Mac vs. PC - choosing a computer


I’m starting an ID-product design degree at University of Cincinnati this fall. Everyone is required to buy a new, very expensive computer and I was wondering if anyone had opinions or advice on the following two systems:

HP EliteBook 8730w Mobile Workstation
Windows Vista Business with downgrade to Windows XP, Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T9600 (2.80 GHz), 2 GB 800 MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 250 GB 7200 rpm SATA II, LightScribe DVD+/-RW SuperMulti with Double Layer, 17.0-inch diagonal WUXGA WVA, anti-glare 1920 x 1200, NVIDIA Quadro FX 2700M Graphics, Intel 802.11a/b/g/draft n, Bluetooth 2.0, 8-cell (73 WHr) Lithium-Ion, 3 Year Warranty with Accidental Damage Protection


MacBook Pro, 15" - 2.8GHz -
15.4" LED Backlit Widescreen
Intel Core 2 DUO 2.8Ghz
500GB Serial ATA 5400 rpm
NVIDIA GEFORCE 9400M + 9600M GT with 512MB
SuperDrive 8x (DVR±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
SD card reader
Backlit Keyboard (English)/ User’s guide
Accessory Kit
AppleCare protection Plan for MacBook Pro

It will need to run the adobe creative suite 4 design.

There is a 500 dollar price difference (the mac being more expensive). I’m currently using a macbook and love it but I’m not sure if the 500 dollar price difference is justified. Thank you so much for your consideration/input.


The HP is faster, larger, and heavier. It will perform better for CAD and has a high res screen which is nice to work on, but will be the bain of your existance if you plan on taking it to class, using it for note taking, etc.

My personal philosophy is perhaps a bit more expensive, but to go with 2 machines.

A laptop - capable enough for doing work in studio, but light enough to easily travel with, take notes on, and survive you 4 years of school. 15" max IMO. In some cases even smaller is nice since you can always hook up an external keyboard and monitor to something like a 13" Macbook Pro.

Then a desktop with a big/dual monitor setup for when you need some real fire power for cranking out 3D work, high res images, etc. Desktops are CHEAP compared to what they used to cost and if you buy a monitor for your laptop you can always buy a desktop a year or 2 down the road.

Maybe thats not the answer you wanted to hear - if I had to pick between the two as a student and had the budget, I would choose the Macbook if I had the money. With that said I have never owned a Mac.

This question has been asked quite a bit. Do a search and you should find all the info you need.


According to the Microsoft commercials, they are for cool people.

Do a search for this, it has been discussed to death… the conclusion is always personal preference.

If you have plenty of cash, get a Mac. If you don’t have much cash and don’t mind the risk of a little jail time or large fines from using pirated software, get a PC. If you like a clean user friendly simple interface, get a Mac. If you like flashy do nothing for anything good interfaces, get a PC. If you like the way people look at you when you use your Powerbook with white earbud headphones in a Starbucks, get a Mac. If you like the way people look at you live blogging your Serial ATA HD purchase at your local MicroCenter, get a PC.

Deep down we’re all superficial nerds, so that makes the choice even harder.

Quite the conundrum isn’t it?

Lol, first time I’ve heard choosing a PC being equated with jail time.

To OP: I walk the line and am cool with both PC’s and Mac’s. Its really up to a personal preference. Sounds like you have been using a Mac for a while, so if that’s what you are comfortable with I would go with getting a Mac again. Especially because you probably have already bought a lot of software for it, and switching to a PC would mean having to buy all that over again.


Thanks for all your responses. I dislike when people don’t use the search function before posting a question, and naturally I’m pretty embarrassed that I’m one of those idiots–but I still have some issues.

I have not bought any additional software for my current MacBook and beyond purchasing the Adobe suite for my first year, I expect that I’ll want to learn Solidworks, Alias, pro/E, etc., all of which appear to be supported solely by PCs. I’m aware that these programs can be run via Mac’s Virtual PC but past Core77 threads seemed to suggest that this solution is a weak alternative. I’m not sure if this is still a valid concern because most of the conversations I found via search were more than 3 years old. Is Bootcamp developed enough to run PC applications with comparable quality?

Although most students at UC seem to have bought a Mac, I don’t want to buy a computer that is incompatible with the software I want to learn just because I love the Mac interface and user experience. On the other hand, I want a reliable computer (i.e. my Macbook has never had a problem, crash, etc.—i love it!) and ease of use is important.

I’m not that experienced with using computers beyond basic functions (Microsoft office, internet, etc.) and I’m still learning via google searches what to look for in a computer (i.e. the qualitative difference between different types of RAM [DDR2 D RAM vs. DDR3 RAM]). Although I’m currently pretty ignorant, I am willing to learn what tools it takes to be a competent designer and I’m willing to learn on a Mac or a PC. Compared to the price of tuition, the 500 dollar price difference between the PC and Mac is not significant, I’m just looking for the smart choice.

