What’s the best computer for graphic design: Mac or PC?

WARNING: This post contains completely biased opinion from a Mac user.  You may experience entertainment and a desire to purchase Apple products. If symptoms persist for more than 30 days, save your money and call your local Apple dealer.
Mac vs PC ad guys

Nick Elam, sent me a controversial question that inspired this post:

What kind of computer do you suggest for graphic design? Mac? PC?
My laptop is too slow to handle my graphic design work lately so I’m looking for a new computer. Lots of people say “go with a Mac”, but I could build a PC with a faster processor and better video card for a lot less. What do you think?

I’ll answer Nick’s question with pure opinion. I don’t feel the need to regurgitate a balanced Mac/PC debate. That’s been done, and that’s what links are for:

Quick summary: I use Macs.

  1. As a graphic designer, the tools you use daily will influence your work on some level.
  2. Apple is able to “design” the entire user experience of their products since they build the hardware and software themselves.
  3. If your budget is an issue, find a refurbished or used Mac. They hold their value extremely well. I bought a 2006 iMac 24″ as a family computer in 2009. After we replaced the video card in 2010,  it functions perfectly, even with the latest Mac OSX installed. It’s definitely not as swift as my 2011 Macbook Pro, but it get’s the job done.

Let me start by saying buy a Mac

Apple Mackbook Pro 15 inch early 2011

My current laptop 2011-2013

And let me follow that up by saying buy a Mac now. I don’t care if you can mine silicon, weld transistors, and engineer the motherboard yourself. Using a Mac is better than using a Windows PC for graphic design, like using a pencil is better than a rock and chisel for drawing portraits.

I’ll explain.

Space defines action

I believe your environment influences your work. As a designer it makes sense to use things that are well designed. Interacting with a well designed product actually teaches you how to design better.

User experience trumps hardware specs

Apple Vs Microsoft Switchboard
Now that Intel Macs can run both Windows and Mac OSX there is no need for other hardware. If you are only interested in comparing hertz and bytes, then there isn’t much difference between a Mac and a Windows PC. However, by only comparing hardware specs you’re missing the bigger picture. As a graphic designer your computer is your business partner. You will spend hours everyday interacting with this machine. Designing your latest masterpiece, communicating with clients, sending out invoices, getting lost in a Twitter/Facebook hole; all of this happens on this one device. That’s why I believe the software on your box is a little more important than the metallic bits inside.

This is where Macs move way ahead of PCs. The Mac operating system is an intuitive streamlined environment. It simplifies basic interactions, and doesn’t get in the way productivity. This efficiency will pay big dividends in the daily grind of being a graphic designer.

Modern Macs can do it all

I use a Mac for all computing purposes, except for the occasional website debugging that I have to do for Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer isn’t made for Macs anymore. This means I must traverse into the nether regions of darkness to find a cheeto-encrusted Windows-based PC to test my website. Even testing Internet Explorer bugs. I simply open Parallels and can swipe between Mac & Windows easily.

The necks of PC fanatics are thick with veins by now. I haven’t given a lot of statistics, references and bar charts to prove my theories. But as I said before, I’m simply voicing the opinion that’s been formed in me after years of working with both Macs and Windows-based computers.

I choose mac. What do you use?

UPDATE! Windows 8 is a game changer and definitely put the Microsoft Windows' UI in a better place. Definitely check it out, use it, learn from it. But as of 2013, I'm still leaning Mac. After a few iterations on some of Microsoft's new concepts in Windows 8, I may be singing a different tune.

Leave a comment.

  • cubra

    Apple stopped power mac processor manufatured by IBM and converted to intel’s chipset and “core 2 due” processor nowadays pc has core i7 990 M and Intel® X58 Express Chipset, very advanced hardware. your explanation without any evidence ::

    • http://twitter.com/parisvega Paris Vega

      I’ll answer by referencing something from the article, “… by only comparing hardware specs you’re missing the bigger picture… I believe your work is influenced by your environment.”

  • Allen Sanders

    Please expand on how OSX is more streamlined and helps you be more efficient than Windows. I am curious as to how you drew that conclusion.

    • http://www.facebook.com/parisvega Paris Vega

      I used Windows for several years and the first time I saw a Mac I thought it was stupid (because it was different). After working on a Mac in a college art class, I bought an Apple iBook in 2005 and have used them since. Why? 1) At the time, everything I wanted to do on my Mac felt like it was easier and faster than when I tried to get things done on a Windows PC. Connecting a printer, installing software, changing settings, and anything else I need to do seemed to be easier. Wether or not it actually was didn't matter. It felt better using the Mac. At the time Windows felt clunky and bloated in comparison. 2) Like I mentioned in the post I believe a designer can improve their work by being exposed to good design in the form of products, software or even experiences. Apple branded themselves as a higher quality end-to-end user experience. That's what I wanted. Many people don't like their closed system, but that level of control has allowed them to create a consistent experience throughout their product line. Call it branding, marketing, hype or whatever; but as the saying goes, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down."

  • Jaleesa Renee

    I used to use a pc and publisher to design everything. Content was…okay at best. When I bought my Macbook Pro it's like my entire world expanded! Everything was easier to use and manage (especially video editing, curse you windows movie), WHICH opened me up to learn more advanced and professional ways of creating materials. I really did learn how to be a MUCH BETTER designer.

    • http://www.parisvega.com Paris Vega

      Haha… the quiz is a joke.

    • parisvega

      Sorry I wasn’t more helpful. Hopefully some of the links I provided to other arguments were helpful.

    • parisvega

      Serious gamers should definitely go PC. This article was specifically about what designers should use.

    • parisvega

      I know a few people as well using Linux now and it looks pretty good. Since I originally wrote this post the hardware/software world has changed dramatically. Apple has been dropping the ball with their software UX lately. I still don’t like Microsoft software from what I’ve seen, though I appreciated the design leap they attempted with Windows 8. In the cloud era all the big companies seem to be struggling to create a full ecosystem that just works for users on a consistent basis.

    • parisvega

      I don’t use Mac Mail either. Never liked it. I use Gmail all day.

    • parisvega

      Hardware specs are a tiny part of a bigger picture. The overall experience of the Hardware/Software Apple keeps producing is still better than anything else out there I’ve seen. I’d say Google Android is the biggest threat in this area.

  • Osmani

    What is the best PC or Mac on the market no price limit