Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Which is the best computer for artists?

Three years ago I was faced with the need to buy a new computer.  My computer was obviously failing and I had very limited time to get a new one before it failed completely.

So I asked you for your help - and you were stunning with the comments, advice and help you provided.  It was invaluable and I can't thank you enough.

I'm minded to do the same exercise again - not because I need a new computer but because this is the type of major expense we all have to face from time to time and it's good to hear the views of our peers.

Plus both hardware and software have progressed enormously in the last three years - so the answers may now be different from the answers then.

I'd love to hear from you - and so the question I'm posing is........

Which is the best computer for artists?

Today I'm going to repeat the questions I asked three years ago (slightly revised) when I sought your advice as to which was the best computer for an artist

This time it's for the benefit of other readers of this blog who, from time to time, are faced with the question of what to get next.

BEFORE YOU READ ON please answer the following questions.

You can leave them as a comment on this blog or maybe answer them elsewhere and reference this post. (note moderation might be slower than usual as it's going to be via my iPad)
WHICH COMPUTING SET UP IS BEST FOR ARTISTS and people using large graphics and/or video files?
  • SAY WHICH IS BEST - a PC or Mac - and why.
  • PLEASE SPELL OUT WHY you like your favourite machine - and tell me what it is
  • If an Apple Owner tell me WHICH APPLE IS BEST for artists? 
  • If you have a view about what you think works best and/or specific aspects of specifications or versions or software and/or whether it is worth updating DO TELL !
My Apple iMac is 3 years old on 7th March 2013

Tomorrow is the last day of the three years of warranty and after care and it's going back to the Apple Store at Bluewater to have its DVD repaired.  It stopped working at the end of last year - in the middle of the Seagate hard drive fiasco and a huge number of owners needing their hard drives replaces.

I faced being without my iMac for two weeks so resolved to have it fixed before the extended warranty ran out.

(Which incidentally means blogging is going to be a bit hit and miss until I get it back - hopefully by the weekend or early next week)

My experience in the last three years

I have to say using a computer in last three years has been a complete and utter contrast to the previous few years of expensive laptops failing one month after the 12 month warranty finished and PCs blowing up because their fans were completely underpowered relative to the gubbins stuffed in the box.  I no longer feel as if I'm going to pass out in high summer because of the heat generated by the computer !

Setting up on Day 1
This shows a normal format photo in full screen on the HD screen
It now sits on top of the Yellow pages for East London and a Board game
I wish it were easier to find something to put the screen on which enables you to adjust
to the correct viewing height to avoid back and neck pain
I now have a computer which is very simple to use. It's also silent, does not overheat or make 'funny' noises, never fails to start and very rarely falters.  On top of that I've enjoyed the best customer service ever - on the phone and in the store!
  • I'm on my third mouse - changeover was not a problem (DO buy the charger which comes with three sets of batteries which are designed for the Magic Mouse - and do make a difference!)
  • I've had minor glitches which have been sorted out on the phone - usually software related
  • one learns not to put the SD card in the DVD slot!
  • I now back up every hour on the hour without ever thinking about it - outrageous!
  • the only major issue has been the DVD failure - and that's being replaced under warranty.
The only thing I wish I'd done was bought one with more memory.  As it happens I can slot more in and will probably get round to doing that one day instead of cursing when I have 57 image-intensive tabs open!

They're breeding!

The power of excellent performance and very good customer service is absolutely amazing!  Since I bought mine, I've bought a 21" version for my elderly mother - which she finds relatively easy to use and even "he who must not be bored while I sketch" finally gave in and after he retired finally bought himself the latest 21" version.

I gather there are also a few of you out there who also bought an iMac on the strength of my reviews of my happiness with my iMac!
TIP:  When testing out different computers take some well-loved and 'testing' photos with you on an SD card or USB drive so you can test the quality of the screen.  You'll be amazed at how much you learn when looking at your own photos.
The benefits for my eyesight

In the last three years my eyesight has deteriorated a lot.  When I bought it I was buying with a view to wanting an excellent screen - but was thinking more art than eyesight.  That said it has been a huge boon to me as I've had to increase the size of the font on the screen and change the way I work with documents.

Hence I highly recommend a 27" iMac to anybody with defective and/or deteriorating eyesight

The benefits for my hands

My wired keyboard has been absolutely amazing - right up until the point when I emptied half a mug of tea over it yesterday!  It's very nearly OK but has lost it on a couple of keys.  I'll pick a new one up tomorrow when I'm in the Apple store rather than continue to use my Microsoft back-up  keyboard.  That's because the Apple keyboard has had the most amazing benefit for the very bad tenosynovitis in my right hand.  The soft-touch Apple keyboard means no problems with vibration and the amount of extra travel with a conventional keyboard.  So no pain and no need for strapping or a brace.

