PC vs Mac: Which Should You Buy?

The Windows PC vs Mac war has been raging since before I can remember. The companies themselves went at it and then the respective fans of each system took over. Now in 2017, the war is all but done except in the eyes of a few. The winner? Well you’ll just have to read this article to find out!

Windows PC vs Mac, which should you buy? is more about selecting a device that works for you, not deciding which is best. I will consider hardware, design, software, apps, usability, security, gaming and more to help you make a decision. Then, hopefully, you will be in a better position to choose between the two when you’re ready.

Windows PC vs Mac: Hardware

If you separate hardware specifications and design, there is a clear winner in terms of flexibility and power.

Macs are made entirely and only by Apple. You get the hardware they specify at a price they specify. It is a closed system where you as the consumer get relatively little choice. That hardware is usually pretty good but is never cutting edge. You can only upgrade a couple of elements too, so Apple devices have a finite life.

Windows desktops are the opposite. They use freely available hardware put together by a huge range of manufacturers. The free market model means vendors can use any combination of hardware to meet their chosen market. The vast majority of manufacturers use commercially available products that are upgradeable as you see fit.

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Windows PC vs Mac: Design

Design has always been Apple’s strength. The iPhone, iPod, Mac, iMac and MacBook Pro are all fantastic looking devices that have design at their core. All look great and are very well put together. The design team at Apple have always been at the top of their game and have always delivered products that looked amazing and appealed to a wide audience.

Until recently, the same could not be said for Microsoft. They gave us bland beige or black boxes that did little in terms of design. Niche manufacturers have produced some very good looking devices to keep us interested though. Then came the Surface and Studio. Both are fantastic looking devices that take computer design in a great leap forward.

Despite that leap, Macs still look better. The screens are amazing, the UI is attractive and the range of accessories is equally as alluring.

Windows PC vs Mac: Software

First let us look at the respective operating system and then at the available software in each market.

MacOS is good looking and works well. It is stable, easy to get to grips with and contains a suite of useful features. Siri is more usable and more useful than ever, the new flat look introduced in Yosemite still works well and the entire desktop experience is first class.

MacOS is a closed system which restricts consumer choice but massively improves the experience. There are fewer buggy programs, more control over apps and a minimum quality expectancy of all Mac apps and programs.

Windows 10 is also better than ever. It too has had something of a makeover and works well as a flat interface. It is more stable than previous versions, offers more features, better organization and more flexibility than before. It is still struggling to shrug off its legacy issues with Windows Update and exerting control over computers at odd times.

Windows 10 is an open system and everyone who writes apps or programs writes for Windows. This has the advantage in that choice is huge and the huge majority of programs will have a Windows variant if it hasn’t been coded specifically for Windows. The downside is that quality is not as guaranteed as with Apple. While Microsoft does have a certification system, it isn’t as thorough or as rigorously policed as Apple’s.

Windows PC vs Mac: Apps

Apps are all about adding features to a device and come in more forms that I can think of. Both Windows PC and Mac haver app platforms but there is a clear winner here in terms of quality and quantity.

iTunes is massive. It has millions of apps and music tracks available for you to buy. With regards to apps, all have to conform to strict quality standards and are vetted before being made available on the platform. Most apps that are on other platforms will also appear on iTunes as it is such a huge market. So if you have a favorite Android or Windows app, there is bound to be an Apple version on iTunes.

The Windows Store is woefully empty in comparison to iTunes. Sure there are hundreds of apps and the number is growing all the time but it is still way behind. Plus, Microsoft’s quality standards are lower right now although that will change as the Microsoft UWP standards take hold.

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Windows PC vs Mac: Usability

The gap between Windows PC and Mac has never been narrower with respect to usability. The interface of both OS is simple, easy to use and pleasing to the eye. Menus are logically laid out and work fast. For many years, macOS was far superior to Windows in every way. With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update and the upcoming Creators Update, Windows has closed the gap considerably.

The macOS Sierra interface is simple to use and Siri integration is a triumph. I like the flat look with less fuss on the desktop and easy access to all my programs from the Dock. Menus spring up quickly and you have a few options to tune the desktop to how you like it.

Windows 10 offers massive opportunities for customization including colors, backgrounds, font types and even icons. While there are options with Sierra there are nothing like this. The tidying up that happened with the Anniversary Update made Cortana less intrusive, menus easier to work with and the entire Settings infrastructure much more intuitive.

macOS Sierra will only work on Macs or in a virtual machine. It has iPhone integration and can interact with Apple Watch and phones in clever ways. Windows 10 can do the same but to a lesser degree. It works seamlessly with Windows Phone but nobody uses them. It has a version of iMessage integration with Android using Cortana and an app and works pretty well.

I would call this one a draw. Windows 10 has done more for the usability of Windows than any release before it. macOS Sierra is continuing the good work that has made Apple so popular since the early 2000’s.

Windows PC vs Mac: Security

Security is an element of computing that has taken on much more importance over the past decade or so. It is also somewhere where the computer landscape has completely changed. Let’s tackler security and privacy separately as they both have different implications for both operating systems.

Apple security has always been pretty good. While the old boast of not having to use firewalls and antivirus on a Mac are long gone, the risks are still less. Most vulnerabilities are tackled quickly with security updates but macOS is still susceptible to viruses and malware. The good news is that as Apple is a smaller market than PC, fewer viruses and malware seem to be out there that targets the system.

Apple has always had an advantage in privacy too. Apple is primarily a hardware company so customer data has less value to them. Privacy is more secure with Apple and the high-profile fight with the FBI shows that they are serious about preserving that privacy. Sure, it was for market share and not so much for our benefit, but we are still the winner in that equation.

