MAC or PC, The Never-ending Debate

computers, MAC, PC

As like most people, you have most likely “heard” that Macs are built better for artists, while PCs are more stable to general office work. Mostly, this is because of very aggressive marketing and advertising campaigns from the mid 2000s. These ads ran from 2006 to 2009 and sported Mac user Justin Long as the “free thinking creative” guy who was portrayed as cooler and more fun while the PC role was filled by the author John Hodgman, portrayed as dull and boring office guy.  While these ads were amusing and very effective at the time, times have changed.  Watch the commercials for yourself if you want.

In truth, there absolutely was a time when Apple and just about snapped up the entire market on graphic design computers and had won over basically all of the actual designers themselves. Even digital typography was first developed on a Mac, not to mention that Photoshop was built specifically for Mac as well.  Pretty big bragging rights.

Mac was essentially the only real choice a graphic designer had for decades, which is why a lot of older designers view it as the only option even today.  It is what they learned on 20+ years ago, and they got really good using the Operating Systems and interfaces that Mac has stuck with for as many years. Since now they have spent so much time learning and developing on that platform, they are not likely to change now.  I can only imagine it was the same when we as an industry transitioned into having digital design tools to begin with. I can’t imagine how immovable office personnel acted when asked to give up typewriters for desktop computers, or further back, asked to use typewriters instead of hand writing notes, memos and reports.

However, today this is nothing more than a bias long since outdated. Most graphic design software runs just as good on OS X as it does Windows 10.  The real differences between the two platforms boils down to real, tangible things like cost. PCs are much more affordable and completely open to customization.  Additionally, with the massive influx of PC Gaming, the components that make your PC super powerful in terms of graphics and processing power keep becoming even more accessible and affordable for everyone.  A good rule of thumb for my students is to imagine you are going to build/purchase a mid to high range gaming desktop, because if it can process today’s gaming demands… it can handle anything Adobe can throw at you without problem.

Another thing worth mentioning is the overall market share of the operating systems themselves. Apple seems to fluctuate between having 7.5% – 12.5% of total desktop systems in the world overall (these numbers rise and fall constantly but seem to remain nowhere near 15% of total market share).  What does this mean to us? Outside of creative industries like design or film production, almost all companies prefer Windows, which means that your OS and your clients OS may not agree all the time. I cannot stress enough how annoying or aggravating it is as a creative director to have to convert or request converted files because one guy refuses to use a PC, or even be comparable with my systems or the systems of the client.

All of these factors considered, the only real question left to ask yourself when choosing a design computer, is what are YOU more comfortable using? Do you prefer the look and feel of a Mac? Are you willing to pay nearly double for a machine that is under-powered by comparison to a PC?  Do you want to do anything else with this computer such as play video games? Depending on your answers and how much money you are willing to spend, choose appropriately.  Macs are always more expensive, and have much less flexibility (cannot change parts out easily, upgrades are wildly overpriced, and more modern things like multiple screens are prohibitively costly when choosing a Mac.

In the end, I urge anyone going through the debate to keep your choices based in real, tangible facts. Don’t buy a computer because you think “that’s what artists use”. Put everything into real measurable perspectives. Cost v.s. Power… look at how much RAM your machine will have (32g is soon to become a minimum for most power designers and game developers)? How fast is the processor? How many cores? How much Hard Drive space? How many USB devices can your computer support? How many Monitors and at what resolutions?

These questions are easily answerable, and an informed buyer gets the best products for the best price.