Thursday, February 18, 2010

PC vs Mac for artists

Today I'm going to go and visit an Apple Store.

I've burned out three personal computers in the last three years - all because the fans were completely inadequate for the job. (The best one was the one that went with a very large bang and sparks flew out the back!)

I'm in two minds. I'm a completely dedicated PC person dating back just about as far as you can (I've been using the Internet since the early 90s) and have never been a huge fan of the Mac (there's something about that keyboard which always said 'lame' to me!)

Except I'm now very disallusioned about the way that I'm getting through PCs. OK - so I'm a heavy duty user but I think I should be able to buy a machine which can be on upto 18 hours a day in a domestic room which does not have air conditioning AND have loads of windows open all at once without blowing a machine every year (always just outside the warranty - which is the other niggle!)

So - I need advice.

Which Mac are you?
(I do like the MAC website - and that is swaying me!)

This is an invitation to tell me your thoughts about WHICH COMPUTING SET UP IS BEST FOR ARTISTS and people using graphics and video files.
  • SAY WHICH IS BEST - a PC or Mac - and why.
  • SPELL OUT WHY you like your favourite machine
  • If a Mac Owner tell me WHICH MAC IS BEST? I'm a MAC virgin and open to influence!
  • If you have a view about specific aspects of specifications and what you think works best DO TELLl!
PS I'm also out this afternoon (looking!) - so if you don't see any comments that's because they will all be waiting for my moderation. Don't be shy - pitch in and let me know you views

The Art of the Landscape


jgr said...

I recommend the Mac. I have been a Mac user for many years and it is very intuitive. Really easy to set up and get started. I am currently on an iBook with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. I'm an artist, not technically inclined at all.
I've had this Mac for 3.5 years, I'm sure the newer models are even faster. Mine is a laptop.
Very small and portable, yet it handles large files really well. I hope this is helpful.

Christy said...

Several things I want to say but the first is are you getting a laptop or a tower?

I have a little laptop cooling fan that sits under my laptop and runs from a usb plug. This doubles the cooling power for my system so it doesn't get overheated. I would highly recommend one and the cost is only about $20.00 or less.

Next, I would say both systems are good for artists. If you can afford a MAC and all of the software that you will need to purchase (you will not be able to use your PC software on a MAC) then by all means get one.

If the thought of purchasing the new software or learning the new software/operating system seems daunting then stick with the PC.

As an artist and web developer I have had access to both of these systems for years and there are positives and negatives to each.

Currently I am on a PC (Dell) laptop which is on a good 10 - 15 hours per day with heavy use (and my extra cooling fan) and have had no issues. My previous laptop (also a Dell) was handed down to my daughter and is still going (over 5 years now).

I do admit to having it in an air conditioned room, but I live in Florida and a good part of the year the a/c is not on. When I noticed the fan running a lot and the system feeling a little too warm (my hands rest on the area where the hard drive is covered) I bought the little cooling unit. I noticed an immediate difference with it.

I hope this helps!

Unknown said...

Get a Mac. Like you I have been using pc's since the 90's. .I got the Macbook pro and love it. Fast booting, great images and fantastic storage of images....great support, no viruses...I haven't learned it all yet, but I have nothing bad to say at all...I am so happy I made the switch, Katherine. Good luck!

Kim Johnston said...

Just switched over from using a PC at home to a Mac! I always had the advantage of using both at the same time and through experience have found Mac's to outlast PC's! And on the whole be more stable. All my PC programs meant I had to install Paralels which runs Windows XP and I am still testing it. I use the whole Adobe CS2 suite but mainly Photoshop and illustrator. And I know the feeling of burning out a PC, I used to open up the the case and put a normal fan blowing on it, ridiculous!

Maud Guilfoyle said...

I love my mac. I have a 9 year old ibook and a 2 year old imac with 24" screen. I use them to make artists' books, pocket art classes, prints and greeting cards downloadable from my website . I have adobe photo shop and in design to do this. I have been doing this for about 8 years and must confess that I just know how to do things in the same format, i.e. when I want to do something different in adobe, I have to look it up or call someone for advice.
My artist friend Marcia Sandmeyer Wilson Was using her mac for some years before me to make her artist books and she told me she started by hiring a high school kid for a couple of hours at a time until she knew enough to do her books.
My brother, Mike Etigson on the other hand is totally pc, specifically Dell even though he began from a mac. I think that might be because he worked for businesses 15 years on that platform.
The must have item from mac, which I use all the time, is their applecare program, well worth the $300. For three years you have access to tech help and repair of your computer. I believe you can also renew it if you choose on an older mac.
Good Luck!
Maud Guilfoyle

Unknown said...

