Finally an honest comparison between Macs and PCs in 2021. Which do you think will win?
If you are looking for a new ultrabook or desktop or notebook computer, you will be faced with a difficult choice: Mac or PC? If you search the internet, you will find very opposing and contrasting opinions, many for PC, and many for Mac. Who do you believe? What’s the truth about the eternal Mac vs PC debate?
If you are already a die-hard PC or Mac fan, this guide may not change your mind, but it may influence what you think of the two computers. You may agree, or you may disagree. Fortunately, I have learned enough about technology and the two systems over my decades of experience as a developer, computer builder, and technology connoisseur to give you true and unbiased opinions that probably both sides will agree with.
History of Mac vs PCs
Let’s first give a little background on Macs and PCs – so bear with me for a moment if you already know this. Mac is short for Macintosh, it is an operating system adapted by Apple. It exclusively uses a single operating system: MacOS. Macs can run Windows though as a dual-boot type of solution called Boot Camp, but it isn’t native and it isn’t as fast, since the computer has to use resources for emulation.
PCs on the other hand refer to computers that do not use MacOS and which also are not manufactured by Apple. Whereas Apple produces only a few types of of computers which exclusively run their own operating system MacOS, PCs on the other hand can run any operating system (including Mac with “Hackintosh”), and usually run on some version of Windows. They also can use various forms of Linux and UNIX, such as Chromebooks which run the Google Chrome OS, or Ubuntu – by far the most popular and well-known of the Linux distributions.
We don’t need to get into specifics about Linux in this article, since any PC not containing Windows is quite rare, and those wondering the differences probably will not get a computer with a Linux or UNIX OS. Unlike computers running Mac, such as Macbooks, which are produced by Apple, PCs are made by a wide array of completely different manufacturers.
About The Operating Systems: MacOS vs Windows
MacOS is simply a UNIX-based operating system for which Apple adapted a UI overlaid on the free operating system. Nearly all UNIX and Linux operating systems (which are fundamentally the same) are free and open source, with only a few exceptions (RedHat, I’m looking at you).
Apple made an awesome and amazingly profitable business model by not only charging high prices, but by taking a free operating system, modifying it only slightly to make it marginally more user friendly, and then releasing it as their own software. Apple did not write MacOS, although they have made a lot of changes to it over the years. The original developers were never compensated. In taking an open-source software, Apple was able to reduce their development expenses to near zero, while not owing any royalties to any third parties.
Apple does have something to be commended for for this clever and borderline-unethical business strategy. Most Linux and UNIX based operating systems have historically been limited when it comes to drivers (software which makes the operating system compatible with the hardware). This means that most regular users cannot use Linux because they do not know how to compile drivers or use the command line. Apple solved this problem mostly but creating universal hardware and then writing these drivers specifically for their hardware, and then by creating a UI (User Interface) which is easy enough to use for regular people.
Windows on the other hand is not UNIX-based.
Before Bill Gates was a megalomanic bent on world domination, literally buying up half the farmland in the United States and boasting about “injecting genetically modified organisms right into little kid’s arms” and “shooting it right into the vein”, Bill Gates was another kind of megalomanic, breaking the law with by creating monopolies thorough putting all his competitors out of business using shady tactics – and was being investigated by the Department of Justice over antitrust lawsuits and allegations.
Early Microsoft had a dark history, and while Steve Jobs was innovating and creating new and awesome technologies, Microsoft was looking to develop their own GUI, which means, Graphical User Interface. Both companies saw the value in creating visual interfaces that are easy for the layperson to use, and by 1985, Microsoft released their first version of Windows: Windows 1.0. Windows was historically based on DOS, combined with their own flagship programming language, BASIC. Even today, Windows still uses Visual Basic as part of their operating systems.
Through the years, Windows underwent several major iterations, namely, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP which was arguably Microsoft’s best operating system ever, and Windows 7, skipping over Vista which was a flop, as well as “Windows” 8. Today, there is “Windows” 10, but Windows 10 is not really Windows at all, just like “Windows” 8 which is also not Windows, although it carries the same name.
