Mac vs. PC for Photographers: The Ultimate Guide

Mac vs. PC.  A debate that live on for years to come, but there is really only one that is best for photographers.  Read on to find out which.

 

Oct 2015 Update: Be sure to check out the Windows Photo Editing SUPER Guide article for updated recommendations on the best low price options for PCs that will run Photoshop and Lightroom well – including what hardware is worth spending more money on and what is not!


 

Short Answer

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It depends!  I hate it when photographers do that to me.  OK, so bottom line is that either can work fine, but you have to spend the money to get the hardware you need.  Really this article is mostly for the PC user who are into photography.  If you are a Mac user, I doubt you are tempted to switch to a PC because you are a photographer.  In fact, you may be a Mac user because you are a photographer, and that is great.  You Mac users may be interested in the end of the article where I provide recommendations on which hardware upgrades are actually worth the money to make sure it can do a good job editing photos.

Now for you PC users.  You are probably hearing constantly about doing photo editing on Mac.  You may be seriously tempted to get a Mac just because you hear so much about it from the photography community.  Maybe you are curious about if it really is better than the PC.  You may want to give it a try and determine for yourself, especially if it is time to invest in a new computer, but if things are going fine for you with editing your photos on a PC then my recommendation is to stick with what you know.  Why put a kink in your workflow and go away from what you know?

There, a photographer just gave you permission to use a PC for editing photos.

Instead of switching platforms from PC to Mac, your photography will improve much more by investing in lenses (check out my article recommending a “nifty fifty” lens as the second thing a beginner should buy), other equipment, and training (check out Jim and Darin’s awesome training courses at photoclasses.com).

Whether Mac or PC, I know how seriously frustrating it is to try and edit photos on a computer that doesn’t have enough power.  Maybe you are still using the computer you had before you started into photography, and it isn't up to the challenge.  If that's you, it is time to invest in a newer computer.  Read the long answer to go through reasons to pick one over the other, but really neither has a huge advantage and I think it makes the most sense to stick with what you know.

Check out the last two sections of this article for help in the specifications of what you need in a computer (PC or Mac) for a good photo editing experience.

Long Answer

I think it would be easier to discuss religion or politics than to take a side on the Mac vs. PC debate.  It is a debate that seems among photographers to be second only to the Canon vs. Nikon (or Sony, or Panasonic, or any of the other manufacturers).  The discussion is a little easier when you put a photography related slant on it, but it can still be fairly heated.

Still, as the hobbyist editor here at improvephotography.com my job is to take a view on these kinds of things and recommend something based on my own experience as well as what I have learned from other great photographers.  Remember this when you comment on the post, but please do comment.

At some point it is likely to become necessary to get a better computer than what you had when you started into photography.  Photoshop, Lightroom, and many other photo processing tools run much better when you have a good computer.  That machine you bought online for $200 last Christmas is simply not going to work well.

You can make due for some time, and you should for as long as you can.  But when processing a shoot takes twice as long as it should because you are CONSTANTLY waiting for your computer, or the display connected to your computer is not good enough (1080p HD is NOT enough), you will want to do something about it.

At the point when you have decided it is time and the next photography investment you are going to make is a new computer, think of it in the same you think about investing in a new lens and be prepared to spend as much in a lot of cases.  Check out the last part of the article here on recommendations of what the minimum hardware should be in both Mac and PC computers to make editing photos go well.

Why Should You Listen To Me?

Like the other articles I have authored for this website, I am writing this shortly after having gone through exactly this dilemma.  I realized very quickly that even a as a beginning photographer I needed to “post process” my photos on the computer (see my article here about why a beginner needs Adobe Lightroom) in order to make my shots look anything close to those I was seeing online.

Although I consider myself to be a fairly solid hobbyist photographer at this point, I am still relatively new to photography.  However, as an IT professional who has worked on and with computers for more than 20 years, I know computer hardware and software pretty well.  I have built computers, written software for computers, and as of writing this article my full time job is to architect solutions for very large computer systems for a large financial institution.  It is a subject area I have more qualifications to speak to than any other photography subject.

All that said, as I was trying to learn about photography any way I could (podcasts, YouTube, books, etc.) it felt like I was constantly being told that I needed a Mac in order to have photo editing go well.  It seemed like every YouTube video was done on a Mac, ever podcast was about how the new Mac was so awesome, and every photographer I talked to was using a Mac.  It was a full on Mac attack, and I am a PC user.

I was editing my photos in Lightroom and had become frustrated that the PC laptop I was running it so … s l o w l y.  The laptop was dated and I knew that even if I wasn’t doing photo editing it was time to upgrade the hardware.  Given all of the hype from the photography community about Mac, I was wondering if I should dump all of my limited hobbyist photography budget on a Mac, or save some $$$ and stick with PC?

Hopefully my story sounds familiar to some of you, especially the beginners out there who are just getting started into photography.  If so, let me take you through a few questions you probably have.

Doesn’t Adobe Software Run Better on Mac?

Mac fanboys are probably going to disagree, but my experience has been that Adobe tools like Photoshop and Lightroom do not necessarily run better on a Mac vs. a PC.  I believe they used to several years ago, although I don’t have personal experience with it from before 2011 to say for sure.

In fact, before Apple switched the architecture of the Mac from PowerPC to Intel in 2006, Adobe had to write their software products very differently for Mac than for PC due to the architecture differences.  So I am pretty sure there really was something to this years ago, I just don’t think there is much to it today.

Like so many other things in life, you get what you pay for in a computer.  There is a reason those cheap $200 PCs don’t really work that well for nearly anything.  If a PC has equivalent hardware to a Mac, it will run Adobe software products just as well as a Mac.  Really the biggest difference then is the cost (Mac is more expensive – initially) and personal preference of Windows vs. OSX – which can be extremely important.

If you are using a PC, I think you should stick with what you know best because I don’t think either has a big advantage over the other to run post processing software.

Don’t Macs Have Fewer Problems?

This is an area where I will give a very slight nod to the Mac, agreeing that in general they seem to have fewer issues than PCs.  Again, you get what you pay for, and there is a reason a Mac has more of a “premium” initial price than a PC.  Well, okay, it could be just because Apple can.  No, Apple really does put a lot of work into making sure you have a good product in your hands when you fork over that much of your hard earned money.  I am truly convinced this is a real difference between Mac and PC.  Unfortunately, it seems Apple is also becoming a victim of their own success and the quality control has gone down as the demand has gone up.

I often hear the argument come up very quickly that PCs are virus magnets whereas Macs are impervious to malware problems.  This is actually a topic very near and dear to my heart, but this isn’t an article on the topic of computer security, so let’s just say that there is more in it for the bad guys to write viruses for Windows.  So yes, you are more likely to have a problem with malware on a PC than on a Mac.

Can a PC work without major problems?  Can a PC be kept clean from viruses?  Do Macs ever have problems?  Yes, yes, and yes.  Is this a reason to pick a Mac over a PC?  Maybe.  It may make sense if you are, or will be, doing photography professionally to save yourself from also having to be a PC technician by getting a Mac.  Just remember that Macs are still computers, and all computers have technical problems (after all the hardware in the Mac is the same as in some good PCs).

If you aren’t used to a Mac, a PC will be just fine, so long as it isn’t a bargain basement model.  I think it makes a lot of sense to stick with what you know.

Aren’t PCs MUCH Less Expensive?

As I have alluded to earlier in the article here, in general PCs are less expensive than Macs – at least initially.  And that word “initially” is the key.  The upfront cost of a PC that has almost exactly the same hardware can be as much as 50% less than a Mac.  This is why many PC fanboys will often refer to the “Apple Tax” when you talk about Macs.  But the truth is, unless you build a PC yourself, many of the PC models from the big box vendors like HP and Dell usually end up with some durability problems.  They just don’t seem to last very long.  Sigh.

The PC business is pretty much as cutthroat as it gets.  The margins have gone down to the point that the manufacturers have to sell a ton of them to make any money.  As they are building them they cut every corner they possibly can.  It is worse for laptops than desktops.  So you may be able to buy a PC for considerably less money than a Mac, but the Mac may last longer.

Will a Mac last long enough to make the higher initial cost worth it?  Maybe.  Depends a lot on your use.  I think it is very similar to a car.  The same car will last much longer for the old lady driving to church on Sundays vs. a teenager.

To me the costs of a computer, the full costs from beginning to end, depends on how much you know about PCs and computer hardware.  Apple has chosen to make their computers much less upgradeable by anyone but them.  There are some good reasons to do so, but you can’t replace almost anything yourself very easily on many of the most recent models.  PCs on the other hand are much more open.  Desktops a lot more so than laptops, but without too much trouble you can replace RAM, a hard drive, video card, and even a processor if you wanted to.  This can help you increase the hardware in your computer a bit more slowly like I did, where I added almost one thing at a time.  Takes some knowledge.  Takes some time.  But if budget is one of your key concerns you can minimize the up front investment.

If you are a beginner on a tight budget and are willing to be your own tech support then you can potentially save quite a bit of money on a PC and use the rest on photography gear!  But be aware, even though the number may be smaller than the up front cost of a Mac, it still takes a good sized amount of money to build a PC good enough for editing photos.  In the end I don't think the cost is all that different, at least not 50% less.

Desktop or Laptop?

Another trend I heard constantly from photographers was the use of laptops for photo editing.  Maybe this has to do a lot with the Mac line of computers having a sweet spot with the laptop form factor with their MacBook models.  Maybe there are just a lot more photographers who are constantly on the go and need a more mobile solution.  Whatever the reason, I think this is one you really need to consider carefully.

Desktops are quite simply better for editing photos.  Yes, that is a blanket across the board statement.  Mac or PC, a desktop will run your editing software better than a laptop for less money.  MacBooks are very capable of running editing software if you make sure they have some essential upgrades (see the Mac Recommendations section below).  In fact, I think MacBooks are better suited than nearly anything from the PC world in the way of laptops.  That is changing a bit, the “ultrabook” line of PC laptops are finally competing fairly well with MacBooks and some of the stuff shown by PC makers at CES 2015 looks really interesting.  But going back to the cutthroat market of PCs I will bring up again how the vendors cut every corner they possibly can.  I have owned numerous PC laptops over the years and haven't been truly happy with any of them – especially for photo editing.

As good as a MacBook can be, I still recommend a desktop.  Laptop screens are mostly terrible.  The MacBook retina screens are beautiful, but tiny.  I have been shocked as I moved from a 24″ full HD (1920×1080) screen to a 30″ WQXGA (25650×1600) IPS screen at just how important this is for editing photos.  There is a reason creative professionals are willing to spend $2,400 on a super high quality Eizo monitor (check out monoprice.com for great monitors for far less money), it really matters.

In general you can get more CPU, more RAM, and more disk with less money in a desktop than a laptop.  Desktops also tend to last longer because heat is an enemy to computers and laptops are in such small packages their heat battle is going to be lost faster.  Think through this one very carefully.  If you REALLY need mobility then you have no choice and should use a laptop, but I suspect that for many who claim this to be a requirement their laptop actually rarely leaves their desk and they would have been better off with a desktop.

PC Recommendations (early 2015)

pcprosconsWhen I was faced this dilemma I knew both the Mac and the PC pretty well, so my own choice actually came down to cost.  I knew how to build and maintain a PC very well, and could get a lot more hardware for the dollars by doing that.  I decided that for me it was better to minimize my investment on computer hardware, end up with a PC better suited for photo editing, and save the rest of the budget for other photography gear.

Even though I had a lot of experience with computers, I didn’t have a lot of experience with photo editing software and understanding what hardware actually makes a difference.  So I did quite a lot of research and was able to do some testing to see specifically what makes a difference.

Unfortunately there are too many PC manufacturers for me to recommend a specific model.  I don't think in the PC world there is actually all that much difference between them.  Some PC makers do better at customer support than others, although even that seems to change depending on who you ask.  I will say that I doubt any of the PCs you find in a box at the store are going to meet your needs.  Go online and customize your order based on the recommendations below.

Here is my advice on what things are worth “upgrading” in a PC to make sure it will run Photoshop and Lightroom well.  Remember, this is very photography focused and is not a recommendation for a gaming or video editing PC (that would start off with maxing out the CPU and have some other differences).  The recommendations are in order of priority to help you decide how to get it configured as you are ordering from a PC maker or if you are brave enough to try a custom build (Be sure to check out the Windows Photo Editing SUPER Guide article for updated recommendations):

  1. 32GB of RAM. These photo editing software programs are memory hogs.  As a software developer I think Adobe and other software companies are being lazy with their development practices because so many computer systems have high quantities of RAM, but they need every bit you can give them.  You can have things work pretty will with 16GB of RAM, and can get by with 8GB, but this is the first place I would max out a system configuration for a computer and get as much memory as possible.
  2. SSD hard drive. Abbreviation for solid state drive, an SSD is a hard drive that uses flash memory technology, similar to the memory in your phone and the SD cards you put in your camera.  They are quite a bit faster at reading and writing than the magnetic spinning hard drives, but they are also more expensive.  Quite a bit more expensive.  But boy does this make a difference for photo editing, I almost made it my first thing on the list.  Get something 256GB or higher for the OS and programs, and to use as a “working” drive.  Then have a 1-4TB magnetic hard drive used for your longer-term storage (internal or external).If SSD is too expensive, then at least making sure you have a magnetic drive that spins at 7200RPM (instead of the very common 5400RPM) will make a big difference.
  3. Intel “Core i” processor. Kind of strange to think that the processor is so far down on a list of hardware specs, but in my opinion this is where it belongs for a decent photo editing machine.  This doesn’t mean you can ignore the processor.  Won’t do you any good to have loads of RAM and a SSD drive if you don’t have a decent CPU.  Get the best one you can afford, but upgrade the other things listed previous to the CPU first.I have been an AMD processor fan for many years, just like I love to cheer on the underdog in sports.  AMD has often had a better price to performance ratio over Intel, but when it comes to running photo editing software there is no question the software is heavily optimized for Intel processors.  Photoshop and Lightroom will still run on AMD, you won’t have a problem launching the application, but I think it is worth the money to go with Intel.I also recommend at least a Core i3 processor.  The software will run on a Pentium or Celeron process from Intel, but not nearly as well.  The Core i5 is a pretty big step up from the i3, and the Core i7 won’t break a sweat on this kind of work.
  4. Large, high resolution IPS monitor. This was the last piece of computer equipment I upgraded, didn’t want to spend the money on a monitor, but it has made a HUGE difference in my photo editing.  I recommend a 27” or 30” monitor capable of 2560×1600 resolution (more than 2x more resolution than HD).  That resolution is commonly called WQXGA.  You will want to connect the PC to the monitor through DVI or DisplayPort, not through HDMI or VGA.  If you missed it earlier in the article, check out the monitors over at monoprice.com for really good ones at very reasonable prices.
  5. Nvidia graphics. This isn’t because AMD (used to be ATI) graphics are bad.  It is because Adobe doesn’t support anything but Nvidia very well on a PC.  It is improving, and I expect it to get much better in the coming years with the AMD graphics in the Mac Pro being supported so well, but for now you should avoid AMD video cards in your PC – whether laptop or desktop.The graphics chipset seems to be a much bigger deal in Adobe’s video editing programs than it is for Photoshop or Lightroom, but if possible you should get a computer with a discrete (meaning one that is not built into the motherboard often called “integrated”) Nvidia chipset graphics card with 1GB of RAM.
  6. USB 3.0. Your Mac friends will scoff at USB speeds when they have Thunderbolt for external storage.  There are a few PC motherboards with Thunderbolt built into them for PCs, but it has remained mostly a feature of Apple products and isn’t very well supported.  Still, USB 3.0 is so much faster than USB 2.0 that it is good to make sure you have a few on your computer.  Even with USB 3.0 I wouldn’t recommend editing your photos from an external drive, it just isn’t fast enough.  But using a USB 3.0 compatible SD card reader when importing the photos will make a big difference, as well as backing up or having your long-term storage on a USB 3.0 compatible external drive.Note: At CES 2015 USB 3.1 and a new type of “C” connector was presented with speeds 2x faster than USB 3.0, theoretically equal to the speed of Thunderbolt.  Although there is still an architectural advantage to Thunderbolt that will likely make it superior.
  7. 64 bit Windows 8.1 or 64 bit Windows 7 Professional.  The latest and greatest OS from Redmond has taken a beating in the media.  They changed things up a lot.  Judging by the direction Microsoft is taken Windows 10 they know they went too far towards a tablet friendly UI that didn't go well with PC users.  Still, once you get used to things a little it isn't a big deal.  I have been running my photo editing on Windows 8.1 for quite a while now and have no complaints.  Whether Windows 7 (recommend Professional in order to take full advantage of all the hardware) or Windows 8.1, you have to make sure you install the 64 bit version or you won't be able to use all the RAM you have in the computer.  This shouldn't be too hard as everything within the last 2-3 years has come with a 64 bit version of Windows.
  8. No Hackintosh. I hesitate to even raise the topic, but I am imagining the comments coming, so I thought I should.  With Apple moving to the x86 hardware architecture, it is technically possible to run OSX on hardware not directly sold from Apple.  You can get specific components of hardware and then use some hacks to get OSX loaded up and have it function fairly similarly to a Mac without paying for a Mac.  It is true you can save some money here, but besides it being legally questionable (violates OSX terms of service and possibly the DMCA) it is difficult to maintain the hacks over time.  As new OSX updates come out the hacks frequently stop working until those smart hackers out there figure out how to get around it.  It simply isn’t worth the trouble.  If you want a Mac, buy one.

