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To Mac or not to Mac??

You realize I have been talking about it for much too long, still haven't bought a new computer.
(Part of the reason is that I keep going back to China and so far hadn't considered buying anything there.)

However, looking at my life style, I think I changed my mind as to buying a desk top versus a lap top.
Even if I can get better value for my money in terms of performance buying a desk top,
I just can't see myself staying in the same place for any amount of time that would justify
the purchase of one.

I think I will be saving enough of my salary in China to eventually buy either a good quality PC notebook or even
a Mac, so I started thinking on that part again.

I understand that PC and Mac processors function in fundamentally different ways,
one of the major difference being the data flow in 32 or 64 bit (??), which
I understand enables programs on a Mac to use more than 2 Gig of RAM whereas that is the limit on a PC.

Did I get that right?

The way I use my computer, around 70 percent of what I do requires using Photoshop and related programs,
some 20 percent is web surfing (which basically requires no hardware resources to mention), 10 percent are other things like writing, very little graphics etc.

A lot of the software I use is freeware anyway, so I am not tooooo worried at that end.

Sounds to me like a Mac would be a wise decision for the futur....

Can anybody help me understand the real differences between both?
What do I have to consider in case I want to make the transition?

Thanks for your input!!

I can't give you a balanced comparison, as I've been using Macs since about 1987. I do also know how to use PCs, and have worked for a couple of different IT/computer companies, but have never done photographic work with them. Hopefully Julian can help out here.

Apple is using the same processors as most PCs do these days, and can run Windows if you want to. (why you'd want to is your own business.) I can't really say what the differences may be in hardware these days, but the Macintosh operating system has the advantage of being written for a limited set of hardware and is all created by the same company. When I bought my iMac, it was one of the very first of the new model, and had a problem with its graphics card that made it freeze sporadically. After about two months, a software update fixed the issue. If I was working with software and hardware from different vendors, I don't know if it would have been resolved as quickly or easily.

Another consideration for you should be how easy it is to operate your computer with the others that it will meet in China. By necessity, Apple software can read most Microsoft file formats, and networking with PCs shouldn't be more complicated than networking two PCs. But in an age of e-mail and CDs, the need to connect computers is getting less common. A more common concern is viruses. I've hear rumours of one or two that affect Macintosh computers, and "viruslist.com" does have six of them listed, five of which work through Microsoft Word or Excel files. An antivirus company mentions one other that was discovered in 2006. Not exactly a pressing threat -- something I remember you worrying about with the computers in China.

Apple's "iWork" software is cheap and good for general business stuff, and I believe it can open MS Word documents (I can test it if someone wants to send me one), but for simple writing and letters the included text editor is fine. Aside from that, the only software I've needed to buy was Lightroom, Photoshop, and Spaceward Ho!. (Great game.) I can't imagine needing anything else.

Possibly the bigger question is the laptop versus a desktop. I really like my little MacBook -- I'm using it on the couch right now -- and used to use it with Lightroom and Elements for all of my photos. But now that I've moved to the 24" iMac, its little 13" screen just isn't enough. It's simply too small to easily sort or process a lot of photos. But it does work well when I'm on the road, and given your mobile life, it should be a good compromise. (The laptop is also great if you don't have reliable AC power, which was a problem for me in my last apartment.) But if you can manage to get a desktop, the iMacs are barely bigger than an LCD monitor, and offer a lot more power and bigger screens.
Wow, thanks Matthew for great input.

I have considered the screen issue and think that I could have a large screen to connect my notebook to whenever I am actually working at a stationary desk.

I won't be buying anything too soon, but am actually starting to consider buying something IN China, as
it is a pain in the bum and highly disadvantageous to change the currency I am saving up over there.
Hardware should be the same anyway. Support for Macs might be less easily accessible, but I will eventually return to Germany anyway.

More questions... Does anyone here actually USE a Mac Book Pro?

Why are all their HD's 5400rpm drives, isn't the standard 7200?
Does is make a difference??

And how much would you notice the difference between a 2.2GHz and a 2.6Ghz processor?
Would it be worth a price difference of around € 600?


anybody out there??

