Buying a Mac - Computer Systems for the Arts

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Buying a Mac | nickdjeremiah.com
Updated September 2016

I want to set the record straight before beginning this article. This IS NOT an Apple vs PC debate... This article is for those wanting to upgrade or buy a new computer for creative use, but aren't sure what to buy. This post will explain why buying a Mac is a worthy option.

I have broken everything down into categories. To skip to a specific section just click the corresponding title below.


Why Should You Buy A Mac?

It's widely known that Apple is geared towards the creative industry. Apple designs and markets their products for the creative end-user. For the longest time, photography and graphics software was only available on Apple computers so people tend to have an entrenchment with Apple. Microsoft (PC) was also mainly designing software for the enterprise and business clients and they still are today, but this gave people a no-brainer decision to go down the Apple road. Apple's monitors also had the best colour reproduction and accuracy for photography back in the day. However, this isn't as true nowadays.

To make writing this post easier, I'll tell you right off the bat that the Mac is your best option for creative use* (Photography, video production, music producing, writing etc...). If you're happy with that answer then great, but I have written why it is your best option below so please; do read on. Every point I talk about also applies to a general office computer for your home as well, albeit an expensive one.

* I have emphasised the fact that Macs are better for Creative Use... Not better in general. Please keep this in mind.

S E C U R I T Y

macOS, the operating system that the Mac uses is known as a closed system, this means that to create any sort of software, program or app for an Apple device, you need to be registered with Apple as a developer, and use a program called Xcode to create it. To install software on a Mac you go to the App Store. This features billions of apps for you to download. For an app to be on the App Store it needs to be reviewed and accepted by Apple themselves. This prevents nasty malware and broken apps. Of course, you can install software outside of the App Store, like Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office for example; but Apple has thought about that too. Unless an app contains a developer certificate (a digital certificate that tells your Mac who the developer is and if the app is safe or not) your Mac will prevent you from installing it, instead prompting you to manually install and alter security settings. This stops you from accidentally installing malicious software. It can sometimes be a pain in the rare occasion that it happens, but it's saving you more heartache and money down the road.

This ensures that the only software available for your computer is safe and prevents programs being created just to spread malware. Unfortunately, sometimes software is created (cough, cough Mackeeper) that does horrid things to your Mac, but still does the job it advertises (this app would not be approved for the App Store). If you are unfortunate enough to have Mackeeper installed, follow this post to uninstall it. Trust me, you don't want it.

To read more about Apple's security on their systems, click here.

S O F T W A R E  &  S E R V I C E S

When you purchase a Mac, you are given all the creative software you need to start out in the creative industry preloaded on your Mac. iMovie for video editing, GarageBand for audio production, Photos for photography as well as Pages, Numbers and Keynote for all your home office and business needs.

Apple also has a range of professional software for the creative industry that you can purchase from the Mac App Store. Final Cut Pro, professional industry standard video editing, Aperture for powerful RAW image processing (Apple no longer offers Aperture as it has been replaced by Photos), Logic Pro X for professional music producing along with Motion 5 and Main Stage 3

Aperture was Apple's long running photography app. You could say it was Apple's version of Adobe Lightroom. Aperture is no longer available as Apple has developed a new app that combines iPhoto and Aperture into one called Photos. It was released with OS X Yosemite and doesn't offer many features as of yet, but as time progresses it will become a powerful image processing and cataloging program. I'm confident this will be the case as when they updated Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro X it was so featureless you could say it was iMovie on steroids (terrible for the pro industry). Though, over the course of 12 months Apple added features and updates and it is now back to where it needs to be... So much so that Will Smith's film Focus was edited on it.

Unlike Windows computers, Macs don't ship with any bloatware–software that you don't need but preinstalled because of advertising deals or partnerships between Microsoft and other companies. Examples of bloatware are typically free-trial and demo software. Bloatware bogs down your system, it uses resources that could otherwise be used to power your photo editing or help render that movie. This is typically why Windows laptops are so slow, buggy and performance deficient.