If you are interested in building your own PC there are plenty of DIY build recommendations and instructions out there to make this very possible.  It sounds really intimidating at first because hardware has such confusing names and not everything can fit together.  But I can recommend Paul’s Hardware Channel and the PCDIY channel on YouTube along with the digital video editing DIY build recommendations from videoguys.com.

Mac Recommendations (early 2015)

macprosconsYou don’t have nearly as many different ways to configure a Mac as you do a PC, really just a few choices.  I thought I would break out my recommendations for Mac differently that I did for PC based on the model choices from least expensive (not cheap) to outrageous

Mac mini

The Mac mini is the entry level machine from Apple really designed for people switching from a PC.  It is a tiny little desktop computer that packs quite a lot of punch into a small space, and will run Photoshop and Lightroom very well.  If after reading this article you think you might like trying a switch from a PC, this would be a really good way to try it out and see how you like the world of Mac.  Here is how I would configure it minimally for photo editing (about $1,000):

  1. 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
  2. 16GB 1600MHz LPDDR3 SDRAM (max)
  3. 1TB fusion drive (will probably want a thunderbolt external drive)
  4. Apple Magic Mouse

MacBook Air

The entry level laptop from Apple is very nice as far as a laptop goes.  It gives you probably the ultimate in portability, but you will honestly get more power out of the Mac mini for less money.  Here is how I would configure it minimally for photo editing (about $1,300):

  1. 11 inch model
  2. 4GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz
  3. 8GB 1600MHz LPDDR3 SDRAM (max, can’t get 16)
  4. 256GB PCIe-based Flash Storage (going to need a thunderbolt external drive)
  5. Apple Magic Mouse

MacBook Pro

PC manufacturers are catching up (some of them shown at CES 2015 looked pretty nice) but the MacBook Pro is arguably the best laptop money can buy and is awesome for photo editing.  The Mac mini offers roughly the same power here, with 4x more storage, for less money, but here is the minimal configuration I recommend (about $1,800):

  1. 13 inch model
  2. 6GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz
  3. 16GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
  4. 256GB PCIe-based Flash Storage (max, going to need a thunderbolt external drive)
  5. Apple Magic Mouse

You’ll notice that I recommend the Apple Magic Mouse with each one, that’s because the mouse is so good it is worth the money to get one.  I would also recommend that with either of the MacBook models you should also get a monitor to use with them when you are in your office.  Editing photos on those tiny screens, nice as they are (and they are incredible), is not great.  The Apple Thunderbolt Display would be a really good choice, but at $1,000 that pretty much doubles your cost.  Yikes.

iMac

Apple just revamped the iMac in late 2014, making it one of the most desirable desktop computers for photo editing due to the 5k display.  As of the writing of this article there aren’t really 5k options available for the PC world, and I can confirm that even as a hobbyist a high resolution monitor is a VERY big deal.

Could you save some dollars and consider the previous model iMac?  Absolutely.  You will still get a very good display with it, just not 5k.  And the iMac has been a good machine very capable of doing photo editing for quite some time.  In fact, at this point I think it is a fair statement across all these Mac models to say that a previous generation model will work pretty well – just look for the RAM.

Here is my minimum recommendation for an iMac, which isn’t the 5k version (Jim reports that the difference seems TINY to him), but isn’t the smallest model either (about $2,200):

  1. 27 inch model (you could go down to 21 if it isn’t in the budget, but it really is worth it to go 27)
  2. 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM – 2X8GB
  3. 1TB Fusion Drive (will probably want a thunderbolt external drive)
  4. Apple Magic Mouse (already included with an iMac)

Mac Pro

Now we enter the world of insanity for many.  The Mac Pro is an incredibly powerful machine, but I don’t recommend it for a beginning photographer.  It is something more for a power video editor.  Of course you could edit photos on it without the machine breaking a sweat, but it is overkill in my opinion and you are much better served to spend the cash on lenses.

I don’t need to provide a minimum configuration here because anything you order of a Mac Pro is going to rock Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro.  The most inexpensive Mac Pro starts at about $3,000, which may seem not too bad when you compare it with the iMac because that is only $800 more.  Wait, did I just say ONLY $800?  But there is no monitor that comes with that, so you have to add that on top ($1,000 thunderbolt display).  So you could get an iMac and a MacBook Air for less than a Mac Pro and monitor, which would be better in my opinion.

Conclusion

A PC user doesn’t have to switch to a Mac in order to have a good experience editing photos.  I think it makes a lot of sense for a photographer to stick with what they know.  At some point it may make sense to go to Mac from PC, especially if you are a professional photographer, but it is really a matter of personal preference and neither has a big advantage over the other.  Just make sure you have enough hardware for the job in whichever you choose.

OK, so now let me have it in the comments below 🙂


About the Author

Jeff Harmon

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The hobbyist editor here at improvephotography.com. IT Professional by day, passionate hobbyist photographer ever other second possible. Living in Herriman, Utah. Loves trying to capture the beauty around every day and family portraits occasionally. Be sure to check out my portfolio at http://jsharmonphotos.com.

Comments

  1. This is the perfect blog post for me right now. I have a 4 year old toshiba that I am trying to use to edit photos in Lightroom and PS. Can we say frustrated! I am selling my photos online and at art shows now so I really need an upgrade. I live and travel full time in an RV, so a desk top is not an option. Where can I find a laptop with the specs you mentioned? What about the monitor on a laptop? I don’t have piles of $$ to throw at a computer, what would be the best way to go?

    1. Author

      @Mary,

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion! Totally understand the small budget for a computer. Since you are traveling, I can see the need for a laptop, and recommend something from Asus or Lenovo. Follow the guide for PCs (you can go 16BG of RAM and be fine). Make sure you do not get one with AMD graphics. Most of the laptops have full HD displays now, which is not ideal as I think higher resolutions REALLY help, but I don’t think there are many out there offering higher resolutions than that. If you can find one that says it is IPS that will really help. Just as I stated in the article, I am not really pleased with the durability of PC laptops, they seem to fall apart much sooner than they should. So getting a MacBook Air may be worth looking into for you, although using such a small screen is tough.

      1. Jeff – thank you so much for this article! Like others here, I am a beginning/hobbiest/photography nut, and it’s time for a new computer to fuel my obsession 🙂 Your article has been exactly what I was looking for…and because of it, I have pretty much decided to go with a MacBook Pro. I want to spend my free time taking pictures, not buried in the guts of a PC, and I like the portability of a laptop. My question is, if I plan on using Lightroom &/or Elements, would it be best to just spend the bucks & go for the following specs on a MBP: Mid 2012 (upgradable), 15″, i7, SSD, 8-16 gb, NVIDIA? Or…being a beginner, would the same specs in an i5 suffice, thereby saving me a $$? Please and Thank You!

        1. You don’t necessarily get buried in the guts of a PC, though. A modern PC, like a Mac, just…. works, It just works.

    2. I’m an IT professional who is a semi-pro photographer (I take photos for fun, people ask me if they can buy them so I sell them). I use Windows, Linux, and a Mac. I also use Nikon and Canon, both APC and FX. I edit photos and video using both the PC and the Mac.

      Which do I prefer?

      Well, it depends. =)

  2. Less tech support? What about the Genius Bar? You can go just have them help you….with anything….free! (Unless repairs are needed.) Maybe they are not as prevalent around the country. But I haven’t needed support anyway, I needed help all the time when I had a PC. My husband is the only one in the family with a PC and he always want to borrow my Mac, poor thing.

    Good luck, I am sure you’ll be getting LOTS of comments.

    1. @Rebecca – I agree.

      The nice thing about Macs is there really isn’t much you CAN even do to fix it. You check your permissions, and if that doesn’t fix it… it must be the hardware. That’s one of the nicest things about the Mac.

      I’ve used PC and Mac EXTENSIVELY for photo editing, and I can say that my Mac requires less than half the maintenance that a Windows Machine does.

  3. Do you know/recommend a Windows laptop with discrete graphics that isn’t a gaming rig weighing more than 6 lbs.? I’d like to find one as I do travel a lot and I’m trying to avoid excess weight.

      1. Author

        @Sudarshan,

        Agree that Ultrabooks are getting much better in the PC world, becoming far more compelling as compared with the MacBooks. I personally have still been disappointed with their durability.

    1. Author

      @Steve,

      Sadly, not really. The higher priced MacBooks are currently doing a lot better here, making the cost worth it. If you really don’t want to go over to Apple land, then I recommend either an Asus or Lenovo laptop. You can check out their ultrabook lines. I think they are currently producing the best built PC laptops. Then follow my guide for PCs in what hardware you customize them to have. Biggest point is to avoid AMD (ATI) graphics in them, Adobe does not support that well on a PC.

  4. In general, I agree with your conclusion, although I’m extremely happy with my MacBook Pro for editing, and use it as my only computer.

    Yes, the initial cost is higher than a cheap Windows-based laptop, but the performance runs circles around those. There are some very nice, similar equipped laptops that compares well to the MacBook Pro, but the price is also similar.

    One thing that used to annoy me terribly (I don’t know if this has been fixed) was the mixture of color managed and non-color managed environment on Windows. Photoshop would use the color profile embedded in a file (e.g. AdobeRGB 1998) while Windows preview would not, making the visual representation of the same file differ quite a lot. The Mac OS X is color managed though and through, and always use the color profile embedded in your file.

    Another thing to consider is the fact, that for some reason, Windows do tend to get slower over time and require a re-installation every couple of years. My previous MacBook Pro from 2006 ran for 7 years without a single re-install, and was upgraded to a new version of Mac OS X whenever it came out. I never experienced performance degradation in the OS – and if anything, some versions (e.g. Snow Leopard) actually made it feel snappier.

    However, with careful usage and by using your head before clicking on everything presented to you, a Windows PC is very capable and does give you some more freedom with respect to upgrades and customization than a Mac, that is for sure.

    1. Author

      @Anders,

      Thanks for the feedback! Mixed color management remains a problem even in the latest Windows 8.1. Totally agree with you there, hate having my mouse cursor and the photos app a completely different brightness and color. At least it works where it counts in Lr and Ps, otherwise that would be a complete killer for doing anything on the PC.

  5. THANK YOU!!!!! I have been torn on this for almost a year now!!!! I finally have avenues that I can look into! You seriously have just told me exactly whT I have longing to hear!

  6. This article was almost timely. Just went from a PC to a Mac last week. My bargain PC was just not keeping up. It kept crashing all the time. What total frustration. Now I am learning a new system. There are a few changes that I have not figured out yet. A new kind of fristration that I trust will not last long. :). Google is my best friend right now. Good to read by this article that we did not make a huge mistake. Thanks.

  7. I LOVE IT!!! This post is great, and I’m sure it is perfect for those wanting an upgrade to Mac. However, this doesn’t reeeeaaaalllly define the differences between Mac and PC. I have a Macbook Pro, and it’s a beautiful computer, but, believe it or not, I’m debating on switching to PC, just for the upgradeability. My laptop is somewhat slow, with only 8 GB RAM, and Apple is annoying enough to not let us upgrade ram on laptops. Something worth mentioning, you can upgrade RAM on iMacs. Again, love the post. Thanks a bunch!

    1. Author

      @Jordan,

      Thanks for the feedback, glad you liked the article. Hope you will continue to contribute to our great improvephotography.com community. It is great that you could upgrade the RAM on the iMac before the 2013 model. However, Apple switched to soldering the chips to the machine that year and beyond, any attempt to do it yourself now voids the warranty. Sadface.

  8. I totally agree with most of this, but I’ve put years of study into this, and written some books on optimizing Windows performance, and I might be able to save you a few bucks…

    * RAM. If you’re spending most of your time in Lightroom, you’re fine with just 4GB of RAM. It rarely uses more. For photography, most Photoshop users won’t benefit from more than 8GB. 32GB can be useful for video editing, but even for that, the benefits above 16GB diminish quickly.

    * Video card. Lightroom makes no use of the GPU, and very few Photoshop filters do. Save some money and get a relatively cheap video adapter (that can still drive your huge monitors). If you get into video editing or gaming, the GPU is VERY important, but for photography, your money is better spent elsewhere.

    Had to get that off my chest, but great article! Very helpful!

    Oh, and I’d rather have two smaller monitors than one bigger monitor, esp. for Lightroom… so split that monitor budget in half and buy two.

    1. Author

      @Tony

      Thanks for contributing Tony, great to have you part of the community here. I was very tempted to put RAM as a second priority to SSD in my list for the reasons you have stated here, although I wouldn’t really want to try running a PC on 4GB of RAM. I do have to disagree with you on the monitor. I would opt for a single 30″ 2560×1600 monitor over two 1080p (1920×1080) monitors. The high resolution really helps me to see the detail of the photo better. It made a much bigger difference to me than I expected. Sure appreciate your involvement though, please keep it up!

