The [definitive] Mac vs. PC thread

(This is my attempt to create a Great Debate thread that answers all the questions, issues, problems, points of contention, and does so in one post)

There’s a couple of behaviors at work here. Being on several different forums (fora?) over the decades, you’ll find the exact same people in each group.

Everybody wants to be on the winning team: North vs. South, Raiders vs. Saints, Mac vs PC, Xbox vs. PS3 vs. Wii, Catholic vs. Protestant, Harley vs. Metric.

Dammit I researched and scrimped and saved and want to feel like I got the best I could with what I have (and you didn’t, you ignorant slut) - see ‘Everybody wants to be on the winning team’.
Trying to cram an emotional decision in a rational though process** - I’ve seen it in car guys, Ford sucks, Chevy Rules, Eurotrash vs. Rice - the actual fact is: Brand loyalty has more to do with what you grew up with (Daddy bled GM blue) then whether or not one type of car is better than another. If you REALLY wanted to ride the cheapest, most functional, most economical piece of transportation, you’d be riding a Vespa, not Leasing an SUV. You bought what you bought because it turns your crank, admit it and move on.

Funny thing is, it’s financially limited - I’ve been extremely fortunate. In cars and game consoles, I’ve done well enough that I own one of everything. I have a turbo car, and a supercharged car, and a Torque Monster, and Classic showcar and while they all have pros and cons, those differences aren’t so large as to make one hands down better over another. The Torque Monster loses power at our altitude, the Supercharger car heat-soaks like a mother, the Turbo car…well, it’s stock, so it’s dependable. (But if it weren’t, it’d be peaky, and make no power down low where the motor spends 99% of it’s time). And the show car? Hey, it’s got 10 moving parts, 8 of them are pistons…anybody can work on it!

But from a game console standpoint? I don’t care if the PS3 is better than the Wii. I buy the best games for each console (6 months later, used, at a fraction of the price). But that was the first place I had ‘one of everything’ and realized that debating one vs. another was a waste of valuable time.

Now, do we REALLY need to talk about the following untrue statements?
[li]‘There are no viruses because nobody buys Macs’[/li][li]‘Windows is an infected piece of unstable crap’[/li][li]‘Macs only have one button mice, u-hur hur’[/li][li]‘I can build a faster computer for one-tenth the price’[/li][li]‘How’s that world look from your walled garden?’[/li][li]’[Mac | PC] owners are a buncha rabid fanbois that live in [their parent’s basements | Starbucks] and really just need to get out and [get laid | some sun | a life | a real computer]’[/li][/ul]

Funny thing is: This started out as a Harley vs. Metric motorcycle post and I realized it was 100% appropriate to computers.

I predict that this thread will stay on the GD front page for the next eight years.

Nonsense! You’re just saying that because people won’t admit their biases and will remain unconvinced.

Some other threads on this topic:

My bottom line: In my experience the reliability and “fit and finish” of the hardware and software is still much better in Macs than PCs. PCs and Windows have gotten much better, and are usually more than adequate, but my frustration level is much lower on Macs than PCs. The savings on BP meds more than make up for any price difference.

For what it’s worth, Macs can get viruses.

No, I haven’t had a Mac with a virus. I have done tech support for Macs with viruses. I never did it when I worked for Apple, but I did when I worked for Blizzard. The catch is that you have to actually install the virus, usually along with some kind of add-on. I’m not sure if Macs ever got hit by the browser viruses, which were universally caused by out-of-date Flash versions.

Having used both and supported both, Macs are by far easier to support. The need to troubleshoot is rare, and when you must, it’s extraordinarily easy to figure out what is causing the problem in 99% of cases. That 1% is a real bitch, mind, and really does take someone with a lot of experience.

PCs have for years been much easier to customize. Windows has become more restrictive over the years, but it’s easier to get under the hood – in my experience, Macs smooth the hood over and assure you that you really don’t want to get in there.

