When you’re ready to buy a Mac, it’s really not that different from any other serious purchase: you need to do a little research to make sure you’re investing your money wisely. Few people like to replace their computer every year, even in two years. Most regular consumers would rather ride that baby ’til it dies, put some duct tape on it for a few more years, then buy a new one. So when buying a computer it’s important to keep total cost of ownership (TCI) in mind. This is a term that factors in years of use, maintenance costs, downtime (when it’s out for repair, for example) and other criteria for determining the true value of a computer. Many studies have been done that have proven that over the period of time you own the computer, Macs hold their value much better – one study showed that Windows was actually five times more expensive. And that study was nearly five years ago: Macs have come down in price since then.
Enjoy it, or Fix it?
Apple computers have long had to face down this “higher cost” issue. While it’s true that you can find a PC for less than $500, even less than $300 in many places, you simply cannot compare the sticker price alone when deciding on which computer is right for you. Most of these sub-$500 PCs are cheaper because they’re made from cheaper, and in many cases old and well-used, parts. Windows-based computers are still highly susceptible to over 100,000 viruses, malware, spyware, and other dangers that not only infect your PC but dramatically slow it down. To date there are no known viruses that affect Mac OS X. Those numbers alone should end the argument. Eliminate the cost of anti-virus software as well as the hours spent sweeping for malware etc., the repair costs to fix the PC after it’s become infected, Would you rather spend your time enjoying your computer, or fixing it?
It’s been said before, but think of buying a car: you can buy a cheap clunker, or a nice new car. You know you’re going to have to put a lot more money into the clunker, much more downtime to maintenance and repair, and sooner than later you’ll have to replace it. But at least it wasn’t fun while it lasted, right? The same concept applies to computers: would you rather pay more upfront, or pay more in the long run?
Apples to Oranges
When comparing computers, make sure you’re comparing properly. Comparison shopping can be confusing, especially if you aren’t an expert in computer technology – and if you were, you probably wouldn’t be reading this. One trap many fall into is comparing the processors: a PC has 4 Ghz chip, a Mac has a 3 Ghz, etc. However Apple’s operating system utilizes the processor in more efficient ways, meaning that what seems to be a slower chip many times is equal to or better than one with a higher number. Those numbers haven’t truly been an accurate measure of computer power for years, although many people don’t let go it.
What you need to balance is what each computer comes with with the cost involved. In order to properly match computers, find a PC that includes comparable software to everything that’s included on the Mac. Putting a value on iMovie, iPhoto, iWeb, etc. varies: you may never use iWeb for instance. You might be a gamer, or a graphic designer, or you may be in the majority of computer buyers: you just need a computer for Internet, email, and maybe your tunes and pictures. So match up the computers that fit your personal needs, and then move on to the total cost of ownership.
This is going to be your computer. Advice is great, and can be helpful, but don’t lose sight of what your needs are. For me, as well as most of my clients, by far the most important issue was getting a computer that I could enjoy, I could be productive with, and that would last as long as possible. The longest a PC ever lasted for me was about 3 years, and they weren’t good years. I now own three Macs that are older than 5 years, including the iMac I bought for my mother in 2002. All still work fine. Obviously I’m going to be suggesting you buy a Mac, but it’s from experience with both. Take my advice, put it in your pocket, and go to an Apple store to get a good long look. Do your research and decide what’s best for you. If and when you do buy a Mac, I’ll be right here waiting for you.