The Mac vs. PC debate

Science & Technology/Student Living by

Over the years there have been a number of lively computer debates, many of which remain unsettled. There’s Vim versus Emacs, C++ versus Java, and whether or not P is equal to NP. All of these arguments pale in comparison to the most disputed topic in both geek and non-geek circles: PC or Mac?

This is a question that arises frequently when you or your friend thinks it’s time to get a new computer. How do you know when that time has come? Typically, a computer should last between three and five years. For laptop computers of this age, any repair costing more than ten or fifteen percent of the original computer price is likely not worth the expense. A desktop computer should last a bit longer, and these repairs are generally cheaper. You should always check to see if your machine is under warranty or not before replacing it.


The Mac

Apple has made a lot of money by making pretty things. The Macbook and Macbook Pro are reflections of this: many are attracted to the sleek silver body and apparent simplicity of the design. When you open one up, the Macbook is just as attractive on the inside as it is on the outside. The Mac operating system has a sleek and polished user interface. OS X is based on BSD UNIX, meaning it is POSIX compliant. It’s a more secure, standards compliant operating system. Because Apple controls all hardware in every Mac, there are no driver issues, at least not with internal devices. Macs tend to not get sick, as most malware targets Windows users. Macs are compatible with  all of your other favourite Apple toys and come with a good set of prepackaged software. Apple has very highly rated customer service, despite their inaccurately labelled “Genius Bar.”

The Mac does not offer very many distinct advantages over Windows, besides being pretty and somewhat easier to use—a debatable point anyway. However, the Mac has a very strong brand name by which many loyal costumers swear. Macs are usually more expensive than their PC alternatives, another hotly debated issue. Expect to pay 10 to 20 per cent more for a middle-grade Mac than for a PC with comparable hardware. This is in part due to the restricted market for Macs. Many people will tell you that Macs are for artists and designers, a claim which isn’t as true as it used to be.

The PC

Microsoft made a lot of money by grabbing the market share early and hanging on for dear life. With Windows Vista behind us, Microsoft’s Windows 7 is not a bad operating system (although it isn’t a good one either). PCs come in all shapes and sizes, from many different manufacturers. This increased competition leads to generally lower prices for middle-of-the-pack PCs, along with more selection. Almost all software is distributed for, and runnable on, a PC. Many more device drivers exist for Windows, too. The popularity of the PC means it is easier to find support. Additionally, if you want to play video games, you’ll probably need a PC. Furthermore, because of the design of most PCs, specifically, the lack of a unibody, repair costs will be lower.

PCs have some serious downsides too. As mentioned before, most malware targets the Windows operating system, so you will need antivirus software to deal with this issue. The operating system is also a bit less stable, although serious advances have been made since the days of Windows ME’s blue screen of death. Windows also suffers from issues like disk fragmentation and registry problems, although these are easily fixed. The less attractive interface is, perhaps, the biggest gripe many Mac users have when using Windows.

Despite the pros and cons for each side, the fact is that you’re probably not going to read this and come to a definite conclusion. In fact, your mind is probably already made up. The decision is almost entirely a personal one. If you can’t reach a verdict, there’s always Linux, which offers the best of both worlds, with almost none of the cons.