Mac vs. PC: The Webcomics Edition (Part 2)

I’m back for round 2, people. Tackling the difference between Macs and PC’s, as of 2011…. and when it comes to creating webcomics. In Part 1 of this article, I laid out the Pros and Cons of Macs…. the price vs. the value, the security vs. the accessibility, and the customer service vs. the speed of obsoltetion. That’s right, I am coining a new word, take notes people.

I have both a Windows-7-running Tablet PC as well as Power Mac G5, so I see the differences pretty clearly. I feel as though I can make  pretty educated argument for either, and today I am tackling the Dark Side (or so my graphic-design-schooling background hath beat into me)… The PC and Windows Format. (all my designer apple-hugging geek friends, look away… just look away.)

  • It’s not 1995 anymore. Or 2005 for that matter. Not that the stigma still isn’t there, but WAKE UP, friends. Windows 7 has arrived, and heck.. Windows XP wasn’t all that bad, was it? (Now Vista, we’ll forget about. Consider Windows 7 the “Do Over”) . Point being, for graphic design software that most of us comic creators use, Windows 7 and the modern PC handles it quite well. As well as *gasp* a Mac, even. So, let’s get over that, huh? Generally speaking, unless you are a creating your comics to be billboard size and then animated into a high-def feature film, you’ll do just fine with a PC. (yes, that still kinda hurts to say… darn that apple-cult-training back in 1998.)

*note: this is not really a “PRO” over apple. It is simply stating the playing field is level now.

  • Thrifty Savings. When you think of Apple.. you tend to see dollar signs. And you would be right. But you’d also see pretty rigid standard settings for that money. PC’s come in such a variety of brands and most brands allow you to customize… which in the end saves you cash… if you know what to pimp out and what to cut back on. If you are knowledgeable and thrifty, you can get exactly what will make YOUR comics BEST…for less than what apple will charge you. Probably much less. Beware of the super cheap brands and not paying attention to the specs, you could end up with a dud when for a couple hundred more and some research you could be a very happy PC owner. So, do your homework first!
  • The World at your Fingertips. The internet makes your life easy when you have a PC, when it comes to finding “an app for that”. Softpedia.com, Tucows.com, Download.cnet.com, and many many other websites offer freeware, shareware and the like for almost anything you want to do on your PC. Want to convert that video to a format you can upload to your WordPress site? Done. Or maybe a font manager? Sure. Just beware of male-ware and have that anti-virus software up to date.
  • Endurance. As you may know already, one of my pet peeves about Apple is how FAST your computer becomes obsolete. PCs generally don’t have as much of an issue when it comes to the lifespan of the computer. You can crank out the RAM, replace video cards or buy a new mouse years and years after your purchase without feeling the pressure to update. (This was my reason for updating my G3 Mac.. I could not for the life of me find a MOUSE that would work with anything less than OS X). If you buy a good PC.. like a good car.. you can probably run that thing into the ground.
  • The Tablet Laptop PC. Although Apple has the iPad, and yes it’s pretty nifty, many PC brands like Dell, Levono, and Gateway, offer a Tablet laptop. Unlike the iPad, Tablet Laptops allow you install the high-end software like Adobe and Manga Studio, and often have wacom technology and pressure-sensitivity that allow you to draw right on the screen with a stylus. Here’s the one I have, under $750 now (though discontinued). Rumors abound with apple finally releasing their own convertible tablet, but we all know how MUCH that’ll cost. And the modbook that is available now (not an official apple product) is quite expensive as well. It should be noted, however, that the sensitivity that these types of Tablets offer, cannot compare to the almighty Cintiq (but costs as much as the modbook!) I spent just under $1K for my Tablet laptop, running Windows 7, and the sensitivity works fine for me. I prefer the Mac OS, but for the price what I have works and is worth the extra money, time and effort spent on malware-fort-building.

