Mac Vs. PC
July 7, 2005 9:47 PM   Subscribe

Mac Vs. PC I am in the market for a new Laptop and am an avid PC user. What are some pro's and con's of making the switch to a Mac?

I've never used a mac before but am considering making the switch. I'd like to find some things out about, Price, performance, reliablity etc. In the PC world I regularly use word,excel,email,internet, pretty typical stuff.
posted by retro88 to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The bottom line for an iBook or Powerbook: "Everything just works". It doesn't stop working. It doesn't act weird. I'll plug something in and it will work. I open the lid and in roughly 3 seconds, it's exactly how I left it - a few more seconds and the wireless is up.

I've used a PC for a really long time. I still use a PC - for games. Another PC is used for tinkering with Linux.

But I always look forward to playing with my Powerbook. It's a simple 1.33ghz 12" with 756 megs of RAM. That may seem a little slow, but I don't notice *any* difference from my 2.4ghz Thinkpad.

I think I paid about $1200 for it.

It's beautiful.

I love it.

It works.

PC's have their place, but there's really something about a modern Mac that makes you realize what's wrong with a PC.

Unless you play 3D games. You really need a PC for that. No contest.
posted by lowfi at 10:25 PM on July 7, 2005

You might want to try searching and evaluating the responses in the fourteen dozen other threads covering this topic.
posted by angry modem at 10:26 PM on July 7, 2005

A prolific writer of note says that Dell laptops are the way to go on the PC end, but I couldn't vouch for it seeing how I am writing this on my second Apple machine (I too am in the laptop market).
The upside of the Apple laptops is simplicity. All of those programs you want to use can be done on the lowest performance mac laptop. Office files can be swapped from PC to Mac with little grief (though you may want to investigate porting the latest edition of Office files for the PC to the Mac).
Also, the majority of viruses can be sidestepped by going the Apple route (you'll have to work hard to break it, but it can be done...and even then, that's where the AppleCare plan can prove to be worthwhile).
The downside is price, as well as available software. While I'd suggest swallowing the price, the software can be a dealbreaker. Some PC programs have counterparts (or non-evil goateed twins) that are official, and sometimes an independant developer will make their own conversion. While your necessary applications sound covered, dig around for anything you feel like you can't live without.
Weighing that and the price tag should be enough to form a decision.
posted by blueneurosis at 10:35 PM on July 7, 2005

Mac user here. Agreed: It just works.

Truthfully, Mac OS X 10.4 is more buggy than 10.1 (which was amazingly stable). The only third-party software I really use is Microsoft Office -- and still, I get the occasional freeze or crash. But Apple's "occasional" is "rare" by Microsoft standards. And I've never, ever lost work.

You mention being a "typical" user. That's me. I don't play games and I don't write software. I don't want to know too much about what's happening under the hood. I need the basics -- calendar, address book, email, etc. Apple's software is simple, designed for dummies like me, and comes packaged with every new computer. I'll never go back.

As for the added cost: Yeah, Apple is more expensive. Some people buy huge boxes of dishwasher soap and laundry detergent at BJ's. I buy smaller boxes at the grocery store, and I pay more per pound. Am I wasting my money? Nah. For that extra nickel, I'm buying the ability to lift the box without grunting. "Ease of use." Same deal here.
posted by cribcage at 10:57 PM on July 7, 2005

I'm a Windows user, and will probably always be a Windows user because of the following reasons:
- For me, it just works. I don't get crashes, and the one time I was getting BSODs it was because my sound card drivers were out of date. Five second fix. YMMV.
- Visual Studio .NET/2003 is still by far the best IDE I've ever used. Again, ymmv, and its largely what you're used to.
- I can't get used to anything other than the native clients for MSN/AIM. iChat would drive me insane. I can't even use GAIM.
- (Games to some extent, although the games I run can all run under linux)
- Price. I put together a top-line Athlon64 system for $850. A comperable system from Apple would have been in the $1500 range.

That said, if I ever get a laptop, I'm getting a powerbook, as long as I have my desktop too. Powerbooks are wow, but I'd never fully switch to Mac.