I don’t have any Unix experience (apart from what I used in Mac support) so I can’t speak there.

I will say that every business I’ve ever worked for – at least, every business that employed more than a dozen or so people – had at least one Mac on site, usually for the use of whatever artists or graphic designers they had.

I think this is the key. Being more customizable means that it’s both easier to screw up and easier to tweak into perfection. People who are enjoy customizing and tinkering with the systems tend to be the ones who are best at computers. On the other hand, someone with a little knowledge can easily put themselves in a dangerous situation.

I’m a tinkerer and every Windows box I’ve owned for the last 16 years has run like a dream, just the way I want it. Either I am the Windows Whisperer* or it’s really not all that difficult.

What were we debating again?

*I am not the Windows Whisperer.

These arguments now almost always just crack me up beacuse Mac users will invariably say the exact same things they were saying in like 1998. OMG ENJOY YOUR BLUE SCREENS 3 TIMES A DAY WINDOWS LOLOLOLOL. They don’t acknowledge whatsoever that Windows has become massively better since Windows 98, and I’m not even sure they’re aware that operating systems past Windows 98 exist.

Wait… I thought this was over, seeing as how Mac always kicked PC’s ass in every interesting way, and now Apple has surpaassed Microsoft as the world’s most valuable tech company:

I don’t see what’s left to talk about.

Apple always rocked, it just took the world awhile to catch up.

Actually, Merneith you’re missing a slight, but significant, group of people: The ones who are the best at computers, but don’t want to spend their time contemplating the navel lint. My impressions are thusly:

  1. Linux - And absolute pain in the ass to get configured the first time. You have to become the expert in whatever applications you need to solve the problems you have. But when it’s done, it’ll chug along nearly forever. If you have an edge case, there will be a solution here…but you’ll have to become an expert as, likely as not, you’re also tech support.

  2. Windows, - A stable, dependable, workhorse of an OS that everybody knows and supports…that gets crufty over time, and every once in awhile, you may just want to perform a therapeutic reinstall. And Heaven help you if the infection you get is a truly evil one, if so, hope you have your restore image, all your application install media, and two days to a week to recover. There are bad guys out there that know the OS better than Microsoft itself.

  3. Mac - Choirs of Angels sing! Every year they add a new shiny that you’ll just have to have…and 20 minutes after you have it, meh, you coulda just limped along with with your old software/hardware. Sure Facial recognition in iPhoto is pretty cool, but I never use it. If you’re upgrading a computer that’s less than three years old, you probably won’t see a lot of improvement in MOST cases. Sure, your video will compile in 25 minutes rather than 90, but if you’re only doing it three or four times a year, that’s not worth upgrading.

I have found similar features and build quality between Macs and PC’s of similar cost. My Alienware is a really nifty computer. So is my MBP. Sony, Toshiba, Lenovo, all make good equipment, if you pay enough money.

Of greater interest is the additional time you get back in not propping up and polishing Windows. i swear I used to spend 10%-15% on patches, backgrounds, changing icons, updating drivers, defragging disks, wondering why backup wasn’t working, etc. etc.

Full disclosure: I use all three OS’s daily and it’s my job to keep the Windows based machines on the network clean and happy.

Just like folks think the Mac comes with a one button mouse. The field is pretty level, in that respect.

I haven’t heard anyone seriously assert that Macs have one mouse button for at least 7 years. Mac fanatics are far more ideological on this issue, generally, which usually leads to factual blindness. But oh yeah both sides in an argument are always equally guilty and have equal merit and blah blah right.

I have. Ohmygosh anecdotal evidence.

Mac OS seems nicer than Windows and Linux is still a mess, but considering the ridiculous prices I see in the Apple store every time I check it, I think I’ll just keep using Windows like 90+% of the world.

