Randall's question: I'm in the market for a new PC and I’m looking for a durable machine that is going to meet my needs both today and tomorrow as I’d like to aim at about a seven year replacement cycle.
Many creatives seem to opt for the MacBook Pro, but while it is a very nice laptop, it isn’t really a "desktop replacement" system. Also the fact that I am unable to upgrade it in any way makes it less desirable to me.
However I am still keeping an open mind as I shop and compare features. If there is a practical reason that would make the MacBook Pro my best choice, I will certainly go that route.
In my specific use case, our living space does not have available room for a desktop system. While I am looking at laptops, this is more a function of space limitation than needing a mobile system. With that in mind, weight is not a primary consideration.
However a powerful workstation that would rival a desktop system is a paramount consideration. I probably spend more time using my computer than my cameras!
So I have been shopping more in the 17.3" workstation segment of the market. I think my leading candidate at the moment is an HP Zbook 17...the Dell Precision 7730 and Lenovo P72 are also on my radar.
The interesting thing I am finding is that configured the same way I would configure a MacBook Pro these workstation beasts with VASTLY superior Nvidia Quadro GPUs and four to five years of next day on-site service with accidental damage protection, are priced very comparably to the MacBook Pro.
Unlike the MacBook Pro they are highly upgradeable...accepting up to 64 (or even 128) GB of DDR 4 2666 RAM, at least three internal hard drives…four in one case (all SSD), and even can have the processor upgraded from an Intel i7 8850H up to a Xeon if you need that much power!
The point here is that these systems offer some future ready options that the MacBook Pro does not.
But now the million dollar question...
All of those systems require the use of Windows 10 Pro! I have no problem with Windows personally. I’ve used it for years and it’s decent. There are some problems, but that is the nature of using computers.
However, with the majority of the professional photography community using the Mac OS X, it does make me wonder if there is some inherent superiority in the way the Mac works in a creative workflow!
In the early days I know the Macs were sold to creatives whilst PCs were more sold to businesses. However with Apple migrating from the Motorola Power PC platform to the Intel Core platform, it seems that most of that difference has evaporated. Today’s software is almost always cross-platform – at least the major core applications.
So I’m in this dilemma. The MacBook Pro – small, light, integrates easily with my phone and tablet vs the 17" PC workstation – double the weight, killer performance and customizable beyond anything I can ever imagine needing.
I just don’t know that a 15" MacBook Pro would be adequate as my only system for photo and video editing. Most people I see who have one hook up a dock and external monitors for home use, but I don’t have that room.
The HP 17" Dreamcolor 4K display is stunning. Still a bit smaller than ideal, but seems better than the 15.6" MBP retina display.
I know this email sounds kind of slanted toward a PC...and that is the way I am honestly leaning! I think the real reason for writing is to see what your thoughts are and if there are positive reasons for going with a Mac that I may be overlooking.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and I truly appreciate and value your opinion!
Interesting reader responses
Most of these are partial quotes.
Albert: I've used a PC for over 30 years and finally it is getting better than a Mac. I use a ROG from ASUS and it is indeed adaptable, using a SSD and lots of RAM helps a lot.
Tim: I am currently using an iMac Intel Core i5 with a 3.3 GHz processor speed and one processor with 4 Cores, a 2.12 TB hard drive, AMD Radeon R9 M395 2048 MB graphics card and MacOS Mojave.
I have found it is very capable of running several applications at the same time without noticeable lag. I run Lightroom, On1 Photo Raw and Aurora HDR at the same time and switch between them.
I had use a PC for more than 30 years and at one time had my own PC repair business. My last PC was a Lenovo All-in-One and would not recommend it at all. I finds that Windows 10 is difficult to get familiar with. I preferred Windows 7 and for the life of me I cannot get my wife to upgrade to Windows 10.
Upgrading to the iMac was a hard decision, I had heard most of my photographic career that you should use a Mac and finally convinced myself to try one. If you have used an iPad or iPhone for any length of time and like the applications available, don’t expect to find them available on the iMac. There are a few exceptions like Lightroom.
At first I had a very hard time with the different terminology. Where is Windows Explorer? How do I make a folder on the hard drive? and things like that. It took many frustrating hours to get up to speed, maybe I am just a slow learner, but after a little over four years I am still learning. Applications from Adobe that you have on the PC are available for the iMac but at an upgrade price and not cheap.
