Choosing the Right Laptop for College: Mac or P.C.?
You just got a letter of acceptance from the college of your dreams and are suddenly in a frenzy buying gear for college, realizing that a brand new laptop is in your near future. Do you get a Mac? Do you get a P.C.? The choices, the choices!
While Macs tend to be more expensive than their P.C. counterparts, are they worth it? What makes one laptop better than another? After several interviews with college students, I have begun to realize that it is all a matter of preference.
P.C. laptops, usually between $500 and $800, present themselves as an affordable option to computing needs, compared to Apple Mac computers, generally upward of $1,000. For this reason, several individual users and companies buying on a budget choose to purchase P.C.s. Theresa Mitchell, a first year at Wellesley College, states “there are many students overspending on Apple laptops…while they do offer several unique features, many of these features are useless and go unused by the majority of college student owners.” Theresa further notes “cost should be one of the highest considered factors when purchasing a laptop because college students and their families are often buying on a budget due to the high cost of everything else related to higher education. Aside from the high cost of Apple laptops, P.C.s are easy to use and are more widely implemented in libraries, on-campus computer labs, offices, etc.”
While there exists a large price gap between Macs and P.C.s, one must take into account the fact that Macs include many programs with the purchase price that have to be purchased à la carte for a P.C. When factoring in the cost of the additional programs, there is less of a price differential.
Several students interviewed at Wellesley College note that Apple laptops are better for projects with heavy emphasis on visual and audio features. Further, Apple is known for its mastery of user experience design – the clean and intuitive interface that Apple offers allows for users to quickly perform tasks, without having to think about implementation details.
Many students also reported they tend to have far less frequent problems with Apple computers compared to P.C.s. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Macs are not as targeted for viruses. According to Ally Pyres, a Wellesley College sophomore and an employee of the Wellesley College Computing Help Desk, “P.C.s often have a lot of little problems that can easily be fixed, so we see them a lot. With Macs, they don’t require as much day-to-day maintenance, but when something goes wrong, it tends to be a more serious issue. We see about ten times as many P.C.s as Macs.” Could it be that superior service offered by Apple, for example, the Genius Bar and Apple Care, is the reason that the Wellesley College Computing help desk sees so many more P.C.s than Macs? Many students have noted the superior service offered by Apple to be a reason for purchase of a Mac.
Generally speaking, college campuses are equipped to accommodate both Mac and P.C. laptops, and use software that can be used easily on either machine. In the rare case that a task must be accomplished on a Mac, rather than a P.C., or vice versa, many college campuses have both types of machines available for students to use.
Further, virtualization software, such as VMWare or Parallels, allows users to run multiple operating systems on a single machine, ultimately creating a virtual Mac or P.C. environment on your computer.
To complicate things even further, tablets are also becoming an option for college students. Over the past year, an increasing number of students have been using tablets in place of laptops. “My friend uses a tablet because she finds it more convenient – it’s light enough for her to carry around and therefore efficient for reading, allowing her to save paper,” says Kim Cabral, a senior at Wellesley College. Kim adds, “for the time being, tablets are not the best for word processing functionalities.”
Whichever computing device you ultimately choose will be your best friend during late nights studying, weekends writing papers, or minutes between classes checking Facebook. Even though the current question is Mac versus P.C. laptops, who knows what the future will hold in store for personal computing?