  9. When I usually hear people complain about “My pc was soooo slow compared to when I switched to Mac” they really tend to ignore the price and time difference. You bought your PC for $600? 3 Years ago? Of course the Mac is going to work better because it’s a) newer, and b) you probably spent double the money on it.

    If you know a lot about computers the choice is obvious, you get much better bang for your buck with PC. If your highly tech-illiterate, you might have an easier time with a Mac. That’s my two-cents 🙂

    1. I am surprised how no one else realizes this. Also I have always been a PC user. Whatever problems I have had with PC were because of my meddling/installing all crap. When used it in a professional way i.e. only installing what is needed and avoiding all unnecessary stuff, PCs don’t really give any trouble.
      People who say their PC used to crash all the time, I don’t know what was wrong with their machines, I have been using windows since Windows XP and I never really had any problems.

    2. Author

      @Eric

      Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I hope that point came through in the article. If you know a little about computers then you can save as much as 50% to get almost the same build as it would take for a Mac. The problem is that there really aren’t that many who know enough to do that, or want to do that.

      1. I have had my HP Intel Core 17 PC for 11 years, and it has done well. I’m just beginning to think I’d better look into a new PC.

  10. You do have to pay for some additional stuff that comes bundled with windows, such as iSCSI initiators (if you want to mount a NAS drive through iSCSI) and NTFS file system support if you work in a mixed environment, but I’ve used both platforms extensively for photo editing & certainly prefer a Mac, although that’s more from a UI and underlying OS perspective, rather than specific capabilities… But that’s just my personal preference.

  11. I think that this is a great article. I currently have a PC with an AMD 10 processor. I have been debating for years to get a Mac but didn’t want to spend the money. Well I am now taking college classes for photography and use an iMac all the time and have fallen more in love with it the more I use it. I want to get an iMac before the semester is over so I can use it as a school tax right off. I want to get the 5k screen but what are my minimum features that I should get or even the way I should custom build it for photography editing as well as video editing as I work with a photographer and we make videos for houses going on the market. I want to get the best machine for my dollar and don’t really have a budget as I want something that I don’t have to buy another one for years. I appreciate any and all help that you might be able to give me. Again great article.

    1. Author

      @Dezarea,

      Thanks for the feedback! I have heard some early reviews that the 5K screen isn’t nearly as big an impact as was going from 1080p to 2K (the older version of the iMac). My advice right now would be to go for the 27″ 2K iMac at this point, save you some $$$. If you want to do video editing then make sure you max out the CPU. It will raise the cost considerably, but video editing is still primarily a CPU function. If you know a little about what you are doing with a PC, you can get a lot more hardware for the money to do video editing over what it will cost to get the same with a Mac. You can build a really good video editing computer for about $1,000. Follow the link in the article to videoguys.com for a DIY recommendation there. If you are a little nervous about that, max out the iMac and you will be pretty happy with it for several years.

  12. I used PC (windows) machines from 1990-2010. Switched to Mac. The system is night and day better. And even their stock preview software can preview raw files without an external editor when you want to look at something quick. Not even a contest here. Great article but save yourself time – get and iMac with 5k display!! Simply great and a severe bargain at that price when you compare it to other displays like it. Dell has a 5k for $2000!! You get a powerful computer with it for $500-$1000 more. Lol

  13. Excellent and in my case timely article, thank you. I have a small question: I notice you recommend 32 GB of RAM for the PC but only 16 GB for the iMac 27″. However, you can have 32 GB installed on the iMac, if you’re willing to pay 400$ over the 16GB. So is it ok to stick to 16 GB on the iMac, in your opinion? Thanks !

    1. Author

      @Yvonne,

      The Mac recommendations are a little different style than PC. If going up to 32GB RAM in the iMac is in the budget then do it. The reason the recommendation is at 32GB for the PC is that the cost is not much more to do it. In fact, pretty trivial to order a smaller amount of RAM with the computer and then upgrade it yourself for a very small cost. The point of the 16GB recommendation for the iMac in the article was that things will work pretty well at 16. With the 2013 version of the iMac, upgrading the RAM yourself is not so easy (Apple says you can’t do it without breaking warranty), so just remember that whatever you order you are stuck with unless you take it in to Apple for an upgrade.

    1. Author

      Yes, it’s true. If you know what you are doing with it you can get a lot more hardware for far less money. Great to have that option isn’t it?

    2. Those 6 Ghz chips that TurboBoost down to 3.1 Ghz are something new that Apple is trying out?

      1. Author

        I think that the 6 GHz was referring to overclocking capabilities, especially if you liquid cool the CPU. Obviously the kind of thing only a custom PC builder can do that takes some know how.

  14. Very nice article! I spent several years editing with PC laptops and desktops and agree that the desktop is a much nicer way to go for ease of use and expandability. 3 years ago, I moved over to the Mac and haven’t looked back. In my experience, the biggest benefit for me is no longer having to be a “PC expert” since the Mac continues to be completely and truly “plug and play” for me. This allows me to spend more time focused on photography and computer maintenance.

  15. I’m a PC guy as well as a beginner photographer, and I recently had to purchase a new desktop, of course it had to be custom built. I am also a PC tech, which allows me to save on maintenance and upkeep of my PC. Here is my breakdown:

    Asus Z97-AR.
    Intel i7-4790.
    Corsair 750W Modular.
    Corsair C60 water cool.
    NVIDIA GTX 760 2Gb.
    16gb RAM.
    240Gb SSD.
    320 HDD.
    1Tb External.
    Dual Dell 22″ P2214H IPS.

    In all I spent about $1,200 far less than a Mac, and better hardware than your average off the shelf Mac. I must say I love it and have yet experienced any issues or anything I can’t fix!

  16. Um, just gonna say. this was just a big ad for Mac really. you weighed the sides very little in many cases but just saying “initially” on the price point is pure and simply false. Every PC has a function and purpose. If i got a laptop/desktop on par with a mac it would be just as fast/faster and just as durable/more durable than a mac. It is about comfort, and use. Gaming PC hands down. The rest is just comfort and price range. Each have their niche.

    1. Author

      @Demon1337,

      Thanks for contributing to the improvephotography.com community! Many people have felt the article to be supporting the PC too much, making them feel the need to defend their Mac. I know it would be a controversial topic and overall my point was that photographers shouldn’t feel ashamed or lesser because they use a PC. I am a proud PC user. Love my custom built, liquid cooled system that purs along as I edit photos and video.

      My point about a smaller initial investment applies to the majority of photographers out there who are not trained enough to act as technical support for their computer. PC desktops can last as long as a Mac, but my experience with PC laptops has been dreadful. They just haven’t held up for me, which is understandable with how tight the market is and how little margin the PC manufacturers are making from them. So, over time, if a person doesn’t have the skills to do their own tech support, or the skills to upgrade the computer component by component, they may be buying another PC (especially a laptop) faster than they would a Mac. Maybe. That is exactly how I put it in the article, maybe.

      Completely agree that PC owns the gaming world. Also agree it is about comfort, which is why I recommended sticking with what you know. If that is PC, where you are comfortable and productive, no reason to switch to Mac because you are a photographer. But that are many who aren’t happy or truly comfortable with their PC and investing in a Mac may allow them to focus more on photography (and getting through their edits) rather than worrying about their computer.

  17. I’m a PC to Mac convert, But not 100%, but I personally wouldn’t go back. My son talked me into getting an iMac in Sept-Oct 2012. I have a 22″ (but not wish I had purchased the larger screen), with the fusion drive. For those not familiar with this, it’s the best of both worlds, with the solid state SSD and the 7,200 RMP drive, that Jeff talks about. GREAT article Jeff! I run “Parellels” so I can still run the MS Office programs, plus others that I’ve used for years and know inside out. Like Jeff I started building my own PCs in the DOS days and loved it! I still have a Lenovo Laptop withe an i5 Intel vPro 64 bit processor and a fair amount of RAM for the laptop, when new. Here are some of the Pros I saw in the change: Laptop Vs iMac, No comparison for photo edits and my next one will likely be Apple. My iMac boots up and I’m in Lightroom in 15-20 seconds and I can’t see this happening with a PC (Slow boot to LR drives me crazy on the laptop, up to 3 min.) Both have only 8Gb of RAM, but the laptop is always putting up messages stating available RAM is low? Problems with the computer slowing down with ti iMac is non existent. All the PCs I’ve had before starting slowing down the day I built or purchased them, until the day I retired them. This iMac is as fast is it was the day I opened the box two years ago! I utilized clean up programs, but all were temporary. Like Jeff says, programs are memory hogs and the largest hogs are antivirus programs! All seem to slow your computer down, but you can’t be without them. Maybe I’m just lucky with internet configuration, etc., but other than the IOSX and provider safeguards my iMac doesn’t antivirus or malware programs installed. With the new Windows 8 and beyond becoming more intuitive there’s hope, but I find IOSX much more intuitive, like the pinch to zoom. The only LR edit comparisons I can make are the PC laptop Vs my iMac (and the iMac utilizes the fusion drive) but loading pics to edit, saving them or using various plug-ins, I see a difference that swings me toward Apple. Photo library back up and transfer, Apple’s Thunderbolt has it hands down over USB 3.0, absolutely no comparison and this is no small potatoes for a photographer with thousands of pictures.
    Long story short, at this time my next purchase will be another Apple product for photography. Again, Great article Jeff!
    Thanks, Dale

    1. Just want to make one comment. Dale says he is in LR in 15-20 seconds. I am going to assume this from the end of boot, or from sleep (because from truly powered down is impossible for anything). If it takes me 15 seconds to go from sleep to LR open in 15 seconds, it it because I am distracted. Desktop wakes from sleep in about 3 seconds, LR opens in about the same.

  18. Regardless of Apple or PC, one of the main things to avoid when purchasing an entry level computer (Apple or PC) is integrated graphics processing i.e. Intel HD3000, HD4000, HD5000. For those who aren’t familiar, that means the chip that powers graphics processing is integrated with the regular processing rather than having a separate chip that is solely dedicated to graphics processing.

    The affordability of PC allows this type of advantage in laptops under $1000, however, in Apple laptops, that type of feature isn’t available for less than $2500. Many of the readers of this article who dont have thousands of dollars to spend may benefit from that information.

    1. Good comment and point. Entry level, off the store (big box) shelf is not going to be the best for photo editing. Mac or Windows.

  19. I tried to post a comment earlier and I am not sure where it went to but I will attempt to post again. I really loved this article it was very informative. I was just wondering what you would recommend for the minimum features for a iMac 5K. I am currently a PC user but have been going back and forth to switching and now that I have been using the iMac at my school it has really sold me to make the switch. I am a beginner Photographer and I also do some videos for a realtor with a photographer I have been working with. I would appreciate any suggestions that you might have. Thank you again great article.

    1. Author

      @Dezarea,

      So glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks for the feedback! To answer you question, I don’t recommend the 5k iMac right now. Jim got one this past Christmas and his early feedback is that the difference between it and the previous 27″ model is TINY bit of difference. If you can afford a fully maxed out 5k iMac, awesome. If you have a budget to watch out for, then spend the $$$ on the RAM, CPU, and fusion drive rather than the higher resolution screen. The CPU will really make a big difference for video processing, so maxing that out would make more sense than getting the 5k resolution.

      1. Ok thank you very much that is very helpful. I have been going back and forth and trying to decide exactly what to get and you have really made it a lot easier. 🙂

  20. Great article…been a PC user for donkey’s years, recently went thru this very same dilemma and ended up with a DELL XPS One with the 27″ screen…run PS, PSPX6, Lightroom etc., all with Topaz plugins, and not one hiccup or wait time experienced yet. And I typically work on files in the 50MB size.

    1. Author

      @Greg,

      Thanks for taking a moment to comment! So glad you liked the article. I think there are lots of fairly happy PC using photographers out there, nice to hear from you.

  21. i just love my macs. I made the switch 3 years ago and am SO happy i did. I have a macbook pro and a pimped out Imac. I Am truly happy. No issues at all in that time. They are going strong. I have my Lr catalog and image files on a lacie rugged thunderbolt external. They will take usb 3 as well and you can configure them to be 100% mac and pc usuable. I truly notice no difference with speed with processing images on them vs images on the internal hard drives. Thunderbolt is amazing! I wonder why though that you didn’t recommend the 32gb of ram that’s available for mac, which would seem forward planning to me.

  22. I am a PC user. I think your article is super awesome for someone who wants to stay with a PC. For some of us, moving to a Mac would be impossible because of the other uses our computer has.

    I have been slowly upgrading my PC over the last couple of years, and have finally gotten to an awesome machine. I don’t really have anything to compare it to, but my AMD graphics card runs Adobe software great. I can multitask in LR, PS, and Premiere. I routinely import into LR, process in Premiere, and edit in PS at the same time.

    I think that if someone is expanding a mass built PC (an Dell or HP for example), which is where so many are, they can do three things pretty easily – Expand RAM, get a discrete graphics card (check photoshop or premiere benchmarks and get the best you can afford), and switch to an SSD (Mine has Windows, my Adobe programs, and a couple games – everything else goes on the 7200rpm magnetic drive).

  23. Thank you for this article. I really thought it was great.
    At first I thought: Oh great another Apple fan boy photographer article or at best Jim, the lawyer turned Pro Photographer, wrote it. I scrolled down to see who the author was when I got to the part about you being an IT professional. No offence meant Jim but I don’t know that you have a IT background. 🙂
    I agree for the most part with your argument. If someone wanted a second opinion I would point them to this post, and feel comfortable about it.
    A Macbook Pro is probably the most correct answer for someone that insists they need a laptop for photography. Though I think you are correct, most people think they need a laptop for mobility when they really do not. When I hear people say that I usually think it is like saying I will leave the house with one shoe on because I will be ready faster. It will work but you are limiting yourself. I feel this is like shooting in Auto or at best P mode. “Just give me the easy answer and let the defaults make all the decisions.”
    I would think the starting point for a Windows desktop is an i5. Really anything worth considering on the Mac side would be at least an i5 equivalent and the price of the Mac would cover the i5. An i7 is probably overkill, unless this is doubling as a video editor or GAMING MACHINE. The i7 is kind of like a beginning photographer buying a 1D or a D3x because it is the “best”.
    I find it hard that you would consider a Macbook Air up to par for photo editing. Really it does not make the bar. If it was the same exact hardware without the apple logo it would not be in the running. There are several Windows equivalents that are comparable to the Air. None of them, including the Air, are really up to the job.
    I agree that the IMac and Mac Pro are excessive. For photography, there maybe some more consideration if you are doing “serious” video, these are over kill. The 5K IMac is the equivalent of driving a Porsche to work and the grocery store. The Mac Pro is like taking a Tank or a helicopter. If you have a business and can write it off, maybe, but for us paying for this out of pocket as a hobby….Really?
    As for Malware and Viruses; If you are using this for photo editing and posting your photos on line, I don’t see how a PC is that much more risky then a Mac. For what you could build, have built, or purchase of the web in a good PC over a Mac, you could buy a laptop to surf the web and take mobile with you and use for tethering or remote work till you get back to your desktop. Then your desktop (real) photography computer is “mostly” safe and virus free and you still have a laptop for taking around and downloading the questionable (malware) content.
    As you can probably tell, come down a little more on the Windows side then you did. But I have to admit, if you are just looking for a laptop, out of the box, solution I would thing a Macbook is your best (easiest) bet. If you can use a desktop, at least for the majority of the time, a Windows PC is probably the best. That is if you are “brave enough” to open the case and can unscrew things and slide a card or cable into a slot.
    Now if you are overclocking and water cooling…You already know what you want and have a mindset past what a article on a photo website is going to persuade you into.

