After using both operating systems for a fairly long time, here is my general comparison between the two; grouped into different dimensions. Please note that most of these comments are subjective personal opinions and aren’t based upon scientific calculations
Macs performs better. I did not run any performance measurement software, my conclusion is based upon my personal experience on daily usage and music applications. Lately I have been using a MacBook Pro with 8Gb RAM and an SSD disc and I start to realize how high performance is really supposed to be.
Typically, performance of Windows boxes decrease over time due to OS design, and a format is needed eventually to speed things up. That’s not the case with Mac OS. I am using a late 2009 MacBook Pro since 2009 (doh!), and I never needed to format the drive or do anything fancy. It simply boots (ref) and works as good & fast as day one.
Despite Microsoft’s claims that Windows 7 has the best OS interface ever, I would like to evaluate this as “The best -Windows- OS interface ever”. Mac OS still has a much better, cooler, and usable interface.
If you compare a PC + Vista with a Mac with similar hardware profiles, a Mac will require you to pay more. However, Apple claims that the total cost of ownership of a Mac is close to a PC on the long run because of Mac’s advantages mentioned in this document and the fact that you get lots of great applications free within the OS.
Besides, Mac’s aren’t that expensive any more. In Turkey, you can buy a MacBook Pro for 2.600 TL or a MacBook Air for 2.000 TL, while a Mac Mini sells for 1.300 tL (ref). Compared to a decent PC laptop, those prices aren’t too extreme.
“A Mac costs about the same as a comparable Windows PC – for hardware and (for argument’s sake for those who don’t believe me) bundled software. And for those who still claim that Macs are still more expensive, they obviously have never seen or priced a gaming rig. Price / cost is relative. If you want a cheap machine, that’s your prerogative. The resell value on Macs has always been higher than that of an equivalent “Windows” machine.” (ref).
OS upgrades is another subject to consider. Microsoft Windows Vista upgrades to Windows 7 for 220$ (ref) plus you have tons of other things to consider. My upgrade to Mac Os X Mountain Lion cost me only 20$ and zero downtime.
Another thing to consider is; “the oldest Macs that can run Apple’s latest operating system have just celebrated their eighth birthday, yet all but a handful of the oldest Vista-ready PCs were still just kit and components this time last year. Macs are often criticised for being overpriced, but when you spread the cost over their respective working lives, the Mac comes out cheaper than a PC.” (ref).
Mac is the absolute winner here. Never crashed, never saw an OS error, nothing. Mac OS developers and Mac hardware developers are the same guys working in the same company, that’s probably why.
According to a research, “The average PC user spends at least 50 hours per year troubleshooting. The average Mac user spends less than 10 hours. This difference represents an entire week of time out of the year. Imagine what you could do with that week.” (ref). It simply crashes less than Windows.
Again, Mac is the absolute winner here. You can run all Mac applications; and if you ever need a Windows application, you have two options: You can reboot your Mac and start a Vista, or just run Vista within a small window in Mac OS (additional software required to do that). This means, you can run all of Mac + Windows applications on your Mac (ref). A PC will only run Windows applications.
“There’s more interesting, useful, beautiful, and affordable software being developed for OS X. If you still believe that there’s no software for “the Mac,” you’re simply a fool who hasn’t done his or her research.” (ref).
Apple develops great software for various multimedia needs, which are definitely worth mentioning (no, they aren’t available for windows). They come in hobbyist and pro levels:
– Music production: GarageBand -> Logic Pro
– Photography: IPhoto -> Aperture
– Video editing: IMovie -> Final Cut Pro
A casual developer can use Visual Studio Express editions for C# development and Netbeans for Java development on his/her PC. Both languages are easy to learn (not master) and use. On the Mac side, you still can use Netbeans for Java. For native Mac development, you have to use the XCode IDE on a Cocoa Framework with the language Objective-C.
I am familiar with XCode, and a migration from .NET/Java to XCode wouldn’t be as smooth as a migration between .NET and Java. Objective-C is basically C with a huge framework to learn and lots of brackets. However; remember that you can still use .NET in your emulated Vista on Mac OS, you just can’t develop native Mac applications with it. You either have to learn Objective-C, or develop your application with Java and (optionally) convert it to a regular Mac application – which is possible by tools provided in Mac OS.
On some Defcon competition, hackers broke into a Mac faster than a Vista. But the point is, both got broken eventually. There is no 100% safety on the Internet. However, from a security point of view, a Mac is basically a Unix box with a cool user interface; therefore, it brings all of the security advantages of Unix. You can’t imagine a PC without protection software. However; read Mac forums, you will see that most of Mac users never ever needed any anti-virus software (ref).
Some claim that the reason is that hackers simply don’t target Mac machines. Even if that is the case, the result is the same. As of today, a Mac is more secure than a PC in general (ref).
Installing a Mac software is usually as easy as dragging the downloaded program into the applications folder. Deinstallation only requires you to drag the program into the trash bin. This process is much more complicated on Vista, and installer / deinstaller fails from time to time, leaving the footprint of the application behind. I never experienced such a thing on a Mac.
Windows has a central registry, which is the source of lots of OS related problems. “I love the fact that most programs and their associated libraries are self-contained (apps). There’s no stress in installing / uninstalling most programs, and for true cleanup jobs there’s always AppZapper.” (ref)
Fix Hardware Installation
This topic covers hardware such as PCI cards, sound cards and graphic processors; pretty much everything attached to the motherboard.
