Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mac vs. PC

It’s an age old debate that has raged for years. People want to know which system is better. Opinions are many, but answers are few. Without the technical understanding of how a computer works it can be difficult to really even know the difference. As such we’ll do a comparison of each system and make our assessment based upon this information in order to be as fair as possible.

The Mac Mini
The first and most noticeable difference between a Mac and a PC is the software it’s running. In fact it’s the software that largely makes the two systems different. Naturally a PC will run the latest good version of Windows which generally performs quite well, though sometime it can have seemingly random issues that the user can’t explain and chalks up to design error. This is often a fair assessment with each version of Windows building upon the last the programing becomes more and more “bloated.” With ever increasing hard drive space that’s really not a big deal for most users, but the issue is with the old lines of code that no longer get used and tend to muck up the works if they accidently get altered or activated. Add to this issue the fact that
Windows has been around for a long time (and is favored by businesses) and you get hackers who create malicious programs specifically to mess with the Windows platform either for kicks, or for the purpose of making it easier to access files on business servers that they shouldn’t be able to get to. To compensate for this last issue, anti-virus and anti-spyware software is used to defend computers and make sure they continue to run as their designed to. To fix the other issue, you have registry cleaning software which will search your computer’s registry for unused junk that can be deleted and helps you to do that without messing up the computer. This helps keep it running clean and smooth for years. I personally use and would recommend AVG anti-virus as it’s free and actually works, Spybot Search & Destroy which is also free and amazingly powerful against spyware and includes a stellar web browser plugin that blocks nearly everything and is constantly being updated, and C cleaner another free program that’s perfect for registry cleaning. To give you an example of how well they work, I’ve been using my current computer daily for more than 5 years without any software issues.

Mac on the other hand is a relatively young system, in terms of how long it’s been popular in the mainstream anyway. While using a mac may at first seem different and uncomfortable for a former windows user, the system is well crafted and very user friendly. I can honestly say I don’t know of anyone who’s owned a Mac that had an issue with the software and once you’ve learned the basics of the system it is incredibly easy to use. Its relative youth and lack of association with large financial institutions has spared Mac from targeting by virus writers up to this point meaning users won’t have to mess with anti-virus or similar software. Their computer will simply keep going until its hardware gives out.

Though it’s possible to make a PC run just as well as a Mac using additional programs, the fact that Mac does this natively makes it the clear victor in regards to the user friendliness and stability of the software it’s known for.

A Windows 8 Laptop PC
This is where the real distinction is found between a Mac and a PC. Interestingly enough, the two systems use the same hardware (processors, graphics cards, HDD, etc.) but what varies is their selection process and compatibility.

A PC is very open ended when it comes to hardware. Windows will run on pretty much any system you can make that has the resources for it. This motherboard, that graphics card, toss in a dash of ram and one large hard drive and you’ll have something capable of running Windows. This affords a great deal of flexibility to the user as far as hardware customization, but comes at the cost of stability and compatibility. Sometimes parts don’t want to work together and sometimes they’ll work, but will run more slowly than others because they’re a little unstable. This is one of the hazards of hardware customization, but the systems you can create when a company allows you to design it yourself can be truly amazing.

A Mac however is very, very controlled when it comes to hardware. If you’ve ever tried to find a removable panel on one of those things, you understand what I’m talking about. Mac tests the compatibility of every piece of hardware it uses to make sure each piece is fine tuned to work together making for very impressive performance ratings (even running Windows faster than most PCs do). This however comes at the cost of DIY solutions and hardware customization. When you get your Mac, you have what you have. If you want more, you’ll have to purchase a whole new system. If something breaks you send it to them and they send it back a process that takes as long as it takes, leaving you without a computer for however long that may be.

While the issues associated with the closed hardware architecture of a Mac can also occur with a PC, the fact that even a technically skilled person can’t try to fix it themselves and the frustrating element of not being able to customize or upgrade your hardware on a Mac makes PC the winner in the hardware category.

With the score at 1 to 1 it really comes down to how you intend to use the system. Mac has some amazing software for it that makes recording your own music, making videos, and graphics editing easy enough that children can do it. On the other hand, PCs are well known to be the kings of gaming. Though many games will run on Mac (and often better than on PC) there are still hundreds of titles the Mac just doesn’t have access to. Add to this the fact that Macs can’t be customized with upgraded or additional hardware and you see why PCs rule the gaming world. Finally, while many programs will run faster on a Mac, the long standing history of Windows’ use by companies means that backwards compatibility becomes an issue when trying to make a switch to a new system. This has the result of making Windows the operating system of choice for businesses and a good deal of software is built for Windows specifically for this purpose. Determining a winner in this category has to go to Windows because of its broader spectrum of acceptance and use, though really you can decide this one for yourself based upon your needs.

It seems that Windows still maintains a slight advantage over the Mac in a couple of key areas. While many people would insist that Mac is better, and perhaps for their situation that is true, the fact is that for those who like the ability to customize their own system and those involved in business, Windows is the system to go with. As such a Windows PC continues to sit at the very core of my N3rd C0rn3r.