In the ongoing debate between Mac and PC users, it can be hard for college students to find a rational voice within the dispute. When hunting for the perfect computer, it’s difficult to find a cut-and-dried answer of which is better because many people are brand loyal to either Macs or PCs.
Marketing and Design
In retail stores that sell both Mac and PC computers, such as Best Buy, it is easy to be overwhelmed when trying to choose from the rows of glowing screens on display for customers.
Former Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, spent three decades perfecting the outward appearance of Apple products, telling his biographer Walter Isaacson, “People DO judge a book by its cover.”
Because of this, Apple uses an aluminum body for all of their laptops, making them lighter and more rigid compared to the plastics often used for PCs. Plastic casings used by PCs are dent resistant, but they can crack. Apple decided that aluminum was more durable than plastic, thus making their product more marketable.
“With its aluminum body versus most PC’s plastic casing, Apple markets ‘cool,’” said Ryan Tiesenthaler, student supervisor at Mizzou Tiger Tech. “They target ‘hip.’”
On the other hand, PCs don’t come from a single manufacturer. With a multitude of design combinations to pick from, customers can find a computer to fit their specific needs. If someone doesn’t like one company’s design, they can look to a different manufacturer for another option. Whereas, if the buyer doesn’t like a Mac’s design or operating system, they’re out of luck because Apple only offers a limited number of models due to their “offering less is more” theory.
Often, the biggest reason people choose a Mac over a PC is the decreased likelihood for a Mac to contract a virus. This doesn’t mean that Macs never get viruses. They are just not targeted as much as PC models.
“I often see ‘switchers’ from PC users coming into the store to buy a Mac because they are frustrated with all of the viruses PCs attract,” said Duane Burghard, owner of local MacXperts retail store and an MU alumnus.
Burghard explained that for Windows users there are currently over 210,000 active viruses. He went on to say that Macs can be carriers of viruses — transporting a virus from one PC user to another through email attachments — but there is not the volume of viruses targeted to specifically infect Macs.
According to Tiesenthaler, PCs, such as Dell and HP, are sold at a much higher volume to companies as business computers, making them more likely to be virus targets because there is a bigger population to infect.
For students on a budget, a small difference in pricing can make a big difference. One of the biggest differences between Macs and PCs is price. Few Mac computers have a price tag lower than $1,000, while there are dozens of PCs that start out in the $400-$500 range. Burghard stated that the MacBook Pro is MacXpert’s most popular model. This model price ranges from $1,300 to $2,000. Similar high-quality models to the MacBook Pro, such as HP’s Spectre and Acer’s Aspire, have a much lower starting price at $800.
“Students using their own bank accounts often look for the cheapest computer for their money,” said Brandon Reeves, a sales assistant at Best Buy.
Packaging and Technical Specifications
Specific technical packages in computers offered by Macs and PCs can be very similar or extremely different. Although it is impossible to have two completely compatible computers, it is possible to match similar designs and brands.
Burghard stated that in working with both operating systems, he sees a faster overall processing speed in Macs, whereas Windows offers more kinds of connections and optical drives, such as touch screens and Blu-ray players.
Many people prefer Apple products because they produce an entire line of technical devices including iMac, iPad, iPhone and iPod. These products can be connected to one another, to a centralized app market or to the iTunes store. This is a feature that PCs do not offer.
“It is highly unlikely that Dell, HP, or any other PC brand will develop a line of this sort,” Reeves said. “In this area, Apple has the upper hand.”
Another factor in the discussion between Mac and PC is customer satisfaction. Both Burghard and Reeves stated that they’ve seen the fewest warranty issues and returns with Mac computers. However, it’s important to add that Dell, HP and Lenovo all have higher gross shipments of their computer products than Apple does within the United States. Dell, HP and Lenovo together make up 65 percent of the total market share, while Apple only holds 10.6 percent market share as of July 2014, according to Gartner Consulting’s July Press Release.
Despite all these influences, the most important factor when deciding on a computer is personal preference. Apple offers two lines of laptops: the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. Within these two lines there are a total of nine different configurations of screen size, RAM, hard drive space and processors. This is part of Apple’s philosophy that they should offer a limited number of product lines so that they can keep a consistency of high quality products throughout all of their products.
In a statement to the public, former Apple COO Tim Cook said, “One traditional management philosophy that’s taught in many business schools is diversification. Well, that’s not us.”
In contrast, PCs come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes from brands like Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Toshiba, Acer and Sony. Many customers view this as a big benefit that helps them match their exact needs.
For students, area of study also largely weighs in on the decision. Many engineering students are required to use software that can only operate on Windows, leading these students toward a preference in PCs. Journalism students at MU are required to have a wireless laptop, and their decision depends on emphasis area. For example, students in advertising, design, photojournalism and public relations often prefer Apple products, whereas those in radio-television news and database journalism typically work with Windows computers because of the software they use in their specific classes.
The best advice for students is to do some research on what platforms they will be using in their degree program before making a decision. In the discussion between Mac and PC, it depends on what your needs are more than anything else.
For students wanting to get better acquainted with their computer, the Division of IT at Mizzou offers free courses and webinars with tips and tricks on using both Macs and Windows 8 operating systems for students. To find out more about their courses or to view a list of available classes visit the MU IT website.