My son has a macbook pro that he loves - hasn't touched his desktop pc since.He has the 2.6 GHz - don't know about the 2.2. THe RPM on the hard drive is likely a power conservation thing.
I knew someone who had a macbook pro once -- he worked for a photo studio as a retouching / photoshop expert. I don't know how much he needed it for work, but he was certainly happy with it.

As Toad said, I believe the HDD is slower to save power. It may make a bit of a speed difference, but it's part of the compromise for portability. You will probably want to have external firewire drives as well -- I have four of them despite the 160GB drive in my desktop -- so treat the internal drive as a starting place, not the final limitation.

I read once that people start to notice a speed increase at about 10%. So there should be a noticeable difference between the 2.2 and 2.6, assuming no other factors are limiting its performance. (Remember that as soon as your laptop is unplugged it will want to go into a power saving mode, slowing the processor. You can turn this off, but it does drain the battery more quickly.) If you have the room in the budget for the faster processor, you might want to consider it, but personally I'd max out the ram instead.
yep, I am definitely planning on stuffing it with RAM! Smile
Uli - definitely go the Mac. I heard a PC fix it guy on the radio the other day who said it just isn't profitable to keep someone on his staff to fix Macs as they hardly ever have problems.

As to the MacBook Pro they are beautiful. I don't think you should bother with the 2.6. The 2.2 will do fine. I do all my work on a G5 dual 2.3 which is much slower than the Core2Duo 2.2 on the MacBook Pro and it handles everything I chuck at it.

And if you really need Windows you can run it on your Mac just as fast as it runs on a PC.
...and I saw this beautiful apple screen (cinema display).... yummie!

Still have to save my Chinese currency for a few months, but then I think I know what I want.

good stuff.

Hey Uli,

I actually have a new MacBook Pro on its way to me as we speak (the peripherals I ordered with it arrived on Thursday, so I assume the rest of it can only be a couple of days behind). It's a 15" MacBook Pro 2.4Ghz CPU, 2Gb of RAM (with 4Gb upgrade planned immediately) and 250Gb HDD. I have far more PC experience than Mac experience however, so this new lappy is going to be a learning experience for me - which is why I'm getting it instead of a Dell or other PC notebook. There is also a 17" Macbook Pro on the table beside me as I write this (on my 17" Alienware PC notebook). There's no doubt it's a lovely machine, but not perfect.

Nowadays the intel Macs are essentially identical to PCs from a hardware component perspective. Both can run in 32-bit and/or 64-bit modes (they use same processor), both can use more than 2Gb of RAM (although 32-bit software can only address 4Gb of RAM, so there are some limitations beyond that), and both use the same types of RAM, hard drives, graphics cards, etc.
This makes it much easier to compare specs than it used to be. Nowadays a 2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo with 2Gb of RAM will run at roughly the same speed regardless of being a Mac or PC.
Also the 5400rpm hard-drive speed is still the standard speed for 2.5" notebook drives, while 7200rpm is the standard speed for 3.5" desktop PC drives. There are some 7200rpm notebook drives available, but they aren't available in the same large sizes as the 5400rpm drives, so you have to sacrifice speed for capacity if you want to go much bigger than about 160Gb in a notebook drive at the moment.
Still, the fact that SATA drives are standard on notebooks these days (and usually with decent sized caches) means they are significantly faster than older drives that spin at the same speed (but many older notebook drives were 4200rpm anyway).

So the difficult choice between Mac and PC these days is not so much a choice of hardware, but a choice of Operating System. Windows or OS X.

As Matthew pointed out, you can install Windows on a Mac and run it side-by-side with OS X (using Boot Camp) or even run Windows apps from within OS X (using Parallels or VMWare). This is how I'll be running my MacBook Pro because I need to continue using Windows software for my job, and while it sounds like a perfect solution it also has a number of downsides. Besides which, if you are trying to "get away from Windows" because you prefer OS X then the whole point is NOT to then have to run Windows AND another operating system.

