Mac vs. PC

titus n.'s picture

i'm interested in professional opinions from the field, if the old dogma - a graphics designer has to have a mac - is still reasonable. i don't think so and strongly doubt that it's still worth spending almost twice as much money on your hardware, only to get a fancy design.

your opinions please!

jupiterboy's picture

Considering the charges that can pile up at a printer, I tend to want to deliver files that printers are most comfortable with and less likely to add charges for. That usually means Mac, although it seems that Adobe is championing the windows platform.

I rarely look at my box. It is a tool. The difference in hardware cost is mininal part of the overall picture.

Productivity and solid multi-tasking are higher with my dual G5 than ever before. That means printing and burning discs while large uploads are moving, and having apps open and working. No crashes. This is good.

andreas's picture

You don't need a Mac for todays desktop stuff in most cases. The Adobe tools are working nicely on both sides. For font developing, you have more and more stable tools for Win & Linux.

The upcoming Windows Longhorn will have native OpenType feature support for Latin fonts.

Chris Rugen's picture

I find Windows unstable, overly complex, and less friendly towards getting my job done. I use both platforms on a day-to-day basis, though not for the same purposes. I can run OS X 10.3 flawlessly for weeks, even if individual apps bomb occasionally. Apple also seems to be more integrated with PS/PDF.

One could argue that I'm biased, but there's a reason I'm biased. Plus, if the majority of designers are on Macs, then it's easier to get help/advice from fellow designers. It's not a 'you must' situation, but the extra money is well worth it, in my opinion (and not because they're pretty).

PS: Longhorn is vaporware that's about 1-2 years out (from what I've heard) at this point. Don't make any purchasing decisions based on MS's claims about Longhorn. This has been their strategy for over a decade: out-promise the competition, then under-deliver.

secondtoughest's picture

I've worked on a PC in the design field for over five years. The reason I switched was because the company I worked for was more web/programming focused, so we the designers needed switch to PC to work more efficiently. They wouldn't touch a MAC and I couldn't stand working on OS9.

I guess I don't understand all the talk of PCs being unstable. Since I've had XP I have never had an all out crash and rarely do individual programs crash. I've learned to be safer surfing the web, using Firefox instead of IE and keeping my anti-virus up to date.

The printers in my area take PC files at no extra charge and there have been no major issues with the turnout of the print runs.

At my new job I am using a G5 running OSX 10.3 and loving it. (although I don't like that saving to the trash is an option...) I'm still not used to the font management on a MAC. I prefer the PC in that aspect. There really isn't a need for activating or deactivating fonts. They're just all there, all the time, with no slow-down on the machine.

So now I'm split 50/50, work to home, on both PC and MAC. But I'd still buy a PC over a MAC simply because of cost and available programs (read: games)

andi emery's picture

For the most part, there isn't much of a difference between the two platforms with regard to the applications that are used. Most designers I know swear by Macs for their print jobs and PCs for their web/multimedia jobs. (Although that opinion varies depending on the end result and the application being used).

Having worked on both platforms, myself, I have less problems at the print house when I work on my Mac (as Chris pointed out). I have had problems with fonts and postcript files in the past. Printers seem happier/more comfortable to have mac files, too. In as far as support and upgrades go, and not being a techy of any kind, I can do everything myself. I can download and update and don't have to call any support people. I don't have to worry about system crashes. I don't worry about viruses or worms. Basically, buy a mac and hit the ground running.

I teach at a college where all the graphic designers work on Macs. I teach 150 of them and those shiny silver boxes sure are pretty in the classrooms! And Macintosh still seems to be the norm for this industry. If you think it's expensive, well, consider it an investment!

Chris Rugen's picture

Andrea makes a good point: the virus/spyware issue is a big one. This aspect of computing security is getting ridiculous on Windows machines.

vincent_connare's picture

I have both and have used both since 1988. And they both have individual uses

I have an Alienware Area51M notebrick with a kick butt 3.41Ghz processor, 1680x1055 res screen, that I use for Truetype development and web development. Use FlashMX and Photoshop for design, As a laptop it's faster than any desktop machine i've every used but weights about the same at about 9lbs without the battery.

I just upgraded my Mac to a new Powerbook to replace the old Wallstreet powerbook mainly for photographic purposes. ILife, RAW NEFF format etc. and Mac font development, i.e. AAT, and website testing.

I've used Flash, Fontographer,email, Photoshop, FontLab and just about everything on both platforms.

Unix on the Mac is an nice improvement but gee isn't it just going back to mainframe terminal commmand line developemnt again. And font developers use to complain about using MS-DOS tools on Windows now you have to use UNIX to do AAT.. I love it now!

