Those purchasing new computers are faced with an age-old matchup: Mac vs. PC. Which operating system is better, and what do each of these terms mean?
A Mac describes computers using Apple’s Mac OS (sometimes called OS X), while PC refers to any computer using Microsoft’s Windows OS and sometimes more generally to desktop computers. You can purchase and install either operating system on any computer, although most people purchase computers with either Mac OS or Windows already installed.
Ultimately, determining whether to buy a Mac or a PC depends on what you’re looking to get out of a computer.
Best Mac computers
Apple’s computers include desktops and laptops, both with their own strengths. In general, the three Mac computer categories are: iMacs, Macs and MacBooks.
The iMac is Apple’s classic, all-in-one desktop computer and is currently offered in 21.5-inch and 27-inch display varieties. Purchase of either an iMac or the hardware-upgraded iMac Pro comes with a Retina-display monitor, and both the Apple-brand Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse.
Macs refer to either Mac Minis, which are compact versions of the Mac desktop computer, sold without a monitor, keyboard and mouse, or Mac Pros, the company's ultimate performance computer. While the latter is primarily intended for professional computing use, the Mac Mini is a great compact desktop option for the average household.
Probably the most popular of the modern Mac family is the MacBook. The MacBook is Apple's laptop, including both the lightweight MacBook Air and the performance-level MacBook Pro.
Pros of buying a Mac
The most commonly cited positive of buying a Mac is its user-friendliness and approachability. Even for those brand new to computers, Mac OS tends to be more intuitive than Windows.
Mac's seamless integration between iPhones, iPads and its computers make it a no-brainer for anyone who already has a device in the Apple ecosystem.
Most Macs come with beautiful built-in "Retina" displays, naturally making them the better option for graphic designers, artists and others who will frequently use the computer's visual elements.
Macs are extremely well-designed and aesthetically appealing, offering more of an artful computer look than with a PC.
Cons of buying a Mac
While Apple's price range is wide, and you can find a Mac device in almost any budget, its computers tend to be more expensive than PCs for the hardware offered.
Since Windows is the most widely used operating system in the world, there's a lot less software available for Mac computers.
Best Mac computer to buy
Our pick for the best Mac computer to buy is the MacBook Air. Lightweight with a long-lasting battery, the MacBook Air is an excellent balance of affordability, performance and user-friendliness.
Best PC computers
PCs are a much broader genre of computers than Macs and more widely used than Macs. PCs refer to any computer with Windows OS, and Windows is by far the most used OS in the world. As a result, it’s tough to categorize the best PC computers, since there are numerous brands and models on the market.
Still, PCs do offer some distinct benefits over Macs. Certain users will find PCs to be better suited to their everyday needs than Apple’s products.
Pros of buying a PC
The main benefit of buying a PC is that it is more affordable than Macs, and it also boasts a wider price range, due to the sheer number of products available.
PCs are naturally far more modifiable than Macs, offering both better hardware and configuration options. For gamers, PCs are a better option, since they offer better graphics cards and hardware in general than Macs.
Windows is more widely used than Mac OS, so it's easier to find compatible software than with a Mac. In addition, it's easier to navigate software modifications, software development and other internal system needs on a PC.
Cons of buying a PC
PCs aren't as overtly user-friendly as Macs, so take more getting used to for those who aren't already familiar with Windows.
While PCs are more affordable than Macs, it doesn't hold the resale value nearly as well as Macs.
Best PC computer to buy
While there are far more PCs on the market than Macs, our pick for the best PC computer to buy is the sleek HP Envy x360 Convertible Laptop, which offers a wide range of hardware options and features an Intel Core processor. Those looking for the best desktop can find that elsewhere, though it’s admittedly hard to beat the portability of a laptop in this day and age.
Should you buy a Mac or a PC?
For the average user and the avid designer alike, buying a Mac may be the best bet, so long as the buyer can afford to pay a little extra. With a user-friendly operating system and multi-device ecosystem, buying an iMac, a MacBook, or a Mac Mini offers an easy-to-use, approachable take on the modern computer, and one that allows for seamless synchronization between other Apple phones and tablets.
Alternatively, if you like working with source code, are a PC gamer or are looking for the best budget computer option, a PC is the way to go. With a wider range of products available bearing Windows OS, and more freedom to modify and micromanage the computer’s storage and functionality, PCs tend to be the pick for many offices and households, as both desktop computers and laptops alike.
Those who tend to use cloud computing to the max and only exist on the internet should consider other options than Windows and Mac, like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, which features Chrome OS.
In the Mac vs. PC operating system debate, it’s important to understand that you can’t really go wrong with either in the modern world. However, with the information at hand you can select the ideal computer and operating system for your specific needs, so it’s helpful to take note of how you plan to use your computer to get the most bang for your buck.
Zachary Visconti is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.