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Community Newsletter: Q&A forum: Is the Mac right for me?

by: Lee Koo (ADMIN) March 22, 2007 12:08 PM PDT

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Is the Mac right for me?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) ModeratorCNET staff - 3/22/07 12:08 PM


I've got very interested in photography to the extent that I want to use it as a source of income on the side when I retire. I have all PCs but recently got a demonstration of an iMac. I was swayed, but need to really research the differences before I spend that kind of money. I looked at a 24-inch iMac, basically set up for photography, therefore any Microsoft Office needs would not be an issue for a computer with such 'big guns'. Should I continue down this road, or focus back to a PC. I don't want to be crashing often, and the Mac guys say it won't happen (wrong people to ask). Need feed back from users to be more confident. Any guidance would be appreciated.

Submitted by: Chaz

Answer voted most helpful by our members:


To be honest about this, my PCs (there are 7 of them here) lock up or crash about once a year, and I believe that the whole idea that a quality PC is less stable than a Mac is a myth. The marketing side of me loves the Mac vs. PC commercials ... they are great commercials, well done, funny, and they do a good job of selling Macs ... but they present one very simplified and dumbed down side of a situation that is not nearly so simple as the commercials portray.

So let me first make a comment on Mac vs. PC: Macs are made, entirely, by one company, on whom you are almost totally dependent for everything. They are of generally high quality, but they are also generally quite expensive. PCs are made by .... well, by everyone including your neighbors teenage son in the garage or on the kitchen table, and both the price and quality can vary all over the place. A kit of haphazardly matched surplus last-generation ultra-parts obtained for $89 (after two dozen rebates) from JungleAnimalDirect and assembled by a high school student who is doing this for the second time and thinks he now knows it all is not going to have the same quality as a $2,000 Dell XPS system, but they are both PCs. So when we talk about the stability of a system and how often it crashes, I come back to the point that a quality PC is as good as a Mac.

Another point that is related here is that Macs now use Intel CPUs and chipsets, they use PCI, they use AGP and USB, they can actually run ... directly ... Microsoft Windows XP instead of the Mac OS. The Mac, in other words, IS a PC, just one that can use the Mac OS, which a non-Mac PC cannot. Mac hardware is, again, no more stable than quality PC hardware. Because, in fact, they are at this point pretty much the same thing, from a hardware perspective.

So lets talk about your primary interest, digital photography. There is nothing about any PC that is hardware specific to photography. And as to software, there are tons and tons of digital photography applications available for the PC, and tons for the Mac OS as well. Of course if you are really, really serious about doing professional level photography on a computer (Mac or PC), you are probably talking about using Adobe full-version Photoshop, which is available on both platforms (and, again, the Mac can run Windows XP if you want to go that route (although the Mac may well not be the best platform for XP)).

So the real issues with Mac vs. PC are going to come down to the following items:

If you buy a PC, you have to select a source for the PC, and all PCs are not created equal. The issue, from a quality, reliability, stability and cost perspective is not so much Mac vs. PC as PC vs. PC

You can run XP on a Mac, but a Mac is not the optimum Windows XP platform, and switching back and forth between different OS, while entirely possible, is a pain (Currently, you cant officially run Vista on a Mac as far as I know, but I am certain that this will change at some point)

While some products (including Photoshop) are available for both the Windows and the Mac platform, for the most part the two platforms have different software offerings. There is no argument that some of the Apple software for multimedia (photography and video) is very good, and you cant run the Apple software on a PC. So if you want to use the Apple software, your decision is pretty clear. But there is a lot more software (superb, good, bad and yes, ugly) for the PC, so determining the software that you want to use is a key element in making this decision

Unless you plan to use this computer only for your digital photography, there are probably two orders of magnitude more software, overall, for PCs vs. Macs. So keep in mind, also, the entire universe of what you will be using this computer for. Very few computers are used for only one single application.

The problems that people have with PCs come down to the fact that a typical PC system is made up of hardware and software from dozens or even hundreds of different firms, and that even with billions of PCs on the planet, the exact combination of both all of the hardware and all of the software found in any one PC is probably completely unique. On top of that, because PCs running Windows are 90% of the installed base of personal computers, they are the preferred target for virus and malware authors. It is the abundance and variety of both hardware and software offerings that gives PCs their versatility and low cost, but, at the same time, its that exact combination that also causes most of the problems that people have with PCs. You cant have the good without the bad ... they go together. If you go with a Mac, you can avoid some of the pitfalls that exist in the PC world, but at the same time you will be avoiding a lot of the benefits as well, and precluding yourself from running most of the software that is currently being written (at least without switching operating systems and converting the Mac back into what is probably a sub-optimal PC).

In the end, however, its an individual choice that only the person actually using the system can really make.

Barry Watzman

Submitted by: Barry W. (CNET member Watzman)

If you have any additional advice or recommendations for Chaz, let's hear them. Click on the "Reply" link to post. Thanks!

(Note: Please keep your advice and opinions objective. We are here to help this member with your knowledge and guidance. Let's not turn this into a heated PC vs. Mac flame war. Respect each other, and keep it civil. Thank you.)

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