So - if you have arthritic hands or tenosynovitis or anything similar I highly recommend an Apple keyboard.

(Note: I'm less impressed with the wifi version because of the lack of case for travelling, the fact the keys fall off if wrapped for travel and the fact that if you forget to take your batteries out as an occasional only user you'll find they refuse to come out!)

The quest, the journey and the immediate aftermath!

These are the posts which recorded my quest for information to help me make the decision as to what was the next computer going to be.

Have a read through if you're having a think about what to buy next and see what what I found out and what people have to say.

The PC versus Mac for Artists debate 
  • PC vs Mac for artists - explaining the reason for the exercise and inviting views - which attracted 50+ comments
  • PCs versus Apple Mac - for artists (Part 2) - in which I tried so summarise what people were saying in the first post and I created a chart of recommendations - and which also got a lot of comments
  • Decision time: pros and cons of PC vs Mac for artists - in which I explained my own particular set-up and key considerations - and then applied these to analysis of what I'd found out to date (not all of which is on this blog. I've been looking at websites for a long time)
  • PC vs Mac update: questions about the iMac 25 Feb 2010    Mac keyboard: I'm still not really sure about the Apple iMac keyboard. I liked the keyboard action but found it cramped. I don't quite understand the point of having a very small keyboard if you've got a very large screen!
After the iMac came home
  • Journal of an iMac Virgin #1 08 Mar 2010    These are the blog posts concerned with my decision to change to an iMac - caused in the first part by a pretty terrible record with PCs of in the last three years and absolutely dreadful noises coming out of the latest big box.
  • Journal of an iMac Virgin #2 13 Mar 2010    I've been using the iMac for long hours since Monday and have generally been enjoying the experience with interludes of frustration while I try and work out how to do something. I'm not a lover yet - but I could be!  A summary of Pros, Comments and Cons!

It took a little while to learn
the new shortcuts for the keyboard commands
  • Techie: How to remove a CD or DVD from an iMac 22 May 2010   It's frightening when you've got a CD or DVD in your iMac AND the drive disappears from Finder AND the eject button on the keyboard does not work.
  • Journal of an iMac Virgin #3 07 Jun 2010   I've now had my iMac 3 months and I'm not giving it back. That said I have given my Magic Mouse back and got another one. More about that later.
One year later
  • Happy Birthday to my iMac 07 Mar 2011   Today is my iMac's first birthday! A year ago today I bought an iMac and started out on my love affair with Apple. A year later I am the proud owner of a one year old 27" Apple iMac, an iPad and my other half no longer protests
Three years later
  • I sometimes think my other half thinks I love my iMac more than him!

Do please leave a comment and 
share your experiences with computers with other artists who read this blog. 
I'll provide an update and summary of what people think in a future post.

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  1. It has to be Mac. I had a design company for many years and bought my first Mac in the late 1980s (it was a b/w classic and I have owned nothing but Macs ever since. My two sons, one of whom is a computer whiz also swear by them. Reasons - they have always been faster at Raster processing in Photoshop which is critical for artists. You do not need lots of software - Photoshop is the Daddy and I would recommend Quark Xress or Adobe InDesign. Adobe have now made it much simpler and you can just pay a monthly charge for cloud software - Creative Suite is all you will ever, ever need (it also comes with Acrobat Professional which will enable you to make state of the art pdfs for PDFs - Forget Microsoft Office, it's 'orrible. If you need a spreadsheet get Apple Maths. Macs in my experience are far more reliable (I've owned lots and never had a single problem - or a virus!
    The imacs are great, personally I have a Macbook Pro which I use in the house and then take up to my studio where I plug it in to a wall mounted Apple Cinema Display on which can bring up my reference pictures as if I were actually looking at the scene while I paint. It's not necessarily the model, it's more the software - Photoshop, Photoshop, Photoshop. The onlty downside with Macs is the cost, but you really do get what you pay for. All the professionals I know use them...

  2. Like you Katherine I was PC years ago and it wasn't until I began using an iMac that I fully appreciated it. Ironically my Mom who is not really a tech person bought one first. She also was first in the family to buy an iPod and iPad! That confirmed what I had heard before owning one myself, that Macs, and Apple really, are more intuitive.

    My PC got a virus, was running out of memory and was rapidly becoming outdated. I had also heard that Macs were better for artists. I decided to weigh PC's against Macs. Since my Mom had one I was able to really delve into it and see firsthand how it worked. I was hooked. Bought an iMac 24" in 2008 and never looked back. I have no desire for a PC.

