I posted last week about the best computer for digital photography, and I wanted to follow up with a little more detail about hardware and software. I didn’t want to have a long, endless post on the first go around so here’s some more gouge to help you with your decision.
- Hardware – Macs and PCs now use virtually the same hardware. The major difference that set Macs apart from PCs was the fact that Macs used Power PC processors vice the Intel and AMD processors used by Windows machines. Well, Apple has since changed that. Now Macs use Intel processors which allows them to also run Windows on Mac hardware as well at Apple’s operating system OS X (ten). There are other, more subtle differences in memory types and OEM hardware manufacturers, but Windows and Mac machines both use nVidia and ATI video cards. When Apple made the switch to Intel, a lot of Windows users started to sit up straight and pay more attention to Apple. And it was no surprise to Apple when their sales increased after making the switch. Combine Intel chips with the ability to run Windows and more and more people considered moving to the Mac. Macs are also capable of burning CDs and DVDs, building spreadsheets, word processing, and creating presentations just like PCs can. Most Macs come with an Apple Remote, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi as well as the usual USB 2.0, Firewire 400 & 800, audio in and out, and Mini DVI or DVI out. Price wise, if you compare a Mac and a PC with the same specs you can bet that the price is just about the same too. Apple was able to bring down prices with the switch to Intel.
- Windows – Mac and PC have been competing for years via their operating systems… OS X and Windows. It has been rumored that when Microsoft went back to the drawing board for Vista, the project manager put a Mac in front of the design team and said to “make it look like this”. It was also rumored that the same project manager sent an e-mail to Microsoft’s CEO and Bill Gates that said if it weren’t for the fact that he worked for Microsoft that he would buy a Mac. Personally, I have worked on both OS X and Windows XP and Vista. XP was a much more reliable OS than 2000, ME, NT, 98, or 95. However, XP would still crash. I have been running Vista Ultimate for a while now, and still have yet to crash it. Now, I don’t try to intentionally crash the OS, as that wouldn’t be fair. But running normal apps like Office, Photoshop CS3, and Lightroom 1.3, I still have yet to crash it. Now, Vista is VERY RAM hungry. When I was running XP Pro on my same PC, I only had 512MB of RAM in it. When I upgraded to Vista Ultimate, I had to upgrade my RAM to 2GB (my motherboard’s max) in order to get it to really run smoothly. I also don’t run any of the super graphics intensive features to help conserve on RAM. I also have an nVidia 256MB video card in there, and Vista still sucks up system RAM using it’s fancy eye candy. You still have a lot of hassle to go through with installing and uninstalling program with Vista as well. I would have thought that Microsoft would have caught on by now. Vista also warns you just about anytime you want to do ANYTHING with a file or installing a program. “Cancel or Allow” is no joke! I think Vista is the best OS that Microsoft has put out so far, but I still wouldn’t trade an old Mac for it.
- OS X – This is where Apple and Macs really excel! Macs are very easy to use and are also user friendly. When you install a program, all you have to do is drag the program icon into the applications folder and it’s installed! How easy is that??? Want to uninstall a program, just move the program icon from the Applications folder to the Trash and you’re done! WOW! Macs also have really great graphics which make them an unbeatable choice for digital photography. I have no idea exactly how Apple does it, but OS X is just awesome at handling graphics. OS X is also very secure. You won’t have all the problems with worms and viruses that you run into on Windows machines. Not to say that you shouldn’t protect yourself (because you should always do so), but a lot of people have a beef with Microsoft and they are a bigger target. I think charging $400.00 for an operating system and another $250.00 for an office suite has something to do with it, but I’m just speculating here. Speaking of price, OS X is ALWAYS $130.00 for whatever release is current. OS X 10.4 Tiger was $130.00 and so is OS X 10.5 Leopard. And there is only one version. No personal, business, professional, or ultimate versions at Apple. Just one. OS X doesn’t crash, there’s no blue screen of death, it boots fast, it’s secure, and it’s simple to use. It’s my personal favorite and the choice of many of the top pros in the photography industry as well as a lot of other photographers, both amateur and professional.
- Photoshop & Lightroom – Both of these digital photography apps run very well on both systems. The more memory and processing power you have, the better they will run. There’s no doubt about that whether on a Windows or Mac machine. They are universal apps so all the features are the same in both programs. You can’t do anything more in Photoshop or Lightroom on a Mac than you can on a PC. The only difference is some of the keystroke commands that vary from the Mac to the PC. Instead of Ctrl – S to save a file on a PC, you will hit Command – S on a Mac. That’s the only difference in the apps between the two operating systems.
All this said, I would look for a few key things when buying a new computer for digital photography use. Many PCs have built in media readers for SD, CF, Memory Stick, and other types of removable media. While this doesn’t save you a lot of cash, it’s certainly convenient having it right there on your computer and not having to worry about an external device. Get as much processing power for your money. Look for a computer that features an a dual core or quad core processor. The two cores act as two (or four) separate processors when handling instructions and thus greatly speed up the computing experience. More memory will certainly help out as well. Memory stores frequently used instructions to be referenced by the computer again, thus saving time. Again, speeding up the computing experience. Most higher end Mac and PCs include at least 2GB of RAM (memory). Beyond that, the rest of the features are just bells and whistles. Go to the Apple Store and play with a Mac. Then go to Best Buy and play with a Vista machine and get a feel for what you would like best. Hardware is very similar, so you can’t go wrong with either choice really. Although buying a Mac will make you a better photographer. (Just kidding, kind of.) Again, if you have questions feel free to drop me a line via my Contact page or call the manufacturer and tell them what you are looking for and what you want to do with it. You can also call my friend’s at B&H Photo and you can speak to an actual photographer who will point you in the right direction as well. I have found that most major electronics retailers aren’t really that knowledgeable and can often be confusing. Good luck on your quest to find the ultimate computer for your digital photography workflow! 🙂