I've been working on a PC all of my life, and moved to the MacPro for my art business about 4 months ago. Macs are designed for artists and photographers and creative types - the basic programs that come with Mac are great for artwork, and I'll never go back, as long as I can afford to stay Mac. There are a few hurdles such as compatibility issues of images with PCs at times, but when you take into account all of the virus problems and space challenges of PCs, there is no comparison.
good luck to you!
Nancy Medina

Charles Valsechi said...

I think the best bet is building your own computer. Especially, if you are a heavy user. I grew up around PCs and now that i'm in art school they gave us Macs, both have their ups and downs. I think for art I prefer my Mac, but video games definitely the PC. If you use a computer a lot, building your own could be a great learning experience and fun. Besides it's not very hard and you can save money. Also, I wouldn't blame the fact that it's a PC being that is only an operating thing. It would be more about how the computer is built and with what parts.
I have yet to try a Linux based operating system, but I do see something like that growing more and more into the future.

SamArtDog said...

I'm a Mac user, always was and always will be. I'm also NOT a computer person. I consider my Mac(s) to simply be an essential tool. Friends who have had PCs seem to have had to make it a hobby, if not a lifestyle. Watching them pull their hair out, I've gotten the feeling that putting up with a PC, with all its quirks and foibles, is what makes for a much more intense relationship with one's computer than I ever wanted. Because I'm so not interested in computing per se, my earning curve has at times been quite steep; the Mac is apparently a good climber and has easily put up with me.
I currently have a MacBook Pro, one which I've been happily using for over five years. No complaints, no problems. I'm always happy to hear of someone who is stepping away from the fray and out into the light.
Welcome and congratulations!
Sam Hannaway
P.S. My husband, who sells high-end Apple systems, says you sound like a tower person (versus a laptop) and suggests an Apple Intel Tower with lots of 3rd-party memory. Whatever that means. He said more, but I've got dogs to care for and art to do.

Rose Welty said...

Very curious as to what you hear about this topic Katherine. I have a laptop that consistently overheats - at shorter and shorter intervals. My understanding was that it is a dust problem (and the small fans in laptops fill up with dust fast). I assumed that would be true for a PC or Mac laptop.

I plan to open it up and blow the dust out-which isn't without risk I know. Plan B is to buy a $15-20 chill pad to keep it cool.

I certainly can't afford a Mac laptop right now, but if they don't overheat in the same way, I'd certainly think about saving up for it.

John Hawks said...

I have used a series of Mac laptops for the last 10 years, and right now have a Mini running as a home server. I also use a (now fairly old) Wacom Cintiq. Before that, I used PC laptops and an early-model Graphire. I mostly choose Macs over PCs now because of my programming work, and I can't say that I'm up-to-date on the recent PC selection, although I do run Windows 7 on one of my Macs.

I have found the Macs excellent for my art both for creating new work and scanning/processing paper and photography. I run Photoshop/Illustrator as well as Painter.

Much depends on your budget. Do you have a lot invested in PC software, like Windows versions of Photoshop, etc.? One of my MacBooks does run very well as a Windows 7 machine, but I would not want to have to switch back and forth on a single machine. If I had to choose for art purposes, I would much rather spend money for a Cintiq, leaving either a cheap PC or a Mini. Maybe the screen-in-tablet isn't for everyone, but I find it much easier to draw and create (and manipulate the on-screen palettes).

Mac laptops do break. I had one that had to be replaced twice for the same problem. This was enough of a frustration considering that I have backup computers; if I had only a single machine, I would have been out for months. I do treat them roughly (with my 4 kids also) and they generally survive, a little banged up.

The desktop Mac Pro hardware is excellent; I have had one running for 6 years in my office with interruptions only for power failures. I use a Dell LCD monitor with this one, the Apple displays are overpriced, in my opinion, but reasonable artists may want to evaluate their color performance before making a purchase. I am very happy with the Mini so far, also.

Thanks so much for your site, I read it all the time, though I haven't commented before.

Mona Diane Conner said...

Katherine, had my first iMac for 9 years without a hitch. My current iMac, purchased in summer of 2006 lasted until this January when I had to replace the hard drive in January, but my use was much heavier with this one. I recommend iMac! No viruses, ideal for artists, intuitive programs. Check out Time Machine which comes with current iMacs.

loriann signori said...