  • Troubleshooting. There will come a time with any computer when fixing it goes beyond your expertise… whether you’re a novice or an uber-geek-IT-guy. And you have to take it to the SuperGeeks-R-Us Repair shop. With Macs, you take it to… uh… Apple. Or call their pretty decent customer service technical support line. With PCs, and their never-ending varieties and dealers… who do you call? You have a sick HP model. Do you call Best Buy where you got it? Or HP? Or Microsoft? How long will you be on the line? Where is there a Microsoft store? With all these expansive options, it may get confusing. Not to mention the risk of dealing with less-than-ideal tech guys at retail stores who may not know as much as a trained professional for a specific company. Finding a good PC-repair guy is like finding a good mechanic- when you find one, swear by ’em. Okay, no more car similes.
  • Viruses, Trojans, Spyware, Oh my! Remember how nice it was to have instant access to any freeware applications you wanted? Yeah, that comes with a price. Speaking from personal experience, my poor PC has been infected badly twice in 2 years.. and I consider myself pretty “street-smart” when it comes to not downloading dumb stuff or falling for “click me” ads. Never had that problem.. ever… with my Mac. For over 10 years. So, again… to be a good PC owner, you better do your homework and be smart about what you do and where you go online. Or you’ll spend that evening you were SUPPOSED to be cranking out a comic fighting a virus that won’t let you open any software.
  • Bare Essentials. Often when you get your PC, you’ll notice the OS is pre-installed. Microsoft, to save money and keep people from messing with operating systems too much, often does not include an installation disc with the computer itself. This also means no way to restore the OS if your computers goes kaput. You have to order a disc, or go out and buy it. Same goes for a lot of the out-of-the-box extras. Macs comes with lots of goodies pre-installed (font management software, for instance) and your handy installation AND restore discs for safe-keeping. With PCs, you’re on your own.
  • OS under lock & key. This one’s a bit of a personal preference. But my guess is that most people who do webcomics are computer-savvy enough to relate to my opinion here, so hear me out. One of the first issues I had with my PC, after years of being weaned on a Mac, was hacking into my own friggin’ system. To make my PC be able to connect to my trusty Mac. Vista was cleverly (and fittingly) programmed to see Macs as a threat, and therefor not able to transfer files to or from a Mac. To fix this issue, I had to do hours of research and learn how to hack into the Vista OS and reprogram the OS. I found this infuriating that I had to dig through the system that was deeply buried and hard to navigate. This is why I slightly prefer the Mac OS; everything is laid out in a way that makes sense to me, and is easily accessible… to me, the OWNER of the computer. Now, I’ll admit, Windows 7 fixed a lot of the issues (including seeing my Mac as a threat).. but the OS is still hidden away. And that irks me. As I said, personal preference… but to me it seems Macs are laid out as if it is expected that the owner will have a clue, and windows are dummy-proof. I’m not a fan of constantly using Child Safety Gates if I don’t have kids around.

That’s pretty much it, folks. No, I do not have a final conclusion about which is better, so if you’re looking for an exact brand and model number to write down and take shopping… you missed the point of this article. Know your needs. Educate yourself. Figure out your budget. Weigh the pros and cons and make your own decision on a computer that works for YOU.

And happy computer shopping!

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Posted in Featured News, Helpful Hints, Tech and tagged , , , , , , , .

14 Comments

  1. I have the same problem with my work PC viewing my MAC OS formatted flash drive as a threat. It always tries to erase it if I slipped and brought the wrong drive with me from home. Yet my Mac has no trouble seeing or using a Windows formatted disk.

    Great series of articles by the way Dawn. While i am an Apple fan boy, I do use a PC at work. Both connect to the internet and do what I need them to do just fine. The playing field is way more even now than it was in the nineties.

  2. There’s not really any significant difference between a Mac and a PC since systems that come preloaded with OS X 10.4 and Vista. All the differences boil down to the OS interaction with the application and hardware. If you’re using Photoshop, it’s exactly the same on Windows and OSX.

    From the hardware standpoint, a Mac is a complete and pretty much final package, ready to go out of the box. You can upgrade the RAM and hard drives on all of them (the MacMini requires a pizza cutter.) Video cards aren’t upgradeable on any model except the Mac Pro, and if you invest in one of those, you’re likely keeping it a while.

    On the Windows PC, the cheapest system will work, but the cheapest system will be woefully underpowered, and you can be sure to spend nearly as much as the equivalent Mac to get the same quality hardware and stability as OS X, so if your goal was to only save money with a Windows machine… no don’t do that.

    A frequently overlooked reason for Apple’s pricey hardware is that they use laptop-grade, low-power parts for all models except the Mac Pro (Where they use server-grade parts.) The iMac models, and Macbook Pro’s use H-IPS screens, which are the high quality color reproduction types. You don’t get these in any Windows laptop except for a few high-end models that cost more than the Mac. Apple has not used desktop-grade parts (which is what everyone else sells) since the G4.

    So if you want a complete Comic/Photo computer, you can just buy Adobe Photoshop for the Mac and off you go. If you are trying to be as cheap as possible you could assemble (or have a friend build a system) that runs Windows… or Linux… and use free software like the Gimp (photoshop clone) or Inkscape (Illustrator Clone, sorta.)

