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.


  1. 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 ::


    1. 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.”


  2. 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.


    1. 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."


    2. What you have experienced is Linux. All of the features you mentioned and the "feel" can also be felt for free with for instance Ubuntul.


    3. I'm not trying to slam Macs or anything i do like them as well as PC's and i have found that Ubuntu seems to be more user friendly and "lighter" than windows by far. It also allows you tailor programs your own specifications (if your into that sort of thing) as it is all open source. I haven't used Ubuntu for a while now and every 6 months they improved it and made it more and more user friendly. I was in the race for about 3 years and in the beginning (2006) it was hard to use and by the end it was pleasent (2010).


  3. 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.


  4. I have had nothing but problems with my macbook pro in my gd course. I am on my 3rd hard drive, new "logic board"?, and its currently back at a mac boutique where they can't diagnose the problem and wont give me a new computer/tester one after only having it 6 months. not impressed at all by macs and will never be buying another one.


  5. all you people seem to talk about faster, easier, when you can build a pc with better specs and have windows, Mac OS (Linux in other words) and Ubuntu loaded on, mac are just hyped because of the slik designs, you're idiots bcause you don't have the sense to upgrade your computer for higher performance, but insted buy a mac which is only good for conserving space, "Mac is best" but yet you can't come up with valid reasons besides talking about speed and easier to use.


  6. Im starting up a magazine company in interior design but my classmate has autocad for her drafting but it doesn't work right meaning it takes a long time for the AutoCad but when she switch over to other design programs it works just fine im thinking on buying both what do u think ?


  7. After Window's Vista OS, I made the switch to Apple and purchased a pricey Imac. While I love the software and the operating system of OSX, I'm highly considering making the switch back to PC for the following reasons: I've had numerous problems with my Imac in regards to hardware (cd/dvd drive broke after just a couple of uses, hard drive failure after 3 years, graphics card issues causing screen glitches and inability to play video, left side of my computer screen is brighter than the right).

    Yes, I purchased the Apple care plan…but that doesn't mean I want to be taking my system in for repairs every six months…and being without my only computer for 1-2 weeks while they repair the faulty "made in china" hardware that they like to charge oh so much for, is just not worth the extra price tag. What really irritates me is that Apple refuses to acknowledge many of the very common problems associated with some of their computers, but instead calls them isolated incidents. Simply replacing my hard drive (after apple care ran out), was a very stressful operation because Apple makes it very difficult to do so. I wasn't going to spend $700 for a mac specialist to do this for me. To replace the very problematic graphics card, it would cost me between $600-$800!

    At least with a pc, I can easily fix a faulty component, and cheaply. I also don't like how my Imac isn't upgradable. 3 gigs of ram max, and they charge an arm and a leg for it if you want to purchase ram directly from apple.

    So for me I'm torn between the lovely operating system/software, and streamlined interface of a mac…and the lower cost, upgradability, and easy repair of a pc. Suffice to say…I don't think it's worth the extra money for an Apple..and I'm a graphic designer.


  8. "* If you answered any of these questions with a follow-up question, you’re a PC."

    O my God, you did not just admit the stereotype…did you? This means, that people who don't think use Macs. When you ask such a vague question, only a brainwashed and controlled slave would be able to answer with anything solid. Because unlike them, free people make free choices, they could be wearing anything or nothing. I hope all Mac fans do not share your views..lol. No offence. Peace


  9. I choose PC, as a graphics designer I choose PC because it is much faster and more officiant… Especially with i5 or i7 computers which work great with Sony Vegas and Photoshop 🙂 I find my Mac seems to disable me from downloading certain files from the internet; this means you need to scan through other pages to find download which are compatible… 😦
    I am only 13 years old so my knowledge about this may be limited yet have been working on this topic for around 3 years now… Yet others like Stratzeh etc. find Macs very good… In my personal opinion PC is the way to go.
    I hope this helped, please don't hate me if you disagree with my opinion. Remember I am only 13 XD.


  10. Its horses for courses at the end of the day and what your use to using. Ive been a GD for 30 yrs and started way way back on macs and I was dragged kicking and screaming onto a PC and Yes I cried at my desk at the though of using a PC. Unfortunately I did cross over to the dark side and now love PC's for my work. Macs are without doubt wonderfull eye candy but a PC does the same job at a fraction of the price. Macs use the same chip as the PC but charge you twice as much for it. I am a FPS gamer and games are thin on the ground for macs. PC's are cheaper to upgrade too as parts are half the price. I'm sad to say you get ripped off by the apple brand.


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


  11. This is my favorit page of this article: "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."


  12. I bought a MacBook Pro because I find it so much better to work on. But really, saying that Mac just sucks is not right. The point with the Mac and the Windows-computer, are very different. But the people who does not understand Mac, is the people who does not understand that design is not just "fancy looks". It is the personality of the device.


  13. If you have not used a PC during windows 7… FAIL. Window 7 completely changed the way a PC feels. The thing I love about PCs is choice and freedom. I can choose whatever manufacturer I want and what specs I want, or build my PC from the ground up to do what I WANT IT TO DO. In the end it's not about a PC vs Mac fight, it's a about user choice. I don't use Macs, never want tol (especially with Win8 coming out this fall), and that's my choice. I love it. Completely respect your choice, don't knock down my choice just because. And by the way… Linux is amazing. That's the reason why I bought a Mac in 1999. Thinking it was going to be the Linux lift off that every Linux enthusiastist thought it would be. It wasn't and still isn't. Linux is like Windows and Mac mixed together. The freedom/features of Windows and the "sleekness" of MacOS all in one happy family. So if had to choose and I have… I'd choose a PC running Linux. Cause it's awesome and I can. HAHA ^.^


    1. 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.


  14. Sad fact is that macs are lagging in innovation. Graphic artists and photographers are going to PCs in droves. PCs win over when it comes to choice and innovation. The sources for compatible products has spawned innovation and competition. The new NEC graphics monitor I am using coupled with Windows 7 is blowing away anything Mac has come up with. My new monitor has pallate of over a trillion colors and can display over 1 billion colors and has a response time of 6ms. The thunderbolt displays over 60 times less colors and has double the response time. The facts of life are that Mac users are too far gone to realize they are blowing lot of money to be in a fad club!


    1. 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.


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