They're sleek, they're sexy, and they have a creative suite of tools baked right in; is it surprising that Macs are favored by students and artists? Apple's purported ease of use and the iconoclasm encouraged by the company's perpetual outlier status in the computer world at large have built Mac's image as a superior educational computer as well as a platform preferred by creative types worldwide. For creative projects, it's a rep well-earned: iLife offers a suite of tools that Windows has yet to match. "I make a lot of short videos for fun, and to promote my various artistic endeavors such as my rkutner channel on YouTube," said Rob Kutner, an Emmy award-winning writer for The Daily Show. "Mac's integrated iMovie/iDVD platform is the perfect fit for my DIY style--not to mention being able to view footage on the go on my iPod or phone."
Macs have been a standard for years for graphic designers (font management, color accuracy) and filmmakers (Final Cut, Apple's own software, is an industry standard), but for 3D work such as rendering, Windows machines have been the platform of choice. Now that Macs and Windows machines share Intel and Nvidia processors, the differences are disappearing under the hood, but Macs still have a professional edge for sound and video. "You can have one computer do almost anything. My system can go from a grade-A audio-mixing console to a grade-A video-editing station in seconds," said Matthew Polis, a professional film sound designer and sound mixer in New York City who has been using Macs for years. "My first venture into electronic music-making was with an HP laptop But [the PC] comes stocked with all sorts of game demos, CD jacket makers, video shake-'em-ups, LightScribe hee-haws ... It made me feel like I just bought a used computer."
For students, the value of Macs is more debatable. Research and basic educational software are available on Macs and Windows alike--and since the rise of netbooks, far cheaper options are available among PCs than Mac machines. But from a tech administration viewpoint, Macs might be a cheaper setup. Michael Lee, network administrator and CIO for Putnam Valley Central Schools, has an all-Mac environment for its low-maintenance advantages: "Our district only employs one tech per building. Our tech-to-computer ratio is one tech to 670 computers. In the PC world, that would be unheard of. OS X' stability and security allows us to deploy our laptops without fear of spyware, malware, viruses, or random Windows events." While this perspective may not matter to students, it's an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at why Macs are so prevalent in school systems.
VERDICT: Macs are better for artists, but students could do just as well (and save money) with a PC.