Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Versus Week Round 2: Mac Vs. PC

All this week, Observer columnist Langston Wertz Jr. will write about popular technology rivalries and try to determine which is best for you.

Monday: Xbox 360 vs. PlayStation 3.
Today: Mac Vs. PC

The home computer market has long been dominated by Bill Gates, whose Windows software powered many of the systems we’ve known so well. But thanks to a user-friendly operating system, cool gadgets like the iPhone and a smart ad campaign (“Hi, I’m a Mac”), Steve Jobs’ Apple brand of computers is making a big run.
Last quarter, Apple accounted for nearly 10 percent of all U.S. computer sales, selling 1.64 million machines, a 29 percent increase over the same period in 2007. That put the company in third place in computer sales in the U.S. behind Dell and Hewlett-Packard, which both sell Windows-based machines.
But which should you buy?

PC Advantages: By now, most everyone knows how to click “Start” on a Windows machine. Using a PC is just familiar, and there are tons of programs and applications that work with Windows software. Since PC prices have plummeted, you can buy entry-level machines for as little as $299. You can also design a pretty powerful PC – complete with a Blu-Ray DVD burner and dual processors – for under $2,000. PCs are better for gaming, and there’s more software available for them than for their Mac cousins.

Mac Advantages: The Mac uses the Leopard operating system that is simply better, faster and easier to use (though there’s an initial learning curve). A new version, Snow Leopard, is due in January. The Mac starts up faster, runs programs faster and doesn’t slow down as much as a PC when handling multiple tasks. Macs are generally more expensive than PCs, but don’t tend to have as many problems with spyware and viruses. Macs will usually last longer. There’s much more Mac software available than two years ago (you can even get Microsoft Office for the Mac) and if you really need to run Windows, you can install something called Boot Camp that allows you to run Windows on your Mac. In my tests, Vista ran faster and smoother for me on a Mac than on a fairly new PC.

Knockout Blow: You can run Windows on a Mac. And Macs tend to outperform PCs. Once you get the hang of the Leopard operating system, you’ll love it. We only wish there were more affordable Mac towers available. At least Apple offers refurbished models on its web site at big discounts.

Winner: Mac, by a mile.

Coming up:
Wednesday: DSL vs. cable Internet
Thursday: wireless vs. wired network
Friday: satellite vs cable


Anonymous said...

Misleading review. I sense a Mac bias.

Nothing really special about the Mac hardware. A clean install of Vista on any comparable laptop would run just as fast. Any comparable laptop would be far cheaper also.

Macs are good for certain jobs and PCs are better for others. Macs may be considered cooler. Apple does a good job of marketing cool, but they really aren't any better than PCs

kphonik said...

I disagree on the "nothing special about the Mac hardware" comment. While "special" may not be exactly right- at least the components are tested together and verified for the target operating system with drivers supplied by the OS vendor. Microsoft has repeatedly tried to match this process with it's "Made for Windows" or "Made for Vista" programs, all of which have been miserable failures.

You hit it on the head though with the "A clean install of Vista" condition to your follow-on. A "clean install of Vista" would exist for as long as it takes you to plug the ethernet or setup your wireless on the Windows machine- then as every tech who's dealt with Windows knows- you must suspect the OS has been corrupted and is in a state of decline where safety and performance are measured.

"Macs" as a hardware platform is arguably comparable to any "PC" hardware without doubt. HOWEVER- the Mac operating system is what you're buying the hardware for, hands down. Find me a competent Windows user that has maintained a single user space on a Windows machine for more than a few months without experiencing problems requiring a complete reinstall of the OS and you've found something special!

AJ said...

Macs are great if you want to be locked in to proprietary software that Apple "offers". Steve Jobs likes to make it nearly impossible to buy anything but Apple once you get suckered into one.
After fiascos with the iPhone, and the iPod Touch (where you have to spend $20 every few months for a software update that really doesn't do anything worth $20!) I have sworn off Apple products for good.
PC's are much easier to use, and saying that PC's have more software and games available than Mac's is like saying that Jessica Simpson is more attractive than Rosie O'Donnell. A MASSIVE understatement.
Keep drinking the Apple Kool-Aid, and continue to overpay for the pretty packaging. I'll stick with my reliable PC.

James said...

If you want true freedom at a low cost Linux is the best option. It is extremely flexible and can do anything a typical user needs to do. Plus it is easier to maintain and support. You don't have to buy all the extra stuff you need with Windows or Macs. A good distribution comes with an Office Suite and countless other high end applications.

Ryan said...

I am a recent mac "convert" having been a MS based environment at home for a long time. I find the reliability in my MacBook Pro far exceeds that of any MS based machine I have built or bought.

Finding software has not been a problem for me... I leave the gaming to my Xbox or PS... All applications I use daily, or even rarely are available on the Mac.

