Is the Mac worthy?

Is the Mac worthy?

I have been a Windows, Linux, AIX and MVS operating systems user professionally. ¬†Even though I had been introduced to Apple Macintosh at the same time I was introduced to a PC (those things were running on DOS operating system those days if you know and they were distributed on floppy disks, how weird was that? ūüôā ). ¬†Only lately for a few years now, I have been an Apple Mac and OS X user. ¬†Not because of lust towards Apple but because of need.

Ever since I owned an Apple Mac, my question was “Is the Mac worthy?”. ¬†To find the truth, I had to find answers to a lot of questions about what the Mac can do and how OS X compares to other operating systems.

I definitely don’t want to compare OS X with MVS and the Mac with an IBM Mainframe (we can’t compare something that costs a few thousand dollars to something that costs millions). ¬†Those are built for different purposes all together. ¬†If I had to compare (even for the fun of it), then Mac will be a fail at the very first step ūüėõ . ¬†I had to put comparable systems on to the test to keep it fair. ¬†In which case, only PCs with Windows and Linux operating systems qualify.

Which Operating System for me?

My personal usage of computers starts with web browsing, word processing to editing photographs and video to hosting web servers. ¬†When it came to choosing a desktop operating system, I have been going with Windows the whole time. ¬†This is because of its ease of use and the vast number of software programs that are available to accomplish a task. ¬†And when it came to choosing a server operating system, I chose Linux blindly. ¬†This is because of its stability, reliability, availability of all server functions and applications, a powerful kernel and the minimal hardware resources it demands for. ¬†And of course for one main reason, its free ūüôā . ¬†But only after using Mac OS X, realized I can get best of both worlds with a neat graphical user interface which is built on top of a UNIX like kernel in its core. ūüėé

User Interface

Mac OS X has an easy to use user interface which is lot better than Windows.  The simplicity of the user interface and graphics on the Mac brings a more pleasant experience than any other operating system.  Unlike Linux which comes with a lot of desktop graphical user interfaces like KDE, Gnome etc., Mac OS X only comes with one.  So there is no flexibility in changing the interface to your tastes.  Even Windows 8 has two interfaces to interact now, one for touch (WinRT or Metro) and the other usual desktop interface.

The multi-touch gestures on the track pad and magic mouse on a Mac is incomparable.  But the touch ability of Windows 8 is still something all others lack.

               Winner: Apple-1

 

 

Desktop Applications

Taking each of the category of desktop applications that are commonly used and the things that are exclusive to each operating system, let’s see how Mac OS X compares to others.

Word Processing, Presentations and Spreadsheets

Windows has the most popular Microsoft Office suite for these functions and the package also comes with a lot more including Outlook and Access database. ¬†Pages, Numbers and Keynote are the programs in OS X for these functions and like Windows, they need to be purchased separately and does not come bundled with the OS. ¬†With MS Office, there is no option to just buy only the programs you need. ¬†It has to be bought as a package even though you don’t use some of the programs in it. ¬†You can buy Pages, Numbers or Keynote separately on a Mac and the total cost for all three is lot cheaper than MS Office. ¬†One of the most powerful feature of Office is the ability to do macros and VBA programming capabilities which justifies the cost. ¬†Mac has native support for Speech-to-Text abilities with Pages, Numbers and Keynote or any of the other applications which needs a third party software in Windows and Linux and they don’t support STT native in the OS. ¬†Linux has one motto, there are lot of options and they are free, but are not as easy to use or feature rich.

               Winner: Windows8_logo-icon-1

 

Photo Editing

Mac OS X comes bundled with iPhoto for organizing and editing photos.  Windows comes with none.  Even though, iPhoto could be used for basic photo editing and enhancement jobs, it is not that powerful compared to a full fledged photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Corel PaintShop Pro that packs a lot of professional features.  In Linux, there is a program called GiMP and a few others.  GiMP can do layers and many other powerful functions like Photoshop or PaintShop and it is totally free.  But it lacks any kind of photo organization functions though.  Or a paid programs like Adobe AfterShot Pro is also available for Linux.

               Winner: Linux-1

 

Video Editing

Mac OS X comes bundled with iMovie which is one of the pioneers in non linear editing.  iMovie is very easy to use and the instant preview of transitions and effects are where it shines.  One area where iMovie lacked was the not so good native support for AVCHD format videos until version 10 in 2013.  Sony and Panasonic introduced AVCHD in 2006 to be used in their High Definition video cameras as a universal format.  Sony and Panasonic produces the majority of video camera equipment and iMovie did not support AVCHD format for a long time (nearly 7 years).  There is still no output format support for Blu-Ray (BR-5 or BR-7 double layer) disks.

