Breaking Up With Mac

Breaking Up With Mac

It’s not you, it’s me.Breaking Up With Mac

When I bought my 2009 Mac Pro I was under deadline pressure and looking at a dead PC that I had rigged to run Apple’s OS X.  The PC had caused me nothing but pain for the eight months since I built it, but each time I had persevered.  Having three days to process over 1,000 images, however, changed that consideration quite quickly.

I called my local Apple store and picked up the last Mac Pro they had in stock.

The box would hardly fit in my car and I had to jam my arm into it to keep it from perpetually changing the song on my stereo.  While I mourned the loss of my bank account balance I was elated that I had finally acquired a Mac Pro — the Holy Grail of Apple ownership.  Over the next 14 months I would come to heavily rely on that all-aluminum case: it was cool, it was fast, and it was an investment that almost demanded reverence (from those who cared about such things anyway).

About half way into my time of ownership I began to realize why it was, in fact, such an investment.  The Mac Pro uses Intel’s Xeon processors and ECC-equipped RAM sticks.  A translation for those of you who didn’t dedicate the formative years of your lives to dark rooms illuminated only by the cold glow of a cathode ray tube: the absurdly expensive computer used components of such price that they could feasibly be a down payment on a new car.

In my frantic rush to purchase the machine and finish my images before the deadline, I settled on the least expensive Mac Pro (and the only model they had in stock): a $2400, single processor, four core machine with a paltry 3GB of ECC RAM.  It only took a handful of months before I had outgrown those specs and needed to expand.  In order to put a second processor in the Mac Pro I would have to buy an entirely separate CPU/RAM board for approximately $800 (if you can find them in the first place) in addition to a second Intel Xeon processor which was itself nearly $1000.  Each additional Gigabyte of RAM I required was around one and a half times as expensive as normal non-ECC equipped sticks.

I had to put out nearly $4200 before I had a computer that was as capable as a PC that would have cost me half as much to build outright.

A little background information:  I’ve used Apple products for about the past seven years.  Like many others I was introduced to the platform through the iPod, then fully baptized in the form of a 15″ G4 Powerbook.  I have a deep affinity for Apple products and it pains me to transition away, but I am no longer tied to the platform that once was the only real habitat for proper post-processing applications.

Adobe Lightroom was the beginning of the end.

Apple released Aperture in 2005 and was basically the reason for buying my first Mac.  Aperture was a new workflow management application that brought the powers of Photoshop, desktop publishing, and image cataloging into one coherent ecosystem.  In 2007 Adobe introduced Lightroom, a competitor to Aperture which I regarded (foolishly) as kind of Aperture Light — a program for weekend photographers who did not need a serious workflow system.

In 2008 I saw the err of my ways.

Lightroom was incredible.  It was sleek, fast, and offered direct integration to Photoshop (for those images that just need a bit more editing than Lightroom was capable of).  Worst Best of all, it was for both Mac and Windows.

With Lightroom, Adobe created a tool that I could use regardless of my platform: opening up the creative realm to more than the silver towers that dominate the artistic domain.  PC’s were now a viable platform that professional photographers could really embrace, at a fraction of the cost.

I bought my Mac Pro for around $2500 after tax and sold it fourteen months later for nearly $1600.  In effect I rented it for $64 a month.  Not bad when you think of it that way.  With that $1500 I was able to build a PC that in many ways is more capable than the Mac Pro and finally purchase a Drobo S to make sure that all my irreplaceable files are kept safe.

While I will dearly miss the design of my Mac Pro and the absolute joy that is Apple’s OS X operating system, I won’t miss having to justify the expense of upgrading it.  Nor will I miss the inevitable compatibility-checking of new devices, hoping that the company thought the market big enough to produce a Macintosh edition of their product.

From what I can tell I am in a very small minority.  Out of the millions of search results for “switching from Mac to PC” only a handful didn’t auto-correct my query to what I surely must have meant.  As it is though, I’ll enjoy spending my money on what a professional photographer should really be concerned with: bribing photo editors with $200 bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

July 14, 2010 Update: Received the new PC parts: Intel Core i7 930 (OC’d to 4Ghz), 12Gb DDR3 RAM, USB3 and SATA6Gb/s support. The Mac Pro was a Xeon 2.6Ghz with a paltry 6Gb of RAM.

One Comment to Breaking Up With Mac

  1. David B. says:

    Sorry to see you go.

    If something works for you then you should use it. I hate the mac vs pc argument. I love mac’s and everything, but that’s me; it works for my work flow.

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