Comparing laptops, MacBook’s and PC laptops are not too different. You can upgrade your RAM or hard disk, and that’s about it.
Comparing IMac’s with desktop PC’s; you can’t install / deinstall expansions on an IMac. If you buy an IMac, you buy it as if you are buying a laptop: You can expand the memory if you like, but that’s all. On a PC, you can manually install a new graphic card, a PCI TV card, etc – with the assumption that the hardware interfaces didn’t change of course. If you want a new graphic card for your PC two years later, you may be surprised to find out that your new card requires a more advanced main board, so you need to purchase a new main board, processor, RAMs, etc to use the new graphic card – almost a new PC.
So; although the desktop PC is the winner under this category, the time span of expandability is limited on a PC as well. If you think that your IMac won’t need such a major upgrade any time soon, you are good to go – just like having a good decent laptop.
Removable Hardware Installation
This topic covers USB and Firewire devices. Although I never had any problems installing USB devices on both systems, my experience on Mac is much better. I never saw annoying driver-related windows. I installed the software, plugged into USB, and it simply worked. Apple supports a huge deal of devices out of the box (ref).
On the firewire side, Mac is the winner because many standard PC’s don’t have standard firewire interfaces – you have to buy it separately as a PCI card or something. I need firewire for a high speed audio interface – to record for music production. One might need it to transfer movies from a camera faster as well. If you don’t have such requirements, there is no competition – so there is no winner.
Backup is an essential part of everyday computing. If you don’t have backups, you can lose all of your date on a serious power / hardware failure.
Mac OS has a bundled backup software; one of the best I have ever seen, to be honest: The Time Machine. All you need to do is to install an external hard disk and configure Time Machine to use it. It will work silently in the background and backup everything you have – including installed programs. At any point of time, you can return your Mac to a previous state on any date – completely, or partially. And I don’t mean “important system files” only – Time Machine can restore everything: Installed programs, your documents, etc.
Backup capabilities of Vista is not that strong. Although Vista has a “Complete PC Backup” option, it is only included in Business or Ultimate editions. Vista’s standard “Automatic Backup” backs up your files only – not applications. Even if you buy the ultimate edition, “Complete PC Backup” is actually an image-based disaster recovery tool. This means that; you can restore your whole computer to it’s state in last week, but you simply can’t recover an accidently deleted document from within last weeks backup.
Mac’s Time Machine provides both options: A complete disaster recovery including all applications and documents, or selecting & restoring certain files / documents. You can even browse your backup disk with a regular file browser. Therefore, Mac is the winner here.
Space Requirements & Looks
MacBooks and PC laptops have the same space requirements, but MacBooks simply look cooler.
An IMac has a screen, keyboard and mouse only. A desktop PC will have the computer, screen, keyboard and mouse. This means, a PC will require more space and more cables at your desktop. And In terms of looks, IMac is simply gorgeous!
Under this category, Mac is the winner.
A Mac comes bundled with desktop search, dashboard, a mail application, safari browser, address book, calendar application, ITunes for audio files, IPhoto for photo management and image manipulation, IMovie for movie management and manipulation, time machine (described above), a dictionary, DVD player, Garage Band for basic recording & sequencing needs, IChat for chat purposes (can connect to many protocols like MSN, GTalk, Facebook, vs over Jabber), IWeb for web design, Quicktime, and many small utilities.
Windows comes with desktop search, Sidebar, Microsoft Mail, Internet Explorer, contact list, calendar application, Windows Media Player for media files, a photo viewing application with minor tweaking capabilities, Windows Movie Maker for movie manipulation and MSN Messenger.
In terms of functionality, Mac wins with Garage Band, IChat and IWeb – the functionality of these applications aren’t provided by Vista. However, you can always download extra software to do it.
In terms of usability, I find bundled software of Mac much better than Vista. Bundled software runs smoother, faster, and I simply enjoy them more.
Data Integration / Sync
Let’s start with non-Apple mobile synchronization. If you have a decent Android, Blackberry or Nokia, they can synchronize with your mobile phone. No worries about the Mac; along the contacts and calendar entries, I can also transfer shuffled MP3’s from ITunes and vice versa.
If you have an IPhone / IPad, they will happily share the data of your Mac over ICloud anyway. Sorry that I don’t have any experience with any other devices. Be aware though that on some mobile phone models, you may need to have Outlook to be able to synchronize on Vista.
On cross-computer synchronization, Mac is the winner. By subscribing to Mac’s bundled ICloud service, you can easily keep all of your desktop computers (Mac OS or Windows) and mobile phones in sync – in terms of contacts and calendar entries. On Vista, you would need extra software to do such a thing – and I am not sure if Mac’s would be included in your sync chain.
Here is the result of the big debate. Mac has better performance, gorgeous user interface and hardware, is more stable, has wider software variety, better security, easier software and removable hardware management, and better bundled options in terms of applications, backup options and synchronization.
A PC will be cheaper to purchase (leaving total cost of ownership in question), has more alternatives for software development (Vista can run in Mac – so can Vista development tools) and more hardware flexibility (in a limited time span).
My conclusion would be; if you aren’t in a really really tight budget, you should spend a couple of more bucks and get a Mac. It will do anything a PC can do, and even better. If you need a Windows-only application at any point, you can simply open a Mac window and get your Vista running there – or boot with Vista for better performance.
Once you go Mac, you will never go back!