Hi Katherine,
To me, Macs are the way to go. I have a Mac book pro which I just purchased in June to replace my old Mac. I take it everywhere with me as it's super light. Easy to use and understand and the new addition of a little port to place my camera mini card is fantastic. Yes, that means no more cords! It's very fast as well. Can't go wrong. The tech friend I have did suggest to get a 3 year warranty so that there are no worries. Good luck in your search.

Rene said...

Don't give up on the PC - just get additional fans installed...there can be more than one fan in a computer.

Carol H. said...

I have had both Macs and PCs and I strongly favor Macs. I love the more intuitive interface, and my Macs have all been workhorses that rarely crash or have anything major go wrong with them. I have a PC running Vista that has given me nothing but problems for two years.

I have had a G4, a G5, and a Mac Pro and loved them all.

Unknown said...

Given the Mac's reliability you'll probably be able to get past the keyboard. Recently I had to use my mother in law's pc and hated the keyboard, what we get used to is what we like. I've used a Mac since 1989 and in all those years I've never had one burn out and crashes just don't happen.

Which Mac you buy depends on what software you run and how you plan to use it. I use the professional versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat, and Corel Painter in addition to all the other usual things like Word, iPhoto, iWeb and all the little apps we use all the time. In December I switched to a MacBook Pro 15 inch and love the flexibility of being able to work outside of the studio. Unfortunately it's smaller than my iMac was but there are big 30 inch monitors that you can plug the laptop into when you are working on multiple apps simultaneously, digital artists do this all the time and I expect animators do too. The 15 inch seemed a good buy for me due to it's small size for travel.

I can use the MacBook Pro for hours at a time without any problems although I did note that it heats up when I use Corel Painter which is a memory hog for many hours. I've never experienced it with a regular computer just the laptop. This situation is new to me but my understanding is that the computer knows to warn you when it's getting too hot. I haven't experienced the warning myself yet so you might want to clarify that with someone else. The built in firewall protects against viruses, you just have to turn it on. Unfortunately the Mac's cost has been a drawback for many but it's reliability keeps me sticking with it. Plus it's been an aesthetically pleasing machine. Good luck.

Lorna said...

I can only speak as a heavy duty Mac owner using Photoshop and Illustrator.

My last iMac died at 8 years of age due to a power surge. It's "vintage" age meant repairing it was no longer an option. It's age was already beginning to be a problem because newer peripheries and browsers needed an up to date OS.

The Mac Os used to be a problem because you could not run your pc software but that seems to no longer be a problem which you must have found out today at the Mac shop. Personally my problem has been the time spent learning how to operate all my newly up dated software compared to the ancient forms my old Mac could run.

Hillary said...

a 30 year pc user who has just got an iMac and mac mini, with a macbook coming. Well designed, space saving, logical, interface excellent (but still finding my way). I like the way it thinks. Have yet to decide which graphic prog to go with. Software choices OK and can run alternative sos. I am an ordinary housewife at home but on the computer doing things most of the day. Ours has always been on 24/7 and in old pc day fans were changed as soon as I heard them (often). Cannot hear the mac's.

EdieB said...

Mac is the only computer for us. I've always liked the Apple as far back as the late 80's but could not afford to buy one & didn't like the little screen. I switched from, PC to Mac in 2003 I had no trouble with the keyboard, since you are a heavy user I would recommend a comparable Mac and in view of the fact you can run Windows on a MAC, if you desire, assuming you have windows software you might still want to use, I think its a move you should seriously consider. Our family is into art, photography,music and in one way or another its all helped by our Mac's.

Casey Klahn said...

I just bought a new pc laptop, and have semi retired my 4 or 5 year old one which is deathly slow, but will work if you have kitchen chores or need to change a tire or something while you wait for it to warm up.

What surprised me was that I told the sales woman that I wanted to look at new laptops, and would not buy x or y brands ( x being the one I was retiring and y being MAC). I walked out the door with a new x brand laptop - just like I said I wouldn't do.

It came down to the mix of features at the value and a ten key pad on what was still a large and useful keyboard. My old laptop (brand x) never quite functioned in the fan department, and I constantly blew the fan ports out with canned air and kept obstructions away from the vents in the back. My new one has the vents on the left side, and has a bulky battery that props the laptop up in order to give cooling clearance on the bottom. Very nice, and I can back it up to whatever and not worry about heat. It also functions several hours on battery, whereas the old one went 45 minutes from day 1.