(For those of you who pull out the UNIX excuse, I keep a shell box in my basement running NetBSD and VNC to it. That & ActivePerl + vim on my Windows box pretty much does it for me)
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:58 PM on July 7, 2005

It does just work, but I had no problems when I was a windows user, so that isn't the reason for me. I guess I simply look forward to using my iBook more than any other computer I've owned. It's just more fun, as silly as that sounds. You know when you were a kid and you opened presents on christmas morning? That's what I feel like when I open my iBook. I can't explain it, but that's what it is for me.

I would rather work on my 999 dollar iBook than any "top-line Athlon64 system".

Also, software is one of the main reasons I switched. Yes, windows has a ton more, but, although I generally stick to apple programs, I much prefer the quality that I find with mac 3rd party products than the quantity that comes with windows.
posted by justgary at 12:47 AM on July 8, 2005

Both Windows XP and the Mac OS are, in their unadulterated forms, highly stable operating systems as long as your hardware is good. The problem is that many things that require third-party drivers in Windows are natively supported on the Mac. Apple has worked very hard to make the core OS support so many different essential technologies that any third-party drivers are very high-level in nature and unlikely to cause systemic malfunctions.

By the way, there is an official AIM client for Mac, though I'm not sure I understand that excuse. I personally prefer Adium to both the official AIM and iChat.
posted by trevyn at 12:54 AM on July 8, 2005

Apple customer support.

I had my year old's Powerbook's HD completely fail last month. Since I had purchased Applecare (the three year extended warranty) at the same time as the Powerbook, the HD replacement was completely covered by it. Plus, they got my Powerbook back to me in 5 working days, which was earlier than they promised.

They were also very nice about it, as well.

If you do go with a Mac, get the Applecare. It's so worth it.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:26 AM on July 8, 2005

I'm the IT Director for a business that relies heavily upon laptops, as we have a lot of sales people out in the field. I've changed laptop brands on multiple occasions in the past year, and here are some of the things I've learned.
  • Dell. Mediocre systems with occasional quality-control issues. Tech support barely speaks English, and if your problem is not covered in their three-ring binder, then you're SOL.
  • Toshiba. Systems used to be great, but then they changed manufacturing facilities and their quality took a nosedive. Near constant quality-control issues and extremely slow warranty repair turn around time. Their recent redesign of their lightweight laptops to look more tablet PC-like has reduced the number of hinges from two to one, making it a virtual certainty that you will break the hinge and tear the video cable within a month of buying the laptop.
  • IBM. IBM's PC division is owned by the government of China, so expect their laptops to have been assembled by starving and oft-beaten slaves. While very chunky and rather ugly, their ThinkPad line used to be quite good, but quality has greatly suffered as of late, largly due to the use of forced labor to assemble the systems.
  • Sony. The VAIO line is complete crap, and their laptops will break if you so much as look at them wrong.
  • Panasonic. The ToughBook line is very pricey compared to Dell or IBM, but incredibly durable. I've had sales people drop (and on one occasion, accidentally kick) their ToughBooks, and on all but one occasion the system survived with nary a problem.
  • Apple. The iBook line is more for the home user, while the PowerBook line is for the professional or business user. The hinges are the weak point, and are extremely expensive to replace once the unit is out of warranty. The laptops cost more than their PC equivalents, but are far more trouble-free thanks to the operating system. I think if it were possible to run Windows XP on an Apple, then they would be a waste of money, since the hardware alone is nothing special.
  • Acer. Makes Sony look good.
  • HP/Compaq. Compaq used to make extremely solid systems, but that was before HP came along. Now, their cool silver cases, winking LEDs, and other eye candy exist simply to distracting you from the fact that inside, their laptops are filled with inferior components and badly assembled hardware. Tech support has the same problems as Dell, and is made worse by their laptops' frequent failures. Makes a great door stopper.
  • Alienware. Aimed primarly at the gamer PC market, Alienware makes some very unusual looking laptops in colors including "conspiracy blue" and "saucer silver." Pricing is a little high, but both their hardware quality and tech support are very good.
Regardless of what brand laptop you choose, it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you make regular and frequent backups of your laptop's hard drive. The easiest way to do this is with an external USB or FireWire drive from a reliable manufacturer such as Maxtor.

