Mac vs. PC vs. Chromebook
Alright, so I posted yesterday that I would assign a “tech savvy quotient” to everyone I knew, and based on their score, I’d suggest if they needed a Mac or a Chromebook or a PC. I now feel kind of silly saying I’d assign you a designation, but I’m going to try to pull it off, but I’ll need your help.
The thing to keep in mind about which of these devices best suits your needs, is knowing what your needs actually are. This is where people get confused.
The PC is the ubiquitous tool for computing because it’s the most versatile tool for computing. Some folks would disagree, but their arguments focus on functionality and usability lines that aren’t relevant to what I’m saying. I’m just saying that as a toolkit, there is nothing as adaptable, resourceful, powerful, or universally accepted as a PC. This is especially true for gamers. The reasons other platforms are popular, is because some folks don’t need that much flexibility or power.
The PC has a learning curve for some users because it requires that you have the desire to learn how to use it. Even though Microsoft has done a lot to simplify their OS, the interface and functions aren’t always terribly intuitive. Why? Because Intuitiveness is inversely proportional to functionality. In other words, the simpler an interface is, the less likely you have many options and controls for customizing your computer to meet your needs. You sacrifice control for ease of use.
For many people, that’s not only fine - it’s ideal. That’s where our other computer platforms come into play.
Simply said, the Mac is a specialized consumer-oriented, computing device. It’s well known for it’s “works out of the box” functionality, because the developers worked very hard at making sure the user experience was tailored to a specific demographic that didn’t want to “setup” a computer. If you want to purchase a computing device that works without much training, has a lot of applications and inter-connectivity, then by all means get a Mac; if you can afford it.
The cost is frustratingly (and for many, prohibitively) high. You can purchase a Mac Mini and get your own monitor and probably spend only $800, but most of the entry-level Macs people want to buy, start around $1200 and move up to the $10,000 mark for “pro” level systems.
If money is no concern, then there’s the complaint about Apple being so restrictive on software development. This means you have much less options for software than a PC. The flip side of that argument is that your computer will rarely slow down because of junk software code or viruses gumming up your operating system.
The old complaint about Macs being under-powered and limited in software options, has become a thing of the past. Apple partnered with Intel to make their hardware faster, and Apple is essentially running Linux now. They’re really fast nowadays. They are not however, a good platform for gaming. (Don’t get me started)
In the post-iPhone, app development world, Apple computers have a versatility they never had before. In fact, while I’m an Android evangelist, there’s no denying that there are still (a few) developers who make apps JUST for Apple devices. It drives me nuts, because they eventually come around to making an Android app for their successful widgets, but those Apple people get it first. Damn them.
Additionally, Macs are the kings of syncing with all your other devices. With the exception of printing, Macs OWN this category. Your phone, your tablets, your TV, your (soon to be) watch - all of these things exist within an enclosed universe of Appleness. Personally, it creeps me out because it’s a bunch of devices you can’t customize much, but if you’re just not that much of a control freak, then have fun because you can build the functionality of Apple products around your daily life.
My personal favorite thing about Apple products? They’re an American product (not made in the USA) and they’re innovators. Are they floundering after Jobs passed away? Yes, but if they start making bigger phones and launching their integrated systems at more affordable prices, we’re in for a great ride.
This is the new player to the game, and Google is gaining ground quickly because they’re doing what Apple did before; narrowing in on a specific demographic of computing users. This is a cunning move because it turns out the number of users these computers appeal to isn’t that narrow.
Simply said, a Chromebook is a cheap ($150+, usually about $275) notebook computing platform. They don’t make a desktop version, and they likely won’t. Google created the “Chome OS” a few years ago, and now every manufacturer is making devices that run on Chrome. What is Chrome OS exactly? Under the hood, it’s a lot like Android, but it doesn’t run like Android because Google doesn’t want you to think of a Chromebook as a computer. They want you to think of it as a window to the internet, where hardware isn’t that important.
Essentially, it works like any computer or Mac by giving you the same keyboards, or mouse/touchpad that you’re used to. There’s a start button like you’re used to, and you can use the same functions you’re familiar with like email, writing documents, making spreadsheets, presentations, desktop publishing, printing, etc. - all with the same websites you already use.
