macOS Sierra vs Windows 10: Why Apple Wins

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Now that we've reviewed both Microsoft's Windows 10 Anniversary Update and Apple's macOS Sierra (10.12), we're familiar with both companies's visions for the next year in computing. Both free updates add tweaks to the user interface and special features such as Windows Ink and Apple's Siri, but the question remains, which desktop operating system reigns supreme?

Interface

Windows 10's fresh, dynamic redesign breathed new life into the once-staid operating system just last year, while Apple kept macOS Sierra (version 10.12) visually similar to OS X El Capitan (10.11), which was similar to the previous year's Yosemite (10.10). The notable interface change Apple added this year is Picture-in-Picture video, which is borrowed from the iPad.1462572220

While few users would call either interface bad, Windows 10 offers a built-in tablet mode, and Anniversary Update cleaned up the Start Menu to focus on apps. Since Microsoft designed this version of Windows with larger touch-targets, you can use the operating system on more devices, and gain different kinds of interaction.

Winner: Windows 10 Anniversary Update. This cross-device platform is more able and provides greater options.

Multitasking

Both macOS and Windows 10 offer virtual desktops, but Microsoft lets you do more at once. A year ago, Apple added a two-apps-at-once split-view to its desktop operating system in El Capitan, but Microsoft's operating system lets you snap four different windows into a grid, which is great when you have a large enough display.screenshot (7)   copy

Winner: Windows 10 Anniversary Update. More apps on a single screen.

Siri vs Cortana

Spotlight has helped Mac find files since its introduction in 2005, but manual type-and-search tools are the past, as voice activated assistants are gaining in prominence. By welcoming the once-iOS-only Siri to the Mac, Apple has caught up with Microsoft, which dropped Cortana onto PCs in the original Windows 10 release. siri

While Siri can help manage files and Cortana can send news notifications, both now handle contextual follow-up questions. In the keynote presentation at WWDC, Craig Federighi got Siri to whittle down his file search for images to just the photos that Ken had sent him that Craig tagged as Drafts. In our testing, not only could Cortana answer the question "Who is the presdient of the U.S.?" but when we asked "how old is he?" it informed us that Barack Obama is 54 years old.

In addition, while both Siri and Cortana offer dashboards for their assistants where you can see the results, only macOS lets you drag and drop those results onto documents you're working on. Cortana has one leg up on Siri: it accepts both verbal and typed commands, while you can only speak to Siri.

Winner: Draw. Siri's arrival brings macOS to parity, but it doesn't surpass Cortana.

Special Features

Both Windows 10 Anniversary Update and macOS Sierra allow you to unlock your device with a device (your phone on a PC and an Apple Watch on a Mac), but their other new special features differ greatly. Microsoft introduced the option for Windows 10 PC and Xbox One owners to play against (or with) each other in games.

Windows 10's other major new feature is Ink, which translates notes written with your stylus or finger on the screen into text notes. Unfortunately, our months of testing Ink proved the feature to be more toy than tool. photos

Meanwhile on macOS Sierra, Apple's most interesting new feature is Optimized Storage, which stores files you don't access often on Apple's iCloud servers. In a demonstration at the WWDC 2016 Keynote, this freed 130GB of space on a 250GB hard drive.

Snap-happy Mac users will also be eager to upgrade to macOS Sierra, as the Photos app has gained improved facial recognition, options to search by objects and people and Memories, an easy way to turn photos into slideshows. Also, multiple Mac owners will appreciate the option to mirror their desktop and Document folder files across all Macs running Sierra.

Winner: Draw. Both platforms added potentially great new features that users will hopefully enjoy.

Web Browsing

The biggest change happening on either platform is that Microsoft's Edge browser finally got extensions in Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Unfortunately, Edge extensions have been few and far bweeen, and if app development for Windows 10 is any indicator, Edge may have a hard time catching up with Safari in terms of numbers of available extensions.

Both browsers let you pin tabs that you always want to read, but of the two, only Safari lets you mute noisy tabs. Edge forces you to go into a tab, figure out why it's playing sound and manually mute it. And while Edge may let you annotate pages with notes and doodles, that's not enough to make up for the lack of mutes.

Winner: macOS Sierra. You can surf in peace with Safari's mutable tabs, and Edge can't beat that.

Phone Integration

Since Apple produces both Macs and iPhones, the company has the power to make them work in harmony. Windows 10 Anniversary Update added the ability to send SMS messages through your phone from your PC, but it can't take calls from your phone, which Macs can.touchid

Apple's added even greater synergy between iPhones and Macs with Sierra with the new Universal Clipboard, which lets you copy text on one device and paste it in the other. Apple also introducing Auto Unlock, which will let you sign into your Mac with your Apple Watch. Also, you'll be able to activate ApplePay on your Mac with the TouchID sensor on your iPhone or Apple Watch.