[quote=“Unintentionally_Blank, post:1, topic:566141”]

[li]‘I can build a faster computer for one-tenth the price’[/li][/QUOTE]

Although you are exaggerating how this point is made, it is factually true. I think the key in this argument between PC and Mac is that there are a large number of PC-users who shouldn’t even bother with this argument. These PC users are those who build their own computers. The world is divided into Mac vs. PC vs. build-it-yourself. If you build your own then everyone else is a bunch of inferior slobs.

Related to this point are the multiple data points of anecdote I have that clearly demonstrates that when some Mac person argues (trying to justify the money they blew) that Macs are superior, they think I am arguing the benefits of a Dell or HP over a Mac. They are so clueless that they do not understand that I build my own and end up with a machine of far greater value than any branded thing out there.

If you are wasting time with things like backgrounds and icons, you are not being productive no matter what OS you use. Use the damned thing to get work done!

I use both OS X and Windows (XP and 7 - no Vista, I kill you!)

Seriously. My experience is entirely opposite. In my experience, Linux is for the serious enthusiasts who don’t have any other hobbies but want to understand every last nerve and sinew because that’s what they do for fun. I’m sure I could make it work just fine but i have other hobbies (computer gaming, which is why need my windows machine to run like silk).

Windows, like I said, runs perfectly stable for me. Always has. It’s gotten nicer in the last couple years. But Win XP was a rock. There’s a reason it was so hard to pry peoples’ grip off it. It true that XP runs sweeter with a yearly re-install but I usually do that anyway as a tune up. Neither Vista nor Win 7 need regular reinstalls.

As for the virus - I’ve only had one virus in the last 16 years and my anti-virus software caught it before it could do much damage. I just reformatted everything anyway because it’s so not a big deal. I know where all my disks are and I have excellent back ups, but that’s a reflection on me, not my platform. Viruses on Windows are not inevitable, you know. Even XP, with a good third-party firewall, was pretty tight. Again with Vista & Win 7 the built in tools have gotten significantly better. (I wish Microsoft would include Security Essentials by default and damn the anti-monopoly torpedoes, but there it is.)

Stoid - in my opinion, the single most interesting thing one can do with a computer is play games on it. It also happens to be the single most resource-intensive thing you can do on a computer. Historically, Macs have had inferior amounts of RAM and sub-par (or non-existent) graphics cards. They weren’t designed to play 3d games, especially online 3d games. Even today, the Mac Pro is the only one with a decent graphics card and it’s not top of the line (the Radeon 5870 - very good, but over a year old, and only with 1gb ram. For a $2500 machine, it’s easy to do better.) So yeah, Macs have never been the more interesting choice for someone with my interests.

Which is not to say they aren’t nice machines for general purposes. They just aren’t that powerful or cost effective, comparitively.

I find this threads exhausting but what it really comes down to is this:

Some users will only find exactly what they are looking for in purchasing or building a PC, some users will only find exactly what they are looking for in purchasing a Mac.

The car discussion is a very apt comparison. I have a truck that I could afford to upgrade, it ain’t pretty, it’s not a smooth ride and etc, but I bought it to move things in. That happens maybe once a month I’ll have to move something big from A to B. So for me, I don’t really care about how nice the truck is on a daily commute, it isn’t for daily commutes.

Some people will be best served buying a big sedan, some small coupes, some small crossover SUVs, some will be best buying mid-size mainstream sedans, some may find a minivan to be their best bet. Some might find a pickup truck or even a large stock cargo van to be what they’re looking for.

There are probably now more than one billion computer users on the planet and no two are looking for the exact same thing (now, millions and millions will be covered by specific offerings, of course.)

So at the end of the day, which way to go is going to be based on the needs of the individual, business, or enterprise that is doing the purchasing. Those needs will vary based on numerous conditions, end of story.

One pet peeve I have is that it seems 90% of people who enter into this discussion don’t understand the difference between software and hardware.

OS X is software, it is the operating system found by default on computers sold by Apple. Due to restrictions built into the software, unless you make a “Hack Box” you won’t be able to run OS X on anything other than Apple hardware.

