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Graphic Design on a Mac or PC: Which hardware and OS Should Graphic Designers Choose

Traditionally within the Graphic Design for print industry, Apple Macs were very much king, but should a Graphic Designer invariably choose an Apple Mac when setting up their studio or upgrading equipment?

In the dark and distant past, there may have been some issues when sharing files across the platforms, even when produced in the same software, but that isn’t an aspect that needs to be considered in this day and age when choosing a platform.

Cost

Cost is always going to be one of the most important considerations for any business when making purchasing decisions. It’s widely believed that Apple Macs are more expensive, but in reality that isn’t always the true case.

A number of sites and magazines have run comparison of as near like-for-like as possible Apple Macs and PCs and found that the price difference is generally small or non-existent. In some cases Macs prove to be the cheaper option. ComputerWorld have an interesting comparison article at their site.

Where PCs do have a big advantage is in sheer range of choice. Ignoring the Mac Mini, Apple offer two desktop machines and two laptops. These are available with different configuration options, particularly the Mac Pro machines, but there is nowhere near the breadth of choice available to a Windows PC buyer.

Performance

There are plenty of people on both sides who claim performance advantages for each platform and there are sites across the internet backing up both side’s claims with real figures from benchmarking tests.

In practice the performance offered is closely linked to cost of the machine and in day to day usage, most Graphic Designers won’t discern any difference from one platform to the other.

Apple does however have an advantage over Windows PCs as their operating system, OS X, is only licensed for use on Apple hardware, meaning that the system can be optimised for use with a limited range of hardware components.

Windows on the other hand has to perform with a huge range of hardware and software configurations, and in the real world this can lead to conflicts that may impact on performance.

Availability of Software

For Graphic Designers, the industry standard software choices (Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign and Quark Xpress) are available for both platforms. Designers who have chosen the open source route of Gimp, Inkscape and Scribus also have the option of choosing either platform.

Looking into shareware and freeware, Windows generally has a wider range, though there are usually some equivalents for Apple Macs. Where Macs score an advantage is being able to run open source software that has been designed for Linux, using Fink or Darwinports.

In cases where there is no equivalent of a Windows application available, Apple Macs can run Windows via Boot Camp or using emulation software such as Parallels Desktop. This does require the purchase of a Windows operating system which adds to the price and so in some cases looking into using Darwine may be worth the time and effort.

Alternative

As already mentioned, the open source community offer software alternatives to the best known proprietary solutions and Graphic Designers who value greater control over the way their computer looks and behaves, or just wants to save money, could consider setting up a Linux based machine. There are many options available and a wealth of support online, but it should be noted that there can be a little bit of a learning curve when first moving to Linux.

There isn’t a right or wrong decision for a Graphic Designer to make in this case and in the end the choice should come down to personal preference.

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