Anyway, you are after info on the MAC and I will be very interested to see what responses are given. I want to say that I have a very large bit of skepticism about the security meme that accompanies MAC owner's schpeel. I want data, not the repeated, "MACs never get viruses." Only my opinion and I am skeptical.

Justin Miller said...

I am using an 24" iMac all-in-one. I love the big screen and luscious colors. Thought I wouldn't like the glossy screen at first, but the I find the contrast better, and the darks are deeper than with a matte screen. I would now recommend the 27" Also spring for the extended keyboard.

I like the visual and intuitive file storage user interface. PC has tried to mimic this, but never can make it as smooth or friendly. No C:// drive or D:// drive. CDs and usb/firewire drives just show up as icons on the desktop. As a visual artist, I like working with visual elements.

Mac is also not as picky about file extensions, and can open PC files with few exceptions.

I also use a 15" Macbook Pro, and am very pleased with this. I would not want it to be my only computer with such a small screen, but it is very adequate for home and travel use.

I use both computers to edit promotional images of my artwork.

Casey Klahn said...

I bought a Toshiba.

Joanne Licsko said...

What a great opportunity to rave about Macs. I am on my fourth, all are still functioning. My newest is the iMac 21.5 inch screen (Snow Leopard). I usually tell anyone who asks, go for the least expensive Mac that will suit your needs, they are usually more than enough computer for most. Perhaps because of the heavy use you describe, you may need to go for the larger 27 inch, or the Mac Pro.
The included iPhoto is more than adequate for my extensive photo collection, and the also included Image Capture, and Preview are also a big help. Other Mac users like to add on Aperture. Most of us love the intuitive and fast operating system.
It comes with Time Machine which will provide constant back up to an external HD really helps. I have added the external HD Time Capsule which acts as a wireless router to connect my wireless printer, as well as supplying 1 or TB of back up more than one compliant computer.
I would recommend purchasing the AppleCare Protection plan both for peace of mind, and also because the technical support is so good.
Important: Time capsule is new and has some questions about length of use. At least in the USA, when you buy the Time Capsule together with the computer, the purchase AppleCare Protection (three years) covers the Time Capsule as well.
I say "Once you go Mac, you'll never go back".

Papierflieger said...

Hello Katherine,
you really have a bad series. I never lost a PC that way and usually have them 3-4 years minimum. If you know that the cooling/ventilation is the problem I suggest that you get a bigger/better cooler after the purchase.

I think there should be no problems with PC bought from DELL or similar "brand". I will not switch to MAC because I have to change every thing or need to simulate a Windows PC on a MAC.
We are using TERRA computers by and none of them has failed in last 3-4 years. It seems they export also to the UK.

Our office PC run 7-8 hours per day, the server 24 h nonstop. My laptop about 3 hours per day.

Jeanette Jobson said...

I have no experience with a Mac, so can't comment, I've only used PCs to date. I haven't seen any real evidence of Macs being better than PCs other than anecdotal evidence and personal preference. Sometimes a tradition for graphic designers for MACS that somehow translates over to them being better for artists? I'm still waiting for the list of proofs that make them a better machine.

Price wise, a PC is a more economical choice. It will be interesting to hear the input on this.

As an aside, if you are loosing a machine annually, I would seriously be looking at your electrical wiring where you plug in the machine. I've never had a machine expire that quickly.

Are you in an area prone to power surges or other electrical interference? I would be concerned with my electrical source if I was losing a machine a year. Once, ok, down to bad luck. Three times? No something is wrong with the electrics if these are new machines.

Michelle B. Hendry said...

I used a PC when I was a graphics student. After spending more time fiddling and fixing the PC than actually getting any work done, I bought a MAC just before I graduated. That was 12 years ago. I have never looked back.

I don't do much video, but I have always had to handle massive files including trade show graphics and my MAC always did the job.

I have 2 MAC's. I no longer use the professional tower, although it is invincible in my opinion, but more than I need now - I have had 2 towers over the years.

I still manage my own website, run Adobe CS4 and I use iMovie (but I confess I am very new to video). I did use animation software when I was still in the biz.

I now have an older iMac (6 years) and a MacBook Pro (middle one - 2009) for the heavier stuff and for mobility. The MacBook Pro is phenomenal. For its size it is a powerhouse.

If you like to be mobile, spend a little more on the laptop, but for Photoshop and simple video (in other words you don't have huge rendering and can live with iMovie kind of stuff) an iMac will do the job. If you do a lot of video, go with the tower.

Does that help? :-)

indigocarole said...