Windows is a series of software released by Microsoft, just like OS X it is an operating system. Currently people are using mostly XP, Vista, or Windows 7, with smaller numbers still using older versions and of course some users are using one of the various versions of Windows Server. Microsoft Operating Systems run on software made by pretty much every major computer manufacturer today. In fact, it’s been the case for some years now that it’s a totally supported and accepted thing to install Windows onto an Apple computer and you will be able to choose between Windows and OS X each time you boot the machine.

Linux is, like Windows, software. It is a bit different in that there are lots and lots of distros and it is open source (but that doesn’t mean some companies don’t make tons of money off of it), but it is an operating system so it is in the same class of software as Windows or OS X. Just like Windows it can be installed on virtually any hardware (including computers made by Apple.)

If you want to compare Mac vs PC I do think you need to recognize that PC does not = Windows, although admittedly most PCs from mainstream manufacturers will ship with Windows preinstalled.

If you really want a Mac, but say you’re a heavy Windows user at work and you really feel you need the same OS at home, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a Mac, it just means you need to factor in the cost of buying a full retail license for Windows and installing it on your Mac and turning it into a dual boot machine.

The point being if you want to compare the software, compare the software. If you want to compare the hardware, compare the hardware. Despite what many people claim, virtually everything on a Macintosh computer is mass produced hardware that you can find on many other computers not produced by Apple. Things are a little different in the mobile device space, where Apple does contract with Samsung and other companies to get “slightly customized” versions of chips that are mass produced for everyone.

If you’re going to compare the hardware between various major manufacturers, you’ll find it’s really going to come down to a matter of build quality and overall engineering of the system itself.

I’ll use video cards as a quick example. If you’re buying a dedicated graphics card it’ll probably be made by ATI or nVidia. However, that just refers to the “design.” Take the GeForce GTX 275, that’s an nVidia graphics card. However there are something like half a dozen or more manufacturers of that card. EVGA is one major manufacturer and their products are generally considered top of the line, and they also have probably one of the best warranties in the business. A lot of other companies will manufacture that exact same “card”, for example ASUS, PNY, HIS, Gigabyte, Sapphire et cetera.

Unfortunately sometimes you’ll have the exact same card and one manufacturer who has poor quality control will put out a bad batch, any machines that had the card in question will probably have problems and need to be serviced.

In my personal experience HP is bad about using these components from shoddier manufacturers, which is why HP lap tops have a 25% failure rate after 3 years (worst in the industry.)

Where people will talk about the “quality” of a computer they really are saying two things:

  1. The manufacturer has a reputation for picking from the “best” component manufacturers. So, HP has a reputation for going cheap and their laptops and desktop machines suffer for it, frequently running into device failure and overheating problems that stem from the component being poorly made. Apple has a reputation for picking the “best” and their machines have a reputation for reliability because of it. However, they’re all shopping from the same companies here (at least when we’re talking about computers), you can find PC manufacturers that buy from the same people Apple do for things like video cards and et cetera. Where you’ll run into some trouble of course, is most PC makers won’t say “this GeForce GTX 25 is made by EVGA”, instead they just show you the option of having a GTX 25 card. Of course Apple is the same way, if you go to their website and configure a Mac Pro right now, you won’t have the option of buying a graphics card from a specific vendor. I believe right now Mac Pros are offered with ATI Radeon 5700 and 5800 cards, but you can’t select a specific manufacturer. So you’re essentially trusting that Apple is buying from a good supplier–they usually do.

  2. The engineering of the components inside of the case. Overheating and such are serious issues when it comes to desktop computers. Proper layout of components inside the case, proper cabling, and proper case design that allows good air flow are all important. Generally the cheaper the computer, the less well done all of these things are. A cheap, $400 HP desktop computer is essentially thrown together very quickly and there are no real guarantees about the cabling and all that. The entry level desktop PC for Apple is like $2600, so it would be a true insult to the consumer if Apple wasn’t shelling out for good quality on things like the case, making sure the airflow was good and et cetera. (Note about the $2600 number, I consider the Mac Pro the only true desktop PC sold by Apple, the iMac and Mac Mini are fine machines but they use mobile chipsets, not desktop, they are essentially notebooks in a desktop form factor.)