    Again, Great article.I have no real complaints or objections. I was surprised by how fair and balanced your article was.

  24. Once you go Mac you will never want to go back. I was a PC user for over 15 years, never had an interest in Mac. My ex boyfriend kept trying to turn me into a mac person, and I fought against it. But I am so HAPPY he did, because I love it so much for photo and graphics. I use a mac book pro 17 inch screen for 4 years now, my prized possesion in life besides my camera. I want the largest desktop they make (on my wish list) Now I get annoyed when I have to use a PC at a friends house or work. Mac life <3

  25. Hi, very nice info. I ve been a photographer for the past 3 years but I used editing software like photoshop and lightroom both on pc and mac. When using a pc to load a raw picture used to take ages and every photo I used to edit I had to close the photoshop and open a fresh restart to load the next one.

    Its true that Mac are expensive machines but they are worth the money you invest! Since than, I ve migrated to an Imac 27″ i7 3.9ghz 8gig ram and with a Gt780 graphic card. I am able to use premiere, photoshop, lightroom and an hdr program running on parallel desktop simultanously, editing raw pictures one after the other….not bad eh! Slowing down is a thing of the past. I can work freely with no hassle at all. I’ve been divorced from pc 11 months and have no intentions of turning back.

  26. Best advice about choosing Mac or PC I ever heard was this: Step 1-figure out which of your techy friends wouldn’t mind too much being called by you late at night when your computer isn’t working and you are in a panic because you have a deadline. Step 2-buy the brand of computer about which your friend knows the most.

    Strictly a practical solution.

    1. Author

      @Phillip,

      Pretty good advice! Same advice I gave to beginning photographers on how to choose their first camera – find a mentor and get what they have. Once you get more comfortable with things, you can decide on your own what you want based on what you like to shoot. I think the same applies very well for computers. Thanks for the comment!

  27. Just one more item worth considering are repairs. I am a pc user and would happily go the Mac route when ready to replace current equipment, but, two days ago my pc power supply went pop ( good spec branded ) . With the pc architecture I nipped out , bought a new one and was back making money in less than two hours. The Mac is not so forgiving, its pack it up take a trip to nearest Apple centre and leave it with them. My nearest Apple centre is two and is half hours away, so my workflow would be deverly disrupted. Time is money as they say.

    1. Author

      @Eddie,

      Thanks for participating in the improvephotography.com community! You are right, the PC is far more repairable / upgradeable without having to go back to the manufacturer for things. It is one of the things I personally like about them, it means I could custom build my PC mostly one piece at a time. It is also something Apple seems to be actively working towards making more difficult for their customers, you can’t even upgrade the RAM in the iMac after the 2013 revision. However, it takes some knowledge to do that, and if you don’t have that knowledge then my experience has been it can be even worse and more time consuming to get a PC fixed than a Mac – usually having to mail it off somewhere for a few weeks.

      Good thing both the Mac and the PC exist right now! For more budget minded people willing to learn some about their computer and provide their own tech support, the PC makes a ton of sense and could really be their only option. For those who just want to be a photographer and to worry less about with their computer, paying the initially higher cost of the Mac makes a lot of sense. The good news is the photo editing software can run great on both, so we have both options fully available.

      1. I agree apple is making things next to impossible to repair and replace. It is a particularly sore subject to me since I prefer the apple OS and appearance but also like to make small upgrades (e.g. hard drive, memory). The newest macs are the worst of the bunch with the glued in screen but you can upgrade the memory. At least on the 27″ models to include the the 5k display versions. If you have a 21″ version it is more difficult to do but still possible. Sadly their most upgrade friendly version, the mini, has been recently rebooted to prevent most user changes. Just some food for thought.

  28. In general, I agree with your conclusions, although I’m extremely happy with my MacBook Pro for editing, and use it as my only computer.

    Yes, the initial cost is higher than a cheap Windows-based laptop, but the performance runs circles around those. There are some very nice, similar equipped laptops that compares well to the MacBook Pro, but the price is also similar.

    One thing that used to annoy me terribly (I don’t know if this has been fixed) was the mixture of color managed and non-color managed environment on Windows. Photoshop would use the color profile embedded in a file (e.g. AdobeRGB 1998) while Windows preview would not, making the visual representation of the same file differ quite a lot. The Mac OS X is color managed though and through, and always use the color profile embedded in your file.

    Another thing to consider is the fact, that for some reason, Windows do tend to get slower over time and require a re-installation every couple of years. My previous MacBook Pro from 2006 ran for 7 years without a single re-install, and was upgraded to a new version of Mac OS X whenever it came out. I never experienced performance degradation in the OS – and if anything, some versions (e.g. Snow Leopard) actually made it feel snappier.

    However, with careful usage and by using your head before clicking on everything presented to you, a Windows PC is very capable and does give you some more freedom with respect to upgrades and customization than a Mac, that is for sure.

  29. if you have i series processor in pc i think that is workable for any photographer any drawback in pc i found that is colors it can be solved by setting calibration.obviously that is time consuming but its only one time process.
    and at the end sorry for bad English..

  30. Jeff, I just wanted to say THANK YOU!!!! I am a newish photographer and have been struggling with the performance on my dell laptop for Lightroom & Photoshop. I know my current setup is severely lacking, but I’ve had such a difficult time finding any valid information on what is REALLY needed for optimal performance for PC’s. All anyone ever says is, “get a Mac”. I’m totally sick of it and am so relieved to have found your article. How immensely helpful. I’ve gone back and forth on the laptop vs desktop debate, and you’ve probably swayed me towards the desktop now. I travel a lot and can use my laptop then, but for the most part, my editing is done at home.

    I do have a question, can you elaborate on your recommendation for monitor resolution? I currently have two 23″ 1920x 1080 monitors. What are the major benefits of going to a 2560 resolution? Also, regarding the connection, I’m using an HDMI cable for one, and an external graphic card linked from usb at the laptop to the VGA on the monitor. What’s best? I’m assuming the HDMI? The issue then is finding a desktop/laptop that has multiple HDMI connections (if I insist on continuing to use two monitors).

    Thanks in advance for replying, if you can, and thank you again for this great article! I can hopefully move forward soon with a custom built desktop and save myself some time and frustration!

    1. Author

      @Celeste,

      So glad you like the article. This is exactly what I was hoping would happen. I think I am going to create another article just about the monitor question because I was very surprised at how important that actually is to editing photos and have a lot to say on the topic. But my brief answer is even full HD (1920×1080) is simply not enough resolution for modern day digital photo editing. It is crazy to say that, but think about the resolution of the images you are working on. Take the pixel size of the shots coming out of my Canon 60D 18MP camera. They are 5184×3456. That is roughly the resolution of 5K, about 2.5x more than full HD. So, you can’t see every pixel in the image with an HD display. In fact, you can’t see even 25% of all the pixels in the image when using an HD display.

      So, for me, it was absolutely shocking to see what a difference a 2560×1600 display did for my photo editing. The details are significantly more visible. You can sharpen more accurately. Everything about it is just better. I was really surprised at how much a difference this made.

      I have used dual monitor a lot in the past. I continue to use it for my day job as an IT pro, but I think there is no substitute for a higher resolution display. I can highly recommend the 30″ IPS display from monoprice.com. I have been using one since mid 2014 now, and I absolutely love it.

      Finally, I do not recommend connecting the monitor to the computer through HDMI for high resolutions. Although that is changing and the bandwidth is increasing with new HDMI specifications (HDMI 1.4 supports 3820×2160), right now it is hard to get it working higher than 1920×1080. To get to the higher resolutions you either need DVI (DVI-I only supports 1920×1200, so you have to make sure everything is DVI-D) or DisplayPort. DisplayPort is actually the same architecture and pin layout as Thunderbolt. In fact, they should be interchangeable, but I have heard that for some reason the Mac doesn’t work well with the DisplayPort connection to the monoprice monitor (need to test this out). Anyway, DisplayPort is my recommendation, and the great thing is that kind of port has been on many PC models for quite some time!

      Hope that helps. Watch for an article on the display stuff that has more in depth information along with other tips for beginners and hobbyist photographers.

      Jeff

  31. Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks a lot for a great article. I’ve used a Mac last several years and I have finally come to a point where I need to upgrade. I’m going for a 27″ iMac but didn’t know if a 2GB Graphics card (over 1 GB) would make a significant difference. Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Author

      The graphics card is a lot more involved with gaming and video editing than it is in photo editing. If it is in the budget, get it. If you are tight on budget, make sure to upgrade the other components first. I don’t think you would even notice the difference between 1GB and 2GB video card memory when using Photoshop or Lightroom for editing still photos. In fact, the only one where I think that comes into significant play right now would be Adobe After Effects.

  32. This article is great, really, but I just wanted to comment because of my personal experience. I agree with almost everything, but:

    Viruses and malware: I’m an IT professional too, and I’ve seen many PCs and Macs in my experience. I’m surely not at your level of knowledge when it comes to big companies with big requirement, as I’m only doing this as a job since 2011 and mostly as a private tech, but what I’ve seen is that “even” a Mac can be in real trouble when the user is not aware of the risks of some actions. Also, I can say that, when properly used, a PC can get NO viruses in its entire life – I don’t see anything like viruses or malware or adware in my own PCs since nearly ten years ago.

    PC requirements for Lightroom and Photoshop: I’m running them really fine on a mid-range Acer laptop, with a Core i5-4200U (2×1,6GHz, 4 threads, turboboost up to 2,6GHZ), NO dedicated video card (it’s the i5’s HD4000), 6GB of RAM (yeah, it’s a strange quantity of RAM, and it even came from the manufacturer…) and it originally had a 750GB HD that I moved from its slot to the optical drive’s one with an adapter and placed an SSD at its original place. The screen obviously isn’t as great as other options but I can do most of my editings even with 1366×768 pixels (thanks Adobe for the Tab shortcut in LR!), although I confess that is not very comfortable. I normally plug my 24” FullHD screen when I’m home. In the past I used to run them on a tower PC built by myself with a Core i7-3770, 8GB of RAM, a 1GB nVidia video card and a 1TB HD, and I can say that I don’t see many differences in performance between that and my current rig. Sure, your specs will provide an awesome experience, specially if the user is going to do video editing, but I’m pretty satisfied with this ~400€ laptop (I don’t do video of course) and with the remaining money I bought a Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8!

    To Macs’ defense, I can say that the troubles that I ran into were really something rare. Also, they provide great user experience and ease of use: you open the box and they are ready to use with minimal knowledge and skills. That said, I personally won’t buy any kind of Mac because, since 2006, they are PCs in every aspect and I don’t see a reason to spend a lot more money on them for the same hardware as a “normal” PC because I know the Windows environment (and its problems and solutions too, obviously) and I don’t feel that the OSX user experience is a big deal.

    1. Author

      @Riccardo,

      Love your response here, thank you for spending the time to contribute to this community.

      I agree that Mac’s are not impervious to viruses, that was the point I was trying to make in the article. They run software, and no software, no matter how engineered, has problems (until the robot overlords finally write their own software). However, PCs make up such a huge portion of the overall personal computing market that they are quite simply more targeted than Mac, making Mac more safe. PCs can absolutely be secured just fine. I have been running PCs at home for 25+ years and have never actually had a virus myself (but have cleaned them off for friend and family over and over and over and…).

      I think you have pointed out something I intended to include in the article and did not. My definition of having photo editing work “well.” That obviously can be different things to different people. Some shoot JPEG and only have a few shots they are working with at any one time. Some don’t utilize all of the editing features in Lightroom and Photoshop. For some, it may be very acceptable to have to wait for a second or two before their edit is reflected on the screen. Lightroom and Photoshop will both run with much less hardware than I have recommended. After all, Adobe has the minimum system requirements as 2GB RAM and a 1024×768 screen size.

      When I edit photos from a shoot the first task is to go through between 1,000 and 1,500 shots in RAW format. I do that at full screen resolution so that I can get as good a feel for the shot as possible. Frequently there are as many as 10 or so shots that are all very similar, and I want to flip between them pretty quickly to compare and choose which one I think is the keeper from the group. I also had struggles with the sliders where I would move one a little and have to wait for a second or two before it would be reflected on the screen, leading to me overdoing the change in the slider – back and forth. Ugh. Configuration tweaks helped. Closing down all of the other software too. But, for me, until I brought the hardware up to the levels recommended in the article, I wasn’t happy with my experience editing photos.

      Thanks again for contributing to the discussion. I hope you will continue to read and contribute with future articles!

  33. Excellent article! I’ve worked in IT for almost 18-years, primarily as a software developer, but have also built my fair share of PCs. I’ve also been photographing seriously for the past 6-years, including the post-processing end of it. I couldn’t agree more with the content of this article. Very well written and extremely accurate.

    Mac

  34. As a passion and a hobby I process all my photos on a 13″ MacBook Air with 1.3 GHz Intel Core i5 and 8GB ram using a USB 3.0 external hard drive for storage and working with the photos. I have virtually no lag time in my workflow – the only time I “wait” for processing is when processing the Nikon D800 36mp files (and then the “wait” is a few blinks of the eye). Thank you for a very good article.

  35. This must be one of the dumbest articles I have read in a really long time. The author had no clue about computing or graphic work beyond anecdotal experience.

    I wanted to write a response to address specific stuff, but I don’t really know where to begin.

    1. @Peter – So your comment is, “This article is dumb but I’m too dumb to explain why?” Nice one.

      Why is it that people feel the need to be SO rude online? Get a hobby.

      1. Oh, Im not being rude. That was not my intention anyway. Its just a really bad article.

        1. @Peter – Find yourself a new website to troll on.

    2. Author

      @Peter,

      I’m sorry to hear you didn’t appreciate the article. I do hope that you would would consider the context some. I am writing to photographers, most of whom do not have the foundation knowledge required to have a more in-depth hardware level knowledge of computer systems. I was trying to give practical advice on the hardware that matters because it can come to a lot of money – especially on the Mac side – and it is hard to know if it is really worth the extra $200 to go up 0.1 Ghz on a CPU clock (which I don’t think for photo editing is worthwhile).

      I certainly could have gone through the actual demands being placed on a system being asked to deal with files in the 20-50MB range for RAW photos. I could have illustrated exactly why it is that an SSD, large amounts of RAM, and the ever improving CPU architectures with parallel pipelines and larger L1, L2, and L3 caches can make such a difference in performance as you flip between shots in Lightroom or apply affects Photoshop. But I didn’t think that was pertinent information to share to a broad audience who is far more interested in ISO, aperture, and shutter speeds.

      You see, I hold a degree in Computer Science and have better than 20 years of industry experience. I did share some anecdotal stories, so that I could connect with the audience, but my recommendation isn’t coming solely based on those. I would be interested in why it is you think I have done such a poor job in recommending hardware that will make photo editing something that works well rather than being frustrating.