My computer was built from scratch, by a specialist computer firm.
You can choose exactly the specification for your needs. In my case, a large monitor, so I can split the screen when working in graphics programmes, big memory ditto and two fans. It's now two years old. It is not on all day, but at least 4 or 5 hours every day. A friend who is a software engineer and builds his own computers, checked the specifications for me, before I placed the order.
Before buying a Mac or another PC, you might want to check them out.
Good luck

Jeanette Jobson said...

And another quite note, I spoke with a friend who's the VP of a tech firm in Los Angeles about this same issue awhile back.

It seems the origins of a Mac being better for graphics was that originally it was 20 odd years ago. But technology has replaced that niche in the market and any computer now does the same job. Its more the programs used and the individual's knowledge of them than the machine.

And for things like video etc run on Unix, PCs leave Macs in the dust it seems.

As for virus protection, its a numbers game. Of course the predominant market share is PC so hackers want a wide audience so they target PC systems. You'll still need virus protection with Macs too.

And just curious if your systems that keep blowing are desktops or laptops or both?

Richard Klekociuk said...

I've always been a Mac man. I currently own an IMac and a Macbook Pro. They are so user-friendly and trouble-free, great for artwork.
Get a Mac Katherine, you'll be so glad you did!

Adam Cope said...

my iMac is now nine years old & still works fine.

the new 27 inch iMac has separated out the hard disk & fans etc & placed them as far apart as poss. so even less risk of overheating.

do a google on overheating mac's. bet there's less results than for pc's.

iMac's screens are colour rich, only top of the range pc screen come close. which is why artists & printers have always traditionally used macs.

snow leopard runs windows so u can read & write all your old docs & apps (thus not entirely severing schizophrenia ;-)

just a little idea re-overheating. r u sure it isn't dust in the ventilation ducts? I clean these regularly.

Starrpoint said...

I think all computers, pc and mac are less robust than they used to be. It seems to be all about price more than about features and duriablity. I have also notice how quickly after warrenty many machines develop fatal flaws.

Machines are not built to last at all.

Larry said...

I've always had a mac for myself and pc's for the kids to use for school. The pc's have always had more viruses, problems, pop-ups, crashes, re-installs. uhg, while the macs have always been plug and play (or work as the case may be) Unfortunately, what I think is mac's biggest asset(it's small market share) Mac is trying very hard to change. Mac has been able to fly under the radar of those casting nets on the net. Both my kids are now away at college and have made the switch to mac. My advice...Get a pc. ;^)

Unknown said...

By all means get a mac. I have a Macbook pro 15inch laptop, and that was the best decision I made.

On my pc I ran - photoshop, illustrator, artrage, (as in graphic programs) plus everything else like MSoffice etc. My brand new PC could not handle it all.

In terms of the conversion of the software, We put windows paralles on the mac to allow me to use my windows based software. After I got used to the mac, I eventually phased out all windows programs and got the graphics programs for mac.
You do not have to go out and buy new programs yet.
For me it is no turning back.
I can go on and on about the benifits of the mac but might run out of space. GO FOR THE MAC you will not regret it!
good luck

Oh the new mac book pro's and the imac's are super cute too

Malcolm Cudmore said...

I think you should stick with what you are familiar with. You'd need to purchase new software for a Mac and there's nothing that a Mac can do these days that a PC can't. Consider getting a computer made for you. Go to a specialist shop (and I don't mean PC World!), tell them your requirements and include a request for a additional cooling. You're a heavy user - so get a higher spec than you need if your budget will allow. Actually, if there is a spare power socket inside you existing computer, you can fit another fan at very little cost.

I use a 4 year old HP Pavilion 17" laptop which is perfectly fine for all my graphics requirements. I connect to an additional monitor when I'm in the studio so I can "park" windows out of the way if required. I back up (probably not often enough!) to a small portable hard drive. When I went back to college a few years ago, I had to use Macs and much prefered using my PC (a tower at that time) with the exact same software - but this may have just been familiarity.

Tina Mammoser said...

My usual question would be: what are you using it for? The primary difference is price, but as some have said the security issues can outweight that arguement anyway. To Casey all I can say is going ahead and research - if you can find a Mac virus I'll be impressed. There've been a few worms over the last 20 years, but no destructive viruses for Macs that i know of in the same sense as for PCs. While I have repaired other artists PCs that have been infected I've never once had anything on any of my Macs since 1990. There still is no recommended virus software for a Mac, most experts will say don't bother. I would NEVER have a PC without serious virus/spyware/malware software installed. (I recommend McAffee)

Now... if price is not an issue, because Macs are more, then I would of course say Mac. :) But keep in mind you will want to either buy MS Office or download Open Office (free). (iLife and iWork are RUBBISH, don't bother). If you are using some high end software like Adobe CS then consider that price too.

