iMAC or another Windows machine

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by JID, Jul 1, 2010.

  1. JID macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2010
    #1
    Hi All,
    I've always built my own pc's (this is for home use, btw) and loaded windows or linux on them. Right now I have a six year-old machine running XP that is showing its age.

    The reasons I am considering a Mac are:
    - Windows requires running anti-virus, anti-spyware and a firewall, plus occasionally running scans with other anti-virus/anti-spyware software to make sure one is really keeping the thing clean.
    - I hate the Windows registry and how it can get "polluted" over time.
    - Windows doesn't run well with multiple processes.
    - Google Earth has been locking up lately.
    - I like Linux but it can be a struggle at times to get everything working well together.
    - I hate the noise that can often accompany a powerful ATX-style pc because of all the cooling fans that are required (and yes, I know this can be minimized with some effort and expense).

    I use my machine for surfing, playing music and videos (I don't do any editing other than simple edits of home photos), storing/organizing lots (~20,000 right now) of home photos, running Google Earth quite frequently (and this has been locking-up on my XP computer), word processing, some generic educational software for my kid (nothing super special), and doing some number crunching with math/stat software as part of my researches (yes, the software is available on mac, windows and linux).

    I do not have any desire to bring a computer with me when traveling as we usually go camping and thus have no internet access.

    So what do you think? Should I build another pc? Should I buy a mac? If so, which model?

    Thanks much,
    JID
     
  2. ewilson6 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    #2
    I would buy the 21 or 24 inch iMac.

    The internet is more secure plus you can partition your Hard Drive and put Xp Pro, or Windows 7 on it and boot up natively either operating system so that you get the best of both worlds. The mac can organize photos and music real easy through itunes and iPhoto.

    I would spend money on your first Mac and never look back!

    --Eric Wilson
     
  3. chown33 macrumors 604

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    Aug 9, 2009
    Location:
    Brobdingnag
    #3
    What's your budget?

    Is there a time deadline, beyond which you'd say "This is effed."?

    Which do you value more, adventure and exploration, or a safe predictable outcome?
     
  4. JID thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2010
    #4
    Hmm, the quote thingy didn't work right so I'll put the other reader's response in the >>>.

    I can see myself spending $2,000 but prefer cheaper.

    I can wait another few months as long as my current machine lasts that long.

    When it comes to food, travel, books, movies, I prefer adventure and exploration, but by gum golly when it comes to a computer I just want the thing to work. And I want it to work all the time. Is that what you're asking?

    BTW, thanks for the replies.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    What's your budget?

    Is there a time deadline, beyond which you'd say "This is effed."?

    Which do you value more, adventure and exploration, or a safe predictable outcome?
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
     
  5. MacSignal macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 8, 2010
    #5
    I am tempted to suggest a Mac Mini because you could use your PC peripherals and I think the processing power might be good enough. It's also about as quiet as you can get.

    A 21 inch iMac is arguably a better value for what you get with a higher upfront cost. It would also offer generally faster performance than the Mini. There is some speculation that a refresh could happen September/October, so you might want to see if you can hold off until then if you like the iMac option. Given there is some history of QC problems with the current model, I would also suggest buying from a local store where returning/exchanging is easy.

    Either Mac would be easily done for less than $2K with lots of cash left over.

    You may eventually enjoy a sensation of "it just works", but initially, you are going to have a relearning curve coming from Windows that will make the Mac more challenging to use as compared to just getting another PC.
     
  6. iMikeT macrumors 68020

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    Location:
    California
    #6
    I'm with MacSignal and want to suggest that you consider a Mac mini instead. The best thing you could do is go to an Apple store or if there isn't one near you, go to an authorized Apple reseller like Best Buy (I wish I could name a better place but like a parasite they're all over the place) and try out one of these machines before purchasing them. If you do go with the iMac however, wait until a refresh as it's due for one.
     