    **Note, wanting to use existing software licenses, graphics tablets or the desire to use a Cintiq as a cost decision work against switching between Windows and a Mac. If you already have the Mac or Windows version of software, don’t switch, otherwise you’ll have to trade/cross-upgrade your licences for the other platforms version, or buy new entirely.

    • Hi Kisai! Great summary.. I agree with all points! Good job breaking down the most high-end option vs. the bare-bones option that will get you the most bang-for-your-buck. There are SO many options, it all depends what’s going to keep you happily making comics!

      and great point about the aftermath of switching mac-to-pc or vice versa. There’s more to think about than the actual purchase.

      Thanks for your comment, hope to see you around here in the future!

  3. One note on OS CD for Windows (any release) is that you do get one in the box when you order from Dell. This is by no means an ad for Dell, but every single PC I have purchased from them had a OS CD included so if something went wonky or kablooey, then at least I had a CD to reinstall the OS with.

  4. I was a Windows guy for many years but I grew tired of it after spending nearly ten years in tech support fixing it. I truly hate the mess that is the Windows Registry. It was the bane of my existence during the years I was a tech support guy.

    I got my first Mac in 2005 but I didn’t make the full switch until about three years ago. Is it perfect? No but I admit that I spend less time doing tech support and more time on getting the important things done.

    In my opinion, there are two main factors that should determine what OS you should use. If you’re an adaptive type of person, though, you can make either one work for you. Sometimes it really breaks down to personal preference.

    The first main factor is software compatibility. If most of the software you like is for Windows, then you’re obviously not going to want a Mac. That goes double if you’re big on playing computer games. While there are plenty of games for OSX now, the majority are Windows only. For the most part, though, software companies release stuff for both systems but the level of support between the two can vary.

    The second main factor is whether or not you’re particular when it comes to specific pieces of hardware. When you go with a Mac, your choices are limited as to what you can get inside your machine. It’s even more limited if you can’t the price of a Mac Pro. With a Windows box, you have a near unlimited choice of hardware to go with. If that’s your thing, you’ll want to stay away from a Mac.

    The great thing about a Mac is that you can have the best of both worlds since Windows does run on Intel macs. While I use primarily use OSX on the two iMacs in my studio, I have Virtual Box available with a Windows XP install on it. There are a few programs I need that are still only available on Windows and it’s pretty easy to set it all within OSX.

  5. I use a Mac at home equipped with a Cintiq and a PC at work similarly equipped.
    The Mac beats the panties off of the PC. The PC is constantly dropping the tablet drivers, mishandling my files, crashing Bridge etc.
    Mac never has any problems. For me, the best choice for comic making and storyboarding will always be my Imac.

  6. At work I currently run with a PowerPC G5 with OS 10.5, and at home I have a Dell StudioXPS running Win7. I’ve had no cross-platform issues at all.

    I’ve been using “Dropbox” as a means of transferring files between computers and it has been absolutely fantastic. I can work on an Illustrator file at home and do my pencils, then finish the inks and text at work without having to copy to a USB drive or e-mail, etc.

    The days of cross platform problems seem to be behind us. As for platform preference, I strongly recommend you try both extensively and find out which one ‘feels’ right before drawing the line in the sand.

  7. I bought my first Mac in 1995 after 2 years of dealing with DOS. Windows wasn’t even an option, yet. Got tired of keyboard commands, and the DOS prompt. The Mac was 6200 PPC running 7.5. Old. It still boots and works. I still have all 8 of my Macs, the only reason I have my Windows PC is I haven’t taken the time to pull the drives out and put them in to a USB case.

    Like with any big purchase, I always tell people to do research, then more research. Be educated. Great articles.

  8. Thanks everyone for your insight and letting me know what you use to make comics! I’m sure it’s very helpful for those deciding between a mac and PC, to hear what others use and why they like (or dislike) it. Sorry I can’t reply to each one of you individually today, busy preparing for my honeymoon in JAMAICA! In ONE day! woo hoo!

    Keep on keepin’ on. ;0)

  9. One thing I’d like to point out, while a pre-built windows machine sometimes doesn’t come with a restore CD the software will always allow you make a restore disk of your own. Just toss in a blank CD and you can burn a custom disc specified to your systems configuration.

    Also… we don’t talk about Vista… we also don’t talk about WinME… they didn’t happen.

    • Hi Michael. I actually have NO experience with a Linux machine… and the bulk of computers out there being utilized by comic creators are Macs or Windows machines…. so, finding comic-specific reviews on Linux is quite hard. If you have a Linux machine, or experience with one, please share some pros and cons!!!
      We at the WA don’t claim to know everything, we just share what we DO know and encourage our community to do the same!

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