When you purchase a Mac, you can be sure that the moment you turn it on, it's ready to use. No little configuration or program uninstallation required.

T H E  O P E R A T I N G  S Y S T E M

macOS Sierra | nickdjeremiah.com

For the last 15 years Apple's operating system was OS X. To align better with the other operating systems (iOS, tvOS and watchOS) Apple has released its next desktop operating system, macOS Sierra.

macOS Sierra builds on top of the previous version, OS X El Capitan. Adding new features like Siri, Universal Clipboard, Auto Unlock, Beefed up iCloud and so much more.

macOS is the easiest operating system to learn and use. Everything is right where you would expect it to be. macOS comes with your computer with every feature and implementation and is free. Windows comes in packages, Home and Office, Premium, Business etc... The only way to get every feature and implementation with Windows, is to buy the pro version. This is a pricey and outdated business model.

Apple have implemented Sierra so well, that it can run on the oldest of Macs:

  • iMac (late-2009 or newer)
  • MacBook (late 2009 or newer)
  • Macbook Pro (mid 2010 or newer)
  • Macbook Air (late 2010 or newer)
  • Mac Mini (mid 2010 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (mid 2010 or newer)
  • Sadly, Apple Xserve has bitten the dust.

Also, so long as you're currently running OS X 10.7.5 or newer, you'll be able to upgrade to macOS 10.12 Sierra for FREE.

Apple updates macOS every year and a half or so. This keeps it fresh, powerful and enables your Mac to always be running at it's full potential. The last major release of Windows (Windows 10) was in 2015... Prior to that, Windows 8 (the previous version) was released in 2012. It wasn't for another two years that they finally introduced W8.1 to fix all the major issues with Windows 8.

D E S I G N

You cannot deny that the design of Apple's computers are absolutely beautiful. Beautiful design is integral to a creative person's life. No one wants to create art, music or films on an ugly, plastic machine with cables and cords flowing out the back of it and across your desk. Not to mention listening to those loud spinning fans all day (The Macbook is the only fanless computer in the world. It's literally silentThis link only works in the Safari web browser).

The iMac has one cord, the power cord. You take it out of the box, place it on your desk, plug in that one cord and you can use it straight away. The keyboard and mouse are wireless (internal li-on battery) and connect the moment you turn your computer on. Of course, you can purchase wired mice and keyboards from Apple as well.

They don't feature optical drives either. In this day and age using DVDs and CDs is almost unheard of, and because of this Apple don't put them in their computers. This enables them to be thin, sleek, and quiet. Apple sells a USB connected optical drive if you do still use DVDs and CDs. You can purchase one here.

The computers are made out of beautiful anodised aluminium. They are thin, light and the desktop images Apple provides are high resolution, medium-format landscapes... Stunning. The displays include retina pixel technology, this means the pixels are so small, that you can't see them from a regular working distance which creates pin sharp clarity. There really isn't a better display out there (well, actually there is, but I'm trying to emphasise how incredible the built-in displays are).

The trackpad on the Macbook (laptop) is large with a thin glass surface that prevents wear and tear. and the keyboard is flat and LED backlit.

iMacs are all-in-ones. This means that the computer is built into the monitor. This is a huge reason why Macs are more expensive. Find a PC tower computer with the same specs as an iMac, then factor in the purchase of a monitor with the same or similar display quality as the Mac (the Dell Ultra Sharp is a good contender), and guess what? You're spending close to the same amount of money. With a Mac, you have one device on your desk... That's it, it's a huge space saver.

To really appreciate the design of Apple's products, head to an Apple Retail Store and hold them, use them and experience them in person.

A L L  T H E  O T H E R  S T U F F

Eco System

There is a strong eco system between Apple's devices. There are so many things to talk about that I'm not going to detail here, instead you can read about some of them from the links below. They open in a new tab so you don't lose this page.

macOS Continuity     |     iOS 10     |            iCloud            |       iCloud Drive     |          AirDrop          |        Messages

The Bottom Line

After reading all that, and you're still not sold on Apple, or still haven't decided what to buy, this section will detail the miscellaneous things that don't really have their own category.