I cannot overemphasys the importantance of backing up your laptop's data. With very few exceptions, most laptops today ship with Hitachi (formerly IBM) Deskstar hard drives. In the IT industry these drives are colloquially referred to as "Deathstar" drives, since they suffer from a staggeringly high rate of failure. On the safe side, I generally assume that a brand-new Deskstar drive, in normal levels of usage, will fail within twelve to fifteen months. If you travel with your laptop, and subject it to shock and vibration, the failure rate will rise dramatically. Back up regularly and often. Trust me, it's a lot less expensive to buy a $200 Maxtor USB drive than to pay Ontrack Data Recovery $2,000 to get your data back from a failed Hitachi Deskstar drive.
posted by nlindstrom at 2:53 AM on July 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

Always been a Dos/Win/Linux user.

Last year "upgraded" to a iBook G3 (800mhz) running OSX.

Was in love for the first six months. The interface, the design, the "pretty looks" soft and hardware wise.

No, one year later, I am still in love with the interface but I have discovered:

the best:
+ It is not only "looks". Under the hood you have a very very very unix-like (darwin I guess) os, which can do amazing stuff if you know how to.
+ You have a lot of software for doing a lot of stuff; you just have to look a little more than when you are searching for a windows software
+ everything works almost like it should. I actually had to "re-learn" simpler ways to do things on the software/UI.

the worst:
- there are programs that you won't find in apple world. Having said that, I discovered that is only soft. development programs based on Microsoft tools

In the end?

I still use Windows (at work). At home, I never touch my Windows systems. Only my trusty iBook G3. (need to upgrade!!!)
posted by LittlePrince at 3:03 AM on July 8, 2005

Oh, and let me add,

even if an iBook is for home use, I think it (at least looks like that for me) is a lot more robust than the powerbook.

I drooped my iBook a lot of times, and it hasn't showed yet any fail. As long as you don't have any "motherboard and cable problems" - knock on wood - it will last almost forever.

But maybe I am wrong, maybe the Powerbook is "stronger"... Hummm... I think I need to buy a powerbook next time...

(This thread is starting to get expensive on me!)
posted by LittlePrince at 3:09 AM on July 8, 2005

Here's the thing: you can get an okay Dell notebook for ~$500 and an okay Mac iBook for ~$900. Is the better OS worth it costing twice as much?
posted by k8t at 5:09 AM on July 8, 2005

Oh boy. How we love this topic. My own opinions, based on 18 years of owning Apple machines and using everything in mixed-platform lab environments, and a few years of running a lab that buys 8-10 machines a year, so a small sample, and being the tech support guy for all my friends and colleagues:

Apple does *not* cost more in total cost of ownership for most users, including many power users. I can show you the numbers for my lab, but I assure you it's true for the uses we make of machines. There is plenty of software for Mac OSX for almost anything most people, including power users, want to do. Exceptions, as noted, are games, CAD, animation, and accounting, where the PC options are definitely better. But on the media production side, which is what my shop does, the choices for Mac are better -- just as or more powerful, and way easier to master for users, which is where some of the lower TCO comes into the picture.

My own experience is that Apple hardware is better all around than most PC makers give you, though when there is an exception, it can be a doozy. But as someone above said, Apple customer care kicks ass on *any* PC maker I've dealt with. In the last couple of years I have had Apple make major repairs (new CPU in one case) to machines that failed *out of warranty* twice. Overnight. I kid you not. I can't even reach Sony or Dell tech support have the time, and when I do, it's often close to worthless.

For average users who can afford the somewhat higher upfront cost and mostly need to do office/home media/internet tasks, an iBook is a durable, pleasurable, cost-efficient machine. OS X is much simpler than XP for a complete newbie, and a real pleasure (and not hard to learn) for a current Windows user. For the time being, OS X is more secure than XP, though don't believe anyone who says "Macs are perfectly secure." If you're a geek, it doesn't matter. Use what blows your skirt up or runs the software you need.

I do agree that the iBook is more durable than the Powerbook, and I use an iBook as a sidearm lately because I beat the hell out of my laptop (and I get a new one every year for free). If you're hard on machines, I recommend it. But if it's your only computer, and you're gentle with it, and you expect to need more juice (for audio/video work especially), a Powerbook is a better choice if you're going with Apple.