  7. chagla macrumors 6502a

    chagla

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2008
    #7
    - with the Opera browser (www.opera.com) , I can say you will remain virus/spyware free. firewall is already built in. having anti virus is not required but you can have it for peace of mind.
    - firstly, registry is there, but as a user you never have to open it? i don't understand why is that a concern. registry is a just a central repository of all windows settings. as in .conf files in linux which are text files.
    - doesn't run well with multiple processor? in what ways?
    - these days fans are very quiet.

    have you considered "DELL OPTIPLEX" models? they are high end business class pc's from Dell. run very quiet, long warranty, and comes in different size (tower, desktop, ultra small form factor etc).

    http://www.dell.com/optiplex
     
  8. chown33 macrumors 604

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    Aug 9, 2009
    Location:
    Brobdingnag
    #8
    No, I meant "adventure and exploration" more like: If you don't already know how Mac OS X works, and accept it as-is with all its strengths and weaknesses, you will continuously be hitting your head on the branches hanging from the 'It's not exactly like Windows' tree, or tripping over the 'That's not what I expected' shrubbery.

    And I agree with the Mac mini suggestions, for all the same plusses: peripherals usable with at most an adapter (video or audio), it runs very quiet, and so on. On the minus side: the new design may not have all the quirks shaken out.
     
  9. JID thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2010
    #9
    Hey, the quote thing worked. Excellent!

    You sound very confident in Opera. I am a Firefox user, have been pretty content with it, but there is still the occasional worry about something getting through. I'll research Opera.

    The registry grows large over the years. There are also alterations to variables as different pieces of software set different values. I'm not an expert, this is just what I've read. The net effect is slowdowns and occasional conflicts. I don't know if Macs have a similar problem or not.
    Related to this, I've had to reboot windows. Had to. I've had Linux machines running for ages with no problems and yet Windows had to be rebooted. Don't know why. Maybe all is better with Windows 7, I've heard good things about it. Of course I heard that about Windows 3.11, then 95, then 98, the Millenium, then NT, then 2000, then XP, then Vista.

    As for running multiple processes, I've had Windows lock up when I'm running several different applications at once. When I've had problems with Linux, or Solaris, or older versions of Unix, only one x-window would be affected. With Windows it has been my experience that the whole machine slows down because the cpu and/or memory are entirely devoted to the one messed-up process.

    Quiet fans would be wonderful.

    Okay, I'll check out those Dell Optiplexes. Even though I've enjoyed building my own pc's over the years, there's just no need for it anymore due to the variety and prices available. In fact, if they're cheap enough, maybe I'll buy one of those and a mac mini, or buy one of those and get an iMac for Christmas assuming there's a refresh, my family and I have talked about having two computers for quite some time anyway.

    Thanks to you and the others who've responded, I value your insights.
    JID

     
  10. JID thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2010
    #10
    One or two more questions

    Is the Mac Mini powerful enough for what I do? Let's say I have a browser window with a few tabs open, streaming music, and Google Earth, all running at the same time. Will that work fine? I'm thinking the Core 2 Duo with 4 Gb RAM.

    Also, to chown33, I understand now what you meant by liking adventure. I expect to have no problems learning a new OS, that kind of adventure can be fun. I'm a command shell guy from way back, I used to write documents in LaTEX, etc..., so I know about learning curves. I've been to the nearby Apple Store and I just love the interface and the design of these things.

    Sounds to me like I should either buy a Mac Mini now and see how it goes, or buy an inexpensive Windows machine and supplement with a Mac Mini or, around Christmas, an iMac.

    Thanks again,
    JID
     
  11. iMikeT macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2006
    Location:
    California
    #11

    I'm still running a PowerBook G4 (pre-Intel Mac), just a little over 1GB of RAM, and Mac OS X 10.5.8 and I can still do everything you listed. If my Mac can still do all of that, just imagine what the Mac mini can do.

    Like I mentioned earlier, the best thing you can do is go to an Apple retail store or an authorized reseller and see for yourself what a Mac mini or the iMac can really do.

    Lastly, you will never experience registry problems on a Mac. Crashes and freezing are pretty rare. Applications typically run in their own environment so if you ever have an app give you problems, just force quit the app and start it up again, no need to restart the entire computer like you would on Windows.
     
