Mac or PC - What's right for me?

Mac or PC?Image by Steve Lacey via Flickr
A colleague recently requested a list of the advantages of the Mac over the PC, so I thought we'd just settle the age old debate of Mac vs PC right here, right now. Which one should you get and why?  Find out the startling revelations after the jump.

It Depends.
OK, you didn't really think I'd risk burning bridges in one camp and getting a slew of hate mail by declaring an outright winner, did you? I know, I'm shameless, but here are the reasons why it really does depend, and hopefully with this in mind, you'll be able to determine the best match for you.

The general rule of thumb is that Macs cost more than PC's.  You can easily find an inexpensive netbook, a do-it yourself desktop, or a fully configured desktop or laptop with Windows as the OS for a lower price than the most affordable and least featured Mac (currently, the Mac Mini prices in at $700) So, if price is a major driving factor, score a big point for Windows.

Given that more programs are turning to the cloud (online storage), the dependency on installed applications on the machine becomes less of an issue. This means that many of one's daily functions (productivity apps, photo storage, web browser) that used to be more powerful on the PC have now either been carried over to the Mac platform or are based solely in the cloud. Case in point, MS Office is available on both platforms and continues to get updated (2010 on PC, 2011 coming soon on Mac). Surely, there are exceptions, as I know of many engineering programs that are PC only and video editing software that works best only on the Mac. Thus, for specialized functions, your path will be visibly clearer, but for those just looking for an everyday computer, you are likely fine with either machine.

You can run the range of processors, memory, and hard drives with PC machines. Computer hobbyists often appreciate the opportunity to build one's own machine, with more features for occasionally less money . For Apple, the choices are slimmed down to the configurations that Mr. Jobs & company chooses, though you have some limited upgrades available. In the end, Apple's hardware is generally competitive with PC's, though if you're into gaming, PC machines tend to get the nod. Generally, it's a toss-up.

Apple easily wins over the most fans through the look and feel of its devices. It's hard to argue against the fact that the iMac, the Macbook Pro, the iPad and the newest addition (that thin and light Macbook Air) are simply beautiful machines. Windows machines have also caught on that design does matter (Sony and Acer lead the way) and many companies offer more variety in terms of colors and styles. Interestingly, the most popularly touted PC's are often compared to how close they resemble their Mac counterparts. Based on looks alone, Apple is still the cool kid on the block.

Simplicity/Ease of Use
Apple machines are most commonly referred to as the ones that are easier to use. However, I would argue that depending on what you grew up with or what you routinely work with, you might find Windows machines more familiar. For those without much computer experience, I would agree that the Mac operating system tends to be a bit more intuitive in terms of simple tasks like installing, opening, and closing programs. On one hand, for those that work with PC's at their workplace (Windows still owns a much larger market share, though Apple continues to grow), the same look and feel might be desired at home. On the other hand, I've met many teachers who actually feel the opposite, so it still depends.

This post finale won't be anything revolutionary, but my simplest recommendation would be if you can afford to spend a little more, and don't need specific Windows-based programs, a Mac is a worthy investment. I have access to both platforms at home, and nine times out of ten, I will opt to use the Mac simply because it is a more pleasant experience. The gorgeous screen, the fast wake-up, and the fewer annoyances of Windows XP, Vista, or even 7, puts the Mac slightly above the rest

For more recommendations on choosing a computer, check out these posts.

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