next-day technician through the Lenovo warranty just isn't good enough for you.
OK, disclaimer: I actually plan to purchase the model that disco_barred mentioned above.
But I really think people are vastly over stating the 'deal' you get from Cavalier Computers.
To demonstrate, here's a blow-by-blow comparison of a Lenovo T400 (same screen size, similar weight)
Processor: The Macbook comes with a 2.4 ghz processor. IMHO, this is unnecessarily speedy for a Core 2 Duo – and you can save $70 by skipping it when ordering a T400. But for the sake of equality, we’ll take the upgrade.
OS: The PC can run windows or linux, and UVA will likely offer windows 7 for the same $10 price you can currently get Vista for when it comes out. Otherwise this boils down to preference.
RAM: Both come with 2gb, and I’d assume you would want to upgrade both.
Hard Drive: I’d buy a 7200 RPM drive myself for either, but again for equalities sake we’ll pick the same as comes in the bundle: 250 GB 5400 RPM
Wireless/Bluetooth: Equivalent to apple
Battery: Reviews say ~4.75 hours web surfing on a lower brightness on the Macbook. With a 9-cell battery and the same usage conditions, the Lenovo gets 9 and a half hours
of battery life*
Screen: The Lenovo can get either an identical screen or a better resolution screen for ~30 dollars more.
Anti-Virus: Personally I think AVG (which is free) is a MUCH better option than Norton or McAfee, which are both bloated and error prone. However, I want this Lenovo to be configured as similarly as possible to the macbook, so I grabbed a 3 year Norton Antivirus 2009 subscription.
So now we have two computers with technical specifications that are nearly identical except that the Lenovo 1) has a better screen and 2) has nearly twice the battery life. Additionally the macbook has applecare – while the Lenovo has a standard 1 year depot warranty.
Macbook Bundle Cost: $1,699 + sales tax = 1783.95
Lenovo cost: $907.80 with free shipping
Now let’s look at warranties. I’ll grab the cream of the crop: A 3 year on site protection plan (they’ll send a technician next-day) PLUS the Lenovo accidental damage plan covering damage due to drops, falls, liquid spills, and LCD damage. This is a ridiculously complete warranty, and easily matches what is offered by UVA with the exception of the ‘loaner laptop’.
Total price of the Lenovo? $1,256.80. That’s a savings of $500
And with the Lenovo you can:
-Choose a faster processor a slower one to save money
-Get a better warranty (4 or 5 years) and still cost less or cut back (remove accidental damage or go for just 1 or two years) to save.
-Choose a discrete graphics card that can be switched on for better graphics or off for better battery life
-Replace your DVD drive with a battery for out-of-this-world battery life or with a hard drive for out-of-this-world storage
And pretty much anything you do will still cause it to be less expensive than the UVA deal.
$1,700 is too much to spend for a note taking and exam taking laptop
no matter how much warranty they cram into it. You can get an identical model for MUCH less or a much BETTER model for the same price online.