In my opinion, Windows 7 was the best Windows operating system ever made, because while XP was the most solid Windows operating system, Windows 7 brought in the visuals that every PC user and enthusiast craves. Windows 8 and 10, however, were rebuilt from the ground up. I had a friend who worked at Microsoft in Seattle who told me that Microsoft had gone back to the drawing board on Windows 8, and rebuilt an operating system with the intent to compete with the mobile market and apps. Unfortunately, it failed, as did Windows 10.
The only reason people use Windows 10 today is because Microsoft literally conspired with AMD and Intel, who make the processors used in nearly all PCs, not to create any more drivers that would allow Windows 7 to work on newer processors. This shady tactic alone is enough to hate Microsoft, but both Microsoft and Apple are deserving of hate – albeit for different reasons.
So, now that you know some history and some of the dirty schemes used to generate profit, it’s clear that Microsoft is the more evil of the two. But which of the two, if either, is the better choice? Let’s discuss some of the major problems and issues, and go one by one and compare them.
Mac vs PC: Price
Price is one of the main dividing points between Windows and Macs. It is undeniable and completely impossible to claim that “Macs are faster than Windows”, because the truth is that at the same price point, Windows are several times faster than Macs, because Macs are overpriced in an enclosed ecosystem run by a monopoly of Apple products, whereas PCs are manufactured in a free market with competing devices. This makes PCs by far the better value than Macs. The only way to deny that is to put your fingers in your ears and close your eyes.
Mac vs PC: Forced Updates
One major issue is that of forced updates. It used to not be a problem on Windows, but now is at the point of crisis. Apple is a big fan of pushing forced updates without the permission of the owners of the devices that bought it, and continue to push forced updates. This is worse on mobile devices, although those can often be hacked (“jailbroken”). It can be disabled though.
Microsoft does forced updates now too, so forced updates can only be avoided by hacking Windows 10 or going back to Windows 7 by using older hardware. Macs on the other hand, have a closed and proprietary OS (even though they didn’t even write the majority of the OS); however, it’s actually easier to prevent updates on Macs than it is on Windows 10. So, Apple kind of gets a win on that front.
Mac vs PC: Coolness Factor
A major reason people buy Macs is either because they are misinformed by Apple marketers that Macs are “better”, or because they want to be “cool”, because Apple has so cleverly branded Apple products are premium brands.
Yet, Apple doesn’t simply take a win, because unlike Macs which are no longer innovative or special, and which have single, universal colors, PCs on the other hand have a huge variety with features that Mac users could only dream of. Let’s list some examples:
This is a short list and there are many others. While Macs live on their brand name and same-ness, PCs have way cooler and unique computers. So, if you’re going for maximum cool, it depends on what you want. Do you want to be the envy of your techie friends, or do you want to feel rich with an overpriced laptop? Who wins is up to you, but both can be “cool”.
Want to be unique? If you have a Mac, the only way you can do this is post a few stickers, because basically all Macs look the same. PCs on the other hand have so many varieties including custom builds that it’s in another world. PCs win by a world over Macs when it comes to uniqueness.
(Pictured is an ASUS ZenBook Pro Duo with yes – a second screen that yes, also tilts. This is of course, a PC.)
Mac vs PC: Expandability
Macs are notoriously incapable of being expended. What you get is what you get. Bought a 128GB Macbook with 4GB of RAM and no dedicated graphics card? Well, you’re stuck with it until some other sucker buys it.
PC on the other hand allows maximum upgrades .Of course it depends on the device you buy. Some PCs also have the hard drive and/or RAM soldered to the motherboard; and PC laptops cannot upgrade their graphics card because that is also soldered.
But most laptops will allow upgrades to the hard drive or RAM, so your old PC can have new life for many years to come. If you’re talking desktops, you can basically upgrade everything. You can even build your own. Not so with Macs – you’ll need to purchase it from Apple. How drab. PC wins here, hands-down.
Mac vs PC: User Friendliness
Apple touts that their computers are user-friendly, but it simply isn’t true. Macs prevent you from even being able to use non-mac monitors without special adapters (sold by Apple of course, and for a ridiculous price), and UNIX-base operating systems like Mac are not exactly easier to use than Windows. It’s just different.
Overall, Macs and PCs are equally user-friendly by those familiar with it. If a PC user switches to a Mac (look of horror), they’ll have a tough time navigating. And, if a Mac user switches to a PC, they’ll have a tough time navigating – at first. After a few days of use, it’s no longer a problem once you learn where everything is.