Customer Support

The customer support from Apple is one of the best in the world. You can call them, chat to them online or request that they call you. You can also visit them in store. If you have a problem... Any problem, Apple Customer Care will solve it for you. They're always polite and you can always get a hold of them. Also, because Apple designs the software and the hardware of your device, Apple support can solve the problem for you. 

Industry Standard

Apple for the longest time has been the industry standard... And it still is today. If you rolled into a professional setting in any field, with any computer other than Apple, some professionals won't take you seriously, it's a little sad, but it's true. This isn't me being cynical, it's just the way it is. Being the industry standard, the chances of you working along side someone with an Apple computer is pretty high, so if you've also got one, collaboration and compatibility with your project will always work, it'll be marvellous.

Photos and iCloud

When you take photos on your iOS device, your photos automatically sync up with all your other iOS and macOS devices. This means that you can take a photo on your iPhone and within a minute, your photo is available on your Mac. This happens via iCloud, your image is temporarily sent to iCloud, your Mac pulls it down from the cloud and sticks it in the Photos app. You can turn this feature on and off as you please, it's completely optional.

No! Your photos and files aren't 'up there floating around'

The term 'Cloud' is simply a phrase to describe accessing a server or computer via the internet. Your photos and files aren't "floating in the ether" They are sent through the internet and stored on servers and computers. You don't need to worry about security, no one can get your files and photos... So long as you have a strong password and Two-Factor Authentication turned on. Click here to learn more about internet security (It's another one of my articles).

The Price

I have to agree that it is expensive to be invested in Apple, especially if you're in Australia (taxes are ridiculous). I'm not saying that it shouldn't be expensive or that other cheaper options are better. The old term "you get what you pay for" still exists today and is very true with Apple. You are paying more for Apple devices.

Yes you can get the same components (hard drives, motherboards, ram etc...) cheaper from your local computer store, and yes you can build a computer that's just as fast for less money, but you're not getting the features, implementations, operating system, support or accessories and monitor quality that you do with Apple. Though by the time you do buy a decent monitor, you're spending around the same amount of money... So you may as well buy Apple anyway. When you buy a Mac, you're not just buying another computer.

Longevity & Upgradability

"Six years later, I'm only now starting to upgrade internals"

I'm speaking from a personal experience point of view now. iMacs last a bloody long time, well at least the 27" models do. I own two Macs, a late 2013 15" Retina Macbook Pro (top of the line) and a late 2009 27" iMac (base model). I still use my 2009 iMac to this day for Photoshop retouching and Lightroom work. Eight years later, I'm only now starting to upgrade internals. I visited the OWC website and purchased 16GB of RAM and upgraded my iMac for the first time since it rolled out of the factory.

In October of 2015 my iMac had it's 6th birthday but unfortunately, the hard drive has now died. This isn't because "It's Apple and it doesn't last long", mechanical hard drives rarely live past 4-5 years. I'm honestly surprised it lasted six. I've decided to replace it with a 250GB SSD, this will dramatically speed up my computer. The SSD will far outlast my iMac, I can tell you that now, but after I make this upgrade I won't worry about it for another two years... By then the CPU might give out but who knows. That will then have given me nine years worth of long deserved service. Sadly I can't say the same for many PC owners I know.

The Be All and End All

I'm not saying that you should buy a Mac–well, maybe a little, but the fact of the matter is that they are better, not because I'm an Apple fanboy (for the record, I'm not) but because they are dedicated machines for the creative end-user... That's just it. If you want a luxurious car, you buy a BMW because they are built for luxury, you don't buy a Nissan Maxima because it looks luxurious. Okay; that was a terrible analogy but you get the point. Find your nearest Apple Retail Store and talk to an expert, look at the computers and use them. It may take a little time to learn the new system and adapt to new workflows and procedures, but once you go Mac, you never go back... It's just too convenient.

Oh yeah, don't let anyone talk you about of buying a Mac. Talk to true experts in the matter, they know what they're talking about.