This is, quite possibly, one of the most difficult articles to write; for starters, it's not a review of hardware, and it's not actually a review of anything concrete - it is a review of an experience. We all go about using our computers knowing that if we don't like something about them, if they are too slow or too unreliable or don't do something we need them to do, then we can upgrade them, or we can swap out the faulty part and put in a new one. Now, it costs us money (sometimes lots of it), but it is possible. But much like the U.S. election system, although there may be the illusion of multiple options for your OS, in reality, there is really only one. If you want any sort of software compatibility, driver support and don't want to be made fun of, Windows is the way to go. There have been righteous attempts by smaller OSes to gain traction, and some of them have (e.g. Linux), but for the most part, we're dealing with a one-party OS system. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing; quite contrary, in fact. I believe that Windows XP is the best thing to ever come out of Redmond and I have very few issues with the OS. I actually liked the XP theme when it first came out and I've been happier with Windows XP than any previous Microsoft OS (except maybe the good ol' DOS days). When installed on the right hardware with the right drivers (and with an eye to be wary of poorly written apps), I found that Windows XP was just as stable as any other OS that I'd ever encountered. My personal machine would go months between reboots without a single problem. It's not that there is anything wrong with Windows; it's that if you want the option, if there's any particular thing that you don't like about the way Windows works, you're straight out of luck.

I think that a bit of me was feeling, after being a strictly Windows user ever since version 2.0 (with the requisite mix of DOS back then), that there were a couple of things that had started to annoy me about Windows, which I would rather do without.

For starters, heavy multi-tasking management under Windows had caused me a lot of grief. Maybe it's just because of the nature of my work, but I tend to have a lot of windows open at any given time. I like quick access to the information that I need when I'm working and much like a messy desk, there is a method to my window-madness that only I know. When writing an article (especially big NDA launches), I'd have around 20 IE windows open, Outlook with another 5 - 15 emails, Power Point with NDA presentations, Word with my article, maybe Dreamweaver if I was starting to put it into HTML, not to mention Acrobat, some sort of MP3 player, Trillian and a bunch of explorer windows as well. After a certain point, the cramped taskbar became difficult to use as a locator tool, and while I could ALT+TAB forever, I just felt like I was idle for too long. I knew what it was that I needed to get to, and I knew I had it open, but the process of getting to it was a pain.

The other issue was with the way Windows handled having so many windows opened; after a certain number of windows were opened, stability and performance both went down the drain. Sometimes applications could no longer spawn additional windows or dialog boxes, requiring me to close a handful before I could continue doing anything, and other times, applications would simply crash.

It's not that I was dissatisfied with Windows and the PC experience in general, but I thought it might be time for something new - to see what else was out there.

I've always been a fan of trying alternate Oses - I was even an OS/2 user (both 2.0 and Warp) for a little while in my early years. So, a while back, I conjured up this idea to try using a Mac for a month. At first, it started as just a personal experiment, but it later developed into the foundation for the article that you're reading now. After doing the necessary research to make sure that I could actually get work done on a Mac, I whipped out the trusty credit card and decided to give the experiment a try.

What you are about to read are my impressions, as a devout PC user, of the Apple way of life.

The Basics
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  • brichpmr - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    #53, I can't prove or disprove your statements; but the bottom line for me as a dual platform user, is that OSX is a very cool computing environment that gets better with every point release; it's very stable, malware free (so far) and lets a bunch of us earn a handsome income, even in a Windows-dominated a workhorse machine, the numbers become secondary to a user's productivity...the Mac is very productivity-friendly. I won't even mention how much fun it is to run F1 Championship Season in 1280 by 1024 with a nice Logitech force-feed wheel...whoever thinks the Mac can't play good games needs to re-think!
  • gherald - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    To #48 who says: "If a lot of PC users would open their minds and try using a Mac for 30 days: they would appreciate what us mac users like about the platform."

    My answer is: The usefulness of this article is that we don't HAVE to spend time and money doing that. We get to read about someone else doing it -- someone who's opinion we trust.

    This is the most fair minded Mac review I have ever seen. Kudos to Anand for giving us insights on a platform that is too expensive for most of us to afford to try out on our own.

    The $3000 price tag is interesting. I recently built 2 AMD64 machines for somewhat less money: A 3400 for windows, and a 3200 for Linux. There is no doubt in my mind that this was the best value, especially since I play a number of windows-only games but prefer Linux for everything else. I don't think the Mac even comes close to beating the power, compatibility, and flexibility of such an approach, at least for my purposes.
  • skiboysteve - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    cindy are you kidding me?

    ALl it takes is one air cooled 2.4ghz Athlon64 to match a DUAL WATER COOLED 2.5ghz G5.

    Not to mention a single air cooled 2.4 A64 is cheaper.

    And that barefeats article is so laughable, one of the shadiest configurations of hardware i've ever seen... not trustable at all.

    I dont have the info in front of me, but there was a G5 bench mark from an actual hardware website worth something and the G5 got smoked on single proc. and only matched with dual.

