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Mac vs. PC: Is an Apple computer really better than a PC?

There are millions of hard-core MacBook Pro users who say they would never buy a Windows PC. They cite a variety of reasons for their Apple brand loyalty, ranging from the customer service is better, to the user interface is simpler, to the operating system in a Mac is just superior to Windows. But better for some may have a different meaning than it does for others.

There are some distinct advantages to using a MacBook Pro over a Windows PC. For one thing, OSX Lion is born with dozens of built-in Apps which are part of the operating system. They can easily be stored on Apple’s iCloud servers and shared on multiple devices, like other computers and iPhones.

While not impervious to viruses, browsing the web is considered safer on a Mac, because there are fewer hackers creating viruses for OSX than their are for PC’s. That is due in large part, to the fact that despite record iPhone sales for Apple, there are still more Windows PC’s in the world than MacBook Pros.

Compatibility and price are two factors that a lot of laptop buyers place at the top of their list. The MacBook Pro can cost several hundred dollars more than a Windows PC with a similar configuration. There are also more software programs that will run on a Windows PC than OSX, although that is slowly changing as more people use iPads and iPhones as well as laptops.

Surprisingly, the hardware on the current generation of MacBook Pro’s is not as high tech as some Windows PC laptops. For example, the Broadcom BCM43xx Airport Extreme network card found in a Late 2011 MacBook Pro, is primitive by today’s standards. It has been utilized by older Windows PC’s for more than a decade. That is expected to change with Ivy Bridge processors, which will bring Mac's and PC's closer together on starting point specs.

The most obvious difference between a MacBook Pro and Windows PC is the operating system and user interface. For people who have gotten used to using Windows, operations like finding and organizing files can be a challenge on Apple's Darwin OSX. Beyond that, programs that Windows users are accustomed to, like Microsoft Word, will not run on a MacBook Pro. Apple users must buy Word for Mac.

There are a variety of other Windows software conflicts that are difficult to get around on an Apple computer. Some Wi-Fi network adapters can underperform or not work at all on a MacBook Pro, where as on a Windows laptop, they are plug and play. For a Windows geek, using a MacBook Pro can be frustrating as well. There are numerous Windows registry tweaks to improve performance that simply cannot be done on OSX.

Making the switch from a Windows PC to a MacBook Pro can also be an expensive proposition, especially if it involves buying all new Apple compatible software, and replacing some or all of your home Wi-Fi networking equipment.

Still, there are clear advantages to both OSX and Windows. And while no one has come up with the perfect blend of both worlds, Apple comes close with Boot Camp, which creates a hard drive partition to run Windows 7 on, with some limitations. If you are running a 128GB SSD hard drive, for example, dividing it can leave you with too little memory to run both systems efficiently.

If you can afford the luxury of owning two laptops, having a Macbook Pro and Windows PC could let you create your own perfect world for computing. If you're just surfing and checking email, you could use your less-virus-prone MacBook Pro. If you need to unleash the power of a high-end PC for videos or gaming, you could open up your Windows machine, tweak some registry setting, and take all the speed you need.

Both Apple computers and Windows PCs have benefits and disadvantages. But often the choice comes down to cost. There are a plethora of custom order configurations available on most Windows PC's, so you can pay only for the upgrades you need. The MacBook Pro 13-inch, for example, has upgrade choices limited to hard drive and memory.

The wild card in the Apple vs. Windows PC world may be in the Ultrabook market. The MacBook Air may have set the standard for ultra-thin computers back in 2008, but in 2012, a Windows Ultrabook could be the laptop of choice. Windows machines generally run faster than OSX, are compatible with more software, and are becoming every bit as sleek and solidly built as an Apple computer.

By the end of this year, there may be more clear lines drawn in the 13-inch laptop market. If Windows Ultrabooks prove to be a better overall value for power and speed, then any advantages OSX has to offer may simply not be enough to dominate, unless of course Apple has a surprise in store that is designed to storm the market like the first iPad.

For the most part, technology has always been about buying the best that you can, limited mostly by how much you can pull out of your wallet.

Video: Mac vs. PC

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