For many years, when a freelance graphic designer chose a new computer, Macintosh was the automatic choice. Macintosh computers provided the memory, processing speed and storage necessary for large design files. Most graphic design firms and printing companies used only Macintosh computers. Today, that trend continues but PCs are making inroads in what used to be territory exclusive to Macintosh. Therefore, the decision on what computer to purchase is not as clear cut as it once was for graphic designers.
Hardware is the first consideration of most freelance designers. While PCs have been proven to rival Macs in terms of processing speed, some people claim that Macs still process large graphic files more efficiently. Also, Macintosh computers have a better maintenance record than most PCs. However, when a hardware problem does arise a Mac can cost more to repair.
Software is where the Macintosh shines compared to the PC. All the major graphic design applications are available for both platforms and run with similar speed. However, the Macintosh operating system has historically been much more stable than the Windows operating system and much easier for the end user to troubleshoot. Additionally, Macintosh computers are far less susceptible to viruses, adware and spyware than PCs, which are notorious for their security flaws.
There are considerations beyond the hardware and software that a freelance designer needs to consider. For example, Macintosh computers typically cost more than PCs. However, once a PC is equipped with the appropriate memory, processor and graphics card to efficiently process graphic files, the cost is fairly similar. If a designer decides to switch platforms any graphic design software already owned must be repurchased under a new license which leads many designers to stick with one platform.
Aesthetics are often a consideration of many designers. Macintosh computers are designed to look sleek and creative while PCs are typically more standard looking. However, some of Macintosh’s most originally designed computers are not suitable for graphic design work, leaving a designer with the standard CPU tower, monitor and peripherals, though perhaps in interesting colors.
Finally, careful consideration must be given to interactions with outside vendors and clients. Many printing companies and graphic design firms still have a strong pro-Macintosh bias and may reject native files created with PC software. However, if you are submitting EPS, TIFF or PDF files, the difference in platform will be negligible.