Windows on the other hand… As much as I like using it, I know my data has value. Microsoft is a software company so customer data does have value. That shows in Windows 10. There is a saying in marketing, ‘if a product is free, you are the product’. Never has that been more true than in Windows 10. The sheer volume of data is collects and reports back on is mind-boggling.

Windows security has always been a challenge, one that has even evolved its own certification. As the world’s most popular operating system in the home and business, it is no wonder that it is targeted so much by hackers, viruses and malware. The open system it uses also makes life a little easier for those nefarious characters.

The upside to the Windows security challenge is the availability of some seriously effective security products. Companies like McAfee, Kaspersky, Symantec and others have all thrived providing security for a system that was inherently insecure. While Windows 10 has fixed many vulnerabilities, there are still too many to count.

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Windows PC vs Mac: Gaming

This comparison may seem a little unfair as the Mac is not a gaming platform. Yet gamers are out there by the million and the industry is growing exponentially. With the introduction of e-sports as a thing, gaming is becoming more mainstream than ever. Which does not work in Apple’s favor.

Apple Mac are not gaming machines. They are not intended to be and are unlikely to be in the near future. Their graphics capability has always been okay at best and game availability is mediocre to be generous. You can emulate Windows games on Mac but they are hardly a seamless experience.

Windows has a massive advantage in gaming. It is the most ubiquitous system and combined with Xbox, has a following in the hundreds of millions. Most computer games are created for Windows, many console games are ported to Windows and Steam, Uplay and other gaming platforms make gaming easy on Windows.

Plus, Windows PCs are upgradeable. With only RAM and SSD upgradeable on a Mac, your choices are limited. Gaming also breeds an obsession with tuning a computer to infinite degrees to get the very best performance out of a game. That is only possible on a Windows computer. Water cooling, overclocking, SLI and other tricks are only available on PC.

Windows PC vs Mac: Cost

Part of any decision making process on any purchase is that of cost. I can already hear Apple fans groaning as they know what’s going to happen here. Sorry, but it is true. The Apple Premium is a thing and is a factor in buying decisions.

Apple devices are not good value for money. They are fantastic to look at and use, they are secure, very easy to live with and may seem worth every cent. But good value they are not.

The cheapest MacBook Pro is $1,499 and only has a 13 inch screen, Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

The cheapest Microsoft Surface Pro 4 with 12.3 inch screen, Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD is only $999.

PC and iMac prices are more difficult to compare as many manufacturers build Windows PCs.

The 27-inch iMac 3.3GHz has 8GB of RAM, 2TB fusion Drive and an AMD Radeon R9 M395 GPU. It costs $2,299

The Lenovo Ideacentre AIO Y910-27ISH Signature Edition All-in-One is close in specs but has 16GB of RAM, 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics. It costs, $1,999.

There is a huge difference in cost for laptop and desktop. While it could be argued that the Lenovo is not a direct comparison to the 27 inch iMac, it is the closest I could find on Microsoft’s site.

If you build your own Windows PC, you can get much more value for money.

Other advantages Mac has over Windows PC

There are a range of specific advantages Mac has over Windows PC. I’ll list a few of them here.

Time Machine backups. Windows does have Windows Restore and File History but nothing works as well as Time Machine. It is fast, easy and simple to back up your Mac with this.

Quick Look. Quick Look is a work of genius. The ability to preview the contents of a folder without opening it. If Windows had this, life would be much easier for all of us.

Gesture control. Multi-touch is a work of art when you get the hang of it. While there are Windows touchscreens, nothing comes close to this. iPhone does it best but Force Touch in the MacBook Pro is a work of wonder.

Managing apps and programs. Separating the core OS from the user part helps keep macOS secure and organized. The User file means you just need to delete the file and it’s done. Installing is just as simple.

Some advantage Windows PC has over Mac

Windows also has some other advantages over Mac, here are just a few that we have yet to mention.

Windows Hello. While it may be a little unfair to list it here as it hasn’t been released yet, anyone thinking of buying a new computer could benefit from Windows Hello’s biometric security. Lock your PC so nobody can gain access without a fingerprint or retinal scan. How cool will that be?

Consumer choice. Every computer hardware manufacturer makes components for Windows. You can pick and choose as you see fit and build something that reflects your personality or delivers the power you need.

Office 365. If you use Office 365, you can start something on your phone and continue working on it on your laptop. Switch to your desktop at work seamlessly. It is seamless too, I use it all the time.

There is always an answer. While Apple’s customer support is better, the community for Windows is larger and broader. There is an answer for every issue you’re likely to come across out there on the internet.

Is the war really over?

Personally, I would say the Windows PC vs Mac war is over. The lines are drawn, market share has been established and the two systems are as comparable as they ever will be. There is very little to choose between key features of each and as such, only bickering over marketing and between the fans still has any bite.

Apple is for those who like form over cutting-edge function and who like the security of a closed system. Nothing wrong with that at all. The cost is financial and limitations in terms of games and freedom to upgrade.

Windows is for those who want freedom, ease of use and to play games. It will also be for those who like to build their own machines. The cost is a system that isn’t entirely on your side and the requirement for you to bolster your own security as you use it.

There is no right answer any more. There is no ‘best’ system overall. There is only the best system for your needs, your tastes and your ambitions. Both Microsoft and Apple have come a long way in the past decade. While being completely different companies, they are now closer than ever in their computers.

Where do you sit on the Windows PC vs Mac question? Tell us about your experiences below!

Posted by Jamie on April 10, 2017

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