    And where the hell did you pull the PPC970 does more ops per clcok than an Athlon64 info? It has a 16 stage integer pipe, gee, hmm, thats 25% more than an athlon64. Now I know your going to say it can have 200 operations in flight, but... "So while the 970 may be theoretically able to accommodate a whopping 200 instructions in varying stages of fetch, decode, execution and completion, the reality is probably that under most circumstances a decent number of its valuable execution slots will be empty on any given cycle due to dispatch, scheduling, and completion limitations."

    The problem with the PPC970 is its long pipe wide execution scheme would be good but it doesnt have enough resources to fill the wide ass pipe and all the execution units, which is exactly as expected becasue its a cut power4 chip. "The 970's integer hardware was designed to deliver 64-bit integer performance, and it was also designed with the ridiculously large caches of the Power4 in mind. When it you decrease the cache sizes to desktop computing levels and run 32-bit code on it, it starts to look less impressive next to the P4."

    Your "facts" are terribly flawed and I just had to post about this because somehow no one else did.

    The PPC970 is the best chip the Mac has ever had, but its clock is not high enough, its too hot, and its operations per clock are no where near the G4, and behind the A64.


    I realize this probably comes off as a massive PC-bias attack on you, but honestly, get your facts straight before you start praising the great PPC970 chip on a HARDWARE website, where people KNOW whats up.
  • Sakamura - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    1st post. Mac user. Reader of AnandTech for a long time for PC needs and other cross-platform niceness.

    For the few answers I can provide that aren't already addressed in the 5x messages prior to mine:

    - Applications are "packages" like explained. Some do use the Library to install ... And some ask for a admin password to add their kext in the system library. It all depends on the app.
    - Caching is indeed very optimized. Still no Ext4 but very optimized. Thanks to BSD base.
    - Search engine is not cached. It's a system service that allows you to sort and classify any sort of data. That's the same sorting algorithm that determines if a mail is spam or not. This is also used in file search, text search, dictionary and whatnot.
    - User interface is not meant to be snappy. Strangely enough, I have almost the same user interface speed on my G3/400 than on a G5. But then, the actual work does slow down to a crawl when doing processor intensive tasks. Alas, today, this means Mail, Safari, Quicktime. But nonetheless other than the actual "work" being done on something, the interface remains decently fast all the time.

    Great article, nice points.
    Have a nice day
  • CU - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    You can run X11 and all the open source stuff on Windows to. You just install cygwin. Don't some dist. offer running linux inside windows also.
  • jecastej - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    44 - "price to performance" is perfect if you need to justify a purchase to your office or IT department. Which maybe is the 98% of the cases.

    It may look like luxury but sometimes is necessary to value other human needs. Business creative environments benefit from aesthetics. Apple's software/hardware provides an alternative at a reasonable price to performance ratio. Won't kill to have this option.
  • punko - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link


    And I thought Coke vs. Pepsi was bad.

    All I can say is that as a computer user from way back (punch cards and PDP-11's anyone?) I have never owned or used a Mac (other than to print false birth certificates in high school to go to bars) but I have occasionally wondered what it would be like to have one.

    Anand has a better understanding of the total breadth of the PC environment, and so is a perfect lens with which to view the Mac world from a PC user perspective.

    All the bile and venom swishing around here in the comment trenches isn't worth worrying about.

    Great article Anand. I know more is coming down the pipeline concerning the Macs; and even though I am dreaming of a AMD64 upgrade, I will read and consider the informed opinion of a knowledgable computer user.


  • rvirmani - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    About as objective an article as you can expect from a hard core PC user (who makes most of his income from the PC World).

    I switched to the Mac 2 years ago, and went through the adjustment.

    I think the key thing I want to point out is:
    1) less irritation on a day to day basis
    2) My system has never crashed ( although I do fix the "permissions" on a weekly basis using the built in disk utility

    3) The other benefits of the mac are the iapps (Which Anand did not get around to looking at)

    4) I use a Power Mac G4 with 2 Gig of Ram and it is plenty fast for day to day things like MS Office and Web research.

    I think the "performance" mentality of many PC enthusiasts is really the biggest barrier (I like not worrying or thinking about the hardware too much).

    5) OSX is much better at multi-tasking - even on a single processor machine.

    If a lot of PC users would open their minds and try using a Mac for 30 days: they would appreciate what us mac users like about the platform.

    A good start for Anand, and I look forward to more explorations of the Mac platform.

  • sprockkets - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    err... that was 256MB of memory with 233MB used due to a shared SiS740 chipset in my Shuttle system and 165MB in swap, was running transcode and a few other smiple apps, such as Konqueror.
  • sprockkets - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    I find that browsing is fastest with Opera on any platform, yet it was almost as fast with IE and Firefox on a new install of Windows XP home. I only put 256MB of RAM in it yet it boots and runs applications quite nicely. I notice the delays in web pages when using FireFox in Linux, though I could care less (has 256MB too with.

    The bottom line is, you shouldn't have to use 1GB to 2 or even 4 GB of ram just to get a nice response time. That and dual 2.0GHZ is still available. That and browsing and multitasking shouldn't require DUAL 3.0GHZ PPC processors.

    Another point, if Mac OSX was made for an X86 processor, I would buy it. But since it isn't, and SuSE 9.1 is free anyhow, with just as customizeable KDE or GNOME desktops, not to mention light and fast IceWM desktop, why bother.

    Off topic, but doesn't Windows NT5 varients shut down after 45 days of uptime?

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