Do you like the look of a MacBook but aren’t sure if it’s the right move for you? Would an iMac or Mac mini slot into your home office, but you aren’t sure you can commit? Let’s take a look at some of the arguments for choosing a Mac over a Windows PC.
There’s a “Right Mac” For You
Since you can’t build your own Mac, you’ll need to fit into the existing hardware setup. That means that there has to be a Mac model that fits your requirements, budget, and expectations. This might be a lightweight MacBook Air for college, a higher-end MacBook Pro for your mobile workstation needs, or something spicy like the Mac Studio (the most powerful Mac Apple has released so far).
Budget is important too. The best-value Mac is arguably the Mac mini, which should suit those who want to go the barebones route and who already own a monitor and peripherals. The iMac isn’t the cheapest all-in-one desktop out there, but when you budget the cost of an equivalent display it starts to look a lot more competitive.
Apple Mac mini (M1, 2020)
If you've already got a set of peripherals and a monitor, the Mac mini is the cheapest way to get your hands on a Mac.
Apple once used PowerPC chips, then Intel chips, and now uses ARM-based Apple Silicon. The latest chips are desirable on many fronts, but the switch away from x86 architecture leaves you with less freedom to install Windows or Linux using Boot Camp, so a Mac isn’t ideal if you were hoping to dual-boot Windows using Boot Camp.
Fortunately, Apple Silicon delivers pound-for-pound improvements over the outgoing Intel chips. These feature impressive multi-threaded performance, improved power efficiency for longer battery life and lower power consumption, and dedicated video encode and decode engines. They run cooler, and some models don’t even use a fan (though beware of thermal throttling under load).
Apple has always designed hardware in unison with software and the switch to Apple Silicon has given the company even more control over that. Though this removes the freedom to build your own Mac or choose hardware components, it also means you don’t have to worry about driver issues or macOS updates causing hardware incompatibility.
Unfortunately, you can’t upgrade your Mac either. New machines use unified memory, offering big performance gains at the cost of the traditional upgrade paths you’d find on a PC. If you buy a Mac, your idea of an “upgrade” had better mean buying a new Mac (though there are plenty of good uses for your outdated model).
You Already Use an iPhone, iPad, or other Apple Product
Apple takes a “whole ecosystem” approach to product design. If you already use an iPhone, you’ll find familiarity with many of the software and design principles you’re already used to when you first pick up macOS. The main difference is that macOS isn’t as restrictive as iOS since it’s a proper “desktop” OS.
iOS and macOS perfectly accompany one other. You can do things like set Focus modes on your iPhone and have them automatically work on your Mac. You can respond to text messages on your iPhone using the Messages app on your Mac. You can use Handoff to answer or send calls to your Mac, and features like Continuity allow you to copy on one platform then paste on the other.
Many of the apps you use on your iPhone like Mail, Messages, Calendar, Notes, and Reminders have immediately recognizable Mac counterparts. iCloud is the gel that binds much of this ecosystem together, syncing everything from your photos and videos to Safari tab groups, invisibly in the background.
Wireless Apple technologies like AirPlay and AirDrop let you use your Mac as a wireless display or send files to your iPhone using the right-click context menu. Plug your iPhone into your Mac and use Apple’s file explorer app Finder to create local backups and transfer files.
Many of Apple’s iOS design principles have made their way to the Mac over the past decade. That includes simple tweaks like Night Shift to reduce blue light, not to mention much greater controls over privacy with a permissions system that requires your consent to apps accessing folders, your microphone or webcam, location data and more.
Even things like Wi-Fi passwords will sync between your Mac and iPhone, provided the two are linked to the same Apple ID. Storing passwords in iCloud Keychain makes it easy to log in on any Apple device. If you have AirPods they’ll follow you from device to device, and even your Apple Watch can unlock your Mac when you wake it up. Got an iPad? Use it as a touch-enabled wireless display. It’s clear what Apple is going for here.
You’re Comfortable With (or Prefer) macOS
You can’t install Windows natively on a modern Apple Silicon Mac (yet). Asahi Linux is racing towards a smooth native Apple Silicon experience, but the project is far from polished with things like GPU acceleration, Bluetooth, Thunderbolt, and HDMI still not working properly. You can easily run both of these operating systems in a virtual machine, but you’ll still ultimately depend on macOS to get you there.
Like it or not, macOS is central to the Mac experience. Some would argue that a good reason to choose Apple is because of macOS, but this comes down to personal preference. It certainly helps if you’re familiar with, amenable to, or happier because of Apple’s desktop OS before you jump in.