Winner: macOS Sierra. Apple's cross-platform integration is hard to beat.

Price & Updating

Would you rather live by your computer's schedule, or make it adapt to your own? While Microsoft made upgrading from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 free for its first year, the company told users to expect the operating system to cost $119 after July 29 2016. macOS Sierra is the latest in a long line of Apple desktop operating systems that are free forever.

Also, Apple lets you update your operating system when you're ready, unlike Microsoft, which forced the issue for Windows 10 and is currently taking months to roll Anniversary Update out to the masses.

Winner: macOS Sierra. Free, without asterisks and on your schedule.

Overall Winner: macOS Sierra, 5-4

sc windows 10 anniversary update vs macos sierra 1474563754989

A year ago, Windows 10 beat OS X El Capitan in our faceoff, but Apple sure has worked it's tail off to make macOS Sierra more compelling. From bringing Siri from iOS to the desktop to beefing up Photos' features, macOS Sierra gives desktop Mac users the features they've been waiting for. Windows 10 Anniversary Update is no slouch, but Edge is taking too long to become a browser that can compete with the field.

While these operating systems aren't the be-all and end-all behind shoppers decisions -- Mac hardware designs and PC gaming capabilities are extremely important -- there are enough differences between macOS and Windows 10 to predict a winner.

Author Bio
Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey,
After graduating from Bard College a B.A. in Literature, Henry T. Casey worked in publishing and product development at Rizzoli and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively. Henry joined Tom's Guide and LAPTOP having written for The Content Strategist, Tech Radar and Patek Philippe International Magazine. He divides his free time between going to live concerts, listening to too many podcasts, and mastering his cold brew coffee process. Content rules everything around him.
Henry T. Casey, on
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22 comments
  • Ricky Says:

    The writer of this article is a genuine Apple fanboy that doesn't know what he is talking about. There is no way MacOS beats Windows 10. Just because some features of MacOS is better than Windows doesn't mean it is better.

    I own a Mac, Macbook Pro, iPad and iPhone. I also have desktop PC and Laptop running Windows 10. People just say Apple products are better to justify the price they are paying, but seriously Windows 10 is way better in many aspect.

  • Sidney Says:

    The Apple ecosystem can't be beat. I own a MacBook Pro, iPhone 6, and Ipad. I love how iCloud ties everything together. I can take and make calls on my MacBook Pro, and SMS also. Software updates are always free, and you get everything. No "Pro" vs "Normal". Mac's are more expensive, but the resale value is tremendous. It's like buying a Lexus and having peace of mind. No spyware, malware, viruses either. Have used Macs for over 10 years and have never used antivirus. You get what you pay for, like all things in life.

  • Neji88 Says:

    This is kind of a dumb review. As a disclaimer, I am a macOS user with both a Mac mini and MacBook Air. Phone integration is not as important as OS performance. Windows is much much faster than macOS, uses less resources, runs faster, and its compatible with more systems. Windows 10 can run smooth on a 2003 Pentium 4, where as even modern Macs with modern processors, can shutter even on very basic animation. I love Mac hardware, but Mac OS is dog slow. The slowest of all OSes.

  • Joe Joe Says:

    Ok, so you're telling me that being able to unlock you phone with your apple watch (it's a security risk anyways) and buying things with your iPhone with your mac (kind of useless feature?) is better than having a windows phone become a fully powered pc when it's plugged into a monitor? Windows continuum also lets you project your phone screen onto your pc AND it syncs notifications from both your android phone and windows phone (iOS is too proprietary to allow this). So you're still telling me that apples useless iOS and mac integration is better than windows 10? Also the pricing is better?? Yeah right, the only reasons macs get free upgrades are because there products are over-priced by 500 percent. So five to three windows mac!

  • PulloBodaddo Says:

    You guys are so Apple Biased that it's extremely funny. I use both Operating Systems extensively and OS X hangs like no other. It's such a slow Operating system. I'll never buy another product from Crapple again. I have a MBP mid-2014 15" retina.

  • sebastian Says:

    Honestly i can get the phone integration, the browser thing, but Siri vs Cortana thing is stupid, Cortana wins hands down.

  • Robbert Says:

    Webbrowsing a Apple win? I use Chrome on my W10 so why is choice and competition worse than only safari on the Mac?

  • Mike M Says:

    What I find funny is how commentators accused laptopmag of being biased against apple when they declared W10 to be better than El Capitan, and now that the tables have turned, they accuse laptopmag of being biased against Microsoft.

  • Joseph Farah Says:

    Nice article! I don't really care who wins---it really depends on what you need your OS for--but you should probably specify to users that Sierra is essentially a new OS, while the Anniversary edition of Windows 10 is more a title. In terms of update timing, Windows 10 is much closer to OS X El Capitan. For reference, it would be like comparing OS X Yosemite to Windows 8.

