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Article ED00011: Mac versus PC - Which is best?


The great debate over Mac vs PC will no doubt go on for many years to come, but before you decide which way to go in your planning it is VERY important that you understand the real issues.


All scenarios where the pros and cons of Mac and Windows are being debated.


Mac vs PC

First, it is important to note that Music EDnet supports both platforms with extensive experience working with schools with all Macs, all PCs and mixed networks.

In isolation the choice between PC and Mac tends to be a very emotional issue, mostly based on personal experiences and historical industry norms. In reality, either platform will meet your requirements, although some software differs and there will be pros and cons either way. Macs are certainly dominant in the publishing and graphic design industries due to the history of software development… ALL originally developed for Mac from as early as 1984. These industries have largely continued with the Mac platform, however virtually ALL major applications are now on both platforms and perform identically.

The Computer Hardware

Apple has a distinct advantage in terms of hardware consistency. Besides the design (which most would acknowledge is trend-setting), Apple hardware is reliable and durable. PCs of course are manufactured by many companies and quality can vary… and with so many permutations of hardware components comparison can be difficult (particularly motherboards, graphics cards, sound etc). However, from our experience when comparing Macs and PCs appropriately configured for music/audio/video/graphics, the performance and reliability are equally very high and costs somewhat similar. Education pricing of Macs can be marginally higher than similarly performing PCs, however the bundled iLife® software suite helps to offset this.

A significantly lower priced desktop PC is almost certainly an indicator of poorer performance or build quality… or both.

Mac OSX vs Windows Software

Many major music, audio (and video and graphics) applications are available for both platforms, although sometimes versions differ. In general, if a difference exists, the Windows version will be released first. Some applications are platform specific with no direct equivalents (eg ACID Music Studio), but there is usually a way to perform similar functions and achieve the same results.

The Mac iLife suite is good value (free!) with Garage Band (included in the iLife suite) being quite relevant. However, MixCraft is very similar on PC.

For high level audio recording Pro Tools (for example) is identical on either platform. ACID Music Studio (Windows only) on the other hand is the original audio loop song creation program and is certainly the best for detailed composition using loops plus the creation of new loops.

However …
Comparing applications such as ACID Music Studio and MixCraft on PC and Garage Band and Logic Express on Mac there are considerable similarities and also differences. But in an educational context, the processes and final results will be similar.

School IT Infrastructure

This is by far the most important factor. From our experience there are very few schools that successfully manage dual platform networks. Most schools are solely PC or Mac. In some cases a PC based school may have a single lab or small pod of Macs, typically for media/graphics/design (influenced by industry norms), but often these are not networked or are locally networked and isolated from the main school network.

Dual Boot options with Intel Mac – It is now possible to utilize Mac hardware and run it under either Windows or Mac OSX, so in theory you can get the best of both worlds. However, if you wish to do this it is important not to use Windows in a virtual environment (ie using Parallels or VM Fusion or similar) where you are running Windows within a Mac OSX environment. This will be problematic when connecting specific music/audio hardware. You should only operate Windows under BootCamp (ie booting the computer in Windows). Secondly, Pro Tools, while dual platform, should (in most cases) be run under Mac OSX. It will not work with the MBox series hardware, for example, under Windows/Bootcamp …. But there is no problem on a Windows PC.

Our strong recommendation is NOT to mix platforms unless there is a clear understanding of all the operating systems and networking protocols.

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