      1. The whole idea of the article is dumb. MACs vs PCs?
        There is literaly no difference. People should just use whatever they are used to. And there is no extreme demands for system resources in photography. A random 400$ computer will probably be more than enough.

        –Doesn’t Adobe Software Run Better on Mac?
        No. A long long time ago, they did, but later on PCs gained an advantage because one could choose a much better graphic card. Right now Macs also have good graphic cards available .

        –Don’t Macs Have Fewer Problems?
        No.
        Macs are in fact 3rd in reliability behind toshiba(PC) and HP (PC).
        PCs dont really get viruses anymore (unless you really try).

        –Aren’t PCs MUCH Less Expensive?
        Obviously. Same hardware mac will be much more expensive to same hardware pc. Not sure why this needs a 1000 word explanation.

        Errors from the recomendations:
        You dont need 32gb of ram, even 4 will do fine.
        You dont need a SSD hard drive a normal disk will be fine even 5400 RPM
        Ati has great graphic cards, just as good and better than those from Nvidea.
        PCs are not less durable, it depends on the manufacturer
        PCs are not more upgradable, it depends on teh manufacturer
        Dont get a dual core, but a quad core cpu.

        Probably the most important part of the computer is missing in the article. The monitor.
        You recommend stuff like 32gb ram and ssd but there is no mention of monitors?
        Not sure how you intend to do photography on macbook air.

        Its just a really really long article, that say so little.

        1. Author

          This will be my last response to Peter here because I am not sure there is any value in arguing, this is really for the benefit of others who may be reading through the comments. This has been one of the most read posts on the site through all of January and I think it is because it is something that many photographers think about. Many who do not have enough background in computer systems to understand the options and what they mean.

          The entire point of the article I was trying my best to get across was that there really is very little difference between Mac and PC and my recommendation was that people should stick with what they know. Just because you may have picked up photography does not mean you also have to pick up a Mac, although the photography community talks as though you do constantly. Almost as if you are less of a photographer if you don’t use a Mac.

          As to the performance recommendations, I do think I should have defined better what it is I mean be a computer that does photo editing well. Adobe’s minimum system requirements say 2G RAM a Pentium processor, and a 1024×768 monitor. Will it run on that? Sure. Will some people find that acceptable? Hard for me to imagine, but I guess so. As I cull a photo shoot going over 1,500 RAW photos, with each photo being about 20MB in size, the computer has to process through at least 30GB worth of data (more when you consider I go through each many times). 2GB of RAM (far less available to Lr with the OS taking some) caching files from a disk spinning at 5,400 RPM does not do that nearly fast enough for me. For my workflow I need to switch between photos as fast as possible without having the dreaded spinning “Loading…” message at the bottom for multiple seconds each time I switch. I need the sliders to instantly apply the effect to the photo. All of this gets significantly worse after you apply effects and brushes to the photos since Lr has to re-apply those effects every time you switch. Anything less than what I recommended simply wouldn’t work for me.

          I do agree with Peter that the monitor is a VERY significant factor in editing photos, but from really an entirely different angle. It has little to do with performance. It was actually point number 4 in the PC recommendations section:

          4. Large, high resolution IPS monitor. This was the last piece of computer equipment I upgraded, didn’t want to spend the money on a monitor, but it has made a HUGE difference in my photo editing. I recommend a 27” or 30” monitor capable of 2560×1600 resolution (more than 2x more resolution than HD). That resolution is commonly called WQXGA. You will want to connect the PC to the monitor through DVI or DisplayPort, not through HDMI or VGA. If you missed it earlier in the article, check out the monitors over at monoprice.com for really good ones at very reasonable prices.

          A tiny screen limits your ability to really see the details of the photo, which is exactly what I wrote in both recommendation sections. I included links to monoprice.com twice in the article because I love the 30″ IPS monitor from Monoprice that I am using for my photo editing today. I wouldn’t want to use any kind of laptop for photo editing unless it was maxed out on hardware and I could connect it to a high resolution monitor. In fact, the monitor is important enough I do think I will be writing a separate article just on this topic in the near future.

          Peter is, of course, fully entitled to his opinion, but it disappoints me that he feels the article is so poorly written and that he didn’t take away from it the very points I was actually trying to make.

  36. Good article! A tip if you’re buying Mac – replacing memory to the max with third party memory tends to be less expensive than having Apple fully load the machine. Have never had an issue with third party memory, and it’s easy to swap out the OEM for the third party. Do a little shopping and you can save. For desktop Mac, I find the external touch pad to be more efficient than the mouse when blasting through bunches of images in Lightroom. Maybe kinda less precision when doing some things, but when you have a pile of images to go through and touch up quickly it’s quick and easier on the old carpal tunnel…

    1. Author

      @John Kahler,

      Thanks for the feedback! I was hoping I would get the chance to interact with readers. I am glad you liked the article. I loved that it wasn’t too terrible to upgrade either the RAM or the hard drive in the Mac mini, unfortunately that changed in the 2014 model as you can see from the statement on the Mac support site:

      Mac mini (Late 2014) does not have user-installable RAM. You can configure the memory in your Mac mini (Late 2014) when you purchase it.

      Same for the iMac, prior to the 2012/2013 models it wasn’t hard to upgrade the RAM yourself:

      Memory replacement on the iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2012) and iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2013) is not user-removable and must be done by an Apple Retail Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider.

      Really stinks for cheaper hardware upgrades for those willing to use a screwdriver and anti-static wrist strap (OK, I never actually used one even though I know you should – especially with RAM).

  37. I’ve been using Win laptops for hobby photo editing & got into video. Now looking at Mac. Anyhow, just to chip in, I’m the tech support at home with 2 Win machine. Haven’t have any malware for several years running (gasp) Vista & Win 7.

    btw, older version of Lightroom on an i5 with 8GB of ram is quite good, but switched over to open source Lightzone lately.

  38. Jeff, Maybe you or one of your readers could help. My laptop is the original 2012- 15″ Retina Macbook. It has the original 250GB SSD hard but it is almost full. I keep most of my photos on 2 separate 1TB Wester Digital Passports. Anyway as anybody got experience with OWC replacement SSD hard drives? Or do you think I should wait because maybe the prices will come down or some company has another better option. I would not mind at least doubling the capacity to 550GB but I’m an amateur so time is on my side at least until I read line what I got.

    1. Author

      @Kirk,

      The answer depends a lot on how comfortable you are with tearing into the laptop and installing an OS (or cloning a hard drive). I personally am willing to tear into just about anything. I have replaced the hard drive in a 10″ PC netbook, which was not the easiest thing in the world. Anyway, it really isn’t terrible to do. There are even instructions here at ifixit.com on how to do it for the model you said you have:

      https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/MacBook+Pro+15-Inch+Unibody+Mid+2012+Hard+Drive+Replacement/10761

      Looks like you don’t even need special tools or hard drive to me. But you can certainly ruin things completely if you don’t know what you are doing here.

      The physical switch of changing out a newer, bigger hard drive for the one in the laptop won’t even be the hardest part, it is dealing with a blank hard drive after the switch. The hard drive doesn’t come with an operating system installed or any of your data. There are software tools to help with this, but getting that brand new hard drive to the point where it boots up your computer can be pretty tricky.

      Does that help?

      1. Sorry for my spelling errors earlier. Very sloppy!

        Your reply and the link was helpful. Do you or any readers have thoughts on Other World Computing replacement SSD’s. From what I understand the Retina MacPro laptop from mid 2012 requires a special hard drive. I was under the impression that OWC had the only optional replacement for that model laptop. I’m comfortable tearing into my laptop but uncertain about my options for replacement. Yes, I have searched Google and read articles (that was for the people who will want to hate on me for asking). Any ideas would be helpful. Of course the budget matters and if I only have one option then I might wait for the prices to drop on the OWC drives. This is my first serious computer and I bought it new. I’m very happy with it despite my predicament. I bought the 250 GB in 2012 because I figured I would upgrade later when big SSD’s came down in price. Now that I’m close to ready I’m searching options.

        1. Thanks for that link. I’m guessing this might be an either or situation which is better? Gut says OWC because they seem more approachable if there is any issues. Don’t have any IT experience to support my instinct though.

        2. Author

          @Kirk,

          Unfortunately I don’t have any experience with either solution. My gut agrees with your gut in that OWC is a company more specialized for Apple and it is likely worth a bit more money ordering their stuff. Good luck to you. Let me know how it goes if you take the leap.

        3. Jeff,
          Decided to just migrate some of my files onto external hard drives. I want the new hard drive but I’m going to hold out until it becomes more painful. The next computer I buy will have a massive hard drive to start. I got rid of 50GB by making a new iMovie library in two separate external drives and deleting the iMovie library contents on my Mac. I also deleted a ton of podcasts out of iTunes. About 23GB worth!

  39. Hi Jeff, I enjoyed reading your advice, but unsurprisingly, I probably need further guidance……
    I’m just getting back into photography, and have bought an A7S to replace my film OM2.
    It seems that was the easy decision, now I need to know to replace my B&W darkroom, and understand what the digital replacement for colour slides is?
    Having previously built various PCs, (primarily for gaming) I’m not sure I want the whole experience of being a “carer” again.
    When I started getting back into photography, I therefore promised myself that I would get an Apple, and the iMac 5K looks great.
    However, I have found myself going in circles with reference to colour profiles, and quite frankly, I have read so much, with such strongly presented, opposing views, that I just want some sane, mature, and knowledgeable advice from a professional.
    I primarily want to save and view my photos digitally, although will probably print family shots for
    albums – I presume SRGB will be fine for all that.
    However, I also want to print up to A3 for special photos, and although this would not be a daily routine, I would like to be able to judge colours and shades accurately on my monitor.
    These prints would be a mix of colour and B&W – do I need an AdobeRGB 99% accurate monitor, or is the difference to SRGB minimal in the real world? (iMac approx 80% accurate Adobe RGB)
    (Finally, I want to edit and save “home”video – nothing pro – and only in 24p at present – I realise this is a bit outside the scope, but wondered if FCPX facilitates import from XAVCS and allows export to BluRay?)
    Thanks, Andy

    1. Author

      @Andy,

      Thanks for reading the article and contributing to the community with a great question. I am afraid the answer here will not help you decide between PC and Mac. With either platform the need to do monitor calibration is the same. It is the same process for either, and both handle it just fine (although the PC mouse cursor even in Windows 8.1 annoyingly does not care about the color profile and is too bright). You may hear some “experts” tell you that Macs don’t need to be calibrated, that they come calibrated out of the box. I seriously doubt that being true as it would add quite a bit of time to the process of getting a Mac ready for shipment and just like PC manufacturers they want their computers to look super stunning so they are set to be overly bright and color saturated out of the box.

      Anyway, even if a Mac did come fully color calibrated perfectly to sRGB, the way the pixels look sort drifts over time and EVERY display needs to be calibrated on a regular basis. I highly recommend the ColorMunki Display hardware calibration device from XRite to do monitor calibration of either a Mac or a PC (or a projector!).

      As a PC user I don’t use FCPX. I do my video in either Sony Vegas Movie Studio (slideshows are so easy) or Adobe Premiere Pro (multi-cam is awesome). A tool called DVD Architect came with the Sony software (PC only) and over the years it has been updated to support writing to BluRay. Adobe Encore comes with Adobe Premiere Pro and allows for BluRay authoring as well, although I think it has a much steeper learning curve. It looks like the Toast product from Roxio could burn movie exports from iMovie or FCPX to a BluRay disc.

      So, just as I was trying to point out in the article, I think it comes down to 2 factors. 1) How much are you prepared to fiddle with the computer? None – Mac, at least a little could consider a PC. 2) How much do you want to spend? Get a lot more bang for your buck with PC (at least initially), but a good chance at better quality and less fuss at a more premium price with Mac.

  40. Hi Jeff,

    I have a related question. I am a Mac user. Specifically iMac. In the past year I have started doing consults and sales sessions in various places and need to take a computer with me. Up to now I have been borrowing my boyfriends pc laptop. Understandably he is tired of this and to be honest I want to have a Mac interface to work in. I don’t plan to edit much if at all on the MacBook and am perfectly ok with small storage and/or an older refurbished unit. My question is should I focus more on a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro? Thanks in advance for the input!

  41. Really thanks for solving my query, only one thing should i keep the graphics card 2gb or make it 4gb?

    1. Author

      @Gaurav,

      Unlike Premiere or After Effects, neither Lightroom nor Photoshop had been able to leverage the GPU much at all – until yesterday (4/21/2015). With the release of Lightroom 6 (now called Lightroom CC for subscription), one of the major features is speed improvements in the Develop module achieved by using the GPU! Still, 2GB of RAM on the video card is no problem. I personally wouldn’t spend the money on 4GB.

  42. Ok so my old 2007 imac computer died on me last year, the hard drive was replaced and more RAM was added as well. Now as of a week ago my computer died with all my photos (thank goodness I had a back up) but anyways I am being told my hard drive went bad again! So.. my question is, do I spend the 400.00 to get the hard drive fixed again and replace the old needle style hard drive with the solid state one (sorry I don’t know computer lingo) or is it time to just put the money to a new computer? I am a photographer and shoot in RAW and post process using PS and Lightroom. This has been a nightmare because I have people waiting on their pictures and no computer. Help! what should I do?

    1. Author

      @Shanna,

      Thanks for being a reader of the site. You have given me a tough question to answer. I personally budget and hope I can get 5 good years out of a computer before needing to move on. I have found it challenging to really get 3 years out of them – especially when things are more demanding that browsing the Internet and creating documents. Gaming and digital photo/video editing are much tougher workloads, so for your 2007 iMac to go 7 years for you is well above average in my opinion. I know it seems like they should last longer, but they really aren’t engineered to do so, as evidenced by the warranties.

      As to recommending what you should do, it is a little like asking a mechanic if it is worth replacing the transmission in a 10 year old car with 150,000 miles. If you can afford investing in a new machine at this point I would. The improvements made in the other components that makeup the computers today are so much better than in 2007 I think you will be wondering how it is you got along this long. If you can’t, then paying $400 to get it back on it’s feet is actually not too bad. But just like a new transmission for an old car, you have to consider that is probably upwards of 30% of the cost of a new one. Without seeing what the rest of the computer looks like, I couldn’t tell you if the other pieces besides the drive are going to keep you going for another year or two, or if the whole thing is about to give up, taking your $400 along with it. Even if I could see it, for many of the components in there it is really hard to tell.

      I am sorry, that probably wasn’t very helpful. Good luck to you!

  43. Thank you for the write-up. For anyone who cares, I’ve been a designer for over 13 years now. I’ve been forced to work on a Mac for my job, but use a PC for my personal work. So I’ve been using Photoshop for that entire time, Illustrator for most of that time and Lightroom since 2010 (LR3).

    As for my opinion on Mac vs. PC, Before Mac switched to Intel, I had a HORRIBLE time with it. Sure it “worked” the same as on PC, but the software would crash and crash and crash. I had many different macs, many different builds of adobe software and I would have nothing but problems with mac/adobe. My PC was the king (IMO it still is). The fact that I was able to power through any project, no matter the layers, no matter the processing power. The PC killed it every time. I had no problems with my PC. When technology progressed, so did the pieces in my computer. More RAM? no problem; More Processing power? No problem, No space? No problem.

