Mac vs. PC: which is better for music? This is an undying debate where numerous arguments have emerged but no clear consensus is within sight. While it may be true that Apple computers are over-represented among creative types, the intrinsic benefits of using one platform over the other has not yet been determined. The debate is further muddied by the fact that both Apple and Windows-based computers now run Intel processors. With all that being said, there are some reasons why buying Apple hardware for your digital audio workstation may be a better route.
The Short Race: Connectivity
This section will only apply to the very near term. As it stands now, the Apple camp may have one clear advantage: Thunderbolt. The latest MacBook Pro brought the next generation of peripheral interfaces called Thunderbolt. This was developed and introduced in a partnership between Apple and Intel, and for now, it will be exclusive to Apple computers. Why does it matter? Thunderbolt gets a whopping 20 Gb/s total bi-directional. Compare that to USB 3.0, which only gets 5 Gb/s for the time being and FireWire 800, which gets about 400 Mb/s and there’ almost no contest in terms of speed. Audio interfaces that use Thunderbolt are in development—Apogee has announced that it’s working on one, and other hardware makers will be wise to jump on the bandwagon.
The Long Race: Price
Apple’s marketing mantra is “it just works.” Compared to Windows computers, which are prone to hardware compatibility issues, viruses, worms and bloatware, that slogan seems incredibly true for Apple computers. Apple machines typically don’t require much fussing, tweaking and troubleshooting to get working. But there’s a reason for that.
When you buy a Windows computer, it could come from any number of OEMs, be it Dell, HP, Lenovo, Alienware, etc., etc. Furthermore, the innards of each computer will vary to a vast degree. One may have an AMD processor while the other might have an Intel processor .One might sport an ASUS motherboard while another may have a BioStar motherboard. There’s an infinite array of configurations you can get with a Windows PC. With a Mac, you’ve got about four or five configurations for each line. And this uniformity is what makes their legendary stability possible.
But the big, big drawback for Apple computers is that they aren’t nearly as upgradeable as Windows-based towers. You may be able to upgrade the hard drive, RAM and external peripherals. But for the most part, when you buy a Mac from the store, it’s what you’ve got until you throw it away and buy the next one. This, combined with the fact that Macs cost more than PCs and you’re in for a much higher price tag overall.
The last consideration when buying a Mac or a PC for audio is the software that each supports. The recognized gold standard in digital audio workstations—Pro Tools—works in both Mac and Windows environments, as do the bundled M-Boxes and other Pro Tools proprietary soundcards and interfaces. LMMS is also cross-platform, an Steinberg is responsible for both Cubase (Windows) and Nuendo (Win/Mac). But programs like Sonar, FruityLoops and Sony ACID Pro are Windows only, while GarageBand and Logic Studio are Apple only. If you are deadest on any of these programs, this decision should be easy for you.