    I will second all above by Paul Simmons, then touch on another subject other than programs used by artists.

    Design, Apple always seems to be out ahead and I am not just referring to the product design, the exterior shell, I am really referring to how everything looks up on the screen, the windows.

    Apple has better designers, far better.
    If not already their motto or a mantra it could be 'Design first then make the tech part of it work'.
    But not just to make it nice looking. Instead GOOD DESIGN FOR A REASON.

    PC's, I suppose I should say Microsoft, seem to employ tech minded people to design the software.

    Has anyone else noticed how much harder on the eyes Microsoft software is, their windows etc, how it all looks?
    Once I was able to use a (Mom's) Mac and still go back home and use a PC I really began to notice this.

    My eyes tire far faster on a PC. I still have family and friends who use PC's so I still use them from time to time and I think their graphics and such are not well thought out. Macs, Apple is easy on the eyes. I think this is still true.

    I think Steve Jobs always had that in mind. Make Apple products intuitive and easy to use thru design. That really is the core of what good design is meant to be. Of course it all has to work from a tech point of view as well but I have the sense that Microsoft has never really put that first.

    Customer service is no competition. Apple care is the best. And Apple does not outsource. Anyone you speak to in customer service knows their stuff.
    I'm sure I heard somewhere that to work for Apple you have to attend some kind of school or training to learn all their products first.

  3. 3 years is not that old for an iMac. I have a 2008 macbook which I just upgraded by putting in more ram and a new, bigger, hard drive.

  4. Katherine, I have a Fujitsu Lifebook which I rely on to upload photos from my digital camera. It has at least one feature that you may find useful,a spill resistant keyboard!
    I find my iPad invaluable as an easily portable portfolio. I use Adobe Photoshop Elements on the laptop to edit photos and adjust exposures which enables sketching in the studio with a degree of similarity to being there. My next favorite application is Dropbox. This is Cloud storage but, unlike Apple's iCloud, it works. Any pictures taken on my smartphone or iPad are immediately available to edit or print on the laptop and it is free.
    Also Cloud storage takes care of backup as all associated photos and documents are stores and and changes made stored as separate documents.
    Price is a major factor. Dropbox is free, Windows PCs cheaper than Mac and Photoshop Elements has the functionality that I need.

  5. I have no apple computer yet, although that's what I would like to get next. But I do have an iPad. I have now gone paperless; it serves as alarm, calendar, notepad, timely reminder of events and things I don't want to forget and an instant portfolio for my own artwork and my students' artwork that I can pull out at any time to show. It has now become indispensable. I can also connect to the Internet through WIFI wherever it is available when I travel....also a very important feature for me. I do not have to pay for a monthly plan for Internet unless I choose to...or I can buy a short term plan, say one month if it is necessary. Very portable...I have it with me at all times.

  6. I don't think it makes the slightest bit of difference unless your budget is tight (in which case go for a PC) or you have a significant investment in software for one or the other.

    The use of Apple products in the arts and media is an accident of history. I don't believe it says anything about the current capabilities of PCs vs Macs.

    I don't like the way Apple tries to lock you in to their products however. I don't have an iPod or iPhone for that same reason. Microsoft made the PC architecture open to all and this has paid off in the huge range of suppliers and products available.

    One area where product design has come up trumps for Apple is probably the iPad, but Android and Windows tablets are rapidly catching up.

  7. Similar positive Mac experiences here, regarding reliability, usability and durability. Only had the oposite experiences with Windows PCs. Was marginally swayed when researching colour management as OS X doesn't support 10 bit colour even if the underlying hardware does. In practice though 8 bitb / 10 bit makes no discernible difference, there are other issues more important to consider when looking for a monitor needed for colour critical work.

  8. Mac. Despite the eye-watering initial expense, it is worth every penny to me. I am not very technical so can only describe my personal likes, No 1 no need to have firewalls, McAfee or similar or even have to EVER worry about it. Brilliant. No 2 it doesn't go wrong or when, exceptionally it does, Apple are brilliant. My MacBook "broke" - hard drive failure whatever that means - when it was at least 18 months out of warranty. Apple couldn't mend it despite trying so they gave me a new one. No 3 I can use it, it is really easy and No 4 the computer doesn't do things behind your back. My old PC was forever updating crap in the background slowing me down and sometimes changing things and it NEVER asked me first which infuriated me. My Mac is so much more polite.

    By the way, my Desktop Mac was born in 2007 and has had extra RAM fitted and is doing just fine. I also have a laptop and an iPad, which is a reckless extravagance.