I personally have a MacBook with a different harddrive (£70ish got me a 360Gb harddrive I could install myself). One caveat, and it's a biggie, the MacBook has been the most problematic Mac I have ever owned. Some problems are common some not, I think I've just had bad luck on this one and it's the first time I didn't buy an extended warranty! *sigh* And ironically my fan is actually broken but that isn't a common issue. I'll add that I actually have no heat problem except when I run World of Warcraft, which I will guess you probably don't play. ;) (but if you do, tell me!)

I also use a laptop stand fan because my replacment drives runs hotter than the standard installed one. If you can buy a MacBook Pro these have 2 fans (the MacBook only has 1) and of course as someone already said you can install multiple fans in a desktop (other than iMac I presume due to its design).

My computer is on (and online) at least 15 hours a day, and often runs overnight (either downloading or processing files in Acrobat or Photoshop).

Terry Krysak said...

It sounds as if the 18 hours per day is the basic issue to me.

I have a friend who has burned up 4 tower PC's in five years in a rural mountain envirnoment with 6 dogs (lots of dog hair, dirt and dust, open doors & windows). He runs his computer 24/7 and uses it about 6 hours per day. The fans always burn out.

I don't think a Mac is your solution. I have a 4 year old PC laptop that runs 14 hours per day and have had no problems and live in a similar environment as you (Vancouver).

Mac's are more expensive, and it will be a learning curve experience for you if you go that way, and you may not solve the basic issue.

A good cooling pad is perhaps your most economical quick solution.

Anonymous said...

buy a mac. you wont regret it! : )

the two os'es on the surface are very similar so there wont be a steep learning curve. but you'll soon start noticing that the mac os is easier and more intuitive. reasons why i recommend it are

1) i havent had my laptop crash in the last two years and i load it with all kinds of new trial/beta software! the system has become very stable.

2) i find it less of a strain on my wrist using the trackpad with two finger scrolling, three finger swipe to the top of the document etc. which sounded odd in the beginning but i cant do without now. i use the computer about 10+ hours a day.

3 ) i would of course always recommend a laptop over a desktop coz of the portability factor. and now with wireless and net access all over i carry it with me when i travel too. it's pretty light too. an entry level macbook should meet with all your needs. pump up the RAM if you're likely to have many apps running simult. i usually have 2-3 apps running and a browser window with 15-20 tabs open and my laptop has the standard factory RAM installed in it.

4 ) in the beginning you could use open source software if you do not want to buy a whole bunch of new software at once. there is plenty available for the mac now.

all the best with your search!

Making A Mark said...

This is a comment from Paul Ware which didn't 'take' as a comment so I'm posting it for him.

I tried to post to the story and clicked Publish while in the preview of my comment. I'm not sure if it went to you since I was returned to the editing area. In case you didn't get it, here it is again with some additional remarks on specific recommendations. I follow you on Facebook and via your blog. My photography/art blog is

You said you were worried about the Mac keyboard. The new ones do nothing for me. I like the older style keys for my fast hunt and peck typing. Many aftermarket keyboards are available to use with the Mac. I'm using a full Logitech keyboard on a Mac as I write. I've used Mac's since before Photoshop 2.5 shipped (happy anniversary Photoshop!) and have only used Windows XP Pro occasionally for about a year. It hasn't run bad but one of the fans acted up last week. Imagine that. I don't see any benefit using a windows box as an artist/graphic designer. Mac OSX is great for visually geared people and you can set up a Mac to run your Windows software. Get in the habit of repairing permissions regularly (once ever week or two and before any upgrades - takes a couple minutes with Apple's disk utility), back up your files regularly, and you will be very happy with a Mac for many years.

If you have the budget, have a good lcd and need extra drive space and the fastest Mac, get a Mac Pro. It won't come with some of the Apple software included with an iMac. It will outlast an iMac and be easier to service. The 27" iMac is a better bargain right now. The only thing I've ever had go bad in the towers I have owned (some still run 24/7) are hard drives. My Macs are hooked up to 500 series and 700 series APC battery backup/surge protectors. I never shut them down except for service.

