Uncool “Switcher” Flirts Back With The PC

I’m 31 and an old school geek who started on computers with an Atari 800 as a kid. Growing up moved me into PC land until I became a “Switcher” before being a “Switcher” was cool. That’s right – I got an original iMac when they first came out and I never looked back. I write software, and I bought the iMac thinking it was time to expand my horizons and maybe make a few more dollars by selling software on both platforms.

I never planned on switching to the Mac. I really didn’t. I never thought it was a serious machine, but I did see it as a potential market – and I figured it would look good on the resume. The problem though was my little G3 powered plastic Mac was speedier than my PC at the time despite having less clock cycles to work in. Not only that, it didn’t crash and burn like Windows did. Long before hip OS X, the iMac had me sold on Apple.

Now, as I said, I do work for Macs and PCs. Still do. So, I have always had a PC around. So you might ask how that makes me a “Switcher.” Well, I only use my PC when a job requires it and I do anything and everything I can on my Macs. Much of a PC project can still be done on the Mac and I do anything I can to steer clear of Windows. I play my video games, e-mail and surf the net on a Mac.

My newest PC was a P3 650Mhz bought when that was as fast as the little Coppermine went. In terms of computer years, this thing is an antique. The itch started… the MHz sales pitch… bigger is better… buy more now! I was thinking of getting a new PC. That’s something that hadn’t crossed my mind in a long, long time.

I decided to give my father my old P3 (since my attempts to get him to buy an iMac have thus far proven unsuccessful) to replace his chisel and stone powered Pentium machine. I ordered all the goodies to build a new PC. Not that most of it is important other than the 2.4Ghz CPU (of the inside flavor) and a GeForce 4Ti 4600 128MB, the same card I have in my 800Mhz dual processor Power Mac G4.

This is the stuff people rant, and I mean RANT, about on the internet. The speed and video drivers that the Mac will never have. Graphics glory us PowerPC wanna be geeks dream about.

Well, I got it. So what do I think? Uhm, some more background first.

When I said I’m a geek, I really meant it. I’m a computer nerd. I love to play with new hardware and try out different operating systems. It’s one of the reasons why I keep an eye on OSNews so much. I loved BeOS. It was great. I’ve run many flavors of Linux and BSD. I’ve booted Darwin on x86 and played with Sun boxes. You name it, I like it. And I still have a mint Atari 800 running.

That said, I want to say – Unlike many Mac users, I’m not loyal to Apple in any way.

Is the new PC faster than my old P3? Yes. Is it almost four times as fast as the CPU clock speeds would make it seem? No. Does it blaze circles around my Mac like the PC guys swear it will? No way.

One of the first things I wanted to try out was my all time favorite game – Quake III. I have seen tons of benchmarks showing through-the-roof framerates on PCs running the demos. Numbers that make you think the PC does kill the Mac. I don’t play a demo so I just fired up a map and started playing with the framerate displayed in the corner. I figure that’s as close to actually playing the game as you can get.

I’ve got different sized LCDs so the PC was running at 1024×768 and the Mac at 1280×1024. Both in 32 bit color with maximum settings on all options. Running around and killing all the bots dishes out almost equal frame rates. They are so close there is no way to say one is better than the other, except for the fact that the Mac is running at a larger screen resolution so it does look better.

That’s two 800Mhz G4s pitted against the 2.4Ghz x86 (of the inside variety). That really makes me believe the Megahertz myth firsthand.

How about everything else? It’s good. That’s about all I can say. Surfing the Internet in Mozilla on both OSs gives nearly identical results. I use Photoshop daily and the dual processors just burn the x86. That’s not fake when Apple is showing that. That doesn’t mean everything is faster on the Mac because it isn’t.

If I had to choose which is more productive throughout an entire day of working on the computer, it would go to the Mac hands down. Things work better with less problems. I can run lots of applications at once without the machine slowing to a crawl or throwing up the blue screen of death. I can thank OS X for that. Steve Jobs wasn’t just scamming Apple when he sold them Next and the foundation for OS X.

So my flirting with the other side is still just that – flirting. I have a tool I will use when I need to and it will likely last me a long time but the PC just isn’t everything that the PC guys say it is. At least I own and use both, most people that tell me a PC is better than a Mac have never owned one. Come to think of it, everyone I know with a Mac thinks it’s better than a PC and most have both. That says something.

I praise Macs any time I get the chance. I do. But it’s not because of blind brand loyalty. They are making the best computers around. Period. I want the best and that’s why I use the Mac. That’s not coming from a Mac head since 1984 either. This is someone who uses both platforms and only wants to use the coolest toys. I’ll switch platforms again if something better comes along. But OS X is so far ahead of XP that’s not going to happen anytime soon with a product from Redmond.

As for hardware, there is the speed race that was supposedly over that really isn’t a speed race since a new 2.4Ghz isn’t killing my old 800Mhz G4s. In fact, I still feel like my Mac is the faster computer. The only speed race likely to happen is what looks to be Intel and AMD trying to catch up to the way cool stylin’ G5.

But that’s neither here nor there. I’m still a “Switcher” and look to be for some time. I think competition is good so bring on the new hardware and software. I’ll try it all out. But at the end of the day when it’s time to go home I’ll be playing on my Power Mac.

About the author:
Sean Rose (srose at cycline3.com) does programming, design and some unusual model rocketry products at Cycline3.com. He even sheds the nerd persona now and again for some hardcore mountain biking in the beautiful hills of West Virginia.


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