But for me, I'm not trying to get away from Windows. There are many good things about Windows. But there are also many good things about OS X and at times I need both.
I should also point out that it's not just Macs that can run Windows. There are also a number of people running OS X natively on their regular PCs (ie not an emulation). These are then called a Hackintosh. Tongue This approach is nowhere near as simple as running Windows on a Mac (due mainly to the huge range of PC components that don't have OS X drivers), but it is possible and illustrates the similarity of the hardware.

So I'm buying a Macbook Pro with every intention of using it mainly for Windows software (Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2005 and a number of other Windows development tools - plus games), but I chose a Mac because of the fact it also gives me "the best of both worlds" and allows me to run OS X as well, plus as a laptop it has a fantastic design and wonderful new LED screen (although only a SINGLE BUTTON MOUSE ON THE TRACKPAD! grrr.. I know I can 2-finger tap but it's not the same).

...BUT... You can get a Dell XPS M1530 laptop with almost identical specs for half the price. It won't look as good, it won't have the beautiful LED screen, it won't easily run OS X, and it may not have a number of other little nice touches that the MBP has, but it is just as powerful and is half the price (and has a 2-button touchpad!).

It's a bit like choosing between Nikon and Canon. There is no single right or wrong answer, just what is best for you as an individual.
oohoo, Kombi trying to make it difficult again... Wink

Thanks Adrian for all the info!! Very useful.
One of the reasons I would like to go Mac is the superior stability of the system that EVERYONE I know working on Macs emphasizes. I have never heard anyone who changed to a Mac and then back to a PC.

Sice some 75 - 80% of all I do seems to be photoshopping, and many of the other programs I use are freeware available for both platforms, I don't see why I would need to run Windows.

As for the hard drive, I do and want to have most of my capacity external, and I also do not usually find battery capactiy essential, so I was even wondering if I could get a shop to swap the 160GB/5400rpm for a smaller, faster one.

years ago when I was doing imaging work in a molecular biology lab, everyone was always talking about Photoshop being programmed for a Mac platform and then having been adapted to be run under Windows.
Most professional graphic designers and photographers still use Macs.
But when I was looking for some answers now, I even found forums where people claimed CS3 had been
written for PCs, and was running much smoother under XP than Leopard.

My "computer friends" have been telling me to by an IBM thinkpad......

One thing that seemed to tip the balance further towards Mac was the beautiful apple display I saw the other day.

Like I said, it seems to be an ever recurring theme, for me at least until I finally buy something.
It is interesting to hear what everyone says, since I don't really know anything myself.

I am very curious to hear about your first impressions when your mnp arrives!!
are you running CS2 or 3?

Greetings, Uli
I'll be sure to let you know Uli...

I know a few people who have switched from Mac to PC, most often due to their need to use specific software and/or hardware available on PC and not Mac. Macs might be nicer to use, but the sheer scope of hardware, software, and configurations available for PC's make them a necessity for many people in specialised areas. But I also know people who have gone the other way from PC's to Macs and are very happy.

Also, since Apple introduced OS X... the reports I've heard (which may not be representative of the total population) tend to indicate that Macs are not quite as stable as they used to be, while at the same time my own experience tells me that Windows has become more stable over time. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Windows is more stable than OS X, just that the gap between them isn't as big as it once was.

And the reports I've seen comparing Photoshop CS3 performance on both platforms with the same-specc'd machines seem to indicate there is a performance benefit running it under Windows. That's not to say it's a pig under OS X, just that certain time-consuming tasks are slower. I'm running CS2 and CS3 by the way.

But... I'm looking forward to giving Aperture a run for it's money. And there are things that really annoy me about Windows that have nice elegant solutions in OS X and little things like Skitch that will make life much easier for me, so I'm certinaly not trying to trash-talk the Mac.

Funny, that is the same notion I have been finding, that CS3 runs smoother under XP than OSx....

I wonder if I could find a chance to compare side by side, but that's not very likely.


It's a very quick and simple screen-grab and annotation utility. Ideal for me as a developer where I often need to take screenshots and send emails with instructions attached. Also perfect for posting step-by-step instructions to blogs/forums and so on. It doesn't do anything that can't already be done, just eliminates all the steps and hassle.

Let us know how you get on, and I'll let you know my first impressions. Big Grin
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