I had one of the first generation HD video camcorders from Sony released in 2007 that used AVCHD format.  For this reason alone, I have been sticking with Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum for native AVCHD and Blu-Ray output support.  Most of the Sony desktop PCs and laptops comes bundled with Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum as part of the VAIO Imagination Studio software suite for no extra charge.  It also comes with a nice DVD/Blu-Ray authoring software.  Even though iMovie lacks in a few areas, it wins in the user experience area.  Final Cut Pro is yet another powerful professional video editing software available for Mac which costs a lot more.  In Linux, there are a few options but not significant to consider.

               Winner: Apple-1

 

Music/Audio Production

Mac OS X comes bundled with GarageBand for music and audio production.  As like other programs, the ease of use is where GarageBand shines too.

In Windows, there is no audio/video production software that comes bundled.  There are third party options available.  Sound Forge Studio is one of the best audio editing software for Windows and ACID Studio is for multi-track audio production.  Both Sound Forge Studio and ACID Studio comes free with most of the Sony PCs and Laptops as part of VAIO Imagination Studio.  They have to be purchased separately with any other brand of PC.

Linux provides a low latency kernal and a set of powerful open source software tools for audio production.  Even though audio production performance with a low latency Linux kernal is better than any other operating systems, the pain of compiling the low latency kernal and installation and configuring the editing software is a bit tedious task.

               Winner : Apple-1

 

Web Browser

OS X comes with Safari web browser.  Windows comes with the famous Internet Explorer but the worst performing of all browsers when compared.  And Linux has a variety of browsers like FireFox, Google Chrome, Opera etc. so there are lot of options when it comes to Linux.  The web engine that runs underneath both Safari and Chrome were co developed by Apple and Safari at one time and they both perform so well.  When it comes to implemented features and compatibility in a web browser, Google Chrome wins and the second best is Safari.  Internet Explorer is the worst.

               Winner : Apple-1

 

Address Book, Calendar, Video chat and E-Mail Client

OS X comes with an Address Book, Calendar, E-Mail client and FaceTime for video chats.  And it is easy to sync Address Book, Calendar and E-Mail data with other Apple devices like iPhone and iPad using iCloud.  Linux has several options to choose from.  Windows does not include any of these programs bundled before Windows 8.  Windows 8 comes with Skype for video chats, a E-Mail client, Address Book and Calendar.  With earlier versions of Windows, it needed MS Office to get some of these functionality with Outlook and a video chat program has to be from a third party.

               Winner : Apple-1

 

Backup

Backup of files and data is one important function every operating system should be capable of performing.

Mac OS X comes bundled with the backup software Time Machine.  Time Machine is an incremental backup tool that backs up the Mac every hour by default and could be used to restore any file or portion of data from any date or time in the past when it was backed up.  But the major drawback with Time Machine is that it needs a Time Capsule or an external hard drive to be connected to the Mac.  Time Machine does not support back ups to network storage devices and works with only those support AFP (Apple Filing Protocol).  Support for many of the devices have been discontinued by Apple.  In this era of centralized storage and personal clouds, this is a step back.  I personally run FreeNAS that has AFP support for backing up my Mac.

Backups are quiet simple to setup and use in Windows.  And backups can happen anywhere on the local drive (although not recommended), external drive or a network drive.

Linux also provides with a number of backup tools as option.

               Winner : Windows8_logo-icon-1

 

Server Functions

When it comes to server functions like Web server, FTP/File server, Mail server, Media server etc. Linux has open source and free software that does all the functions reliably and efficiently.

Mac OS X also comes bundled with some of the server functions like an Apache web server, FTP server, SMTP server etc.  They are not enabled by default and need to be enabled in order to start using them.  They are the same open source software available in Linux but ported and compiled for the OS X kernal.  Many of the other open source server applications are also available for OS X.  It is also easy to upgrade OS X to OS X Server and get all the multi-user and multi-processing server functionality.  OS X Server costs just $19.99 in app store.

Even though Windows comes bundled with some of the server functions like IIS web server, it is not as efficient or stable like Windows Server editions.  Windows server editions costs in the thousands of dollars depending on the licence.

               Winner : Linux-1

 

Support for other OS

Mac supports installation of Windows as a dual-boot operating system on its hardware with a program called Boot Camp.  Boot Camp also helps sharing files from and to Mac volume and Windows partition.  Also, a hypervisor like VMWare ESXi which is free could be installed on a Mac hardware which can host a number of virtual machines of OS X or any other operating systems that ESXi supports.  As of now, ESXi supports almost all the major operating systems as virtual machines.

A PC could be configured to dual-boot Windows and Linux and would never support OS X.  VMWare EXSi could also be installed in a PC but it cannot run OS X virtual machines.

               Winner : Apple-1

 

Mac vs PC Hardware

Mac’s hardware is a masterpiece by a sculptor. ¬†It’s careful selection of materials and the aesthetic design is always eye pleasing and the compact design is always functional. ¬†It also boasts some exclusive hardware components like Thunderbolt (fastest data transfer port), Retina display etc. which are in the high-end in comparison with the other industry standards. ¬†With compact design comes one major drawback, the Mac is not very flexible for upgrades and expansion and even though they do it is expensive. ¬†Most of the CPU cannot be replaced and in systems like iMac and Mac Mini there is not much room for expansion of hard drives. ¬†Usage of solid state and flash drives (especially PCIe based) improves computing¬†performance in¬†the way it should be. ¬†Mechanical hard drives are a huge bottleneck for processing power in this modern-day computing. ¬†Mac never had a Blu-Ray player/recorder from the factory.

