Love the look of a MacBook, but not sure if it’s the right move for you? Would an iMac or Mac mini slot in your home office, but you’re not sure you can afford it? Let’s look at some of the arguments for choosing a Mac over a Windows PC.
There is a “right Mac” for you.
Since you can’t build your own Mac, you have to adapt to existing hardware configurations. This means there should be a Mac model that fits your needs, budget and expectations. It could be a lightweight MacBook Air for college, a high-end MacBook Pro for your mobile workstation needs, or something spicy like the Mac Studio (the most powerful Mac Apple has ever released).
The budget is also important. The best value Mac is probably the Mac mini, which should suit those who want to go the barebones route and already have a monitor and peripherals. The iMac isn’t the cheapest all-in-one desktop out there, but when you factor in the cost of an equivalent display, it becomes much more competitive.
The best value 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.
Apple once used PowerPC chips, then Intel chips, and now uses ARM-based Apple Silicon. The latest chips are desirable on many fronts, but switching from the x86 architecture leaves you less leeway to install Windows or Linux using Boot Camp, so a Mac isn’t ideal if you want to dual-boot Windows using Boot Camp.
Fortunately, Apple Silicon delivers pound-for-pound improvements over Intel’s outgoing chips. They feature impressive multithreading performance, improved energy 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 (although beware of thermal stress under load).
Apple has always designed hardware alongside software, and the move to Apple Silicon gave the company even more control over it. While this opens up 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 incompatibilities.
Unfortunately, you can’t update your Mac either. Newer machines use unified memory, which offers big performance gains at the cost of the traditional upgrade paths you’d find on a PC. If you’re buying a Mac, your idea of ”upgrading” is better off getting a new Mac (though there are plenty of good uses for your older model).
You already use an iPhone, iPad, or other Apple product
Apple takes a “whole ecosystem” approach to product design. If you’re already using an iPhone, you’ll be familiar with many of the software and design principles you’re already familiar with when you first pick up MacOS. The main difference is that macOS is not as restrictive as iOS because it is a proper “desktop” OS.
iOS and macOS go hand in hand perfectly. 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 on your Mac, and features like Continuity let you copy on one platform, then paste on another.
Many of the apps you use on your iPhone, such as Mail, Messages, Calendar, Notes, and Reminders, have instantly recognizable Mac counterparts. iCloud is the gel that holds much of this ecosystem together, syncing everything from your photos and videos to groups of Safari tabs, invisibly in the background.
Apple’s wireless technologies, such as AirPlay and AirDrop, allow you to use your Mac as a wireless display or send files to your iPhone using a right-click context menu. Connect your iPhone to your Mac and use Apple’s Finder file explorer app to create local backups and transfer files.
Many design principles from Apple’s iOS have made their way to the Mac over the past decade. These include simple tweaks like Night Shift to reduce blue light, not to mention much greater privacy controls with a permissions system that requires your consent to app folders, microphone or webcam, location data, and other access.
Even Wi-Fi passwords sync between your Mac and iPhone, provided they’re both connected to the same Apple ID. Saving passwords in iCloud Keychain makes it easy to sign in on any Apple device. If you have AirPods, they follow you from device to device, and your Apple Watch can even unlock your Mac when you wake it up. Do you have an iPad? Use it as a wireless touch screen. It’s clear what Apple is going 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 aiming for a smooth Apple silicon experience, but the project is far from perfect, 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 ultimately you’ll still depend on macOS to get you there.
Like it or not, macOS is central to the Mac experience. Some argue that there is a good reason to choose Apple because of macOS, but it depends on personal preference. It really helps if you know, obey or are happier because of Apple desktop operating system before you sign in.
On the other hand, macOS is arguably the most sophisticated desktop operating system out there. It combines Windows-like user friendliness with the reliability of the UNIX platform on which it was built. Many advocates cite the system’s reliability, Apple’s approach to security (the lack of 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 offered by Windows or Linux. It works best if you go with the flow and use Apple solutions for almost everything. For example, Safari offers the best browsing experience in terms of energy efficiency, Time Machine is a set-it-and-forget-it solid backup tool, and iCloud support is built into first- and third-party apps.
You are happy to pay the Apple tax
A Mac will cost you more than a comparable Windows PC. With that said, it’s hard to make direct comparisons regarding the overall user experience because they’re separate platforms that take different approaches to desktop computing.
If you’re comparing performance like-for-like, it’s hard to justify charging Apple, especially when it comes to higher-end machines like the MacBook Pro or Mac Studio. Look at RAM and memory upgrade costs at checkout when setting up your machine and prepare to be blown away. Don’t forget that upgrading these components themselves is largely out of the question, especially if you value your warranty.
When it comes to the more affordable end of the market, things are not so clear. The MacBook Air is expensive, but a relatively light Windows ultrabook could easily cost about the same these days (although 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 peripherals, which can add to the price.
Lightweight and affordable MacBook
There’s no denying that Apple computers have a quality that many Windows OEMs lack. Some Mac users think it justifies the cost, especially given the quality of Apple’s built-in displays, trackpads, laptop speakers, and solid unibody design. That’s not to say Apple never makes mistakes (let’s not forget the butterfly keyboard fiasco), but there are good reasons why some people are happy to spend that much on a MacBook.
A 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 has a higher GPU, more RAM and a larger SSD compared to the M1 and M2 models.
A lot depends on the overall user experience. There’s no third-party bloatware installed when you get your Mac (although Apple does bundle things you might want to remove, like GarageBand and Pages). Paying Apple is a must if you want that solid macOS experience. If you’re happy to pay more to use an operating system that’s enjoyable and productive for you, the premium may be worth it.
This can be overlooked if you’re comparing on paper, because it’s hard to appreciate the productivity you’ll get from using something that feels good.
Gaming is not your main priority
You can play games on your Mac, and the Mac as a gaming platform may actually be in better shape than ever. There are tons of games on Steam, GOG, the Mac App Store, and itch.io that run natively or through Rosetta 2. Even Apple Arcade games work well on Mac.
Most of the best wireless gamepads work great on your Mac. macOS 13 Ventura has a dedicated panel in System Preferences for configuring your game controller, signaling Apple’s renewed focus on Mac gaming.
But a Mac is not something you want to buy if your main priority is gaming. New games don’t come to the Mac first, and many titles never see a port. Windows is incredibly well-supported for everything from the biggest releases to indie smash hits, early access titles still in development, virtual reality titles for hardware not supported on macOS, and subscription services like Game Pass for PC .
While Apple hardware can, PC is where you want to go if you want the latest and greatest gaming hardware. You can upgrade your components individually, change your GPU, add more RAM, upgrade your processor and have complete control over the direction of your system. This kind of customization doesn’t exist on Apple’s platform, to say nothing of the visual design of your system.
The closest you’ll get to RGB on a Mac is putting fairy lights around your MacBook display.
Do 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 to the App Store, Mac App Store, or any other Apple storefront.
It is not beyond these requirements. The most efficient way to do this is to buy a Mac mini or MacBook Air.
Apples and oranges
It’s good to do your homework so you know what to expect if you buy a Mac from a PC. There are some great reasons to use 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 plenty of good reasons to choose a Windows computer over a Mac.