There’s never been a better time to buy a laptop. Today’s top notebooks are more powerful and portable than ever, and you no longer have to pay a fortune for a dependable workhorse. Most laptop shoppers, though, will have to make an important decision before hitting “buy”: Do you go for one of Apple’s premium MacBooks or delve into the vast amount of Windows 10 laptops out there?
We’re here to help you make that choice. There are a ton of key factors to consider when deciding between a MacBook or Windows notebook, from the software experience to the range of machines available in each ecosystem. Here’s what you need to know before buying your next laptop. The biggest difference between Windows and Apple laptops comes down to the software and user experience.
Windows 10 vs. macOS: Which OS Is Superior?
And while Windows 10 and macOS both have their pros and cons, your choice between the two may largely come down to personal preference as well as how each platform syncs up to your other devices.
If you’re a big Apple fan, macOS may be more your style. MacBooks can sync up easily to your iPhone and iPad, allowing you to access things such as calendars, contacts, notes and even text messages across devices.
Thanks to macOS’ Handoff feature, you can start a task on your iPhone, iPad and even Apple Watch and finish it on your Mac. Its latest major software update, macOS Big Sur, makes the Mac experience more iOS-like than ever. You’ll see familiar app icons and widgets for things such as Messages and Mail, and can quickly adjust things like brightness and music playback via a handy Control Center that mimics what you get on an iPhone.
If you’re an iOS fan who likes the streamlined software experience that Apple delivers, the Mac has that same “it just works” simplicity to it. Meanwhile, Windows 10 is the most popular operating system out there and can be found on everything from budget entry-level notebooks to high-end gaming rigs from a variety of manufacturers.
If you’ve used any version of Windows over the years, you’ll find plenty of familiar features, including a Start menu for quickly accessing apps and a bevy of built-in Microsoft programs such as Outlook and the snappy new Edge browser.
Windows 10 is arguably the more flexible of the two operating systems and comes optimized for touch on supported touch-screen laptops and convertible 2-in-1 devices (Apple currently doesn’t offer a touch-enabled MacBook, if that’s something important to you).
Hardware Choices for Mac and Windows
And while the Mac has Handoff for iPhone users, Windows 10 has a handy Your Phone app that lets you access your Android apps and messages right from your laptop. Your Phone also works with iOS devices, but its functionality is largely limited to sending web pages from your phone to PC.
Perhaps even more important than the user experience is what apps you actually plan on using. Both Windows and macOS have access to most major web browsers, productivity suites and creative applications, so either will likely get the job done for everyday web surfing, email and basic office work.
But for those who need something more niche, the differences matter. Macs are popular among music producers, thanks to Apple’s high-end Logic Pro software as well as the intuitive GarageBand app you get out of the box for free. Photo and video editors might be drawn to MacBooks as well, thanks to popular Apple-only apps like Final Cut Pro and Pixelmator.
If gaming is your priority, however, Windows wins by a landslide here. Assuming you pick a powerful enough system, Windows 10 laptops have access to thousands of top PC games across various marketplaces, including big blockbusters like The Witcher 3, Control and Doom Eternal.
MacBooks can play some essential favorites like Minecraft and Cuphead as well as the 100-plus titles on Apple Arcade, but those looking to do serious gaming should spring for a capable Windows laptop. Price will likely be one of your main concerns when buying a new laptop, and MacBooks and Windows notebooks can differ wildly in terms of the types of systems you can get at different price points.
Apple’s current MacBook lineup is simple and streamlined, but the company’s laptops aren’t the cheapest. The most affordable notebook in Apple’s roster is the $999 MacBook Air, which delivers the best performance you can find in this price range, thanks to its stellar new M1 processor.
In Conclusion: Where Are You in the Mac vs Windows Debate?
Consider your budget (and how much power you need)
Stepping up to the MacBook Pro line will get you added graphics muscle (ideal for intensive tasks like photo and video editing), but you’ll pay a premium starting at $1,299 for the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Those who want a bigger screen can spring for the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which starts at $2,399 and can go up to a whopping $6,699 depending on how much extra memory, storage and graphics power you want to configure it with.
First-Time Setup, Startup, and Login
However, we recommend waiting for Apple to upgrade the 16-inch MacBook Pro with its new M1 chip before you buy one. Windows laptops, on the other hand, run the gamut from a few hundred bucks to thousands of dollars. If you just need something for basic web surfing, email and word processing, affordable machines such as the $199 HP Stream or $499 Acer Aspire 5 will more than get the job done.
Additional Differences to Consider: Mac vs Windows
Those who need to do heavier multitasking without spending a fortune can check out the $999 Dell XPS 13 and $949 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, two of our picks for the best laptops you can buy overall. There are also convertible 2-in-1 machines such as the $399 Microsoft Surface Go 2 and $649 HP Envy x360 13, which can double as tablets, thanks to detachable keyboards or folding designs.