  12. Vylen macrumors 65816

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    Jun 3, 2010
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    #12
    Opera was the first browser to do the things you see in Firefox and Chrome - tabs for example. And it's fairly good. I don't use it though since I'm content with Chrome, although I do use it on my Nokia phone ;)

    Anyway, I'd suggest a Mac. Since you've experienced Windows and *nix, Mac OS X is a very nice merging of the best of both worlds. It's why I got my iMac back in 2006 (and am still using it). I'm a graduate Software Engineer (who also wrote his thesis with LaTeX like a good academic ;)) so I know how you feel, since I have that sort of background.

    Back in the day Ubuntu was terrible, so I was on the Gentoo boat of optimisation to keep my 1Ghz PIII in top shape (I had to compile my kernel 8 times cause I kept forgetting things), but the finicky stuff drove me insane - the thought of package dependency and blocking problems still makes me cringe. And there's no way i would have gone through University on a Windows machine running Cygwin, that's just not what you do (although I eventually did go with Ubuntu on my Windows laptop, I didn't want a Mac-lappy - but use Windows 7 exclusively on it now).

    Now with the iMac, got the happiness of a BSD backend to do all the terminal stuff (I always have a few terminal windows open, each with their own few tabs open - I do a lot of stuff that way), along with the happiness of a stable GUI environment that just works - it's very easy to get used to key combinations and it's quirkiness.

    And as i said, i'm still on my early 2006 iMac. It's running strong, and never had serious problems - it's lived through 10.4, an upgrade to 10.5 and is now cruising on 10.6. And I don't use my machine lightly - XCode for programming and of course a fair amount of compiling, Netbeans for Java, Blender for 3D modelling, Photoshop for imaging. I'm also a hobbyist photographer, so use Lightroom a lot to process 14.6MP images (RAW) from my DSLR.

    Long story short - get a Mac, but shop around to figure out which Mac. Although I can say that a Mac Mini would be able to do what you want, since I can do that on this cruddy old iMac ;)
     
  13. chown33 macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2009
    Location:
    Brobdingnag
    #13
    Mac mini sounds fine for that. If I were doing this, I'd get the mini with least RAM, but everything else exactly what I wanted. Then try using it for a week or so, and pay attention to RAM usage. If there are lots of swapping episodes, max the RAM with 3rd party. Without checking specs, I think the new mini will take 8 GB max. If it runs with only 1 stick, buy one 4 GB stick and see if that gives enough space, plus room to grow. Then add 2nd stick later, as needed. Or if needed immediately, order 2nd stick as soon as you know. With a $2000 budget, you'll have plenty of room to manage that.

    Activity Monitor.app (in /Applications/Utilities) can show RAM usage, and more important, swapping. System Memory tab: Page ins, Page outs, Swap used. Page ins aren't necessarily bad; all code is paged in from disk, even when the system isn't swapping at all. Page outs and Swap used tell you about swapping, and page outs are the real killers. Swap used can be stable, but if Page outs is rapidly increasing, you're thrashing (you'll be able to tell anyway, just use Page outs to confirm it).

    And there may be some speed increase from a faster HD, but not nearly the payoff you'd get from maxing RAM. I added a WD3200BEKT (WD Scorpio Black) and a Hitachi to 2 minis I have. Both disks are 7200 RPM, but the machines run no hotter nor louder than before. The WD drive is spec'ed at less power consumption than the HD that came with the mini when I bought it a couple years back.

    And some things may be limited by network bandwidth, not RAM or HD. Gigabit ethernet is your friend. Way faster than anything wireless.
     
  14. Vylen macrumors 65816

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    Sydney, Australia
    #14
    or use `top` like normal ;)
     
  15. chrono1081 macrumors 604

    chrono1081

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    Jan 26, 2008
    Location:
    Isla Nublar
    #15
    +1 to the crappy registry system. MS needs to ditch that useless garbage. All it does is create problems and makes it easy for malware to do its thing.

    I switched to mac and haven't look back.
     
  16. Winni macrumors 68030

    Winni

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2008
    Location:
    Germany.
    #16
    Well, a Mac also requires a firewall when it's connected to the Internet. EVERY OPERATING SYSTEM REQUIRES A FIREWALL, INCLUDING LINUX. Or do you think it's by accident that Linux has IPTables built so deeply into its core?

