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:
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.
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.