As for k8t's cost comparison, amortize the $400 difference over the 2-3 years a normal user will get from a new laptop. It's not significant. Get the machine that will make you happiest, and that will work most efficiently. I easily waste hundreds of dollars worth of my time installing patches, dealing with tech support, and dealing with adware and spyware on my lab's PCs every year. YMMV, but I can prove the Macs cost me less to own. Way less. These are workstations, but the reasons extend to laptops as well.
posted by realcountrymusic at 5:49 AM on July 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

With Apple computers, everything works wonderfully from the moment you first turn it on. You won't have to search out Adobe Acrobat to read or make PDFs, as it's all built right in. You don't have to buy WinDVD to watch movies either, as a DVD Player comes standard. You'll get hooked up with awesome, well designed tools that are useful in your day to day life (Address Book, iCal, etc.), and great software for recreational use (iMove, iDVD, iPhoto, etc.). And one of the great things is that it's all designed for use with just one mouse button, so everything works really quickly and efficiently. Features are never hidden away in right-click menus, and the software just works like you would expect it too. Also, you'll never have to hunt down drivers for your hardware. Plug it in, and it works. It's great!

You also don't have to worry about viruses, adware, spyware, or anything like that. Macs are much more secure by default, and things like that just don't affect them, which means you won't waste time running Spybot, AdAware, MS Anti-Spyware, McAfee Anti-Virus, etc. And lastly, the build quality on Apple products, especially their laptops, is amazing. Last year I worked at my school's student computing help desk, and of all the computers we took in to fix (on average, 7 to 10 computers a day), only three were Macs (one had a harddrive die, another use had bought it used and needed an account password changed, and the last had a large, hardcover book fall eight feet onto her PowerBook, breaking its screen). As a result, I've handled tons of laptops, and the vast majority just don't feel solid, or stand up to being carried and tossed around in backpacks daily, with the exception of IBM Thinkpads and Apple laptops. The Macs are simply better products.
posted by SemiSophos at 5:50 AM on July 8, 2005

It took me a while to get used to a Mac. I was able to use my girlfriends computer for a few months and figured everything out before I decided I couldn't live without my own Pbook.

If you are completely new to Mac, especially if you are extensively Windows conditioned, theres a bunch of having to figure out the mac way of doing things. Usually, it makes much more sense than the windows way, but it takes some time to figure out and you have to unlearn what you increasingly realize are arbitrary overcomplicated ways of doing things. this of course, becomes less of a problem after some time.

for me it was a real help to be able to get my work done on windows, and learn at my own speed how to get things done on a mac without any pressure. it was a big factor in making the "switch".

also, Mac desktops are okay but I'd never get one - the laptops though - i'd never get another kind of laptop.
posted by 31d1 at 6:25 AM on July 8, 2005

Here's the thing: you can get an okay Dell notebook for ~$500 and an okay Mac iBook for ~$900. Is the better OS worth it costing twice as much?

You've obviously never had an iBook. It's all I need, is light, and I take it everywhere. Comparing it to a 500 dollar dell is comical.

People buy a 500 dollar dell, because they can't afford anything better at the time. People buy an iBook because they want to buy an iBook. Big difference.
posted by justgary at 8:05 AM on July 8, 2005

nlindstrom: Given your experienced, pessimistic assessment of the major PC notebook makers, what are you buying now?

The Panasonic Toughbook and Alienware ones were the only ones that you seem to be endorsing.

Sad to hear about ThinkPad quality dropping, since our experiences with them were so positive and I was seriously considering buying one for myself.
posted by pmurray63 at 8:28 AM on July 8, 2005

I purchased a G3/800 iBook with Airport wireless for my wife for ~$550(refubished but *flawless* - it looked brand new).

That configuration is more than sufficient to handle typical uses.
posted by lowfi at 8:53 AM on July 8, 2005

if you want to do anything with multimedia, a mac is a breeze.
posted by vega5960 at 9:32 AM on July 8, 2005

Shame about Toshiba quality dropping, too. I've beat mine to hell and back thrice over, and it's still ticking (albeit without an LCD any more... poor thing!)

I'm picking up an iBook soon. I keep hoping for an upgrade; MacRumours continues to tell me to not purchase one quite yet.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:26 AM on July 8, 2005


At work, I use a two-year-old Toshiba Satellite running a dual-boot mix of Microsoft Windows XP Professional and Fedora Linux Core 3.

At home, I use an Apple iBook. After I've spent ten hours at work, dealing with the various issues and problems that arise from Windows and Linux, it is bliss to come home and to use a computer that simply works, works well, and works all the time. I'll second what a lot of people have been saying in this thread: that Apple just works.