On the upside, macOS is arguably the most refined desktop OS out there. It blends the user-friendliness of something like Windows with the reliability of the UNIX platform on which it was built. Many advocates cite system reliability, Apple’s approach to security (not needing antivirus software is nice), and features like trackpad gestures, Mission Control, Spotlight, and Time Machine.
macOS is a more open system than iOS or iPadOS, but it still falls short of the freedom offered by Windows or Linux. It works best if you go with the flow and use Apple’s solutions for just about everything. For example, Safari offers the best browsing experience from a power efficiency standpoint, Time Machine is a solid set-and-forget backup tool, and iCloud support is built into most first and third-party apps.
You’re Happy to Pay the Apple Tax
A Mac will cost you more than a comparably specced Windows PC. With this in mind, it’s hard to draw direct comparisons concerning overall user experience since they’re separate platforms that take different approaches to desktop computing.
If you’re comparing performance like-for-like, it can be hard to justify the Apple tax particularly when it comes to higher-end machines like the MacBook Pro or Mac Studio. Take a look at the RAM and storage upgrade costs at checkout when configuring your machine and prepare to wince. Don’t forget that upgrading these components yourself is largely out of the question, especially if you value your warranty.
When it comes to the more affordable end of the market, things aren’t quite as clear-cut. The MacBook Air is pricey but a comparable lightweight Windows ultrabook can easily cost around the same these days (though it may have more RAM and storage for a similar price). The Mac mini is the best-value piece of Apple Silicon on the market, but you’ll need to bring your own monitor and set of peripherals which can push the price up.
MacBook Air (M2, 2022)
The MacBook Air is Apple's entry-level notebook, but don't let that put you off. The 2022 revision features a faster M2 chip, better display with smaller bezels, a new flat form factor, and great battery life in a thin chassis.
There’s no denying that Apple’s computers exude a quality that many Windows OEMs lack. Some Mac users feel like this justifies the expense, particularly given the quality of Apple’s built-in displays, trackpads, laptop speakers, and solid unibody designs. That’s not to say Apple never makes missteps (let’s not forget the butterfly keyboard fiasco), but there are valid reasons that some people are happy to spend so much on a MacBook.
MacBook Pro (16 inch, M1 Pro, 2021)
If you need something powerful on the move or appreciate a larger display and keyboard, consider the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The M1 Pro chip features a superior GPU, more RAM and a larger SSD compared to M1 and M2 models.
Much of it comes down to the overall user experience. There’s no third-party bloatware installed when you get your Mac (though Apple bundles things you might want to delete, like GarageBand and Pages). The Apple Tax is necessary if you want that solid macOS experience. If you’re happy to pay more money to use an operating system that you find pleasant and productive, the premium may be worth it.
This can be overlooked if you’re making a comparison on paper since it’s hard to put a value on the productivity you gain from using something that feels good.
Gaming is Not Your Top Priority
You can play games on your Mac, and the Mac as a gaming platform might indeed be in better shape than ever before. There are plenty of games on Steam, GOG, the Mac App Store, and itch.io that work natively or via Rosetta 2. Even Apple Arcade games work well on a Mac.
Most of the best wireless gamepads work great on your Mac. macOS 13 Ventura even has a dedicated panel in System Settings for configuring your game controller, which speaks to Apple’s renewed focus on games for the Mac.
But a Mac is not what you want to buy if your top priority is gaming. New games do not come to the Mac first, and many titles never see a port. Windows is incredibly well-supported by everything from the biggest releases to indie smash hits, early-access titles that are still in development, virtual reality titles for hardware that isn’t supported on macOS, and subscription services like Game Pass for PC.
While Apple’s hardware is capable, the PC is where you want to go if you want the latest and greatest gaming hardware. You can upgrade your components piecemeal, swapping out your GPU, adding more RAM, upgrading your processor, and having total control over the direction of your system. Customization like this is non-existent on Apple’s platform, to say nothing of the visual design of your system.
The closest you’ll get to RGB anything on a Mac is putting fairy lights around your MacBook display.
You Want to Develop iPhone, iPad, or Mac Apps
Finally, Apple’s development environment Xcode is still required if you want to develop an app for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, or watchOS. You’ll also need an Apple Developer account for $99 per year to publish your app on the App Store, Mac App Store, or any other Apple storefront.
There’s no getting around these requirements. The most cost-effective way to go about this is to buy a Mac mini or MacBook Air.
Apples and Oranges
It’s good to do your homework so that you know what to expect if you buy a Mac over a PC. There are some great reasons to go with an Apple computer if you prefer a curated experience and a desktop OS that works well with your mobile devices and accessories.
Of course, there are lots of good reasons to choose a Windows PC over a Mac, too.
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