Besides asking for a good-quality large monitor, I'm stumped
September 21, 2012 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Please help a not-very-savvy computer user make a decision. I have the potential to have either a Mac or a PC purchased for my use at work, and I'm not sure how to decide between the two. The story inside.

Currently I use a Mac. My job frequently entails handling image files, using Photoshop to edit and color correct them, and to send them out to other users.

I also need frequent (multiple times daily) access to a database, which currently is Filemaker Pro but which hopefully will be a different, more job-specific one in the near future.

We are hoping to get a new database which is PC-based but which can be made to run on Macs using Citrix. (There's also talk of cloud hosting the database, but we're not sure of the details. We're a bunch of liberal arts types without much IT knowledge.) Should the database project come through, I would be getting a new computer, and am trying to figure out what I should request. Is image handling still superior on a Mac? Would I be better off with a PC that doesn't need the go-between to properly run the database? Am I even asking the right questions?
posted by PussKillian to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
If you get a Mac, you can also run Windows on it, if need be, skipping the Citrix go-between for the database.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:29 AM on September 21, 2012

I'm no expert on the database question, but keep in mind the Mac can run Windows natively if needed. My daughter did this for school to run MS Access for one class.
posted by The Deej at 9:30 AM on September 21, 2012

We use Citrix at work, and although it is technically compatible with Macs, it always seems to be the users with Macs that have the most problems... so I would be wary of having a Mac+Citrix as the solution to anything essential to your job.

PCs are also cheaper and run exactly the same Adobe software as Macs...
posted by KateViolet at 9:33 AM on September 21, 2012

A mac can also run windows ... but for a specific $spend you may well be able to get a significantly more powerful PC ... Something to consider as Photoshop works better with grunt behind it.
posted by jannw at 9:35 AM on September 21, 2012

If cost is not an issue, why not get a Mac and a copy of Windows? You can always boot into Windows full-time, if it turns out that is better for your workflow, but you have the option of using OSX if it is compatible with your needs (or future needs).
posted by Rock Steady at 9:36 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't love the idea of "can be made to run on macs." We've got a specific database that can be "made to run on lion" (I'm still using Snow Leopard or w/e) and it... does not work consistently, or well, or quickly. People call me all day, all "can you look this up for me? I don't have time to open a virtual box...".

I would go Windows, unless you KNOW you have mac-specific software.
posted by AmandaA at 9:49 AM on September 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Macs provide more flexibility and perfect Windows compatibility, as they can run both operating systems. If I weren't paying for it, I'd get a Mac every time.
posted by jsturgill at 9:52 AM on September 21, 2012

Citrix is nice, but it's nothing compared to software running on powerful native hardware. If your database software is (or will be) geared toward a PC, get a PC. In many cases, you can also get a lot more hardware for your money (which means better Photoshop performance) if you go PC.

The only reason I wouldn't go PC is if you're a committed Mac user who's not familiar with the Windows environment. (Learning is a new OS can be a real chore.)
posted by GnomeChompsky at 10:03 AM on September 21, 2012

If Photoshop is the only graphics program you're using, you will not notice a difference in performance between a Windows machine and a Mac. Since you'll only be getting a new computer if the Windows database thing goes through, I think you should be looking at PCs (with a nice Mac display, maybe, if you have money to burn after saving on the cost of the CPU). If you don't have anyone in your group who's comfortable with IT, I don't think you want to mess with networking both PCs and Macs to use the database.

Although you can run Windows on a Mac, you'd either have to invest in Windows versions of your programs anyway (which makes the money you'd spend on a Mac kind of a waste), or switch back and forth, which I think would be a pain.
posted by Kriesa at 10:09 AM on September 21, 2012

As you can see from the comments, you can make either setup work.

Honestly, I wouldn't overthink this. Ask for whichever computer you will be happiest and most comfortable using. You're going to be sitting in front of this thing all day every day. If there are hiccups with one setup or the other, your IT department will help you sort them out and you'll settle into a routine. Feeling at ease with your machine is going to be the most important thing in the long run.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:16 AM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

This line is a ton blurrier that it was even as little as five years ago. All Citrix is is a client accessing some database. What OS is running on the DB server doesn't matter as much as it used to.

To be honest, if you're currently on a Mac, and have a comfort level with it, I'd go with another one. As has been said multiple times above, you can boot an actual copy of windows, not some WINE* alternative. Mac's even ship with two button mice now. Mac vs PC is more of a marketing gimmick these days than any real difference.

*And to be honester, WINE has come a looong way in the last couple of years. As long as you're not high-end gaming, it's almost transparent.
posted by Sphinx at 10:38 AM on September 21, 2012

A little clarification: I use a PC at home, so am reasonably comfortable in both environments.

We don't have a dedicated IT department for my specific workspace (there's a wider, institutional one), and arranging for technical help has been a bit of a headache in the past. If we get the database, we'll be getting temporary IT help to get it set up, but that's it. Based on the responses I'm seeing here so far, I'm leaning towards a PC at this point. It seems like it may prevent some headaches in the future.
posted by PussKillian at 10:53 AM on September 21, 2012

One (admittedly poor) reason to carry on using a Mac would be if you're used to using keyboard shortcuts. I switch between a Mac at work and Windows at home; if I'm doing some work in InDesign at home it takes me a good while to get used to hitting Ctrl rather than the Apple key. There are probably ways around this. As others have said, you'll get more grunt from a similarly-priced PC but take your workflow into consideration as well and go with what you're most comfortable with.
posted by peteyjlawson at 11:36 AM on September 21, 2012

Use whatever you feel makes you most productive. If you prefer a Mac, get a Mac. Windows will install just fine on a Mac and run natively under BootCamp. It's not rocket-science. If you don't need a lot of power for your PC apps, you can run Windows in a virtual machine just fine.

I use Macs exclusively at work and at home. At work, I run Windows in a VM for a few PC-only applications that I use only rarely. At home, I dual boot so I can play games, though I mostly use my PS3 for that these days.
posted by Hylas at 12:25 PM on September 21, 2012

Yep, pick which ever one you like using more. There's no technical reason to choose one over the other.
posted by empath at 12:46 PM on September 21, 2012

I think it's kind of expensive to use a Mac, which is already costly, and then add Windows, which requires another license or 2(if you use Parallels, or another Windows host software). Many designers use Macs out of preference, and for the big, beautiful screen. But both OSes will run the Adobe apps you need, in basically the same way. I find Macs to be more mouse-dependent, aggravating my tendinitis.
posted by theora55 at 11:10 AM on September 22, 2012

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