Although I’m not closed off to the idea of a better value Desktop computer supplemented by a functional, but small Laptop, the program was very specific about choosing between these two specific computers. I don’t want to be a sheep, but I don’t want to get something inappropriate or make myself a nuisance because I ignored their requirements.

Again, Thanks for all your input and slogging through my long posts.


Coming from 4 years in a college IT department, hardware requirements like that are generally chosen for 3 reasons:

1 - the school sells those machines and takes a cut of it

2 - they can internally support your hardware

3 - they want you to get as high end a machine as possible so it lasts your full time at school.

If you had to go with those 2 choices and the money isn’t an issue, get the Macbook. You can run bootcamp just fine and for Solidworks/Alias/Pro E you shouldn’t have any real issues. The HP is a better CAD machine, but student work is very low end compared to professional work and the Macbook shouldn’t have any issues handling any of those software packages under boot camp. And if it’s what they recommended then go for it.

I think I had 6 different computers (3 desktops/3 laptops) while I was in school…if someone told me I was out of spec I would’ve punched them in the throat. :laughing:

Long story short: Buy the mac, you’ll be fine.

If you use Bootcamp, you will be able to run Windows without being virtual. So there will be no performance issues.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could swap between win/osx with a basic keystroke like on some of the older mid 90’s macs and 3.1?

I haven’t used bootcamp (no mac) and I assume it uses hibernation features in both systems so maybe it’s pretty quick, too.

Thank you all for your help. I think I will choose the mac, I didn’t realize that using Bootcamp would be the same as using a PC.


Yes, it’s a lot different performance wise from the old Virtual PC I used to use 5-6 yrs ago. No problems running windows on a mac now. The only slight issues I’ve ever heard of are some with graphics/audio card compatibilities, but nothing major.

My school gave me a macbook 2ghz/ 2gb ddr3 / unibody 13.3 inch and Adobe Creative Suite CS4. This thing PERFORMS nice with the software. Even when the images start getting really large it handles it well. Snappy response and short, short loading times.
On a side note, i’ve been using computers since 1992 and always pc… but I never want to use a PC again to say the least.
You gotta borrow one, try one or something. You’ll be pleased.

I got a MacBook two years ago because I wanted to be familiar with OSX if I had to work at a consultancy that uses it. I’ve had it with a large 20" monitor at home for the last few years and have liked that setup.

The advantage of a Mac is that it is a holistic computing solution. Apple controls every last detail of your experience, and because they’re able to execute their good ideas, the experience is generally better than on a PC where the operating system and the hardware are separate.

designers supporting good design.

I’d take OSX before windows any day.

every time am forced to use Bootcamp reminds me of that.

I think it depends on what you want out of your computer. I had a mac during school because they had PCs for me to use. Looking back, I think you’ll get more bang for your buck if you buy a PC. I recently purchased a PC with i7 920 processor, 9 gigs of ram, and 890MB video card. This was all stock for about $1200. This might be overkill, but once you get into doing CAD and renderings, you’ll be thankful you got one. I found the basic Macs just don’t cut it unless you add more than the standard. Unless you have the money, get a Mac Pro with more memory and video card power. Even running CS4 on a new imac can be slow.

Do CS4 and new macs really not get along like this? I hope not. I have a two-year old Macbook w/ 2 gigs ram and I run illustrator/photoshop/indesign/safari/itunes simultaneously with no issues. I’m looking to upgrade soon to a Mac with heavy 3D power - I was thinking iMac or Mac Pro, as well. Unless you’re only doing Rhino/Hypershot, which works on my machine even.

Ya, I find that CS4 isn’t as fast as it could be.

I would not use Rhino on the new iMac. Actually, I take that back, it all depends on how much Rhino/3d work you want to do. I have a 3.06 core 2 duo, 4 gigs of Ram, nvidia geforce gt 130 (512MB mem); and I find that it doesn’t do a good job with Rhino. Especially when you’re building complex forms the rendering of the part goes out of whack when you’re trying to build. It renders fine (slow though) but when you’re actually trying to make the shapes, it’s terrible.

To sum up my feelings about 3D work on an iMac: Yes rhino works, but not to what I need it for.

If you have money, get a Mac Pro, with A LOT more graphics capabilities. I did not, so I got a PC, which I love for my 3D applications and renderings.

I’d go Mac all the way. The only thing that my MacBook Pro struggles to handle is Alias (and by that I mean it simply takes a while to load up and can be a little slow at times), but then it is a couple of years old and I could do with upgrading the RAM.

I had my old Mac for four years before the USB ports finally packed up and I was forced to replace it. It stood me through 4.5 years of university, and I could still run everything I needed on it (unlike my friends on PC’s who were forced to swap out at 2-3 years). Although I was too short of cash to run virtual PC so I had to use the university computers for all 3D programs.

I still find it interesting how passionate people get about the PC v Mac issue…