If you will likely buy a new machine before adding extra parts to a tower, could use a great lcd (though glossy), and don't mind having to rely on Apple for serious repairs, get an iMac. consider an extended warranty on an iMac if you are close to an Apple store since there's little you can do to fix things and removing the hard drive is involved. They are quite dependable but there are still lemons like with anything.

I'll be getting a 27' iMac soon to replace an older tower and very old monitor. I think I can deal with the glossy screen in my studio. If money were not an issue I'd get a tower and better than Apple lcd. I'd suggest the 27" iMac for general photo and design work now that Apple has fixed the monitor calibration issues of the previous iMacs and the fastest iMac is tower speed. The last generation wouldn't dim enough for proper monitor calibration. My very old iMac 15" will calibrate pretty good but it's too slow to run today's apps. I still use it near my easel for viewing reference and tethered to my camera for viewing studio shots as I shoot.

I wouldn't waste $ on a mini. If it's a laptop you need most go with the MacbookPro line.

Buy extra ram online, not from Apple. In the USA I recommend Other World Computing for ram and many other Mac parts. Great service. Many places sell lifetime ram at similar pricing. If the Apple refurbished online store works the same outside of the USA you should look there for deals. Same warranties, like new quality at a discount. NAPP members get a decent discount with Apple.

Your art blog is fabulous! Hope this info is helpful,

Making A Mark said...

Thank you so much for all the comments. They are all extremely useful.

I'm going to try and post later to day with
1) a summary of recommendations to date and
2) a summary of where I'm up to after the visit to the Apple Store at Bluewater and a chat with a very nice man called Stuart France.

Zsu said...

Macs are usually more user-friendly and reliable for non-techie types, but that's simply because of the OS. All the praise the Mac ever gets goes pretty much to the software.

However, inside, they are just (good quality, but still) PCs. If your issue was overheating, you should probably avoid the more compact Mac designs because they tend to run pretty hot because of the size and noise requirements (cramped space, weak fans).

In my opinion, in hardware non-Mac PCs are overall better value - you can get the same stuff for a lot less, and you can have it tailored for your needs. However, the software side is better designed, which is what gives that vastly improved experience over Windows.

So to sum up: Mac OS X is good stuff, and by any means do get it if Windows is troublesome for you; but don't expect the hardware to be any more reliable than that of any other PC.

Sophie said...

Wonderful stuff everyone. I am currently waiting (and have been for a looong time..)for my new Dell pc and the problems I've had with their customer service are diabolical. Its a Dell-hell I am in. Someome recommended looking at Macs....I've never looked at them. Always had a pc. Your post and all the comments make me look at macs...perhaps its time to switch...if I'd ever get my money back from Dell...or the pc I ordered a long time ago...

Lorna said...

I would like to add to my comments that I live within 5 minutes of a long established Mac re-seller who has it's own engineers on site. I could walk in and speak to the engineer working on my last Mac personally. I can not say there has not been problems with them in the past but at least I can speak to the owner personally who has always put things right.

Felicity Grace said...

I've never used Macs so can't comment there but I have two teenage sons who use Macs at school. I was very tempted to switch to Macs when I was looking a few months ago but both of them said they didn't like them (and that there are pros and cons of course). So it prompted me to say go for a test drive and make sure they are right for you - it seems as if people tend to prefer things they are used to. I'd be interested to hear more from those that are new to Macs and how they found the transition.

They do look like wonderful machines, I just don't have willing helpers at home if I bought one for myself! I'm very interested to hear how you get on!

Barbara Benedetti Newton said...

I began with a Mac SE more than 20 years ago. I now work on a new iMac (4 GB RAM - 3.06 GHz - 500 GB HDD) and my good old G4 as well as a MacBook Pro laptop. My advice to you is to buy an iMac 27 inch. You will LOVE it. Art is very beautiful on this display. Looking forward to hearing how you like your new Mac.

Tony Crosse said...

My last 3macs I bought secondhand off people usually designers. I felt confident they were not buggy from meeting the owners and examining the machine.

I never had an issue with them. Currently I am using ibook and Imac and will be upgrading again this time with probably brand new gear. I've been using macs since the early nineties and had a year working on pc.
I really can't give a fair commentary on Pcs now as have been so long on macs...but honestly I bought secondhand for cost and really because I was so confident that they are very reliable and usually mac owner types treat them well.

I do a lot of graphics and artwork on my macs and I just love them. I think because I love them so much they rarely give me issues!! ;-)

Stephen Magsig said...

Mac is the only way, best for artists. I love my macs. Never had any problems.

Unknown said...