Being a Unix guy I am much more comfortable walking through the environment.

I did a comparison of a MacBook and a Dell... After adding the default hardware (or as close as I could get) to the Dell it was actually 200$ more expensive than the MacBook.. You are right you are buying into the Apple way of things, I am sure I could get a cheaper solution. In two years I had to purchase 2 laptops as one broke (cheap hardware) and one was not powerful enough to run smoothly... With Apple I have been on the same hardware for 2 years with no issues...

I find I have to reboot my MS based machines quite often... My Mac's run for months at a time with multiple users, applications, services without issue.

Updates are free, not sure what the 20$ an update comment was... Plus I like the fact that the OS is under 129$ for everything...

it just works for me... I am busy enough at work, I don't need to go home and manage my environment there too...

clayj said...

The best of both worlds, in my opinion: Get a Mac Pro, the expensive Mac desktop PC with huge expandability options. Upgrade the RAM (I have 10 GB of RAM in mine) and the hard drives (I have 4 TB of internal drive space and 2 TB of external drive space), and then pick up a copy of VMware Fusion. Then you can run Windows Vista or any other version of Windows in a window on your Mac, and there is no limit to what you can run. This isn't optimal for gaming, but that's what gaming consoles are for.

Dave said...

A MAC is a PC(personal computer). Apple and IBM helped coin the term personal computer. There used to be a difference when Apple processors ran on other architectures but present day you are paying for a brand. There is nothing wrong with that. Windows Vista vs. Mac OSX - whaterver version does not matter. As long as the pocketbook is happy

john said...

I made the switch to Mac 2 weeks ago. Best business decision that I've made. The #1 reason... the Mac just works. Having 8 applications open at one time because I need it that way, but not having my system freeze up on me is invaluable.

Making a Powerpoint presentation with my old PC and I have to boot up the projector and then the PC and then hit Ctrl-F5 or 6 or whatever and then hopefully it would come on screen. But now, same presentation; same projector; but using a Mac. I plug it in and it pops on screen. IT JUST WORKS.

I used to think that Mac users were just a bunch of Steve Jobs Kool-Aid drinkers as well, but now I know. THEY JUST WORK.

Here's another test if you're on the fence and don't know if you should stay where its safe in PC-land or be daring and get a Mac. Ask a friend or business associate that has already made the switch if they would ever go back to a PC. I'm confident in what they would tell you. 

Anonymous said...

I just ordered another PC for home use. Price was the determinative factor in that I don't have complex needs at home.

I asked two friends who had Macs what they thought and their answer was exactly the same--it's cool, but it's not worth the much higher price. All ease of use concerns don't matter if you already know how to use a PC.

Anonymous said...

I bought a used PowerBook in July and liked it so much, I bought a used MacBook Pro last month. OS X is a wonderful operating system and very stable.

I had hesitated 12 years ago between the Mac and PC. I have the two Apple products, a home-build tower PC and a Dell notebook. Prefer the Apple notebooks.

Also, tired of bugs, security updates, and protection add-ons needed in Windows world. OS X JUST WORKS!!

Anonymous said...

Apple/Mac is the best hands down. I love how you can go to the Apple store to if you have any problems. It is much easier and cheaper than having to send your computer through the mail and wait for it to be fixed.

Anonymous said...

Saying a PC is worse than a Mac is worse than saying a GM is worse than a Japanese made car. That sort of generalization can only be made by fanatical anger. Macs are cool looking but if you want a machine to do serious work and even gaming, hands down a PC offer the best flexibility and performance. Bottom line - macs are a cult following much like people in the 80s collected Pacer's and Gremlins - they look 'cool' and ran but don't do much of anything else with them...

clayj said...

BTW, don't drink the "Macs never crash" Kool-Aid that Apple is selling. As someone who uses Vista and Mac OS X about the same amount, I can attest that both OSes suffer roughly the same number of crashes. I can't tell you how many times I've had to restart my Mac Pro by pulling out its power cord.

Anonymous said...

Mac followers are alwasy bashing PCs. Why? Much like everyone in a smaller type following bashes the mainstream. Bottom line is your experience with a PC will depend on what type of system you get (brand, specs) and for what use. I'm sure Mac beats PC in some aspects and vice-versa. Do your homework and buys a system that best suits your needs. The laughable comments by the author of this blog are intented to sway the *ignorant* and novice computer buyer (his generalizations are evidence of this). Do your reasearch and you'll find what you need.

Anonymous said...

I thought I'd want to post something very informative, but I don't think I will. As of recent, people literally get their jollies from owning an Apple based product.

Why? Because it's trendy right now and it’s hip to hate on MS products.