Mac vs PC: Viruses
Yes, Macs can get viruses too, but it isn’t as common. This is because Apple chose a really good operating system base to use – UNIX. UNIX and Linux are compartmentalized operating systems that make it difficult for viruses to infect the system. It’s also because there are less people using Macs, so virus creators target their viruses for Windows users.
Meanwhile, PCs running Windows are very susceptible to viruses if they don’t have an antivirus. And the antivirus can often slow down the computer. Yet, computer-savvy individuals, such as myself, never even run an antivirus and don’t get viruses, because we know what now to click, and we know how to lock down our computer against threats. I do run an anti-malware software though, Malwarebytes, but it’s very hard for my PC to become infected by a virus, because it’s so secure.
Yet, your regular user won’t know all this and they can get viruses. So, that would make Mac a winner over Windows – but not PCs. Remember that PCs can run Linux? Well if you put Linux on your PC, it’s probably even more resistant to viruses than Macs, so, I’ll call it a draw.
Mac vs PC: Longevity & Reliability
Macs are touted for their longevity, but it’s hardly true. Too many times you go to the Apple store for a minor problem and they just tell you to buy a new $2,000 mac and say it’s unfixable, when really it’s a simple issue. The build quality is not as good as it used to be, and because they’re overpriced and not upgradeable, they become underpowered and outdated fast.
Some PCs definitely have a lower build quality than Macs. But at the same price point, you’ll be getting the high-quality PCs that are equally or even more reliable than Macs. You can’t take a $500 HP laptop and compare it to a $1500 Macbook Pro. That is simply not a fair comparison. If you spend $1500 on a high-quality PC laptop, it comes with a long warranty, and if you do your research you can easily find one with spectacular build quality.
Both Macs and PCs can be equally as reliable, but PCs are cheaper with the same reliability. Both have a tendency to break down due to misuse or overuse; but if treated gently, both can last for many years.
Mac vs PC: Gaming
If you like to game, you should get a PC. First of all, PCs as mentioned earlier are cheaper than Macs for the same hardware; and secondly, they are upgradable. But even more, game developers develop mainly for PC, so you’ll have far more games and they will be way better supported than Macs.
Mac vs PC: Graphic Design & Video Editing
Fancy art schools try to claim that Macs are best, but I suspect some foul play – perhaps Apple has paid them off. Again, you can get a PC that is cheaper and more powerful, and just as reliable; but even more, there are more fantastic graphic design software supported on PCs but not Macs. They also run more smoothly on PCs which are well-tuned, and faster as long as you’re not running Norton or McAfee (please remove those if they’re on your PC).
But the same exact software on the same exact hardware will run identically on PC or Mac, give or take milliseconds? It is total nonsense and BS by uneducated and biased sycophants for someone to claim Mac is better for graphic design or video editing. My entire career the only time I used a Mac for graphic design was in grade school, and that’s simply because that’s what they had. I prefer PC hands-down for graphic design and video editing.
I’m going to call this one for PCs, because PCs can support more software, and for the same price have way better performance. Your regular user cannot afford a $10,000 Mac that is equally as powerful as a $2,000 PC.
Mac vs PC: Programming
Another suspicious entry. There are some programming schools and programmers who claim that Macs are better for programming because they’re similar to Linux. What nonsense! Windows, especially Windows 10, all support every single piece of software, but do it faster, and have even more software than Macs.
The only people saying Macs are better for programming either are being paid by Apple and should be investigated by the FTC, or have never even used a PC, or don’t know how to use a PC. Windows support everything, especially when you run a stack like LAMP or WAMP. Ruby and all the other main programming languages all are supported on Windows, and you can even use the command line in Windows.
But if you’re a die-hard programmer, you shouldn’t be using Windows or Macs, you should be using Linux. I still use Windows, and not Linux, but only because Linux doesn’t support half the software I use. I’m considering getting another PC only running Linux. And I manage dedicated servers (which run on Linux) all the time, so I already have my fair share of Linux usage, unlike your everyday programmer.
