Do you like the look of a MacBook but aren’t sure if it’s the right move for you? Would you like to install an iMac or Mac mini in your home office, but 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 adapt to your existing hardware setup. That means there has to be a Mac model that fits your requirements, budget, and expectations. It could be a lightweight MacBook Air for college, a high-end MacBook Pro for your mobile workstation needs, or something racy like Mac Studio (the most powerful Mac Apple has released yet).
The budget is also important. Arguably the best value Mac is the Mac mini, which should suit those who want to go the basic route and already have a monitor and peripherals. The iMac isn’t the cheapest all-in-one desktop around, but when you budget for the cost of an equivalent display, it starts to look a lot more competitive.
best price mac
Apple Mac mini (M1, 2020)
If you already have a set of peripherals and a monitor, the Mac mini is the cheapest way to get a Mac in your hands.
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 move away from the 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 offers 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 encoding and decoding engines. They run cooler, and some models don’t even use a fan (though watch out for thermal throttling under load).
Apple has always designed hardware in unison with software, and the move to Apple Silicon has given the company even more control over that. While this takes away 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, which offers big performance gains at the cost of traditional upgrade paths you’d find on a PC. If you buy a Mac, your idea of an “upgrade” better mean buying a new Mac (although there are plenty of good uses for your outdated model).
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 become familiar with many of the software and design principles you were used to when you first got macOS. The main difference is that macOS is not as restrictive as iOS, being a proper “desktop” operating system.
iOS and macOS go hand in hand. You can do things like set focus modes on your iPhone and have them work automatically on your Mac. You can reply 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 and then paste on the other.
Many of the apps you use on your iPhone, like Mail, Messages, Calendar, Notes, and Reminders, have instantly recognizable Mac counterparts. iCloud is the glue that binds much of this ecosystem together, syncing everything from your photos and videos to Safari tab groups invisibly in the background.
Apple wireless 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. Connect your iPhone to your Mac and use Apple’s Finder file browser app 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 settings like Night Shift to reduce blue light, not to mention far greater controls over privacy with a permissions system that requires your consent for apps to access folders, your microphone or webcam, location data, and more.
Even things like Wi-Fi passwords will sync between your Mac and iPhone, as long as the two are linked to the same Apple ID. Storing passwords in iCloud Keychain makes it easy to sign 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 activate it. Do you have an iPad? Use it as a wireless touch screen. It’s clear what Apple is looking for here.
You are comfortable with (or prefer) macOS
You can’t install Windows natively on a modern Apple Silicon Mac (yet). Asahi Linux is racing toward 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 operating systems in a virtual machine, but you’ll still ultimately rely on macOS to get you there.
Like it or not, macOS is central to the Mac experience. Some would say a good reason to choose Apple is because of macOS, but this comes down to personal preference. It certainly helps if you are familiar, willing, or happier because Apple’s desktop operating system before jumping.
On the plus side, macOS is arguably the most refined desktop operating system out there. It combines the ease of use of something like Windows with the reliability of the UNIX platform on which it was built. Many proponents cite the system’s reliability, Apple’s approach to security (no antivirus software is a good thing), 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 that Windows or Linux offer. It works best if you go with the flow and use Apple’s solutions for almost 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-party apps and from third parties.
Are you happy to pay the Apple tax
A Mac will cost you more than a Windows PC of similar specification. With this in mind, it’s hard to make direct comparisons regarding the overall user experience, as they are separate platforms that take different approaches to desktop computing.
If you’re comparing similar performance, it can be hard to justify Apple’s tax, especially when it comes to higher-end machines like the MacBook Pro or Mac Studio. Take a look at your RAM and storage upgrade costs at checkout when setting up your machine and getting ready to win. 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 so clear cut. The MacBook Air is expensive, but a comparable lightweight Windows ultrabook can cost the same these days (although you can 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 a suite of peripherals that can drive up the price.
Affordable, lightweight MacBook
There’s no denying that Apple computers exude a quality that many Windows OEMs lack. Some Mac users feel this is worth the expense, particularly given the quality of the laptop’s built-in displays, trackpads, speakers, and solid unibody designs from Apple. That’s not to say Apple never missteps (let’s not forget the butterfly keyboard fiasco), but there are valid reasons why some people are happy to spend so much on a MacBook.
Powerful mobile workstation
MacBook Pro (16-inch, M1 Pro, 2021)
If you need something powerful on the go or appreciate a larger screen and keyboard, consider the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The M1 Pro chip features a higher GPU, more RAM, and a larger SSD compared to the 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 (although Apple does include things you might want to remove, like GarageBand and Pages). The Apple tax is necessary if you want a solid macOS experience. If you’re happy to shell out more money to use an operating system you find enjoyable and productive, the premium may be worth it.
This can be overlooked if you’re doing a comparison on paper, as it’s hard to put a value on the productivity you get from using something that feels right.
Gaming is not your top priority
You can play games on your Mac, and the Mac as a gaming platform could be in better shape than ever. There are plenty of games on Steam, GOG, the Mac App Store, and itch.io that work natively or through Rosetta 2. Even Apple Arcade games work just fine 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 Mac gaming.
But a Mac isn’t what you want to buy if gaming is your top priority. New games don’t come to the Mac first, and many titles never see a port. Windows is incredibly compatible with everything from the biggest releases to indie blockbusters, early access titles still in development, VR titles for hardware that isn’t compatible with macOS, and subscription services like Game Pass for PC.
While Apple’s hardware is capable, the PC is the place to go if you want the latest and greatest gaming hardware. You can upgrade your components little by little, change your GPU, add more RAM, upgrade your processor and have full control over the direction of your system. Customization like this doesn’t exist on Apple’s platform, let alone the visual design of its system.
The closest you’ll get to something RGB on a Mac is putting fairy lights around your MacBook screen.
Want to develop apps for iPhone, iPad or Mac
Finally, Apple’s Xcode development environment 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 to the App Store, Mac App Store, or any other Apple store.
There is no way to circumvent these requirements. The most cost-effective way to do this is to buy a Mac mini or a MacBook Air.
apples and oranges
It’s good to do your homework so you know what to expect if you buy a Mac instead of a PC. There are some good reasons to go with an Apple computer if you prefer a curated experience and a desktop operating system that works well with your mobile devices and accessories.
Of course, there are also plenty of good reasons to choose a Windows PC over a Mac.