    Now, in 2015, I can change back and forth from a mac to a pc with no problems. Both are equally easy to use. I think the debate should be called “Command vs. Control” (Command key, or apple key, vs. the control key). The only other difference between the two are price!

    The main things I like about the mac is the out-of-the-box screen color and the gestures available on the trackpad. What I like about the PC is the customizability, the hardware and the price! Other than these things, nothing’s different anymore.

    1. Very well written article overall but I am surprised that you feel a pro would want to switch to a mac. I have an I7 running at close to 4.8Ghz, 32GB 2400Mhz ram 38TBs of HD space. This has grown and changed up over the years. Photoshop and Lightroom are identical on mac and PC. Why would I want to switch??? I used to use mac and was frankly making my living as a mac expert back in the 90’s. The mac was superior then as their OS frankly was far better but I switched over a decade ago and haven’t looked back as I realized that essentially, there was no longer a productivity benefit. Also, I would not put the SSD in near as have of importance for a pro. Once the application launches, it runs at the same speed and I probably restart my computer on average of once a week these days. I attach more importance to fast memory as I am constantly shuffling huge amounts of memory as I work.

      1. Author

        @Sterling,

        Thanks for the feedback Sterling. The point wasn’t to recommend a switch or preference one over another, but to say both are fully capable.

  44. Interesting article!

    Now to my conundrum.
    I’ve worked as a semiprofessional photographer for about 5 years now and I’ve always used Mac during this time. But the thing is that I feel so restricted by Apple when it comes to hardware updates and games in general. My 27″ late 2012 iMac has gotten really slow since Yosemite launched even though I’ve wiped it clean and reinstalled OSX. I installed 24gb of RAM in it and that didn’t even help it. So I’ve started to lean towards building a PC instead since I want to be able to play games on it as well as having complete control of the hardware. Fusing work with a bit of procrastination feels more like me rather than being restricted in my choises. The only downside is that I like to use OSX more than Windows.

    So would you think this is a good idea or should I just stick to Apple?

  45. Author

    @Christoffer,

    If you like gaming there is no question that PC is the better platform to be on. You can get better hardware for it and game makers target PCs first because of it. The one thing I would caution about is NOT considering a “Hackintosh” (where you put OSX on a PC you build yourself). Unless you are an enthusiast who LOVES tinkering with computer hardware and software to make things work, it just isn’t worth the hassle.

    I think you should give a PC a try. Custom building one takes a little know-how, but you end up with much better hardware. It used to be it was a significantly lower price, but really that isn’t true now. You will spend more money on a custom built computer because the PC manufacturers are getting significant discounts with the quantity of components they buy that go into their PCs. But you will end up with much better hardware than is in nearly any Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc.

    If you are really interested in building a PC, here is a great resource to guide you:

    http://www.videoguys.com/system-recommendations

    Good luck!

    Jeff

  46. Thank you for the very informative + enjoyable read! You exactly asked the questions I have been pondering over and answered them clearly. I think the Mac mini will be my next computer (I am not much of a ‘technician’ so do not need the hardware upgrade advantages of a PC. Durability + security are very important factors for me + I love the portability of a mini desktop. ) My cursor was already on the order button ready to click..but I have some doubts about your requirement advice for the Mac Mini for my professional use. I am not a photographer but an artist using Photoshop CC as a tool to make photographic compositions. For this I need a lot of layering, masking, filters and retouch etc. But I don’t use Lightroom and don’t need to edit endless batches of images (let’s say never more than 10 at a time). My question: is the Mac mini – 2.6 GHz i5 – 16 GB – 1TB Fushion Drive an excessive choice for this? (In the Netherlands this configuration will cost me 1300 euros).

    1. Author

      @Fushiki,

      I would max out the Mac Mini if I were you. Layers and filtering takes a lot of RAM and CPU in Ps and you won’t regret having the hardware there.

      Jeff

  47. Thanks for the article very well written in “plain english”. I have a choise problem – I bought MF sinar back which runs only on Mac – I mean to convert Sinar RAW files to DNG You need OX. I personally brushed few times with Mac and don’t like it but that’s just a matter of being used to.I have two options – invest as little as i can do (like mac mini) or switch entire system to mac.
    I got eizo monitor but having something on a go like mac mini and small netbook (ipad? macbook?) would be ideal.
    Can you help with advise?
    Thank you!
    Edvard

  48. GREAT article. I switched to Mac from Windows several years ago and generally have not regreted the move. Some photobook businesses I’ve dealt with strangely only have Windows software for layouts? The Parallels app overcame that but now I use a different company and no longer use the Windows emulator.

    I came across this article of yours just after ordering a new Mac Mini to replace my ageing 15″ MBP and am happy to say that my previous research had led me to ordering the exact spec you’ve suggested. The MBP was deskbound and hooked up to an external monitor, keyboard, magic mouse & trackpad so all the other hardware was in place.

    I also use an 11″ Macbook Air maxed out with fastest processor and 8 gig so I guess I got that right as well

    Again thanks for the informative article.

  49. THANK YOU for this article! I have been debating for over a year on this EXACT issue. I am an amateur photographer, so while I would love an iMac it’s hard to justify that type of expense being just a beginner – especially when I need more camera equipment as well! So ~, hearing of my dilemna, my cousin gifted me his old MacBook Pro 17″ laptop, and while I am thrilled beyond belief at this gift, the poor thing just can’t keep up with me. It came loaded with software such as Illustrator & Photoshop, but I do not have the time to play with PS, and honestly would rather have Lightroom instead. I download 1,000s of pics, and finally figured out how to employ an external drive for storage. But it seems the laptop is always choking on all the pics I download and edit (just using iphoto for now). Is there some way to just make some lowcost modifications to this laptop to make it work for me? Possibly back up the software so I can delete PS and Illustrator and load up Lightroom? I would love any recommendations I can get to make this little workhorse work for me…Thanks!

    1. Author

      @NettieBug

      Thanks for the feedback. So glad the article was helpful. Unfortunately, the MacBook computers don’t allow a lot in the way of upgrades. Some of the older models did allow for RAM and potentially a hard drive upgrade, but for a few years now that has even been something a mere mortal can change. I doubt that deleting programs off of the laptop is going to help a whole lot either. Do you know which specific model you were gifted?

  50. Hi all,
    So what about tre comparison between the latest rMBP 15 and the just released Dell XPS 15 (sept 2015)?

    1. Author

      @Stefano,

      The article needs a refresh for sure. I am seeing a lot of interest over the past 2 months. Stay tuned to the website, I am working on it.

  51. @Nathan,
    Thank you for your great insight and comments on the PC vs. Mac debate. I’ve been using a Mac for years to the occasional work shoot, but it’s getting really slow and needs to be retired. I’ve recently transitioned into professional food blogging and food photography and now shoot and edit daily, and also plan on incorporating video into the blog. With the high demands I’ve been placing on my old Mac, I’ve realized it’s time for a new computer. All of my photography friends were cautioning me against getting a PC, but after reading this article and reading your comment… I’m starting to feel more confident about my decision to switch over to a PC. Thank you for making me feel better about my decision to switch.

  52. Hello Mr. Jeff .first of all Thank you for ur time. Can u please say something more about the monitors. I mean is it worth buying a led display ? Do we really require it? But led displays are showing better colour gament than lps LCDs but why pc lovers still relay on LCD monitors. Can u pls explain pros and cons abt a led diplay(even though having wqxga resolution).

  53. I’m a little late to the game here but your article was perfect!!!! I’m truly in a conundrum as I’m trying to figure out what to buy as my next computer. I’m currently working on an HP laptop. It’s been good but ready to upgrade and definitely want a desktop. I have a $1500 budget. I’m wondering stay your thoughts are on this PC…http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=1172187&gclid=CjwKEAjwwbyxBRCS74T049iEp0wSJACkO5v1ff_gv8tGQLW70LFT-aEy-r__SkwP-Cos86KsbR41qRoCviXw_wcB&is=REG&m=Y&Q=&A=details
    Thanks so much! !!

  54. Spent some cash on the Microsoft Surface Pro3, i7 ..

    Works like a charm, worth a test if you can afford it, just my 2 cents.

  55. THANK YOU SOOOO much for this amazing review from a photographer’s perspective. My 7+ year-old Windows Vista HP desktop has served me well, but I’ve been pondering what to get for a year now. My husband is the computer guru in my family, and he read every word of your article that I printed in full for him. Based on your recommendation, he searched for machines matching your guide, and using my company discount program, I have ordered a Dell desktop and monitor to your recommended specs (10% off!). I know, I know – I can’t give you any glowing reviews after using the system because it arrives tomorrow, but I have no doubts this will serve me even better than my current system. (It does help to have a computer guru in the house for any pesky things that show up, though, with any computer…) I was torn about MAC, but I am so comfortable with my PC that I was stuck in indecisive-land. Back on track now. Thank you!

  56. Using an old Dell XP that was outfitted for photography. (4 CPU 2.80 GHz
    2.79 gHz 0.99 GB of RAM). Slow, slow, slow, and since it is no longer supported by Microsoft, I fear it will go out anytime. I do have an external drive.
    I have had trouble with all my PC’s. Trojans seem to love my machines. Might each new one I’ve gotten be infected from the previous one when my “stuff” was transferred?
    Relatives are encouraging me to get a Mac – promising to help me with the learning curve.
    I do very little on it other than photos and graphics. Want to encourage me one way or another?
    Hoping to make purchase prior to end of 2015.

  57. Had a 13 ” MacBook pro for a year now. Windows for 20 odd years before that. Going back to Windows. I consider my mac to be truly up itself in an apple kind of way and all of my swearing has been for this reason… Why do that that way… Why do I need an extra key ctrl is enough… Not remotely intuitive as promised.. Why can’t I run chrome properly. Where Are my files…. Etc.. But more seriously screen too small for viewing or editing. So catalyst is an offer of cash from a colleague ind myself needing to sort the desktop and home at the same time. So going xps 15 for me and thanks to this article have some great specs and advice for my home desktop build. I have regrets but my reentry into photography will benefit from compatible systems across the board.

  58. Most control (and user input): Linux; Medium control: PC; Least control (least amount of necessary user input): Apple. Is really what it boils down to.
    I would say that if you are good with computers, like control, like more control with mouses and tablets, want to do more than just photography (e,g. CAD really works better on a PC) go with a PC. If you only want a good looking tool that will do the job, have to think far less, and money is no issue, go with Apple. Each system is better for different reasons for different people.
    Lightroom and photoshop are awesome for fixing and adding design to photographs, however much real talent will not be developed if becomes the de rigueur of photography. Learn to take the photo first. After all, any graphic designer already knows and can do a far better job with editing images as that is their livelihood. That is, they have spent a life time of playing with photos in design software. Many designers prefer Apple, as they don’t want any fuss, they just want to use the software and create. I think that is the ONLY reason why now you see the question of Mac vs Pc come up in a photography. Just realise, that these designers, are also the ones that insist that they cannot be developers and designers at the same time, that firmly believe creativity and tech know how cannot co-exist. Where as those that have gone to the dark side ARE. As a photographer, you DO have technical know-how so which crew do you want to sign up with?

  59. Hello,

    Thank you for the nice article. I found it very helpful with more of the PC specs given. I am a Microsoft girl all the way, now while I respect Macs and appreciate the sleek design, they are most definitely not for me. I am wondering your thoughts on the new Surface Book. I have recently graduated university with an Art + Design degree and looking at going to photography school so I need a new laptop. I have been using my Surface Pro 2 for the last year or so and I love it with Lightroom, but when using multiple layers in Photoshop or intense Illustrator projects it can’t handle the work load. I am wondering if the upgrade to the Surface Book is a good idea or if i am stuck with a more unattractive PC just so i can get a laptop to handle the processing. (Or stuck with the more attractive but bulky as heck Alienware) Any thoughts?

  60. Hi, Jeff!

    I really appreciate your article. My 7-year-old Toshiba Satellite is living its last days and I MUST replace it before collapses completely. So in the last months I’ve learnt more about laptops than about photography, which is frustrating.
    So I need your help!!
    I do NOT want a Mac. I will stick to a laptop, for various reasons. After a certain research I decided I’d go with an Asus but in the country where I am, Lenovo is easier accessible and to be honest I’m slightly worried about buying a laptop from the Net.
    So, there’s this Lenovo model I could compromise with, Y50-70, i7-4720. It has amazing specs, 256 GB SSD and such but…. The screen, oh the screen, it is plain horrid. Do you know this model? The screen is IPS and anti-glare but too dark!!! I played around and saw it was pushed to the maximum of its brightness. Display itself was great but would the darkness of the screen interfere? I mean, next to the gorgeous display of the Surface Pro this one is pathetic. Would it get any better after callibration and is it worth the money? It’s not cheap!

  61. Great article. Have been considering trying an Apple product for years. Have always used a PC prior. Just getting into photography on a more serious basis and upgraded my camera/lens setup. Our office computer is a Lenovo which works great but that is tied up a lot of the time and the monitor is good, but not the quality you describe. I just ordered the iMac with Retina 5K display with 16GB of RAM and 3.2 i5 Intel. Got the 27 inch version with the 2TB Fusion Drive. This setup should do all I want and more and we may even migrate it to the office once we get used to using a MAC. The learning curve should be a little bit with that but we’ll figure it out. A couple of our sons are MAC users and will gladly come home for a visit and give mom and pop some lessons I’m sure. Thanks again for the information and Merry Christmas.

    1. Also, I was wondering if you could recommend the best photo software for a novice with the equipment I just mentioned was ordered. Thank you.

  62. If your a PC person DO NOT SWITCH!!!!!! They say switching from PC to Mac is like moving to a foreign country and not being able to speak the language. I can tell you from experience that that statement is 110% true. I tried macs a few years back and dumped the one I had. I just bought a Macbook pro as I need one to do the one thing macas are better at. Theres a driver for a Roland VG-99 that works better on mac and thats it. I have HP Z series workstations for video editing and sound production and they smoke and more inportantly the OS MAKES SENSE!!!! The mouse has more than one button…right click left click scroll all from the mouse without pulling out a Mac manual to see where Steve Jobs hid important functions. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. I hate these things. If youre already on the PC PLEASE for your own good stay there and keep your sanity.

  63. Hello Jeff,
    I would like to ask you what would you recommend for the minimum features for a iMac 5K for running Photoshop nad Lightroom? Thank you

  64. I was formerly really into photography. Multiple cameras/lenses with a full b/w dark room etc. I have thousands of slides and b/w negatives I want to store and view digitally. At work and home we use pcs but I have heard Macs are best for photography. My home pc always seems to have issues. At work I am a regular user of our help desk. What hardware and software do you recommend?

