Mac vs PC for Content Creators

Maybe you’re finding yourself in a similar situation to the one I found myself in recently - it’s time to buy a new computer for content creation but you can’t decide between a Mac or a PC.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

 My mid-2011 iMac setup at my custom built piece of crap monster desk

My mid-2011 iMac setup at my custom built piece of crap monster desk

Let me put this out there - I love Macs. I’m not a fan of Apple as a company. I don’t have an iPhone. I don’t care about iPads and Apple TVs and all that other crap.

But my uncle gave me a Macintosh II when I was a kid and since then I have owned many Macs, mostly of the iMac variety (though I’ve purchased several MacBooks for my wife over the years and the elementary computer lab I taught in was full of Mac Mini’s.)

That’s not to say I haven’t had any exposure to PCs - I used them throughout my high school and college years and taught school children on them for more than a decade. I’ve dealt with the frustrations of Windows 95 through Windows 7 and Windows NT. I was never fond of my Windows experiences (except the ones that involved Starcraft and Command & Conquer)

So when my mid-2011 iMac started to die a slow death in October of 2018 I knew I had a big decision to make.

CONTENT CREATOR

As a content creator, I work heavily in Adobe Premiere and After Effects. I round trip my color to Davinci Resolve. I send my audio to Audition. I use Lightroom and Photoshop to work on hundreds of photos and business ads. My iMac couldn’t handle 4K anything, was taking forever to boot up, and just becoming extremely sluggish.

So I hopped on over to the Apple page and took a look at their newest iMac offering, the iMac Pro, starting at $5000. I configured it to have the amount of RAM and hard drive space I thought I would realistically need - $6700. I let out one of those long whistles. You know what I’m talking about.

I’m okay with spending a chunk of money on a computer because I know that in a few months it will pay for itself, but this is more than a chunk. It’s several chunks.

As I started to read and watch reviews of the new iMac Pro and learn about the user experience, I started to think to myself that maybe it’s time to make the switch to a PC.

I mean, to pay $6700 for a computer that can’t be upgraded, not even for a simple thing like adding extra RAM, seems like a foolish move by both Apple and anyone who makes the purchase. Let’s not forget that Apple charges a premium for components you can buy for less in a PC build.

Many pros complained about the inability to upgrade and Apple responded with talks of a new Mac Pro, a modular, upgrade-able system, that will replace the aging trash can model. But that’s not dropping until 2019 and my money is on it being extremely expensive.

So, the choice I have to make seems obvious. I can’t wait until 2019 to buy a new computer. I need a faster machine now so I can spend less time hunched over at my desk editing and more time playing video games, - er, I mean, more time with my family. Yeah, that’s what I meant to say.

Wait, let me just run over to the Apple page and take a peak at the Mac Books. People love their Mac Books, right?

Well, maybe they do, but when you start comparing apples to apples, you’ll realize there is no comparison in terms of computational power between MacBooks and any mid-tier PC, laptop or desktop. I watched a ton of videos with tons of benchmark tests and the choice became more clear to me - I was making the switch to a PC.

RESEARCH

So I did what I do before I make any purchase - research. Way too much research. A mind boggling amount of research.

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In the end, I decided to go with a PC laptop that had an Intel processor, Nvidia graphics card, and a NVMe SSD. I made the decision to buy a laptop, instead of a desktop - a decision I hoped would give me more flexibility in where I can work on a day to day basis. I could have bought a more powerful desktop PC for the same price that I paid for the laptop, but some part of me appreciates the idea that one day I’m going to sit at the local coffee show and edit a project.

For the time being I’m still sitting at my desk.

I know you’re wondering what computer I ultimately purchased and let me tell you - I thought I had my mind up about 7 different times. In the end I came back around to the computer I had originally thought was the one - the Gigabyte Aero 15x.

SOME REAL FEELINGS

So I’ve been using a “gaming laptop” for about a month now instead of a Mac. I miss my Mac. I miss the OS. I miss how everything just worked. I missed how I could take a brand new Mac out of a box and in minutes have it up and running.

Out of the box, this PC was a mess. I spent a day installing drivers and updating twenty different things to make it suck less. I even called B&H at one point and asked what their return policy on open box computers was. I was told I cannot return it so I was stuck with my decision.

After a lot of tweaking I’m now at a point where I’m pretty happy with my new PC. I don’t know how to do benchmark tests and I don’t care. All I know is, It’s many times faster than my iMac and when editing off an external Thunderbolt 3 SSD it’s unbelievably fast. No more proxy workflow for me. It chews through 4K footage like my dog chews through my breakfast when I leave it on the counter and turn around for like 3 seconds. Just 3 little seconds and my breakfast is gone. Why does this keep happening?

 My new, minimal setup.

My new, minimal setup.

I can even play 4.6K Blackmagic RAW files in Davinci with no hiccups.

I was able to get drivers for my Apple Magic Mouse and I’ve connected my old iMac keyboard as I just could not get used to the travel on the laptop keys. Having my old Mac keyboard and mouse makes the switch a little less painful.

My new laptop can be upgraded and before the end of 2018 I plan on adding a stick of 16GB of RAM to get me to the max of 32GB. I’ll also be adding a Samsung EVO SSD where I’ll drop whatever footage I’m editing and offload to a slower external HDD when I’m done.

I had some real concern about the 10+ Mac formatted hard drives I own with archived and current projects on them and how I could integrate them with my new Windows machine. The solution was really simple and works flawlessly - a $50 program called MacDrive 10 by a company called MediaFour.

CONCLUSION

So I made the switch and in terms of productivity, this new, faster computer is saving me a ton of time. My renders are light years faster. I don’t need to create proxies for my 4K files. I have all the same programs I had on my mac. And all of this cost me $2400 as compared to the $6700 iMac Pro I had configured.

Am I switching for good? Not sure. I’ll definitely be paying close attention to the new Mac Pro releases in 2019, but I’m expecting the price tag to be very hefty. I’m hoping to get some good mileage out of this laptop and not have to make another computer purchase for at least 4 years.

So what should you do if you need to decide between Mac and PC for content creating?

Macs are nice. Macs have a great OS. Macs are easy to set up. PC’s are none of those things. But as processing technologies keep changing, PC’s keep up. Their upgrade-ability makes them a winner in my book.

BONUS

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In a creepy twist to this story - my iMac died the very next day after I got my new laptop. I left them sitting side by side overnight and when I started my mac in the morning I was presented with this screen. Apparently it’s a graphics card error that affected 2011-2012 macs. RIP iMac. You served me well.

So, are you still on the fence? Can’t decide? Need some help? Ask away. I’m here to answer any questions you have.

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