    Besides, the firewall that comes with Windows Vista/7 is more mature than the version that came with Windows XP and it's now more than good enough for the job.

    Anti-Virus software for private use can be obtained legally and free of charge from various sources. It's a non-issue. If you regularly hook up to a corporate network, your local admins should force you to install an anti-virus software package on your Mac OS X or Linux box, too. Even if your own system might not be affected, it can still redistribute viruses, especially makro viruses in Office documents or email attachments.

    Also, the recent spreading of trojans via illegal copies of Mac software show that OS X is by now means immune against malware. You might not catch viruses, but imagine that: Most malware for Windows are no longer viruses either. It's also trojans.


    Then don't even bother looking at all those hidden files and directories in your Mac OS X installation. You will hate that, too.

    Sorry, but that is utter nonsense. In my experience, Windows has a far superior operating system kernel than Mac OS X and it handles multiple processes and threads MUCH better than the beachball-of-death-Mach-kernel from Mac OS X.


    Well, try using a faster computer then or send Google a complain. It's hardly a Microsoft problem when Google software based upon Trolltech's/Nokia's Qt library no longer runs well on your old computer.

    Yeah, but I can also tell you from experience that whenever Apple releases a major operating system upgrade, everything breaks and you will be installing your software from scratch. And that includes all software coming from Apple.



    Exactly. So get it over with and buy a quiet or even fanless PC. Newsflash: There ARE fanless PCs. But there are no fanless Macs on the market.

    And if noise is an issue for you, never ever buy a Mac Pro. I had one and it was so annoying that I switched to a 27" iMac instead.


    As always, there's no simple answer. A 27" Quad Core iMac with an i5 or i7 CPU is an awesome computer, no matter what operating system you will be running on it. 64-Bit Ubuntu Linux 10.04 runs beautifully on that iMac, but 64-Bit Windows 7 also performs flawlessly on it.

    The question whether you want to switch to Mac OS X is a different thing: It will involve more costs than just the hardware, because you will have to purchase new software licenses for everything that you own or using. Only you can decide whether Mac OS X is worth it for you or not.

    Since you are already more or less comfortable with Linux, I do not see a real reason why you should switch to a proprietary, non-free platform. OS X isn't that much more user friendly than Ubuntu 10.04.

    Ultimately, it all depends upon the software that you use. You are not using anything that was made for the Mac, so you are not locked-in to the OS X platform.

    Maybe you should just buy that beautiful Apple hardware and put Ubuntu on it. In your case, that might be the best of both worlds.
     
  17. Gakboi macrumors regular

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    Feb 15, 2010
    #17
    Asking whether to buy a mac or windows pc on an apple forum? The question answers itself :D
     
  18. JID thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Jun 15, 2010
    #18
    Winni, you sound very knowledgable and make good points.

    It's funny you should mention fanless pc's. If I was going to do my own build, I was planning to start with a mini-itx board and put a huge heat-sink on it, use one or two ssd's, and a quite power supply, and, if a video card is needed, Zotac makes a passively-cooled one. Was even thinking of using no case, just put the stuff on a shelf above my desk. Of course, this would be the antithesis of Apple design, but kind of cool-looking in a way.

    In spite of the issues Winni raises with Mac OS (and I think he/she is really saying that there is no magic OS out there that is virus-proof, failure-proof, idiot-proof, etc...), I think I owe it to myself to purchase a Mac and run OS X on it. Maybe dual-boot it with Windows 7 so I can really get a side-by-side feel for the two OS's. Heck, if that bootcamp partition-managing thing I've heard about can do three partitions, maybe I'll add in a linux distro as Winni suggests. That would be fun.

    Anyway, sorry to get off track. I really appreciate everyones' suggestions, you are a great bunch. Am going down to the Apple store to spend some serious time with the new minis and the iMacs.

    Regards,
    JID

     
  19. 7thMac macrumors 6502

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  20. R94N macrumors 68020

    R94N

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    Location:
    UK
    #20
    Personally I would get the iMac just because of the operating system. I love it.
     

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