It’s been several years since I revisited this debate, and part of that is because I chose to go with Apple the last time I was due for a computer upgrade, and I was extremely happy with my choice. However, during that period of time, other things have changed, and actually there are more options now than there have been in a long time for writers and freelancers, especially those on the go.
Recently, I came to the inevitable conclusion that my old MacBook Pro, a 2013 version, was due for replacing. Now true, I was using it as my main computer, docking it when I was home, and using it as a laptop on the go.
I also confess that I am a power user. As a freelancer and when I am writing, I tend to have several dozen windows open at once, several tabs on my browser, and I am darting back and forth like a hummingbird between feeders.
Then there is the whole keyboard controversy around the MacBook. Since I usually use a Bluetooth keyboard at home, the laptop keyboard only matters when I am on the go, and I don’t do a lot of writing on the road. However, it’s enough of a concern that I did have to at least take it into account.
So let’s look at the pros and cons of each, and at the end, I’ll tell you what I bought and why.
Price vs. Features
I can hear my PC friends clamoring for attention already. They are going to tell me how many PCs they can buy for the price of one MacBook pro, and I hear them. But there is another set of factors, and that is speed and features. For me, I want a super-fast processor, great graphics that are easier on my eyes, and a decent sized screen for on the go. (More on screens soon)
So when you start comparing features that really matter to me, you start getting into more of a gaming style PC to get the graphics, speed, and memory I want. Which means that the prices are suddenly nearly comparable.
For example, the new Microsoft Surface almost equals the MacBook, but I am not a fan of their keyboards for the most part, although the tablet flexibility is nice—but that brings me to the option that I could do similar things with the newer iPad Pros with a little cost savings. But more on operating systems and other issues in the next section.
Suffice it so say that when you get to similar speed and features, the price stops being as much of a factor as it was previously. If you can get by with less memory and speed, PC does have an edge. Apple products generally last longer, but when you compare the price of some lower end PCs and a the Mac Air, the PC is much more affordable.
I do have a confession to make. When Windows 8 made its not so illustrious debut, I was less than impressed. Windows 10? Please. In short, I hate Windows operating systems since the demise of Windows 7 Professional. There have been improvements, but they have not been sufficient to mitigate my loathing for them. They are tolerable, but hardly my favorites. I know you can custom configure Windows, and there are solutions.
I took this into account as I looked at new systems. The thing is, I love Apple operating systems, and since I have an iPhone, the seamless integration and the ease of moving from one to another has a certain appeal.
The other issue is security. I love the fewer viruses and other issues with Mac, the less frequent updates, and the more security and privacy features available.
At least for me, that means that Apple wins in this category too. There are other options though, and we will look at those next in our comparison.
Mobile vs. Home Office vs. Combos
This is where things actually got tricky for me. Despite my loathing for Windows OS in general, there is something to be said for mobile systems, docking at home, and dedicated desktops of various types.
So I started to look carefully at those options. The Microsoft Surface makes a good argument for convertibles, something that can be both a tablet and a laptop. Add in that it is easily dockable, and you have a pretty good home system.
Of course, the other option is to have two machines, one desktop and one mobile. There are some interesting choices in this area, but where PC pulls ahead is that both devices, Windows tablets and the Surface for example, and the desktop use the same OS. Everything easily translates.
Apple has tried to solve this by building the “Files” bridge between iOS (for phones and iPads) and MacOS for laptops and desktops. It works, to a point, as long as you are logged into the same iCloud account. However, there are some programs that are not available as iOS apps, so using them mobile means you still need a laptop.
Apple is trying to resolve this too, with a new OS coming soon to iPad, an effort to make it even more like a laptop. It may work too and might win me over if they can really pull it off, so they have what is more their own version of a Surface type device.
But by the time you get an iMac (recently updated, thankfully) as a dedicated desktop, or a mini or one of the other various options, and then get an iPad on top of that, you are easily over the price of a well-appointed MacBook that will frankly be faster than both of the others.
The same is true with PC. By the time I get a desktop with the memory and features I want, along with a decent monitor, I’m still in the same price neighborhood. Then it goes back again to the option of docking a laptop, and some things that are again more personal preference than anything else.
Monitors and Docking
Apple, please. For years now, your monitors in your stores and online are outrageous for what you get. It is like you haven’t heard of New Egg, Best Buy open box, or even Costco. Your monitors are way overpriced. Docking is pretty easy with the new USB-C, but I don’t need your dedicated monitor for one cord docking and power pass through.
Docking stations that also have other ports are cheap and easy to come by too. Even fancy ones, at a little over $100, are pretty reasonable all things considered. So don’t try to sell me some Apple exclusive thing that is ridiculously overpriced. Partner with good vendors, make a good, but reasonable monitor (not $6000) and offer it to me.
This isn’t hard. The LG 4K on my desk now is bigger and was half the price of what you offer in store. And it’s better. End of rant. Non-Apple exclusive monitors and docking are the best option, even if you are an Apple die-hard.
This is probably the biggest factor for me. My old Mac was seemingly bulletproof, where previously it seemed like I went through PCs every few years at most. The same seemed to be true of my friends who were PC users as well. I don’t like changing computers.
I know it is easier and faster now than it has been in the past, but I am a sucker for not making changes unless I need to. I know people who switch computers often, even every few months, but that is just not me. I’d rather stick with the same machine as long as possible.
The thing is, PC is catching up in this arena too. Maybe. Some things are too new to tell, but if you follow my rule of thumb and look at what you need and them buy one step up from that, you should, in theory, be good for a while. As fast as tech is moving, that may stop being true in the near future.
One final note on software. There are still some programs that do not translate from PC to Mac. For writers, Scrivener works for both, but the Mac version is still better. If you’re using newer programs like Novel Factory, the online version works for Mac, but the desktop version does not.
The interior book formatting software called Vellum, an easy way to format both eBooks and paperbacks, is a Mac only program. There are others I am sure I am forgetting, but the point is, if you are making a switch, you might want to check the programs you prefer to use and how they work on the other platform first.
Also, if you have a great deal of money in software from one platform or another, you may have to repurchase it if licensing does not transfer. That can mean a lot of money. When I first made the switch from PC to Mac, it was easily close to $1,000 for me.
Your preferred software, and what you currently use will play a big role in the decision to switch or not to switch.
The Mac vs. PC debate is changing as the industry changes, and Apple becomes less edgy and more mainstream in its products and choices. Where once the craftsmanship and longevity of Apple products made the higher price worth it, recent missteps by the company have brought this into question.
For me though, two factors were the most critical. The first was operating system. I still can’t get past the Windows issues I have, and while in some ways I am open to trying again, at the moment at least it is not worth it. The other factor, quite simply is software. I have a lot of money and time invested in Mac only or Mac superior software, and I don’t want to give it up. Once you are in one ecosystem, it is hard to go back to the other without a significant cost.
So I chose to stick with Apple. I bought a newer monitor too, non-Mac LG, and a non-Mac docking station. I went with a MacBook Pro, a bit more than what I needed, but hopefully enough to take me through a few years before I need any replacements. I may add a tablet at some point, but for now docking the Pro when I am home works well enough for me.
What are your thoughts? Have an entirely different opinion? Join the discussion or let me know if you want to contribute an article of your own by emailing info_at_troylambertwrites.com. I’d love to hear from you and hear your thoughts.