My Turn

Why PCs Are Better for Power Users

Tino - 2001.10.25

We received the following in an email from Tino. It does not represent the position of Low End Mac (duh!), but does represent a common view of the Mac from the Windows side of the street. We believe it's important to understand Windows users, not casually dismiss them for having made the "wrong" choice. We will publish our response to Tino's letter on Friday.

I read through the article PC Users Are Not the Enemy, and I believe you have missed one thing that makes PCs attractive to many. Choice. See until recently, Apple hardware was limited. You basically got what Apple gave you, had limited choices for things like 3D cards, graphics controllers and SCSI controllers, etc.

Only recently have things changed there, but it's still not the same. Consider my system for example (you decide if its inferior PC parts):

  • Full tower Antec 1030SX case with 300W power supply - swapped it for a 430W enermax since I had the choice to do so and it didn't really cost that much. I paid a little extra in the store and they pulled one supply and gave me the other.
  • Microstar K7T Turbo motherboard. MSI makes very stable boards and some of the best AMD boards. Anyway the MSI was the choice I went with.
  • AMD Thunderbird 1.33 GHz with a Copper cooler (thermalright SK6). Thermal interface compound is Arctic silver. I decided I don't mind running the system a little harder, so it's running at 1.45 GHz with only a 1 degree increase in CPU temp.
  • 512 MB CAS2 PC133 SDRAM
  • ATI Radeon 64 MB DDR with video in/video out (retail 183 MHz core)
  • Phillips Acoustic Edge sound card (a notch above the SB Live)
  • Adaptec 2940UW controller controlling only HD's
  • Tekram SCSI controller for all narrow devices (nice to have dual channels for SCSI)
  • Intel 10/100 ethernet controller
  • Quantum Atlas 10K II UW drive (9.1 gig) as startup, 2x IBM 18 gig 7200 RPM UW drives as data drive (stripe set using Win2k Professional)
  • Pioneer 16X SCSI DVD drive
  • Ricoh 6x4x24 SCSI Burner
  • Onstream 50 Gig SCSI tape backup
  • Samsung 900NF 19" monitor
  • Umax 1200S scanner
  • HP 952 inkjet printer

I know that many of these items can be added to a Mac, but try to order that Apple without the IDE CD-ROM or say that you don't want the onboard sound because you'd rather throw a kickass sound card in there anyway so why even spend that extra $10 (I'm sure the cost of the onboard sound added a few dollars to the cost of the system anyway).

Also consider that for many years (before OS X) multitasking on the Mac was pretty pathetic if nonexistent. It was cooperative, similar to Windows 3.1. For someone like me who downloads while listening to MP3, cuts a CD while doing that, and then jumps into a game of Unreal Tournament, multitasking may be important. Heck, I still don't make a coaster even while running Unreal and my MP3s in the background. Testament to the multitasking capability of NT/Win2k. As much as many may hate Microsoft, Win2k is a very good product. It's stable as a rock and pretty damn fast, too.

Anyway, I understand that a person like me may not be the norm. I consider myself a power user, but I know many who like to have this much flexibility. I know that if someone does not know what they are doing, they can put together a really poor PC system that is cheap, unstable, and a poor performer. Apple regulating its hardware has made it safer for the average consumer but made it more difficult for power users like myself. I won't bother speaking of prices. My system was not cheap, so I won't lie and say I built it for $1,000, but a Mac with similar configurations would be easy double the price. While true that I don't have tech support and I'd have to do my own warranty work, that's okay because it's easier for me to pull out a dead CD-ROM and go to the store and exchange that piece while under warrantee than to drag the whole computer somewhere for warranty work. My choice again. My grandmother could not do what I do, so obviously she would need a computer with warranty and tech support.

As for performance. I believe that 99% of people who own an Apple product have been brainwashed by Apple into thinking that their computer is much faster than any PC out there. Heck, even the sales guy at a local Mac shop backed down from a PSBench head-to-head test. Funny that he was confident that his new 867 MHz G4 would take down anything until he found out that I'm running an AMD and that I was not worried.

I've tested this machine, and my scores in Photoshop 6 exceed that of an overclocked 1 GHz G4 (I think it was on MacSpeedZone) by a good margin. I won't bother comparing to dual CPU systems, because that would not make sense. The reason I also chose PSBench was because it's most fair for Apple. I mean, I have run the Cinbench and Raydream benchmarks and have trounced the G4s pretty good, so I guess my point is that PCs are not slow just because they are PCs. PCs are slow because the majority of off-the-shelf PC's use crap hardware with BIOSes that have not been optimized for aggressive RAM timings, etc., and therefore they will be slow. Even Compaq, Dell, and IBM machines are slower than similarly configured custom machines that use quality parts...

I know this was a long email, but I just wanted to show that just because it's a PC doesn't mean its going to have inferior parts, poor configuration, instabilities, or poor performance.

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