My Turn

The Power User Minority

Michael Zuhlke - 2001.10.29

We've received a lot of feedback to last week's Why PCs Are Better for Power Users and Macs, PCs, and Power Users, several of which we plan to share this week.

Upon reading the letter you published from Tino, I felt compelled to write in. You see, I purchased my first Wintel PC back in 1992 and have yet to buy a new one. I learned about the PC, its operating systems, and its components and just upgraded the machine until 1998, when I switched to a Macintosh.

It wasn't long before my PC had to be upgraded for my gaming use and had absolutely nothing in common with what it started out with in '92. In 1998, for 4 months, I even had a bleeding-edge, top-of-the-line PC (for that time period) similar to how Tino now has a bleeding-edge PC. It was then that I stepped back, reassessed my wants, needs, and the cost of both, and then considered and bought a Macintosh for the first time.

I must say his quote, "I believe you have missed one thing that makes PCs attractive to many," is inaccurate. That is to say, unless "many" equates to a minute fraction of all Wintel PC users. I, however, suspect "many" means his friends, who are no doubt bleeding-edge gamers.

I work in IT, and most of the family's of the people I work with each day, who you think would know about PCs, do not fit in Tino's "Power User" category. In fact, very few of all the Wintel users in the world would fit his view of a Power User, so his use of "many" is grossly exaggerated. He should have substituted "some of my friends" for his "many." He then goes on to challenge readers to "decide if it is inferior PC parts," meaning the parts that are in his PC. He doesn't, however, name a manufacturer of his PC, and I'll tell you why. He hand-picked the parts which would go into his PC by choosing what to buy and then he built it from scratch.

Later, he claims someone backed down from a bake-off against his machine. He says, "I won't bother comparing to dual CPU systems, because that would not make sense." I would like to know wherein lies the sense in comparing a stock 867 MHz Power Mac with a custom built PC?! A good analogy here would be putting a Porsche you could buy at the local foreign car dealer up against an Indy race car. A Porsche can be a fast car, but it is hardly built to compete against an Indy race car.

He and others like him (among which I counted myself a few years ago) are among the minority when it comes to all Wintel PC users in the world. He is obviously a gamer who seeks high frame rates in the games he plays. It may very well be that his PC can churn out a ridiculously high number of frames per second (fps) on Unreal Tournament, but once you reach so many fps, it just doesn't make a discernible difference to the human eye any more.

I am fairly sure that the 867 PowerMac falls well within the "playable" range in such games. I would also add that both his system and that of an 867 MHz PowerMac are overkill for burning CD-R/RWs and playing MP3s.

When a generalization is made about substandard PC parts, I take it to mean your stock computers from Dell, Gateway, Compaq, and Hewlett Packard (to name a few). It would be foolish to claim every Mac part is top quality and every single PC part is trash. I doubt the average Mac user would believe this either. Besides, a more important issue is how a high MHz number is used by Wintel PC vendors to market a PC as powerful, when in reality the vendor makes the choice of installing "integrated video" or other slow (but not substandard) parts which, even when matched with a very fast processor, nevertheless act as a bottleneck, preventing the machine from realizing its potential.

When Tino says his Indy car is better than our Porsche, I give him no argument there. I do take serious issue, however, with the numbers of people he equates to wanting his definition of choice. He is clueless about the number of people who actually have the ability to design, build, upgrade, and maintain the hardware and software that goes into a PC such as his. Even if the number is larger than I believe, there are still going to be a large number of those people who don't want to spend the time (and time is money) troubleshooting and upgrading their PC.

I used to love troubleshooting my PC, but now the glamour of getting under the hood is far outweighed by the cost in time and money (to stay on the bleeding edge) as well as the inconvenience of the down time.

His PC does what he requires it to do and that is great for him. He shouldn't buy a Mac for what he needs. He just should realize his definition of Power User puts him in the minority of Wintel PC users, and for much of the rest of the Wintel PC users, a Mac would be at least as good a choice in the long term when you consider stability, quality and life-cost of the system.

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