So I think if you want to do a “hard” comparison of computers you need to know a good bit about computer hardware, you need to be willing to go to “tear down” websites where computer savvy people buy the newest offerings from major manufacturers and strip them down and tell you exactly whose components are being used.

In reality of course that’s about as likely or as necessary as it is for me to investigate who is making the intake manifold on my care, that just isn’t what most people do when they’re comparison shopping vehicles.

What you really need to look at is what you want to spend, what you expect to get for your money, and what your specific needs as a user are. From there you can find the computer that is best for you, there is no universal answer to that question.

Irrelevant for a few reasons:

  1. Apple is primarily a hardware vendor, Microsoft is a software vendor
  2. Apple sells a lot more hardware than Macs and MacBooks. iPods, iPhones, and iPads are big in terms of Apple’s annual sales. I believe Apple’s Mac business (excluding notebooks) is a few billion a year, which is a small portion of their annual sales (if I or you was inclined, you can quickly download their 2009 Annual Report from their website.)
  3. Microsoft sells some hardware, but doesn’t make notebooks or desktop computers, and to my knowledge never has. The only hardware it sells to my knowledge are things like computer peripherals (keyboards, mice), game consoles and MP3 players.
  4. Microsoft sells more software than just Windows. Their office suite is a huge portion of their revenue, and it actually is available as an add-on from the Apple store when you’re checking out (AKA, Apple and Microsoft are better friends than most of you guys realize.)

So yeah, if Microsoft and Apple were the same exact companies and operating in the same exact market, total market capitalization might mean something.

As it is, Microsoft is primarily a software company with some hardware offerings, and Apple is primarily a hardware company that creates software pretty much exclusively for its hardware. Microsoft’s business model is totally different, Microsoft sells software for anyone who is willing to run it. Apple is a software company in the same way Garmin is–GPS devices need software and Garmin develops it in house. Apple products need software to be worth anything so Apple develops it in house.

Apple is in markets Microsoft isn’t in and hasn’t ever been in. They are both technology companies, but the fact that Microsoft’s market capitalization is lower than Apples doesn’t really say anything meaningful in the Mac versus PC discussion. Mainly because Apple’s market cap is based on far more than just its desktop and laptop computer business, and Microsoft isn’t even in the business of selling desktop or laptop computers.

Finally, even if they were companies that were in the exact same markets with the same product offerings, market cap wouldn’t prove anything. For most of the 20th century I believe General Motors had the largest market capitalization of any automaker. However, that doesn’t mean its cars were better than the cars being produced by BMW, Ford, Volkswagen, Toyota et al.

Which merely points to your biases. Macs don’t work well, for you, because your needs are high-end PC gaming. If your needs were video editing, I’d disagree with your assessment. I went to console gaming SPECIFICALLY because of the headaches I experienced with PC gaming. Driver rot, upgrade expenses, and the periodic troubleshooting I had to do when a game that worked 4 months ago, no longer works when you go back to it. Those, for me, were solved by giving up a percentage of quality and framerate, for consistency…for the price of a single hot Video card that would have a one year shelf life.

The statement that ‘Mac doesn’t use videocard X, therefore, they’re behind, and suck’ doesn’t do much for me, as a videocard’s ultimate throughput and/or ability to be upgraded, isn’t something I care about.

That said, I’ve pushed a TON of bits through ALL THREE platforms, they’re all interchangeable at that point, moreso between OS X and the various Unices, but only because they have access to better file-level tools, natively.

It’s not really helpful to isolate Software or Hardware in this case as it’s the Hardware (monoblock aluminum) and software (iLife) that bring the most added value to Apple.

MacPorts, a fully functional Unix terminal… OS X is basically is a really well polished Unix GUI.