  • William Armstrong Says:

    This should have two additions on the Windows side.

    First, Windows 10 integrates with two phone platforms, not just one. And they would integrate with iOS if Apple let them.

    Second, Microsoft is adding support to miracast to a Windows PC from a Phone, either Windows 10 Mobile or Android. While Apple has made this possible to AppleTVs, it isn't available for free with OS X/macOS. (You can plug in via USB to record video, or can pay for a third party utility.)

  • Rando Says:

    Articles like these are opinion pieces, treat them that way! When someone's opinion is different to yours, it doesn't mean that they are wrong. You can discuss why you think they're wrong, but try doing so in a mature manner. People are entitled to their own damn opinion. I also find it amusing that many of you are calling the author an Apple fanboy; looks to me like a case of the pot calling the kettle black. And why even leave a comment at all if you don't intend to contribute anything meaningful besides scorn? Heck, why are you so invested in things like this? They're just products! Is that all this comes down to, the need to justify a purchase?

  • Xaser Says:

    Ok so MacOS wins on a basis of useless features. Safari beating Edge? So get FF or Chrome then! Phone integration? I didn't have to connect my phone even once to my PC since I moved away from the iPhone! Also you can soon get Text Messages delivered from your phone to your PC. Can MacOS do that? (don't know actually).

    Cortana vs Siri? Imo both systems are not yet ready to be called anything but beta.

    Imo Win10 wins by far.

  • CarlosSoto Says:

    You left out which OS is best weaponized against the endUser. I'm not interested in running an OS unless it has malware and spyware baked into the core. Which OS does this best!?

    We're talking keyloggers, sharing collected personal information with untold and unnamed 3rd-parties. If I was interested in the most important thing a person can have - peace of mind - I'd be using an open-source OS like Linux. Oh, wait...

  • endafy Says:

    Windows 10 has Spyware baked in you can't disable, Mac os can be ran on pc hardware with a bootloader, os x clear winner. Apple talked about how you'll be able to run mac os on any hardware soon. Windows 10 is garbage and I'll never use it.

  • Curtis Quick Says:

    As I use Windows 10 and compare it with MacOS, it really feels like Windows 10 is new and modern, while it seems like MacOS is last century in comparison. I realize that many don't use Cortana, but speaking to my PC is becoming quite useful. Also? The article says nothing significant about how Windows 10 supports touch and inking. To me that is almost everything. I love how my Surface Pro gives me both excellent desktop and tablet capabilities. MacOS can't touch that.

    And as far as cost goes, MacOS and Windows have always been free on new machines. And updates to them will almost certainly remain so. Cost is not an issue, except perhaps that new Macs are almost always more expensive that new Windows PCs.

  • Satish Says:

    Mac OS doesn't run on iPads and iPhones. And the stores are also different. Windows 10 runs on smartphones, tablets, laptops, XBOX and HoloLens. Windows 10 has a common store and the apps are universal. Unless you are sleeping, there is no reason why you will think that Apple can defeat Microsoft without Steve Jobs. Their days are behind Admit it.

  • jon bytes Says:

    Mac OS is free but to get it you need to purchase a super expensive piece of hardware. Considering that Microsoft is a SOFTWARE company their pricing for the new Windows 10 is SUPER generous. So please correct that.

    Another point is that having a superior interface and better multitasking capabilities is FAR MORE VALUABLE than a Siri that's slightly better the windows equivalent (Who actually uses that stuff in the real world??).

    I really like Edge but without extensions I agree its useless. But this comparison is dishonest as people on both systems use Chrome anyway.

    Windows q0 supports tablet mode/touch, Mac doesn't. Clear advantage in that department.

    I use a mac at work because that's what all the cool guys do in the startup industry. But at home, on the plane, and in the coffee shops I'm so happy to whip out my HP spectre.

  • sergey Says:

    It is so stupid to compare web browsers... almost nobody uses edge or IE...
    BUT IF YOU did, please, compare awkward finder to useful FileExplorer, compare shitty buggy and unavoidable iTynes with plenty of sync options between windows and smartphone, including the useful drag n drop similar to flash stick.

  • Cool Sane Says:

    How much did Apple pay you to write this nonsense. I use MacOS and Windows 10. Windows 10 windows hands down.

  • Junaid Ahmed Says:

    Windows 10 is getting notification synchronization with Windows Mobile/iOS/Android which is already working on insider preview. Call receiving ability is still not present though. But it will work with more devices than upcoming macOS.

  • Barry Says:

    And one more thing, if your browser is so noisy, why not consider turning the volume down.

  • Barry Says:

    I must say, though Mac OSX is free, a mac that runs it usually goes over $800, while you can get a Windows PC for $100 or even less. Also, if you have Windows 7 or 8 Installed on your PC, you can get Windows 10 for free.

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