So why try to argue or explain anything to people when they have their mind made up already? This debate has gone 'round and 'round forever now anyways...

704Champ said...

Macs are better for video editing.

But I'll take a PC for anything else. I am fairly knowledgeable about computers so I can work through most issues that arise on my PC. If you are not very computer literate, a Mac might be for you.

Also Vista is complete crap on any system in my opinion. If I know all the hardware is XP compatible, I'll gladly buy a Vista machine, format the HDD, install XP Pro and update all the drivers.

Anonymous said...

Macs are not better at anything. And yes, they are way more expensive. As for crashes my Macs crash frequently and always require a hard boot to recover. One thing to consider, most crashes are caused by drivers, Apple controls the hardware and the drivers whereas MS does not. Plus, Apple is an illegal monopoly, they are doing everything MS was sued for and getting away with it! Even worse really as MS never controlled both the hardware and software like Apple does. Where's the Justice Department?Windows is easier and better. If you can't use Windows you are too stupid to live and if you get a virus, quit surfing porn all the time!

rbphoto said...

I'm writing this on a nearly 3 year old, last of the Motorola chipped iBooks. It runs 10.4.x, never been defragged, and of course, never had a crash or any other problems. For my business, I have a G5 with all the bells and whistles. Same story; always works. ALWAYS. My wife is about to get her third Dell laptop in less than 18 months from her employer, who incidentally has bailed on Vista.

When I lived in Plaza Midwood, I had a neighbor who was mid-management at the MS call center. He used a Mac at home, and told me that even though he had never mentioned that to any of his managers, the fact that he was not using a PC was noted in his employee jacket. That's right, straight from inside the compound, as he put it, "Microsoft really is as snoopy as people claim. Bill Gates really does want to know what everyone is doing. They ARE the Evil Empire." And that's why their OS has so many backdoors and holes. The real profit is in reselling data on user's habits.

That, and the fact that Photoshop is Mac native, is why I will never own a PC.

Anonymous said...

I would post a rebuttal, but as the article is obviously opinion-based and biased, the author is entitled to whatever he wants to write.

After reading the results of your PS3 vs. Xbox comparison, I knew the results of this one before I even clicked the link.

It troubles me that people prefer to be locked in to an expensive, proprietary and simplistic manufacturer that primarily sells pop-culture over functionality, rather than learn how to properly use a computer. A Mac will never fix the problem that exists between the chair and the keyboard.

Having experience in a business environment where Macs were used, I encountered just as many problems with them as I've seen with PCs. I'm not sure where the Mac-fans get the impression that their machines are better, faster, stronger, but they are far from...

Also, no matter how you spin it, the software availability is not even remotely close to that of the PC. By a mile, to use your terms.

I enjoy custom-building my computers and this is something that Apple does not, and probably will never, allow.

Macs definitely have their use, especially in media-based settings, but it still plays second fiddle to the PC.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Even the new Macs have problems.


Anonymous said...

As a Mac consultant, I had to laugh at some of the absurd comments, most posted by people who can't even claim "bias" because they simply don't know what they're talking about.

The two errors I'd like to address the most:

"you can even get Microsoft Office for the Mac"

Office has been available far longer on the Mac than it was for the PC. I know: I still have the old floppy disks it shipped on somewhere.

The second error was laughable:

"As someone who uses Vista and Mac OS X about the same amount, I can attest that both OSes suffer roughly the same number of crashes. I can't tell you how many times I've had to restart my Mac Pro by pulling out its power cord."

First, I simply know this is false, unless you've really wrecked your OS. This isn't a toaster oven. If your Mac crashes at all, I suspect user error (something to do with the way you shut it down perhaps?)

Wipe the drive (format), reinstall the OS, and your problems will never again reappear without user intervention, unless there's a genuine error, like a hardware malfunction. No computer, even with Windows, screws up it's own OS. It requires "you" or something external to do it.

Anonymous said...

"A clean install of vista will run just as fast?"

how many times would have to do that to keep it running smoothly?

Once a year, once every 6 months, quarterly???

Not the same with OS X, it's built on a totally modern core unlike windows that has not seen a core re-write in quite some time!

Anonymous said...

How come when I want to upgrade my Mac, I have to buy a WHOLE new box???

John said...

I can build my own PC, custom tailored, exactly what I want. PLUS, it's an industry standard box and motherboard configuration so I can always upgrade components without replacing the whole box.

Winner? Hand's down it's the PC.

Anonymous said...

Funny how I work with designers who use MACs, I use a PC. Their "more secure better performing" MACs crash at least once a week have difficulties conecting to other MACs on the network, while my not as good PC is still chugging away no problems.

Anonymous said...

The sad truth about apple computes is that most of the owners could have paid half as much for what they really did need.

And note to the author, you can run mac os on a standard pc.