Popular Mechanics: Macs Faster than PCs

Popular Mechanics has pitted Macs against mostly comparable PCs and found that Macs are faster than PCs, both in terms of Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" vs. Vista, and even when both are running Vista. The comparison was published in the May 2008 issue of the magazine (published Thursday online), and was based both on a panel of users judging the computers on subjective points, as well as a series of benchmarking applications on both platforms.

"In both the laptop and desktop showdowns, Appleis computers were the winners," the magazine said. "Simply put, Vista proved to be a more sluggish operating system than Leopard. Leopard OS trounced Vista in all-important tasks such as boot-up, shutdown and program-launch times. We even tested Vista on the Macs using Appleis platform-switching Boot Camp software -- and found that both Apple computers ran Vista faster than our PCs did."

The magazine tested both desktops and laptops, choosing to compare a 20" iMac with a 2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 1GB of RAM to a Gateway One 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo with 3GB of RAM. In those tests, users favored the iMac, slightly, while the iMac booted up faster, shut down faster, started apps faster, and smoked the Gateway on various benchmarking tests. Microsoft Office installed faster on the Macs, while Adobe CS3 installed faster on the PC.

In the laptop category, Popular Mechanics compared a MacBook 2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo with 1GB of RAM, as well as MacBook 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo (Penryn) with 3GB of RAM to an Asus M51 2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo laptop with 2GB of RAM. Again, users favored the MacBooks, which were also faster in every category except for video card performance. In that category, the Asus laptop had a dedicated, faster video card than the MacBooks shared memory video scheme.

In both categories, there were some differences in configuration. The Macs had either the same processor or a slightly faster processor, while the PCs had either twice or three times as much memory.

From the review: "Our computers were closely matched, but in the interest of full disclosure, weill spit out the caveats: The Gateway One PC had a processor that runs 400 MHz slower than its iMac competitor (not a heck of a difference in this age of dual-core chips), but it also had two extra gigabytes of DDR2 memory. In the laptop category, our Asus M51 had a 2.2 GHz processor, compared to 2.4 GHz for our MacBook. But the Asus had a larger screen, a more sophisticated graphics card and an extra gig of RAM.

All that extra RAM may seem to give an advantage to the PCs. Vista, however, is a noted memory hog, so throwing more RAM into PC computers is probably less of a performance booster for manufacturers than it is a new baseline hardware specification."

PM expected users to strongly favor both Macs and Mac OS X due to Appleis reputation for user friendliness, ergonomics, and industrial design. While they did, it wasnit by much. The MacBook scored an overall user rating of 4 stars, while the PC laptop was rated 3.5 stars. The iMac scored 4.5 stars compared to the Gateway Oneis 4 star user rating. Neither rating was a crushing victory for Apple, at least not compared to the overwhelmingly faster benchmark scores for the Macs.

Amidst all this positive review information for Apple, PM also made a big deal about the pricing issue, an area where Apple has long taken a perception hit, despite years of pricing comparisons showing that Apple Macs are consistently better bargains.

"Our biggest surprise," noted PM, "was that PCs were not the relative bargains we expected them to be. The Asus M51 costs the same as a MacBook, while the Gateway One actually costs $300 more than an iMac. That means for the price of the Gateway you could buy an iMac, boost its hard drive to match the Gatewayis, purchase a copy of Vista to boot -- and still save $100."