There are a lot of laptop manufacturers out there beyond the ones I mentioned in my previous post. I only discussed the ones that I have had direct experience using and supporting, and I would encourage you to not limit your laptop search to just the big manufacturers. I have a few friends who use laptops from small companies, almost "clone" or "whitebox" laptops, and they seem very pleased with them.
posted by nlindstrom at 12:05 PM on July 8, 2005

an okay Dell notebook for ~$500 and an okay Mac iBook for ~$900

I'm not even going to look at the Dell site, but I'll bet you the $400 difference that the Dell uses shared memory for graphics, doesn't have built-in wireless, and doesn't include a software suite comparable to iLife.
posted by joaquim at 1:31 PM on July 8, 2005

I must respectfully disagree with SemiSophos on one point. If you decide to go Mac get a two button mouse, at least to ease yourself in, or you'll go mental. I recently helped a Mac user with a Powerpoint presentation and things like 'grouping/group' and 'order/bring to front' have to be accessed via a completely unintuitive icon. (We did hunt for these in the menus but couldn't find them. Please correct me if I'm wrong). I daresay this holds true for the other MS apps. you'll be using. Right-click context menus are so much easier than the 'command-click, no, ctrl-click, no, option-click' malarkey.
That minor niggle aside, if I was in the market for a laptop, and could afford it, I'd definitely go Mac, and I've been a DOS then Windows user since '83. As others have said, Macs just work.
posted by punilux at 1:47 PM on July 8, 2005

If you decide to go Mac get a two button mouse

Inconvenient to have to use an external mouse on a laptop. New Powerbooks have scrolling trackpads. And control-click (all you need to replace the right button, no command-click necessary) becomes second nature after a while. I marginally prefer a 2-button mouse on my Mac desktops, but it's not a hassle to control click on the laptops.
posted by realcountrymusic at 2:44 PM on July 8, 2005

But maybe I am wrong, maybe the Powerbook is "stronger"

A lot of Mac laptops in my world, and the iBooks are tougher all around. But the new Powerbooks have a nifty feature -- a motion-sensor that detects a drop as it is happening and parks the hard drive instantly, saving you (most of the time) from the most horrible consequence of dropping a 'book. Really cool. Haven't seen that on PC notebooks, though some of the "toughbook" models might have it.

One bitch about the iBook, though. It's WHITE. Man do you have to keep cleaning it or it gets ugly. And the wrist-rests will develop dark stains over time that are impossible to remove.
posted by realcountrymusic at 2:48 PM on July 8, 2005

nlindstrom's comment on China's "starving and oft-beaten slaves"! Have you even been to China? Yeah, there are some pretty bad factories there, but puh-leeze. That said, I agree with most of his other comments, except that Dell stopped using Indian tech support a long time ago. You still gotta go through the "follow my 3-ring-binder" tech support. And yes, backing up is an absolute absolute must. Always.

I'm a big Mac fan, but I admit Windoze has come a long way. If you're just going to be using it for the basic stuff, and it's just for personal use, I'd still recommend Macs for the same reasons everyone's already pointed out. Software *may* be a dealbreaker for you, depending on your needs. And ditto on getting a 2-button mouse.
posted by edjusted at 11:36 PM on July 8, 2005

Oh! And memory! Spend the money on memory! Macs and PC's really shouldn't be running on less than 512mb if you can help it. It makes a HUGE difference in speed.
posted by edjusted at 11:39 PM on July 8, 2005

But the new Powerbooks have a nifty feature -- a motion-sensor that detects a drop as it is happening and parks the hard drive instantly, saving you (most of the time) from the most horrible consequence of dropping a 'book. Really cool. Haven't seen that on PC notebooks, though some of the "toughbook" models might have it.

IBM originated this in some ThinkPad models.

Every now and then I toy with the idea of going Mac, but it never makes sense to me for two reasons:

1. I'd have to start over from scratch buying software.
2. I really don't have a problem with Windows.

That last one is shocking, I know, but ever since I switched to the incredibly stable Windows 2000, I've been happy. (XP just looks like more processor-gobbling eye candy to me.) I'm no MS fanboy, but I really don't have many problems. So I stay in the Windows camp, pondering the replacement to my 5 year old Gateway Solo notebook.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:38 AM on July 9, 2005

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