What Is The Best Computer For Graphics?

kimba00July 18, 2006

I'm a self employed graphic artist that has exclusively used wintel for over 10 years. I use mostly Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Some of my graphics friends over the years have told me that the industry mostly uses macs because they are better designed for the type of work I do.

I'm in the market for a new workhorse. I'm intrigued by the macs reputation for user friendliness, resistance to most virus/worms and graphic performance. I'm sick of wintel crankiness, freezing screens, crashes etc,

I'm open for feedback. Any suggestions?

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I teach computer graphics at a large college where I'm responsible for upkeep of the hardware. I have about 120 computers in about 7 different labs -- about 90 MACs and about 30 Wintel sytems.

Windows is a miserable piece of junk. It's nearly as bad as Apple's old MAC OS used to be. The new MAC OS 10.4.x.x.x.x.x is based on a UNIX (good operating system) kernel and is much better than the old MAC OS and potentially better than Windows. At this point I'd probably give the edge to the MAC OS however Apple is trying very hard to ruin it.

Things to consider:

MAC OS is easier to use -- that's a myth. You can make a MAC as easy to use as a Windows computer by purchasing a two button mouse that comes with MAC drivers. Even still, if you really know what you're doing and want to use a computer "your way" then the MAC is still harder to use. Both Apple and Microsoft have adopted the same philosophy: "The user is ignorant and we know what they need." Apple has moved further along with this than Microsoft. If you're willing to use the MAC the way Apple knows you should then you'll get along pretty well.

Apple is a proprietary shop. If you want to play there's only one game in town. Heaven help you if your MAC breaks. You're not allowed to fix it yourself. Whatever part you need it's the same made-in-China part that goes in a Wintel system except that Apple will charge you more than twice as much for it and then kick you while you're down with a hefty service charge to install it.

Apple lies with benchmarks. High end MACs are as fast as high end Wintel systems. They are not screamingly faster. There are 101 ways to lie with computer benchmarks and Apple knows 102. If you do a price/performance analysis you will find that MACs are the slowest computers available for the money. That doesn't mean MACs are slow. It means they cost a lot more than equally fast Wintel systems.

MACs are better made and made in the USA -- myth. They use the same made-in-China/Tiwan/Singapore parts that are in every Wintel system. Apart from the OS and a few proprietary chips on the system board they're the same computers.

MACs are better designed -- not a myth. They are and have been consistently the best designed computers available with the exception of a few noteworthy events. Heaven help you if you ever have to open up and service an HP mini-tower. Installing extra memory in a MAC on the other hand is a pleasure.

There's only one way to buy a MAC -- it's easy. Wintel systems on the other hand are a nightmare of confusion. With Apple you pay your premium price with a smile and go to work. If you think that comparing MACs and Wintel computers is like Apples and Oranges you can keep that blissful smile. If you price out what it would cost to build your own Wintel system that would smoke that MAC you'll be wiping that smile from your face. On the other hand it takes a fair amount of know how and some serious time to build your own. The computer I'm using now is a Wintel system that I built for between five and six hundred dollars (some old parts reused) and it smokes the MACs I have at the college that were bought at the same time for $1600.00 (I'm smiling).

Apple more than any other computer maker has a track record of abandoning older technology. When Apple makes a major change to their hardware they cut the cord. One of the older parts of my computer that I'm still using is a decades old IBM brand keyboard (yes decades). It's a great keyboard; it's big and the keys have a real positive tactile response and this keyboard is still compatible with my much newer computer. The best you could hope for with Apple is that some other vendor will make a $29.00 adapter and sell it to MAC users for $49.00 (MAC users always pay more).

MACs are cool. Absolutely. I buy a pair of new brand X jeans for $25.00 and build my own Wintel systems. If you wouldn't be caught dead in brand X jeans and it makes you happy to buy designer jeans for $100.00 you need a MAC. Do not underestimate the cool factor in business. Some people get paid for doing good work. Other people get paid for looking good. Who makes more?

Apple's service is abysmal. Go on the Web right now and read about all the poor smucks who bought the new MAC laptops -- the ones that melt. I remember when Apple shipped a gazillon bad mice that locked up their computers. They discovered the problem (we did too) and decided to just not tell anyone. After most of the computers in our lab kept crashing and locking up and we spent a week trying to find the cause we called Apple. They finally asked us for the serial numbers from some of the mice. Then they told us the mice were the problem. We said, "and you were going to tell us when?" Their plan was to wait until people called in.

For every software title out there available for the MAC there are a) more than ten, b) more than 100, c) more than 1000 available titles for Wintel. And the answer is: c. I also teach computer programming in our IS department. There are a few program development tools available for MAC -- a few good ones, but they are less than a drop in the bucket compared with what's available for Wintel. In graphics it's not a big issue as the MAC is still strong there. But for example, right now I'm testing an exciting new Flash generator called Xtivity for use in our student labs. Too bad we can't put it on the MACs.

Pretty obvious I'm a big MAC fan. You already have a Wintel system so I'm not going to take the time to point out some concerns on that side -- suffice it to say I have a longer list.

Some bottom lines:

I teach computer graphics and I am in large part responsible to decide what computers we teach with. I've got 90 MACs and 30 Wintel systems. Tells you something. I train my students on the hardware their industry uses. When I'm at work I use either system based on one criterion -- which one is closest to me, shortest walking distance. At home I use Wintel systems that I build myself because I'm a poor teacher and I'm not cool.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 7:05PM
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