And remember – Macs run Mac. You can put Linux on it, but then why would you have an overpriced Mac? Might as well have a PC which is more powerful for less price. PCs on the other hand run both Windows and Linux – and you can even set up dual boot.
Mac vs PC: Business Use
Macs are ok for business use, especially if the company pays for it. however, there are also potential problems, because the most widely-used office exchange software is a Microsoft software, and includes software like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Teams, and Outlook. With Windows, it easily integrates into the operating system, but with Mac, although you can use it on a Mac, you miss out on a lot of the functionality, if it even works.
Microsoft also bought Skype, and other business software also may work better or only be compatible with PCs, which make up the bulk of the computer share globally.
Windows on the other hand does have potential issues with breaches, but a well-built IT department can control the company’s windows systems easily from a central location to help mitigate viruses. Macs on the other hand are not built for networking, which is why (besides cost) most companies use Windows.
That brings us to cost. Most companies wanting to distribute computers to the whole organization will also be money conscious, and PCs win hands-down when it comes to cost effectiveness.
Therefore, PCs can be considered more robust as well as more affordable for business use, and therefore take the winning position. With few exceptions, an educated IT team will simply not recommend Macs if they really have the company’s best interest at heart. They will recommend Windows.
Mac vs PC: Thin & Light
Macbook Air is super light and thin at about 3lbs. The latest version in 2021 has shaved off a tiny bit at 2.8lbs. At the time, it was revolutionary, but not anymore. My Thinkpad X1 Carbon is even lighter and thinner at 2.5lbs, and also faster with far more storage and speed.
You can add a 2TB SSD for it, and mine has 16GB of RAM. There is even a 32GB model now. It doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card, but my 4 pound MSI GS65 with an RGB multicolor backlit keyboard does, and it’s one of the most powerful laptops on the market, and has basically every cool feature you can think of. And talk about thin and light for a gaming laptop, it takes the cake.
Macbook Air can’t compete with the MSI GS65 for thin power, and the 13″ HP Spectre (pictured) gives the thinness of the Air a run for its money. And yes you can get 4k screens and touchscreens too on these. There are many other similar laptops that defeat the best Macs. This is the nature of the free market.
Do I really need to keep listing more? I think you get the point. It is my opinion that PCs are better, but Mac can by just fine too, if you’re rich. If money is no object and you really don’t care about cool features, cool looks (arguably, since Macs do look clean and sleek), gaming, or high performance (at a reasonable price), and all that matters to you is to be “cool” with the other plebs who also have macs, then go ahead and get a Mac. If money is no object, you can do most of the same work with it, and it is fine (although annoying) for programming, graphic design, or video editing (at a really high price).
If you just need a regular laptop, a PC is a better value. If you need the maximum performance laptop or desktop, then PC is the only thing to get if you are not insane enough to pay $10k or even $20k for the top of the line Mac. This may be my opinion, but it is backed by facts.
Still, some Mac users will resist ever even trying a PC, and that’s tragic, although perfectly acceptable. It’s their money, after all, so let them be.
What do you think? Would you get a PC or a Mac? Which do you think is better?
ADD A COMMENT
3 thoughts on “PC vs Mac in 2021 – Which Is Better? An Honest Comparison”
Thanks for the overview. I have been a mac book user for at least a decade, for my personal use. I’m at the end of life on my second macbook. The speakers on my second Mac are shot, I understand the speakers are integrated and not repairable, the thing is 5 years old, and it’s frustrating to listen to the dang thing.
My prior macbook stopped working because the battery under the mouse pad expanded enough that the mouse was always in the “click” position. I did replace the battery in that macbook but the drive and memory were too small to be useful. Agree that the build quality is does not match the price point.
My anecdotal experience with the mac is in agreement with your points. I was a PC user professionally – both programming – and using the MS office tools. I did find that a many hardware developer tools for microcontrollers (DVK’s etc) are written for exclusively PC, not mac, another draw back.
For my personal use, I need to figure out how to migrate all my personal Mac files like photos and itunes over to a PC. Are any laptop PC’s better at importing Mac files, does windows have a utility for importing Mac formatted files? Not really excited about the spend for another Mac.
A very honest review. Some people say that Mac is better than PC, however they don’t check their price difference. People buy Mac for 5k and then compare it with 400$ PC. What nonsense.