Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Big Debate: Revisited

At the end of last year we discussed The Big Debate, the differences between PCs and Macs. The conclusion was that there couldn't be a conclusion, the choice is personal. However, to add some more detail to assist in making a decision, we're writing this post after having purchased a Mac.

To reiterate points made in the original post, the hardware and software are both designed and built by Apple and therefore play very nicely together. There is no separate tower with the iMac, everything is contained in the monitor. A nice touch, but not unique to Macs. The monitor is a thing of beauty and looks very nice on a desk. The keyboard and trackpad are very well built. So far, so good.

The ordering process gave an interesting insight into Apple's pricing. To add 4GB of memory on top of the 4GB already provided would have added an extra £160 on to the price-tag. Having set the iMac up, we sourced an extra 8GB of memory from Crucial for less than £35. It may be true that Apple makes good quality products, but don't be under illusion about how they have made the phenomenal amounts of money they have.

OSX, the operating system installed on all Macs, is very nice. Not spectacular, not life-changing, but very nice. Most things you can do on Windows you can do on OSX. Some slightly different methods have to be learnt but no show-stoppers. OSX seems to come with more software pre-installed than Windows, including iMovie and Garageband which are great fun and add to the glossy reputation that Apple products have. The vast majority of programs that I used on Windows have equivalents on the Mac. Most are identical as Macs are mainstream enough for companies to write for. Occasionally you have to go looking for third-party equivalents but again, no show-stoppers. In a worst case, it is possible to install Windows on a Mac, either in its own partition completely separately from OSX, or within it using virtualization software like VirtualBox which works brilliantly. However, if you don't have to, don't. A friend of mine said it was 'like putting a Metro dashboard into an Aston Martin.' Harsh, but it would certainly take up unnecessary space.

At this point it's worth pointing out that not everything went smoothly in the transition. The scanner on the multi-function printer didn't work straight away and is still flaky. And OSX would not perform a Software Update for the first 48 hours. A lot of research later and things were still not resolved until one morning it just started working. I take it the issue lay with Apple's servers but who knows. It was a valuable lesson in the fact that things don't always 'just work'.

So the conclusion? Pretty much what it was - it's all about what you want the machine to do. The Apple range is slick, but not perfect. Windows offers a little more range and flexibility, but is also more prone to tripping over itself. The difference between the two is less now than it's ever been.

Which is better? Still your decision.

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