My PCs the main font develpement machine and email machine.

My Mac is my Photographic machine, light small and nimble.

The new MacMini, isn't that just a barebones PC? So they are all just boxes in the end.

vincent_connare's picture


titus n.'s picture

the price issue is much bigger then most of you say - at least in austria!


dual G5 2,5ghz
1gb ddr ram
2x250 gb hard discs
dvd-r/cd-rw drive
ati radeon 9600 xt 128mb
1 firewire
3 usb 2.0
keyboard, mouse
3 years apple protection

3.851 Euro

pentium 4, 3,6 ghz
1gb ram
2 x 250gb hard discs
geforce 6600, 265mb ddr ram
dvd-r drive
cd-rw 52x drive
8 x usb 2.0
1 x firewire
mouse, keyboard, 7 in 1 card reader
2 years protection plan

1723,96 Euro

i haven't made a comparison like this for myself before, seems to make things very clear for me.

aluminum's picture

". i don't think so and strongly doubt that it's still worth spending almost twice as much money on your hardware, only to get a fancy design. "

'Mac vs. PC' is a debate full of as much disinformation as 'republican vs. democrat' and 'christian vs. muslim' ;o)

As for graphic design, it really doesn't matter which you go with. They're also priced about the Idea where you got the 'twice as much just for design'. That said, if you believe that, and you're a designer, one would think you'd go with Mac, no? ;o)

aluminum's picture

"The reason I switched was because the company I worked for was more web/programming focused, so we the designers needed switch to PC to work more efficiently. They wouldn't touch a MAC "

Any company that is 'web based focused' that also 'wouldn't touch a mac' isn't a very good web company. ;o) does look like things are pricey in AUS. That said, you're comaring a dual 2.5 PPC chip with a single 3.6 Pentium chip. I think a more accurate comparison would be a single-processor Mac to the Pentium.

Also, make sure the PC (if you go that route) comes with XP Pro for a true comparison (I was quite frustrated when I had to add $200 to the cost of my PC for it ;o)

Chris Rugen's picture

Benchmarking is usually the best indicator. Timing specific tasks. Since clocking (1 GHz vs. 1.5 GHz, etc.) is often not the best inidicator. Chip architecture can affect performance specifically related to one task over another.

For example, an Athlon is better for gaming vs. an equivalent Pentium, but for video work, the reverse is true.

rs_donsata's picture

I worked a couple of months on a mac for a project in a local newspaper and at least one of the machines in the design department crashed everyday (all mac). Also there were severe compatibility issues between OS versions and software. The other departments got new machines every two years, the design department got machines every four years and they were used.

Also the shortcuts on the keyboard were much more complicated than they are on a pc and the navigation system between applications and windows drived me nuts. Maybe I

secondtoughest's picture

"Any company that is 'web based focused' that also 'wouldn't touch a mac' isn't a very good web company. ;o)"

I'm talking dudes who would prefer command line over any program. None of their code was written in Dreamweaver or any other WYSIWYG. The HTML and PHP were all written 'by hand' in a HTML/PHP editor.

In 1999, OS9 on a MAC didn't have much along the lines of a HTML/PHP editor for them to work with (nothing that stood up to their standards anyway) and it crashed daily for me. It was nearly impossible for me to multi-task when I was on OS9. When I switched to a sweat.

I should mention that most of those guys now prefer working on a MAC running OSX and I sure have no major complaints about the G5 I have at work. :-)

titus n.'s picture

thanks for your thoughts, i guess it's a question that can't be solved by arguments.
perhaps the best solution would be professional apps on linux - did you hear that adobe? :-)

aluminum's picture

"Also the shortcuts on the keyboard were much more complicated than they are on a pc "

Actually, the converse is true.

But, it's silly to debate. You use best what you use most. I use both every day and find them pretty much the same.

"thanks for your thoughts, i guess it's a question that can't be solved by arguments. "

The only way to solve it is for you to use both and decide for yourself.

"perhaps the best solution would be professional apps on linux - did you hear that adobe?"

Eh...linux as a desktop OS still has a long way to go. It's getting there...slowly...

raphaelfreeman's picture

I was once taught that "choose the best software to do the job right and then see what platform it happens to run on". Today much of the graphics software is available on both platforms and if you look at Adobe software with no feature difference (unlike the old version of Quark which didn't have ligature support on the PC). So if you just going to be running eg InDesign then it's probably a case of deciding which platform you happen to prefer – be in the OS or the shiny silver box.