  65. Hi, thank you very much for this article, very helpful! I use acer laptop for photo editing CS6 and it’s now seven years old and very slow. It’s a hobby and I am concerned about the money and also if I will be able to actually transfer my programs from the laptop to the imac? I’m now decititing to go either for a second hand iMac10.1/E7600/4GB Ram/500GB HDD/9400M/21″/B £375 or new iMac 5K retina 27″8GB R9 M390 1T @£1050? There are also PC lenovo which seems very competitive at £700 which isn’t that far of the imac cost.. Or would the older model be just as good? Thank you for your opinion.

  66. Hi All,

    Hope you all had wonderful Holidays.

    Product in Discussion:
    iMac – 27″ Mid 2011 [Model Identifier: 12,2]
    Processor: Intel i5 2.7Ghz
    Ram: 8GB
    Mac OSX 10.11.2

    Upgrade Done:
    Replaced the old 1TB HDD with new 2TB HDD
    Added a 246GB SSD to be used as the boot drive and for apps installation.

    Back up: I have a Time Machine Back up on an external HDD.

    Current Status:
    I am an amateur photographer and has about 700GB of Photos [imported through Photos and iPhotos app in the past 7 years ]. This now resides on the external Time machine back up. I believe this could be called the Photos library
    I have gotten a fresh installation of Mac OS X on my SSD.

    Advise I need:

    How Do I set up my iMac in a way that the SSD is only used for my OSX and applications and use HDD to store all my file?For example I like to have photos [app] & iTunes on my SSD and the photo files and music files on my HDD. If this is possible how could I link the app on SSD with the respective files on HDD ?

    As I am getting closer to My Photography Business, I am considering advanced photo editing applications like Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom. Therefore, what I am looking for is, to have my photo files to be in a common location [in my new 2TB HDD] from where it could be read by apps [photos, Photoshop, Lightroom] in my SSD, without duplicating the storage or importing the files to SSD.

    Any advise will be much appreciated.

    Regards.

  67. THIS WAS AWESOME!!! I am starting to some photography on the side and wasn’t sure what devise to get. I am currently stuck between a Dell XPS 13.3″ (i7) and a Macpro 13.3″ (i7). I want to install photoshop, perhaps lightroom, but want to make sure I get what’s going to work best. Would you recommend upgrading the Macpro to 16G for better work experience?

    Also, can i can the a great result purchasing the Macpro 13.3″ and plugging into a monitor?

  68. Good day
    My grandson ( of 14 yrs) is very computer savvy, extremely mature and intelligent . He has been in private school since 2 1/2 years of age. He recently started Painting and Photography on his own and doing really well. My daughter is looking for online courses for both Art & Photography. Do you have any suggestions for Courses as well as Computer choices now in 2016. We wanted a well suited Computer he could use for his Photos and Videos. I hope this provides enough info if not I would be glad to answer any questions.
    Thank you in advance of your reply, Valerie

    1. Author

      @Valeria Shuford,

      How nice of you to be looking out for your grandson so well! I recommend you read through my post about recommendations for a PC that I did in late 2015 at http://improvephotography.com/2015pc. Even if your grandson wants a Mac I outline in the article the things that are most important if buying a computer of any kind for photo editing.

  69. Dear Jeff,
    A very interesting article read, and its add on comments. Thank you so much for all the guidance that you have provided. Coming to photography, I am more of a wild-life photographer, esp ornithology. And I use a laptop – samsung rv409.. As far as PCs go, I have been a Linux user for the last 8 years – am dead against windows now that I am so used to Linux. And the photo-editing options viz darktable and GIMP that I use suffice for my needs. Even with Intel Pentium 64-bit processor, 4 gb ram and 320 gb hard disk. I am looking for an upgrade to my laptop now, and going through your article, I will definitely go for a desktop – the question is whether a PC with Linux or iMac… Issue is the photo editing software with Mac.. I still intend to keep my laptop, which I will be upgrading first, before I get the desktop.
    My view – Since I’m a Linux user, I will recommend it, but then, OS is a matter of personal choice
    My problem(s): a) Should I have a desktop PC or iMac – because, Linux on my laptop is to stay, so I need to know about the interoperability of programs on Linux and Mac
    b) Agreed Photoshop is the gold standard for photo-editing, but for my kind of photography, do I really need all the gimmicks of Photoshop?
    Thanks

    1. Author

      @Ankur, I really like Linux as well, just not for photo editing. Given your situation, I would go with Mac if I were you. iMac in particular. It will work well with Linux and much of it will be pretty familiar to you as it came from BSD

      1. @Jeff
        Thank you… But one of my doubts still remains – Would you still recommend photoshop (essentials or the full package) for wildlife photography. Or is there another good package in mac, which can fulfill my needs..
        Basically, from all that I have been doing so far, is to just adjust the exposure, sharpen or soften, degrain or adjust the contrast and finally crop the picture.. post processing. I would appreciate if you could please guide me regarding post-processing for the wild-life, esp birds and birds in flight photos..

  70. I also have a very old toshiba and am slowly moving back into photography, as I studied it as an A Level. As I am at the point where I would like to pursue the craft in a more professional manner I thought it was about time I upgraded my PC. I already have apple products, with my phone and an iPad therefore have come to the conclusion to look into getting the MacBook Pro based on your reccomendations. you covered all aspects of my train of thought in this article and it was exceedingly helpful! thank you very much for taking time out to give us all your professional insight into computer technology.

  71. Last I checked all macs had crap specs compared to a pc that costs half the price. Also I checked some benchmarks and the integrated chips Macs come with can’t even run 4k res smoothly. Lol Apple.

    1. Photoshop, Lightroom? Yes.
      if you arent professional you probably dont need it. Free apps or even apples iphoto is more than good enough.

  72. Question for you! I am a PC user and I LOVED this article! Thank you!

    I have a desktop at my studio but I want to be able to edit at home or on the go. I was thinking of getting a laptop and I would love to know what specific laptop you recommend. I also want to get a monitor to use with it when I am home. My budget is around 2000.00

    Thanks!!

    1. Author

      @Stephanie,

      Thanks for the feedback. I am so glad you found it useful. Since you did like this article, be sure to check out my Windows Photo Editing SUPER Guide 2015 where I recommend what is worth spending money on and what is not along with some models of Windows computers to take a look at: http://improvephotography.com/2015pc

  73. I’ve used both Macs and PC’s at work for the last 25 years and, like you, find no difference in their ability to work with photographs. I’m very comfortable with both, but Apple’s decision to make end user upgrades nearly impossible (plus you void your warranty if you open up a Mac laptop) places me firmly in the PC camp for personal use. I recently bought a Dell XPS 15 for roughly $2000.00 and it’s at least as good as a $2500.00 MacBook Pro. I find that Macs are no more reliable than PC’s if you pay for equivalent quality.

    A couple of quibbles. First, I’ve used ATI graphics cards in my desktops for at least 15 years and haven’t had problems with them. Adobe used to optimize their video editing software to use nVidia’s Cuda architecture, but even when they did it made little difference in Lightroom and Photoshop. Second, you present your article as OS neutral, and it sort of is, but more than once you say things like “At some point it may make sense to go to Mac from PC, especially if you are a professional photographer,..” Why? You haven’t explicitly said that Macs are better for photographers than PC’s, but this implies that they are better for Pro photographers. A major point of your article is that Macs aren’t necessarily better than PC’s for a photographer then you undercut this message by slipping into the old stereotype.

    1. Author

      @John,

      Thanks for the feedback and engagement in helping to raise points I am sure many share. I really like the Dell XPS laptops from late 2015 and expect to see some truly incredible machines in 2016 complete with Thunderbolt 3 ports (USB-C connection type) that will make them ideal for photography. I haven’t used one myself to know if my opinion about Windows laptops generally not being as durable as the MacBook Pro, but I would love to try it out. I don’t think photographers who are more comfortable with Windows are missing out on much with the Dell XPS lineup.

      As to ATI graphics cards, I am glad to hear you haven’t had a bad experience. I have had a truly awful experience trying to run anything (besides games) on the now branded AMD graphics cards. As I routinely go through the Adobe forums I am far from the only one. At one point for many photographers, the only way to prevent Lightroom from crashing was to install a beta version of the AMD drivers. Now, to be clear, I am not suggesting in any way that AMD graphics cards are fully at fault. On the contrary, I know that even though I am not a gamer that many gamers significantly prefer the AMD graphics over NVIDIA. No, the reason I am recommending that photographers avoid AMD graphics is that Adobe is not doing a good job of leveraging that technology in their software. Being perfectly honest, they aren’t doing a good job of having Lightroom leverage a graphics processor at all, but judging by the very vocal feedback in the Adobe forums for the past 18 months things have gone more smoothly for those with NVIDIA.

      Finally, to the last point about my not truly being OS neutral, I must not have been as clear as I had hoped in some of the sentences if that is the idea you came away with. What I was trying to communicate is that many photographers do not have or want the necessary IT sills to make a PC work the best it can. As I believe I stated in the article, Mac is immune to neither hardware problems or viruses, but in general there is less that the photographer will have to do (or get to do as you have pointed out with being able to fix things yourself) to keep things going. In the specific case where the photographer wants to use a laptop and they aren’t remotely interested in troubleshooting/fixing their own problems where I believe there is an advantage to Mac.

      For me, I remain fully convinced that I can get significantly more bang for my buck doing my photo editing on a custom-built Windows PC. But I recognize that my specific situation is very different from most photographers and ultimately everyone needs to decide what is best for them in their own situation.

  74. Thanks for this post!! I am sold on the Macbook Pro now! Question though, is there a reason you recommend the 13″ with core i5 over the 15″ core i7?
    Thanks!!
    Amy

    1. Author

      13″ is far more mobile than 15″ and the battery life of the 13″ with i5 is better than i7. You need to decide if you want more power and less battery life with the 15″ i7

  75. Hello Jeff,

    Loved the article, very well written and informative. I couldn’t agree more with stick to what you know.
    The argument between pc and mac will last an eternity until one becomes the other haha. I still have heated debate with my dad on these matters.

    It’s nice to hear someone other than me say that pc can be equally good with the right build.

    I have run and built pc since early high school as a full on pc gamer nothing you could say back then would change my mind to mac. I even attended a mac gaming test trial and a tournament, however that’s not what mac is good at.

    However I too got sick of the tireless comments relating to getting a mac for my photography as they’re better in every way for the work I was to be doing. I used G5 macs at photography class for a couple of years when they were new on the scene and I didn’t see the appeal. However it eventually got to me all the chatter about macs superior ability in media work. So I decided to change about 5 years ago and I don’t think it was a terrible idea just not the right fit for me.

    My whole family runs macs now, and they all swear by them. I think differently still, as durable as mac is and safer from malware I still think it comes up short for me for gaming (Obviously haha) or when there is a hardware issue, I have been able to learn most fixes for any software and able to diagnose hardware issues.
    However like you stated it’s an entirely different ball game when the mac has an issue to when a pc does. If there was an issue I could generally solve it and fairly quickly and low cost (If it was hardware or software). Where as I have had serious issues with several different macs over the years not all mine but family and friends both desktop and laptop both software and hardware related. The only option when it was hardware then was full computer replacement. Such as in my current situation I need to change the logic board and that costs roughly the cost of a whole new mac computer.

    So I am facing this dilemma yet again, I am using a macbook pro but it has a serious issue that has ruined several flash drives and an new top of the line sd card but hey that’s life and could have happened to a pc as well. However as the macbook I’m using is older and instead of being able to change out the usb ports I have to replace the whole logic board, which to me is pointless and not an option. It has served me well for the last 5 years so I am happy with it’s years of service but want to change.

    So I am heading back to pc as I still like to play games when I’m not editing or at a photoshoot and I am still a pc user at heart.

    My main problem is deciding whether I get a laptop or go desktop? As a gamer I have always had desktops and just transported them around to Lan’s. Now it’s completely different as my photography is the deciding factor now. I do like the convenience of the ease of travel with a laptop, and I do travel a fair bit to photoshoots where the laptop has proven to be a great investment.

    For some reason I can’t seem to sway my mind one way or the other. The laptop is certainly helpful when I am away on holidays photographing or when I travel to a photoshoot for an overnighter or two.

    So i just need some help deciding and thought you may be able to shed some light on the matter. What are your thoughts?

    Sorry about the long winded comment and life history.

    Regards,

    Hayden

    1. Author

      @Hayden,

      You do have a very tough decision to make. I am firmly convinced that desktop computers in general give far more bang for the buck over laptop computers. I am not a gamer, but I have certainly read a lot of reviews and opinions from gamers and I believe they agree that you give up a lot if you use a laptop (either in price or performance). That said, the biggest trouble I have with laptops is that the screens are all too little to do any serious photo editing. If you decide you want a laptop, I would go with the Dell XP 13″ or a 13″ MacBook Pro.

      If you want to do gaming, then I believe the clear choice is to stay with Windows, although I am not a gamer so I can’t really speak to that specifically.

      Have you checked out my article on choosing the best Windows PC for photo editing?

      http://improvephotography.com/2015pc

  76. Hi Jeff. your “not too tech” lingo suited me well! I am at a point since upgrading to a high pix. Nikon 810 which means editing on my laptop (albeit i5 2.5 ghz. 8 GB -or remainder of) when only using editor Capture NX-D or similar is very frustrating and slow when using sliders that adjust after several seconds or more meaning the image comparison is lost or too difficult to be able to make accurate decisions.
    So after seeing Lightroom and PS in action I have decided to install a more comprehensive editor. I have a friend who will help educate me on navigation but feel sure from your information that an iMac is now necessary. The closest to my budget that meet most of your recommends is Mk. 452 B/A but has RAM @ 8Gb. The 21.5 screen fits my tiny study best and with 4096×2304 resolution will be a big improvement from HD and generally seems a good platform to work from.
    Question therefore is: what will I loose from 8Gb rather than 16 RAM. I understand that expanding the RAM is not an option??
    Also will I need an “add-on Thunderbolt” storage now or can this be judged later as perhaps 1TB will suffice if I only use the iMac for image storage and editing? YES I DO SNAP A LOT OF IMAGES – mostly wildlife and there is a lot of that around!!
    Sorry for the lengthy script but trust you can understand my problem being a non technical PC user but enthusiastic shooter.

  77. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for all the insight and hard work you provide for everyone, especially beginners like me. I think I want to go with the MacBook pro 13″ but i can’t figure out which spec is most beneficial. Which option would you recommend? Option 1: i7 processor, 8gb ram, 256 gb. Option 2: i5, 16 gb, 256. Option 3: i5, 8 gb, 512 gb

    I plan to do photo editing in Lightroom and maybe photoshop and I tend to shoot lots of raw images. Thanks so much for your help!

  78. Hello Jeff,

    Thank you for the article. I am both a Mac and PC user. I am looking for a laptop that I use for both
    photo editing and some of my business stuff that requires the Microsoft programs. I’m leaning heavier to the photo editing side and have ran into problems with the 4K screens on laptops. Great screens but it makes the icons and some menues so small that I cannot use them. If an additional window opens to make any formatting changes, the ok button drops off the screen and I am then unable to accept any changes which makes doing any formatting impossible. My understanding is that this problem is caused by the resolution being to high but will not correct itself even if I lower the resolution, which voids the reason I chose the laptop to begin with. Any thoughts on this?

