Mac or PC? You do have a choice

In the interests of journalistic integrity, I have to begin my column with a statement of public disclosure: I’m a Mac user.
I’ve used Macs for 15 years, so I have an affinity for them. But having said that, I also have worked with PCs, so I’m comfortable with either one.
A question I get asked regularly is, “Which computer should I buy—a Macintosh or a PC?” My answer is simple: It depends.
Simple, right? Actually, the choice is easier to make than you might think. First, let me give you a little background on the two types of machines.
There sometimes is a lot of confusion about what exactly a Macintosh computer is compared to a PC running some type of Windows. Macintosh computers, made by Apple, run the Mac operating system (or Mac OS) while PCs usually run the Windows operating system.
The two types of machines are very different animals. For instance, Macintosh computers use a PowerPC processor as their main CPU while Windows uses an Intel Pentium or Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) processor.
It’s important to realize these processors are like two people who speak entirely different languages. Giving the PowerPC a program written to run on an Intel chip won’t work—at least, not without some work by the programmers.
Although much is different about the two machines, they do share a number of similar characteristics. Both use many of the standard hardware interfaces (the different ports and slots that devices can be plugged into), so many of the digital cameras, printers, MP3 players, and other goodies work on both types of machines.
Both types of systems have their pros and cons. Here are a few of the major issues you may run across when looking at the two types of machines.
Let’s face it: Macs are more expensive. On the surface, you may find Macs are anywhere from 15-30 percent more expensive with comparable features.
A lot of the difference in price relates to the quality of the product. Apple, IBM, and other major computer-makers build their machines with quality parts—and you pay more accordingly.
•Software availability
Many people who’ve derided Macintosh computers will tell you, “There’s no software available for Macs.” This is patently untrue. There are thousands of applications available for the Mac operating system.
Heck, even Micrsoft makes Word, Powerpoint, Excel, and Outlook for the Mac. That being said, it’s important to check and see that the applications you want to run are available for the Mac before you consider purchasing them.
It’s also important to note that every new Mac comes with iTunes, iMovie, iDVD, and iPhoto, which are, arguably, the most comprehensive and easy-to-use applications for managing your digital music, pictures, and video.
Here’s one competition the PC wins. While many of the “Top 10” games will show up on the Macintosh eventually, many others will never make it from the PC to the Mac.
And, the top-performing game hardware (video cards, audio cards) optimized for gaming are much more difficult and expensive to come by on the Mac platform.
All computers crash, but my Mac crashes a lot less than any PC I’ve used. In two years of using Mac OS X, my machine has crashed four times. Applications occasionally will quit unexpectedly, but I rarely restart my computer.
Windows XP is much more robust than earlier versions, but I’ve still seen more crashes on PCs than Macs.
•Virus susceptability
Over the last 15 years, I’ve been good-naturedly taunted, teased, lambasted, and ridiculed by PC-using friends for using a Macintosh. I’ve learned that the most effective response is one question: Do you know how many times I’ve had my computer infected by a virus by e-mail?
None. Zero. Not once.
The reason is two-fold: There are very few virii written that will infect Macintosh computers. Viruses like the Blaster worm, The I Love You virus, and countless others are, for me, just another piece of junk mail to delete rather than a serious security risk.
If you choose a Windows PC as your next machine, make sure you have virus protection software, and make sure you update it regularly—daily, if possible.
I had one user who became infected by a virus and had to get all her data off her computer, on to another hard drive, and her hard drive wiped. Total cost of the repairs? $800.
That’s two-thirds of the cost of a new machine—either Macintosh or PC.
Ultimately, you need to decide what you want to accomplish with your computer. Is gaming your thing? Look at a PC first. Do you want to access the Internet and e-mail? Consider a Mac, and avoid those pesky virus problems.
Looking to edit your home videos and make your own DVDs? The Mac shines in this arena.
The late Cary Lu said it best when he suggested buying “the type of computer used by your closest technical friend, the sort of person you could call for help late on a Saturday night.”
Relevant links:
Apple Computer
Mac vs PC

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