The catch? You do all of this “in the cloud” which is where people understandably get confused and apprehensive.
The Cloud is a term that describes online services and storage. You’re likely already using “the cloud” for some things now. Your web-based email is pretty much a cloud service. If you store pictures or documents online, Chrome accesses them in exactly the same way. It just doesn’t have an internal hard drive where you can install files and keep them. It’s pretty much just an internet device. They’re banking on the theory that you use the internet for 95% of your computing needs, and would benefit from a computer that immerses you in the functions you use the most.
like a Mac, it develops an entire world of integration around your life, but using Google services. Calendar, email, maps, news, drive, documents, photos, books, shopping, social networking, - it can all be done on any of your devices (phone, tablet, TV, computer, watch, etc).
My personal favorite thing about Chromebooks? They’re INSTANTLY on, and they work perfectly out of the box. I do mean instantly on too. There is no boot time, and they are the fastest computers I’ve ever used, for the functions they perform.
So which one is right for you? Think about your needs.
If you’re someone who has specific software need (typically a work based, or video gaming need) then you’re just going to need a PC. Does that mean you wouldn’t also like a Mac or a Chromebook? Nope. Heck, you might love them and only use your PC for specific things.
The other two options have some similarities. If you’re someone who needs a computer to work out of the box, and wants it to perfectly integrate with your phone, tablets, and internet connected devices, then a Mac or Chrome/Android device is ideal for you. A PC can do all of those things too (arguably better) but if you’re just not interested or capable of learning how to support them, you might like the other options.
They really break down to price, and picking a “system” you want to go with. Both Apple and Google are competing for your “integrated” life, because while you might not know it, interconnected devices are about to revolutionize the world as you know it. Your thermostat, home security, vehicle, and entertainment systems are all going to be controllable from devices you choose.
There are really only two options in this game:
- Go with Apple, and spend a lot but get great options.
- Go with Google, and get great options but spend less.
I have a monster PC at home, and I love it. I touch it about once every few months nowadays, because I can do everything else on my phone or tablet. I don’t game much. If I did, or required an incredible high powered video card, then that would be different. The PC I use at work is the one I use the most, because it requires very specific software that isn’t available for Mac or Chromebook…yet.
And that “yet” is a pretty big deal.
The ONLY software I still require a PC for, is Microsoft-specific software like Expressions and SQL. Otherwise, every other piece of software I use regularly, is supported (and usually done better) in the cloud, and would work on a Mac or a Chromebook.
For example, the entire Adobe creative suite is on the cloud now. Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. video editing, audio recording, graphic design, web development, In Design publishing; all of this is done in a web browser now. I genuinely prefer Google Docs and Open Office to Microsoft Office. This wasn’t always the case, but after using it for a month, it became my preferred office software.
So, just think about who you are and how you use a computer. If you mostly use social networks like Facebook and Twitter, email people and watch streaming media like Netflix and Hulu, then something like a Mac and a Chromebook are right down your alley. If you are on a budget, get the cheaper Chromebook. If you can afford a Mac, get one. If you torrent files, or shoot a lot of photos, then either option will work for you.
If you’re happy with a PC, then by all means, KEEP IT. If you like it when it’s running, but you’re “computer illiterate” when it comes to fixing them, then ask yourself if you could limit the amount of things you do on the PC, and use something else more often. That’s the camp I surprisingly found myself in and I’m the über PC geek.
NOTE: Yes, I know I deliberately avoided talking about Linux computers, because someone considering a Mac or a Chromebook is NOT a potential Linux user. I love Linux systems, and I’ve installed Linux systems with Windows Clones for people who needed the familiar PC interface, without constant crashes and maintenance problems. I love them. They’re amazing. They’re also EXTREMELY limited when it comes to software and interconnected device options and most of the folks who hit me up for help, really need those things. So enjoy the penguin guys. I’m with ya.
I hope this helped. I know it’s a lot of content, but if you’ve read it all please tell me which camp you belong to, and I’ll point you in the direction of what I think is the best piece of hardware for your needs.