PCs shine in the areas of upgradeability and expansibility and custom choice of components. ¬†Their processors, RAM, hard/solid state/optical drives and other peripherals could be expanded or upgraded to the heart’s content to the level of how far the PC supports expansion and upgrades.

Linux may not have supported drivers for all the hardware peripherals like Windows do.

               Winner: Windows8_logo-icon-1 PC

 

Mac vs PC Cost

A Mac may look expensive in comparison with an equally configured Windows PC.  But when considering the bundled software that comes with the Mac and the total cost of a PC including the money spent in purchasing those software for PC may end up a lot higher than what a Mac might cost.  In case of a PC with Linux the costs are much reduced since all the software are free of cost or could be kept minimal by the choice of software made.

In order to justify the cost of a Mac, consider the uses you have with the software that are bundled with a Mac.  If you are a user who use the software bundled with the Mac, then the cost of it may not be higher than getting the same functionality on a similarly capable PC.

               Winner : Linux-1

 

Mac Desktop Comparison

Below is a comparison of cost of a Mac Mini (entry-level Mac you can buy) to the cost of a Windows and Linux desktop PC.  All three configuration assumes the same type of monitor is being used and it is not included in the cost.

Mac Mini:

Mac Mini Late 2012 with i5 processor, 4 GB RAM and 500 GB HDD (specs are lower in comparison since Mac Mini is long due an upgrade) $599
Pages, Numbers and Key Note ($19.99 each)

$59.97

iPhoto $0
iMovie $0
Garage Band $0
Safari $0
Address Book, Calendar, Video Chat and E-Mail client $0
Time Machine $0
Apple Keyboard ($49) and Mouse ($49) $98
Total :  $756.97

Windows PC:

HP Desktop with i5 processor, 6 GB RAM and 1 TB HDD and Windows 8  http://www.shopping.hp.com/en_US/home-office/-/products/Desktops/HP-Pavilion/E6S59AV?HP-Pavilion-500-210qe-Desktop-PC $499
Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013

$139.99

Corel Photo Video Studio X6 for Photo and Video editing $129.99
ACID Music Studio 10 for Music production $59.95
Internet Explorer $0
Address Book, Calendar, Skype and E-Mail client $0
Backup Solution $0
Total :  $828.93

Linux PC:

Desktop with i5 processor, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB HDD and no operating system $450
Word Processing, Presentation and Spreadsheets

$0

GiMP for Photo editing $0
Video editing software $0
Audio editing $0
Web browsers $0
Address Book, Calendar, Video Chat and E-Mail client $0
Backup Solution $0
Total :  $450.00

               Winner: Linux-1

 

Mac Notebook Comparison

Below is a comparison of the cost of a MacBook Air (the least expensive notebook from Apple) to a similarly capable Sony VAIO notebook.

MacBook Air:

11 inch MacBook Air with i5 processor, 4 GB RAM and 128 GB Flash Drive $999
Pages, Numbers and Key Note ($19.99 each)

$59.97

iPhoto $0
iMovie $0
Garage Band $0
Safari $0
Address Book, Calendar, Face Time and E-Mail client $0
Time Machine $0
Total :¬† $1058.97‚Äč

Sony VAIO Notebook:

Sony Vaio Fit 14E with i5 processor, 4 GB RAM and 500 GB solid state hybrid drive (500 GB HDD + 8 GB NAND) and w/o touch  http://store.sony.com/gsi/webstore/WFS/SNYNA-SNYUS-Site/en_US/-/USD/ViewCTOPurchaseConfigurator-Start?LBOM_SKU=30-US-SVF143290X-LBOM $709.99
Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013

$139.99

Corel PaintShop Pro X6 for Photo editing $79.99
Vegas Movie Studio (as part of VAIO Imagination Studio) for video editing $0
Sound Forge and ACID Studio (as part of VAIO Imagination Studio) for Audio editing and Music production $0
Internet Explorer $0
Address Book, Calendar, Skype and E-Mail client $0
Backup Solution $0
Total :  $929

               Winner : Windows8_logo-icon-1

 

Conclusion

As you can see, the Mac is¬†worthy as a desktop based solution even in terms of cost. ¬†For a notebook solution, it is still worthy¬†even if it is marginally expensive than a comparable Windows based laptop. ¬†Even though a Linux based solution would be the cheapest, it comes with no support from any vendor. ¬†You are on your own with a Linux. ¬†The greatness¬†of Mac lies in its design, pure aesthetics and the resale value it retains when it has to hit the used market one day. ¬†And this recommendation comes from an Apple basher for a life time ūüėČ .

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