Hardware wise, buy the most you can afford, memory is the only internal thing you can upgrade yourself, everything else is either an external add-on or if available need to be done by Apple.
Apple support are excellent and patient people. Free training is available online.
Stuart: Further to the question of whether to buy an Apple Mac or another PC I would suggest that an Apple Mac is most likely to last seven years so long as you buy it with sufficient memory for potential growth. Furthermore I would explore purchasing a refurb model at an approved Apple Repair store. That could save you hundreds of pounds/dollars and most refurbished machines have up to date or replacement drives.
Simon: These days Windows is a perfectly grown up operating system, as flexible and adaptable as you wish it to be. And the same software runs perfectly well on both Windows and Mac ecosystems. So buy yourself a nice Windows machine, save a heap of cash, and go out for a really good dinner (or two) on the change.
Jan: I have been a PC man for many years, for the same reason as Randall have given (upgradeable, more bang for the buck etc.) My use of both has changed in recent years, now my time is spent mainly in photo editing.
My selection of computers have changed from four PC's to just one active PC with an Intel NUC (next unit of computing), Windows 10, Lightroom 6.14, Photoshop Elements and a Dell 24" display.
Three years ago I got my first Mac Mini and replaced the hard disk with a Samsung SSD, that lifted the performance. The reason was that I wanted to make Photo books, and found that iBook Author is free available if you got a Mac.
It took some time to get used to the OS, I watched Youtube videos to give an introduction.
Two years ago I bought a used 27” iMac, and this has become my primary weapon in photo editing.
The reason is that I feel that I am get a better entertainment feeling when I work on the Mac, but when I am on the PC I don’t get that feeling. The feeling part has made me turn to Mac.
The crux of your question is are there any advantages that the Mac OS X has over Windows that you should be aware of?
From a practical point of view relevant to photographers one advantage that Mac OS X has is color management. With Windows only some applications are color managed, whereas on a Mac the entire work environment is color managed.
If you calibrate your monitor on a PC color managed applications will use the monitor profile, showing you true color photos, and others won’t, displaying photos with a blue color cast. As a result on a PC you can view the same photo in two different applications and see two different versions of it. On a Mac that doesn’t happen.
Another consideration is that if you own an iPad or iPhone then they integrate extremely well with Mac OS X. For example, if somebody calls me on my iPhone and it’s in another room, I can take the call on my iPad or my iMac. It’s a little thing, but it may make a difference to some people.
After thinking about your question for a while I’ve come up with two types of computer user that prefer using the Mac OS X. These are based on me and my wife and our personal experiences with PCs and Macs. These are just generalizations that will help you understand why some people prefer the Mac OS X.
Type one – inexpert computer user
A computer user who has used a Windows computer and had a poor experience due to malware infection or other things going wrong with it. This person doesn’t have in-depth computer knowledge and just wants to use something that works.
This is based on my wife – she used to own a Windows laptop that gave her lots of problems until one day it decided that the only way it was going to work was by restoring the hard drive to its factory default, wiping out all her files without any chance to make a copy (luckily the important ones were backed up).
After this she bought a MacBook Air, has never had a problem with it, and is a happy computer user again. She also likes that it comes with certain software for free (specifically Pages and Numbers) and that she doesn’t have to buy Microsoft Office for it, and that operating system updates are free.
Type two – professional/creative computer user
The reason I use a Mac is because I run my business from it and any time spent sorting out computer related problems is wasted time and a lost earning opportunity. I’m quite good with computers and software, but I have no desire to learn how to build my own machines, or spend time figuring out what version of the operating system I need to buy.
As a photographer I appreciate the Mac’s advanced color management, as a business person I like how easy Time Machine makes it to back up my files (and transfer the entire contents of my computer to another Mac if I need to).
Macs are also generally perceived as the computers that professionals use (admittedly probably less so now than in the past) so if I’m to look professional then it’s a good thing to be a Mac user. I’ve been using Macs for many years so I’m used to them, and yes I wish they were less expensive, but there’s no way I’d go back to Windows.
It seems to me that PCs and Windows have a big appeal to photographers who don’t want to pay the higher prices of Macs, or who like to build systems (or have them built) to their desired specification, who want computers that can be easily upgraded, or who might be interested in a Mac but don’t want the hassle of learning a new operating system.
Ultimately it’s all about what’s most important to you, and I think you’ve already answered your own question in this respect!