Top gaming laptops run the gamut from the attainable $1,099 Asus ROG Zephryus G14 to the fully loaded $3,625 Alienware Area-51m, which packs a powerful Intel Core i9 processor and beastly Nvidia RTX 2080 graphics for tearing through the hottest PC games at optimal settings.
And if it’s a mobile workstation you need, models such as the $1,989 HP Zbook Studio pack in desktop-grade specs for getting video editing and design work done on the go.
To wrap things up, Apple’s laptop selection is less daunting, with three main models that lean toward the premium side of things. But you can’t beat the sheer variety and versatility of Windows laptops out there, whether you need a $200 notebook for web surfing or a $2,000 powerhouse for playing the latest blockbuster games.
History and Technical Specifications of Mac vs Windows
Picking between a MacBook and Windows laptop comes down to three key factors: your budget, your performance needs and, perhaps most critically, the types of apps and software experiences you want access to. MacBooks are a no-brainer for those already in the Apple ecosystem, with seamless interactivity with your iPhone and iPad.
From the new M1-powered MacBook Air to the high-end 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple’s powerful laptops are especially ideal for creative tasks such as photo and video editing. But if you need something more affordable — or more niche — a Windows laptop might be for you.
Windows notebooks start at much cheaper prices than MacBooks, and power users and serious gamers have plenty of great options on the premium side of things. There’s no wrong option; whether you swear allegiance to Apple or decide to wade into the world of Windows, you’ll have your pick of some of the absolute best laptops on the market right now. When Microsoft and Apple were absolute competitors in the home computer market during the 1980s and 1990s, both systems’ hardware and software components were almost unique.
A Look at macOS
It’s all about the software
As the technology evolved over the years, these platforms have come much closer to parity. The primary difference is that Apple is an internal product with its iMac, MacBook, and Mac Mini series, whereas Microsoft licenses Windows to multiple vendors. That means Apple has more control over the user experience.
These additional comparison points are worth considering if you’re in the market for a new computer today. Windows holds a significant market share compared to Mac systems. About 3 out of every 4 computers (77.74%) that people are using globally right now use the Microsoft platform.
MacOS currently holds a 17% part of the market, while Linux and ChromeOS clean up the remaining percentages. Why does Windows have such a dominant percentage of the computing marketplace? This comparison requires us to look at Microsoft’s history with IBM briefly.
When the computer developer needed a product to compete with the Apple I and Apple II, IBM contacted Microsoft. At the time, the only item in their portfolio was called Microsoft Basic, and even it had been allegedly copied from another company.
macOS vs. Windows: Which Is Best for Gaming?
IBM asked them to provide DOS to the personal computer, eventually resulting in a $1 billion campaign against Apple products. Although IBM’s efforts failed for itself, Microsoft benefitted from the marketing campaigns.
When people use macOS, they often feel that the system is better. Since that effort to discredit Apple became part of society’s thoughts about the Mac vs PC debate, you can still hear people using the advertising pitch as their justification to buy what is ultimately a more expensive system. When comparing the cost of a PC vs Mac, we must evaluate the initial expense and the ongoing operations to discover which platform offers the better deal.
Think about the apps you need
Although the price tag might suggest that Apple products cost more, the total cost of ownership (TCO) is lower with Mac than for a Windows PC. The cheapest laptop for Apple typically retails at $999. It comes with everything that you need to become functional immediately, including macOS for free.
You can link to a domain, access Active Directory, and have File Vault, XProtect, and full disk encryption without any additional software. Windows PC users must add all of these features to their operating system independently or spend about $200 for the Pro version of Windows 10 to get Bitlocker.
A Look at Windows 10
Even then, you must purchase antivirus software separately from the system. You might pay less for an entry-level PC than you would for a MacBook Air, but it takes up to three times the cost and twice the troubleshooting calls to set up a Windows computer compared to one built by Apple.
The installation process, when comparing Windows and macOS, is relatively similar. Both operating systems come with wizards that help you get your new computer working within a few minutes. Both options allow you to get your computer operational without signing into an account with Microsoft or Apple. You’ll also find that the PC or Mac delivers a richer experience when you have a profile with one of these companies. You’ll also find that both companies have their computers recognize and install the drivers you need for your peripherals.
Mac and Windows Ecosystems
External storage, keyboards, and mice are all relatively painless to use thanks to the included wizards. If you have a PC, Microsoft allows Cortana to help you with the installation.
When you need to update macOS, you can go through your System Preferences or ask Siri to give you some help. Although there are minor changes to the installation workflow, both computers and operating systems deliver an equitable result. This comparison point is a virtual tie between Macs and PCs.
Windows vs. Mac: Which Should You Choose for Creation?
When you use Apple, you’ll get to work with Siri for voice recognition needs. This technology allows you to activate the operating system vocally to open apps, dictate content, or browse the Internet.
Microsoft provides a similar system with Cortana. The one advantage that a Windows PC offers involves the touch interface that works with the digital assistant. Apple has been relatively hesitant to introduce this option to consumers for their Mac systems, whereas most Windows vendors offer at least one choice.