I've just bought a 15 inch Mac Book Pro and the full CS4 suite to go with it.I love it, it was straight forward to set up and works really well with the image programmes.

Susanna Pantas said...

Bought my first Mac in 2009, and have been much happier than I EVER was with any of the PCs I have owned over the years. The monitor is excellent & setup was breezy. I highly recommend a mac. Bonus: it doesn't run me through irritating questions like "are you sure?" when I shut down.

Kim Ratigan said...

Hi Katherine;

We have always used Macs; being in the advertising field I guess it was inevitable :-)
We love them and wouldn't change for the world.

You did mentioned that one of the differences was the software. I don't believe this is the case anymore. Pretty much all the major programs are cross platform (Photoshop, Illustrator, Word, Excel etc.)

And yes, they are more expensive, and they are worth it! I think Mac Technicians are like the Maytag repair man....

Good Luck in your search!

Julie Oakley said...

One thing to consider Katherine is John Lewis. I think they're the same price as every where eelse but with a 2 year warranty. I just had someone in to look at my mac and he said that an imac is more than enough power for a graphics/ art user. So don't bother with a tower it's overkill. I would buy a 27" imac if I were you.

Making A Mark said...

Good point about John Lewis and the guarantee! It was in John Lewis where I sat down in f4ont of an imac to get a 'feel' of what it might be like on a desk and their slightly more subdued lighting made me think that maybe the glossy screen could be OK.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Strangely, I was just speaking about this very topic today after I replaced my 7 year old Sony Vaio laptop last September with a Dell Inspiron running Windows Vista with a free upgrade to Win7.
5 months later I'm disillusioned by the sluggishness of Vista coupled with the problem of Win7 not including the Windows mail program :( you have to DL something from Microsoft's website.
I really wanted to get a Mac but talked myself out of spending the money and tried to do a quick fix.

Now, I'm fed up with MS constantly changing perfectly good programs to keep us buying a PC every 3-5 years.

Luckily I bought the extra warrantee on the Vaio because after the guaranteed 3 year protection expired the motherboard fried and I had to send it out for a replacement MB. Thank heaven, it didn't cost me anything for that $800 Motherboard.

Since my Dell is only 5 months old I think I'm going to return it and go to the Mac Store.
Ironically, I just clicked in on your blog and saw that the topic was PC or MAC???
It's a sign.

Unknown said...

I have been using mac for years as designer/artist, adapting for use in teaching, in my studio to enlarge photos for references, along with photographing my artwork for posting on blog and website.

The laptop is a bit more but I get much more use out of it, being portable. I have a 17 inch macbook pro (for 3 1/2 years) and use it to teach both onground and online art classes, run slide shows, etc. Being able to move easily from home to studio to wifi coffee shop if I want. I have a 24 inch display in my studio, to plug in to enlarge reference photos for paintings.

Love the macbook pro with 17 inch screen. They call it a portable studio, and I use it like that.

Get applecare - insurance policy - they fix pretty much everything for free (except water damage, etc.) for 3 years.

find someone who is a student or teacher, and buy your software with the education discount. Makes a huge difference in price, but the software version is the same.

Monitor Mounts said...

Many designers also grew up the Apple Mac GUI and believe it to be more focused on creative aspects than other operating systems. In particular, color calibration and WYSIWYG issues are often thought to have been dealt with better on Macs than on PCs.

Rizstar Almost said...

Well, but they all are the same .

The difference are operation system, design interface, different format and you may explore any things you want to know more .

Windows format is NTFS and while MAc format is HFS, sometimes it's quite frustrating when it comes to portable hard drive whatever you read and write the files you want to transfer . So I use Paragon NTFS to enable transfer any files on mac.

Sometimes, people know nothings about computer when they are working as visual artist and they use mac because they just being creative about art. So it's ok for them,

If you want to use mac , think twice whether you want mac to be portable then go for macbook pro 13 or otherwise you want something powerful machine and graphics , go for 15 inches .

If use for home, go for imac or mac pro but just consider what your value got into.

I'm been using PC (Laptop and Desktop) and now I got Imac 21.5 inches 2011 and it running like a champ and couldn't stop looking on the screen. I use for adobe software and designer . For bootcamp, it's for gaming on window 7 64bits for free time. Dont have to worry.

The best is you can reapply thermal paste on CPU and GPU with arctic sliver 5 after using mac for few years times.

But have a good luck for you.

Making A Mark said...

I'm afraid your advice is about 2.5 years too late - which is the length of time I've been the happy owner of a 27" iMac

Making A Mark said...


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