    Thank you,

    Deb

  79. Hi Jeff,

    Great article and thanks for your time to share your knowledge. Here is the thing. I am a PC user. I am having a dell, must say that I am extremely happy with it. 6 years that I have it and still it performs really well. However I am using a go pro 4 to records video on a 4K definition. I would like to edit them but the processor of my PC is now too slow for that kind of high definition. I really enjoy also photography editing (but probably not a great expert, I am using picasa for it and I am quite happy with what I do with it, even though I would be more than happy to use a more advanced software but easy friendly). Hence that give you an idea of what I do and what is my issue. I would like to buy a new laptop to edit my video. I am thinking of buying a mac book pro since a long time but I don’t know why I can’t decide. Any recommendations that might help me choose?
    thanks a lot for your help

  80. This was very helpful for me. I have been in photography for much of my life. Always been an interest I’ve shared with several family members. I also used to manage a local studio for a large photography company for nearly 9 years. (Where for many years it was still film. Which I have to say, sometimes I miss the texture and personal feeling of.) But, now, I’ve been struggling to build my own business. I’ve been using a COMPAQ for about 5 or 6 years, and am increasingly frustrated with it’s slowness, and limits. So, I have finally decided to upgrade. My husband is a computer tech and gets frustrated trying to explain computers to me. (I’m not great with technology.) He has opinions about which to get, but he knows very little about photography. So, it’s really nice to get information from someone who has knowledge in both worlds.

  81. Hey Jeff — I need your help if you are able to provide it. I’ve been scoping out articles as I’m a bit frustrated. My darling IT hubby decided to buy me an iMac for Mother’s Day because of my high level of frustration trying to edit photos on my HP laptop. I’ve always used Windows and have never been a fan of Apple and didn’t want to have to learn something new. But alas, I have this “gift” and must learn it. I’m finding a lot of differences using Photoshop on the iMac, compared to using it on PC. And I’ve only been “playing around” with it for a day or two. But I feel I’m more frustrated trying to get things on the iMac than I was waiting for my laptop to respond (and not crash). Any advice on how to make the transition go more smoothly? Any articles you are aware of that explain the differences of using Photoshop with iMac as opposed to on Windows? I appreciate his gift, and don’t want to return it because I can’t get my old, stubborn brain to adapt, especially since he spent months “researching the best computer for photographers and editing”. I feel like it would insult him. Especially since he’s an IT guy and builds his own computers. Thanks!!!

  82. Is an iMac 2009 WAAAAY too slow for light room & photoshop or OK to start with for a beginner? Maybe extenting it to 8RAM….?
    (I don’t have the money for new model and found an IMac 2009 in perfect condition for $350

    details:
    640GB HDD
    2.66 GHz
    4 RAM
    intel core 2 duo
    OS X Yosemite

  83. Sob ive been using a MacBook for little over 6months. My problem is paying all this extra monies to access my videos, photos, music etc. For example I made a slideshow the other day and was trying to put it into my phone only to be told I need like iTunes Match which is costly , compared to Windows I just right clink and send. So basically Apple frustrates me and I’m thinking of going back to PC. However I feel like it’s not the better option, everyone always talks about the migration from PC to Mac and never Mac to PC, what to do?

  84. Hi Jeff thanks for the article – great job! My late 2011 macbook pro with upgraded 16 GB of RAM has been acting a fool with photoshop and lightroom lately – just completely freezing. I’m thinking it might be time to upgrade but it kills me to spend that kind of money when I have 16GB of DDR3 ram already. I’m sure there has been improvements to stroage as you mentioned and the processor but i’m just wondering if it’s worth the upgrade and which route I should go. I have a high end monitor so I don’t necessarily need a solution with a screen. Do you know when the Mac Pro was last updated? I’m surprised it’s showing 16GB of ram. I’m not sure if mac mini might not be enough power. I need help!

    1. Author

      @Shannon,

      Mac Pro hasn’t been updated for a while and while I haven’t personally used one the reviews of them have not been favorable. Meaning not worth the money it takes to buy one. I think that for photography if you want a Mac desktop the iMac would be a better choice even though you have a screen you like already. A MacBook Pro is great too. 13″ Retina display model will hook up to that monitor you have just great and they make very nice photo editing machines. A fully loaded Mac Mini should have the horsepower to run Lightroom and Photoshop fine, but you would need to max it out or I think you would end up being disappointed.

      However, now (May 2016) is not the best time to buy a Mac as a refresh of the lineup is due pretty soon. I would stick it out for a few more months if you can because I expect there to be Thunderbolt 3 ports available in the next generation of models, which will make using external storage even faster than it is now.

  85. I’m glad I found this article as I am currently going through the never ending Mac vs PC debate myself. I currently own a 2010 Macbook Pro, which I love, but it is WAY too slow to run lightroom or really anything for that matter. A new Macbook Pro really isn’t in the cards right now as I just upgraded to the Nikon D7200. I have actually been debating going back to PC because of the cost. I really don’t like PCs but the Acer Nitro V17 has caught my eye. I know it’s primarily a gaming computer (which I do, do on occasion), but I’ve read that it is also Ideal for editing photos. Was wondering if i should go for it or save up for a Macbook? My photo editing has been put on hold, so I’m kind of pinched for time. Does lightroom run relatively the same on both operating systems?

    here are the specs for the Acer:
    Windows 10 Home
    Intel® Core™ i7-6700HQ processor Quad-core 2.60 GHz
    17.3″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M with 4 GB Dedicated Memory
    16 GB, DDR4 SDRAM
    1 TB HDD

    What do you think?

    1. Author

      @Alessandra,

      Yes, Lr runs very close to the same on both Mac and PC if both at similarly equipped. The Acer here would run Lightroom really well. But check out my article on the best PCs for photo editing in late 2015.

  86. HP sucks and so does the customer service, whatever you do..do not buy this product. Two month old Envy Laptop has defective video driver and LCD screen went black, sent back for service and they apologize that they do not have the part to fix it, but they do not offer a refund or replacement…WTF??? In all my years of buying electronics this is the worst experience I have ever had with the worst customer service. The apology means nothing…fix my machine..or replace it…simple!!

  87. Excellent article and very helpful.
    I now know what to customize in my new PC order for drives, RAM, CPU, video card, etc.

    Your link above in your article for a 30″ WQXGA monitor at monoprice.com no longer seems to include any 30″ monitors.

    What WQXGA IPS monitor or WQHD IPS monitor at that site (or another site) do you recommend currently.
    Either for a 1 monitor set-up or 2-monitors.

    thanks

  88. Thanks for sharing. I have never owned a Mac so I can not speak to their quality. I have never had any PC problems. i am probably one of the few that never download “crap” on their computer. I make sure I know exactly what I am downloading and run a malware check before opening any file. Anyway, thanks for sharing this information between the 2.

  89. Jeff, your article was beyond true. MAC/PC really ranks with practically political affiliation. My first MacBook Pro in 2006 loaded
    took getting used to organizationally since I’ve been a PC person but prior to photo editing. In 2006, I decided to go full time artist
    and THAT requires a product that matches with photo editing to a level of precision. Upon reaching 15K images, 5yrs old the images,
    looked to be there yet click on it and they were a black square with a question mark on them. Since I use Photo Elements and design
    my own professional ads for publication, losing the inventory made me freak. Yes, I had backup. It too was corrupt. Hours with support as deadlines raced towards me, Apple only stated they do not get viruses and lucky for me I met a tech gal that builds machines too and she put my Pro images back. Caveat : Not in date order. So, Apple said if I bought another Macbook pro 2014, the dates would fix themselves. Not true. In less than 2 years, I get the wheel of death spinning on every transaction. It can take hours to upload one photo, minor edits and distribute to web, and sites for marketing. (I’m in 4 galleries). I’m losing my mind!
    My family all use PC’s. I ask all the professionals I know PC or Mac, and get split and passionate answers. Dare I try a PC?
    Or go with a new Desktop and not move these files to it? Just start new and keep this one? It is way beyond the genius bar. The phone support is far more specifically helpful. Loved your article. Ready for a new job in Charleston, SC Vicki.

  90. THANKS! You just made my life easier as a photography student. I do have a Mac pro but its a dinosaur lol. Editing is ok but my professor is trying to get me to get the windows surface pro 4. Terrified to switch from Mac. I love it. I broke 3 dells and I am not a windows lover. So, this helped. I look at the Windows Surface Pro 4 and its great and all but for me a bunch of confusion I do not need with learning my Nikon D610 and Sony mirrorless camera and I have a Cannon Ti5… yup i dabble but prefer Nikon lol. THANKS AGAIN

  91. Spot on article. I have no allegiance to brands these days, especially after Apple dropped the pros for the apps. I shoot Nikon only because I can get it cheaper and I don’t lose out in quaility and use a PC desktop because I got a deal on gumtree and its kickass and a Mac laptop as its better and will not touch a PC laptop ever again. That said.. when shit goes south… Macs are so much easier to fix , just simple things like your PC not picking up your wireless card when you reinstall windows and you need to download a driver… Mac kills it , unless you can handle downtime i.e. non pro, have back up computers, are good with computers or know someone who doesn’t mind you hassling them or there is a budget issue… go Mac Id say.. I mean I use both but my 5 year old mac laptop that I`m typing on after editing in Lightroom a HUGE job is one of my two back ups (the other a mac) for my kickass PC (which had some load error…..)

  92. I do a lot of work in Photoshop, all on a PC. It is spec’d out to handle much more intensive programs. And I have a nice screen. I happen to be asked how to do something in Ps on an iMac, low end version, and it is amazing the difference you’ll see in the smoothness of the application and how much easier it is to get the effect you were going for versus on a PC.

  93. I know this is an old article, but I am currently in the market to upgrade my Macbook Pro and I am very seriously considering moving back to a windows PC. The latest instalment of the Macbook Pro seems to be a step away from the design and photography market which is apples main market. For me to replace my MBP and have it perform all the tasks my current Macbook can do would require me to spend at least £1600 on the machine and then a further £300 on dongles or adapters. However I would be unable to plug all those adapters in at the same time. To make it worse, that price gets me a NEW MBP with specs the nearly the exact same as the one I already have making it fairly pointless to upgrade unless I push it to basically £2000 or more.

    1. Author

      Yep. I agree Christoper. The 2016 MacBook Pro isn’t what I was hoping for from the update. No doubt it will still be a really good laptop for photo editing, but it could have been much better. Take a look at the Dell XPS 13 for a solid option in the PC world. The HP Spectre is another that looks worthy.

  94. My first Mac I had for 7 years before it needed replaced, my second mac i had for 4 years and had to upgrade it, add storage and Ram. less then a year later and it has stopped working right. first it was turning off randomly and I was Turning it on in safe boot and now it just wont finish booting up and just shuts down. I live 90 minutes away from the nearest mac repair store which is not a official MAC Store. I am seriously considering getting a PC because at least someone near could work on or help me with problems. maybe my expectations of my computer are too high maybe it was just time to get a new computer but i was told with all the upgrades I had dome to my computer that it was like getting a new computer. that has not been my experience.

  95. I have had my IMAC 24 inch since 2009 and has just recently slowed to unacceptable use. I will be buying a new IMAC this next month. I have gone through so many PCs prior to purchasing a mac. I was anti-mac through the 80s, 90s and 00s. It took 6 month of learning about Apple before making my purchase. I have never regretted it since. The PCs I have owned in the past all seemed to have problems with freezing up and not keeping up with new software. I have had no problem with my MAC until last year with a video card. This has always kept up with my photo editing. I would not consider myself a professional or even close to a true professional but I enjoy it immensely. It is still mostly a personal thing between MAC and PCs but I have had nearly no problem with MAC.

  96. I love this article!
    What recommendations would anyone give on a Surface Pro 4 vs. MacBook Pro?

  97. Hi, I’m about to buy this model laptop (instead of the new 2016 15 inch macbook pro)
    .Mid 2015 15 inch Macbook pro.2.8 GHz quad core i7 processor with Intel Iris Pro Graphics and AMD Radeon R9 M370X.
    Mostly lightroom and photoshop work for still photography. Will be connected to an apple 23 inch Hd cinema monitor.
    I’m hoping it will serve me well for the next 4 or 5 years.
    My data is all on external drives( usb3).
    Is this a good choice re. Power and function? Is the AMD card fine for this use?
    Any comments appreciated
    Cheers

    1. Author

      Can’t say for sure that you will go 4-5 years with that James, but I use a 2015 MBP for my photo editing on the road and it does pretty well. I think if you want to use a laptop, the 2015 MacBook Pro is the very best option available. Better at this point than the 2016 MacBook Pro actually. I recommend NVIDIA cards over AMD, but you don’t have a choice with a MacBook Pro and Apple has worked with Adobe on it so that it will be good. If you really need a laptop, then you will be happy with this one, but a desktop is far better for photo editing. iMac or PC. Just a lot more power in desktop computers than even the very latest laptops.

  98. Thanks for the prompt reply Jeff. It is really helpful. For the forseeable future I need a laptop to multitask, ( I need it to run a music software called Roon and Audirvana +, in a different location at times). Down the track an imac or similar plus alternate devices to run the music software are invisaged. Thanks again. I have my eye on a refurbished MBP on the apple site.
    Cheers
    James

  99. Hey Jeff,

    I loved this article. I am looking to get a new PC specifically for photo editing and found this article very informative. With all this information do you recommend a specific desktop and price range to spend? I am at a loss as to what to buy. I recently started looking to get back into photography and really need a good desktop that I won’t have to replace in a few years. My husband is also looking to go back to college to work toward his next degree and will also be using the computer so it would have to work for both of us. I wrote down all the must have’s you listed but was wondering if you had a specific computer in mind that had all these or they could be added to a certain computer. Please help!!!

    Thank You,
    Keira

  100. Let me start by saying that I hate Mac products, they are waaaaay overpriced and the OS makes no sense to me. I use both PC & Mac, I will never get used to the latter.
    This is my PC configuration (I use it both for gaming & photo-editing):

    Processor(Intel® Core™ i7-7700K Processor (4x 4.20GHz/8MB L3 Cache) – Intel® Core™ i7-7700K)
    Processor Cooling(Corsair Hydro Series H90 140mm Liquid Cooler)
    Memory(16 GB [8 GB X2] DDR4-3000 Memory Module – Corsair or Major Brand)
    Video Card(NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 – 8GB – MSI ARMOR OC (VR-Ready) – Single Card)
    Motherboard(MSI Z270 PC Mate — 3x PCIe x16, 1x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C, 6x USB 3.1 Gen1[Intel Optane Ready])
    Power Supply(800 Watt – Standard 80 PLUS Bronze)
    Primary Hard Drive(250 GB Western Digital Blue SSD — Read: 545MB/s, Write: 525MB/s – Single Drive)
    Data Hard Drive(1 TB WD Blue Hard Drive — 64MB Cache, 7200RPM, 6.0Gb/s – Dual 1TB Drives (1TB Capacity) – RAID 1 Data Security)
    2nd Optical Drive(24X Super Multi Internal DVD Rewriter Optical Drive – Black)

    It simply overpowers my iMac, it just cannot keep up.
    If you build a good PC configuration, you do not need a Mac. I paid about $1500 for my pc, 50% of what a 15″ Mac book pro costs.
    Do not waste your money on Macs.

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