In the last couple years, more and more folks have been asking me whether a Mac or a PC is the better computer. In case you don’t know, a Mac is a type of computer made by Apple, the same company that makes iPods and iPhones. A PC, on the other hand, refers to a computer that runs Microsoft Windows. When you’re standing there holding your credit card deciding which to buy, which is best?
Apple would have you believe that Macs are far superior to the old stalwart PC. You may have seen the Apple ads on TV that portray the Mac as a coolguy 30-something with all the answers. He has conversations with PC, who is a middle-aged nerd in an ill-fitting business suit that is always having problems. According to Apple, the purchase of a new Mac will change your life forever.
Well, Apple’s claim is true in some ways, but it’s mostly marketing hype. The truth is that for 95% of computer users, all tasks they want to do can be done on either a Mac or a PC. The difference lies in how the total cost of each of the machines is spread out. Macs are great for creating audio, video, and DVDs right out of the box. It’s easy to make your own custom recordings or photo albums. Also, you don’t have to buy antivirus software for Macs. The catch to all this is that Macs cost about twice as much (or more) than a PC with the same amount of processing power, memory, and storage space.
PC owners won’t pay as much up front, but they will have to spend $400-$500 to buy software that offers features equivalent to what a Mac can do out of the box. (Some users won’t spend a dime on extra software because they will never need these capabilities.) Then, there’s the $30-$50 per year you’ll have to spend on a good antivirus program, since Windows PCs are vulnerable to many types of viruses and other malware. PCs outshine Macs in the area of choice. For any given thing you might want to do on a PC (such as create scrapbooks), there may be 4-5 good programs to choose from for getting it done. On the other hand, a Mac might only have 1-2 programs for any given purpose. Macs and PCs can’t run the same software, so any software you want to use has to be written for one or the other.
Which Do I Think is Best?
I have used PCs for 15 years and Macs for 8 years. My personal take on it is as follows:
Buy a PC: If you favor a lot of choices, buy a PC. As for software, there still is no where near the amount of software available for Macs as PCs. Why? Apple makes up 10% of the computer market, so there aren’t as many people buying software for Macs. Therefore, more developers (the people who create computer programs) write code for PCs. I would feel guilty if I didn’t state outright that I think Windows 7 is great. It’s the best thing Microsoft has cranked out in a long time. As an example, AreoSnap and the way Libraries work allow me to get more done faster. It’s all the small touches like this that makes Windows 7 great.
On the hardware side, Apple doesn’t offer a lot of variation in hardware configuration or style. When’s the last time you saw a red or blue Macbook? Some people love the clean, white lines of a Mac. Others abhor them. Unless you buy a PC, you’re out of luck.
Buy a Mac: If you are willing to pay a little more and don’t want to worry about so many choices, a Mac is the way to go. Most of the software that’s available for the Mac is pretty high quality, as long as it always has the features you need. Macs come with iLife, which comes with some of the best consumer-grade audio and video creation tools out there. More and more developers are being drawn to write software for Macs, because there market share is growing very quickly (due in part to the iPod, iPad, and iPhone). Also, Macs are easier to maintain. Macs do get slower over time like PCs, however, it takes much longer. As of now, you really don’t have to worry about viruses on a Mac, though I suspect that will change as more and more people buy Macs. The more people using a system, the more appealing it is for virus programmers to get to work.
With the Web, Who Cares?
I can’t really say a Mac or a PC is better. It all depends on what you value. Each is great in its own way. Mac vs. PC has been, is, and will be one of the biggest geek holy wars.
Most PC users I know right now are really into sharing things on sites like Facebook, Flickr, or Twitter. All this communal goodness takes place in a web browser. The sites don’t care what browser you use, and both Macs and PCs have several great browsers available. So, for most people, the choice of Mac or PC is moot. Both cost about the same in the long run, and both do a good job getting things done, howbeit in different ways. Some things are easier on a Mac and some things are easier on a PC, but you really can’t go wrong either way.
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