However, I think is an equally important consideration is what else is you computer being used for. For example, I am a typesetter based in Israel and although 95% of my work is actually English, I do get occassional Hebrew words thrown in or even work to be done in Hebrew. Since these files come in Microsoft Word (which is only available with Hebrew support on the PC platform) then I need a Windows operating system. True I could use an emulator on the Mac, but this is a consideration to be thought out.

Or as another example, as a freelancer, my main computer also does everything else too including receiving and sending faxes to clients. I use a nice little program called Moony ( which handles all my faxes and also tells me which of my clients are calling me with a nice little pop up on my computer screen. Again I use another program extension in Outlook called Taskline ( which organises my todo list into my calendar telling me which jobs I need to do when and if a client asks me when a job should be completed by, then I can give them a real estimate. I have quite a few of these little extra programs that in my case happen to run on a PC making it a better choice for me, but could equally make the Mac a better choice for somebody else.

Another very important consideration is technical support. If my PC should develop a fault, then I have my phone support immediately, and if necessary a technician over within an hour or two. In Israel the only Mac support is in Tel Aviv (I live in Jerusalem) and if a fault develops with a Mac then it can be a couple of weeks before getting it back. This is kind of a disaster unless you happen to have a spare Mac lying around. Again, this is a location-specific problem and I'm sure this doesn't apply to the majority of users out there.

However, as a person who has used Mac and PC over the years, and a person that has migrated from Quark on the Mac to InDesign on the PC, I think it's about looking at the whole picture of your work environment to see what suits you. I highly specified PC is not cheap (probably a bit cheaper than a Mac), but long-gone are the days where graphics were only done a Mac.

rs_donsata's picture

Ok, I know that this is a wasted topic but I tought this could be of interest for some:

MAC V PC: A history lesson

lettertiep's picture

Hey no one used the "mac are more beautifully designed" argument yet ;-)

I'm (still) working on a Mac; and for 15 years I try to find enough rational reasons why I do so, but I think it's emotional ;-)
On a pure rational basis I think PC's win: cheaper, widespread, better support, more goodies & more compatible software...
I also work with PC/Windows, but it just doesn't appeal to me. Maybe just because so many people work with it?

My Mac (& Apple for that matter): sometimes I hate them profoundly, but most of the time I find myself charmed by the way they work & look. And perhaps it's (still) a kind of snobbism, but it gets my work done, and I love working with it.

Mac versus PC or windows: it's a question of love!

(now, where that shrink? ;-) )

titus n.'s picture

ok, the windows icons are much uglier than those by apple ... :-)

as8's picture

I do agree, and check out that site, it is good.
E.g. :

Also, by the same guy :

Buona giornata,

aluminum's picture

"On a pure rational basis I think PC's win: cheaper, widespread, better support, more goodies & more compatible software... "

A lot of those are myths.

Cheaper? Not so much. Even *I* was surprised about that. My wife needed a new Windows laptop, and I though "hey, those have to be cheap" and went out hunting. It turns out, feature-for-feature, the iBook is probably the best deals in laptops out there.

Widespread? I never use that as an argument. Wal-mart is widespread. ;o)

Better support? No idea what that even means.

More goodies + software? While that's true, I don't know if I'd call that a good thing. Whenever I need a utility for my PC, I need to dig through 10 crappy programs for every one good one I find. On the Mac side, it doesn't seem nearly that bad of a ratio.

lettertiep's picture

Ok Darrel, you've got me convinced ;-)

tuneczar's picture

I started on a Mac back in '92 when agencies were first starting to transition to using a computer...remember paste-up and mechanicals? From then until now, Macs have been a way of life for most designers. They ruled and rightly so.

But now, it's truly emotional folks. I had to transition (kicking and screaming) into the PC world about 6 years ago. And guess what? The applications are what truly matter.

I use a G4 with OS9, a G5 with OSX and a P4 with XP Pro -- all three have Photoshop, etc. -- and when I'm working inside an app, I could honestly *care less* which individual box I'm on at the moment. If a given machine has the horsepower, just load the app and start to work.

As for print, Mac vs. PC used to be a huge issue, mainly with fonts and time spent on the RIP with PC files. It's all changed now. All the service bureaus we work with take PC files as well as Mac. And more importantly, we're sending new jobs via PDF -- which is eliminating any hassle completely. PDF is great for print jobs these days.

I say, just try working on both, if you can, and make a decision. The cost of your working applications is really the biggest price factor. If your machine of choice can handle the apps that you want to use, and create the final files you need to work with others, just buy what ever you want and be happy with your decision.

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