Windows 10 vs. MacOS vs. Chrome OS

PC, Mac, and Chromebook. Which is right for you?

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MacOS

Pros

  • Simple, user-friendly design
  • Top-down software and hardware approach
  • Works well with iPhones and iPads
  • Mac computers can also run Windows via Boot Camp

Cons

  • More expensive than Windows
  • Fewer software options
  • Very few games
  • No touchscreen support
  • Recent updates have not impressed

One of Apple’s older promotional messages for Mac computers and their software was “it just works.” That philosophy is applied to more or less everything that the company sells, including laptops and desktops, and the associated MacOS software. Formerly called OS X, MacOS runs on all Apple computers, and buying an Apple machine is the only legitimate way to access it.

Because of this unique top-down approach to its products, Apple enjoys tighter control over MacOS than any of its current counterparts. MacOS is designed to run on only a relatively small — and highly controlled — variety of computers and parts, compared to millions of possible combinations for Windows. That allows Apple to do more intense quality testing for their products, optimize software for only a few computers, and provide targeted services that can diagnose and fix problems with much more speed and accuracy than Windows manufacturers. For users who want their computer to “just work,” Macs are an appealing proposition.

It just works

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The operating system itself is designed to be easy to operate, even for novices. While the interface of Windows 10 is simple on its face, Microsoft’s OS has an infinitely deep lair of menus beneath that. New computer users often find MacOS to be more intuitive than Windows 10, though long-term Windows users may need some time to adjust to the interface and some important features — like the MacOS file explorer, called Finder — are not as easy to understand.

Though the software market for MacOS is nowhere near as broad as Windows, it suffices for most purposes. Apple includes a suite of in-house programs for basic tasks, and most popular third-party software like Google’s Chrome Browser is available on MacOS. Microsoft even produces a version of its Office application suite for Apple hardware, and some of the best creative applications are available in superior versions for MacOS. It’s no surprise that MacOS is a popular option for design and media production, and many art-focused applications are available only on Mac, including Apple’s Final Cut Pro video editing suite.

That said, MacOS is disadvantaged for gamers, as most new games are not available on the platform. Extremely popular Windows titles may or may not get a MacOS release. For those people, though, Macs can still be a good solution thanks to Apple’s Bootcamp application. This utility helps users prepare any Mac computer to run Windows instead of — or as a switchable option to — its built-in operating system, allowing access to most Windows applications and capabilities.

This requires a separate Windows 10 license purchase, though it’s possible to run other operating systems, like Linux, on Bootcamp as well. (Windows machines can also boot Linux and other third-party operating systems, but MacOS cannot be licensed for use on non-Apple hardware.) Macs can even run Windows at the same time as MacOS through virtualization tools like Parallels or VMWare, offering even more flexibility for those who like the way MacOS operates but need access to some specific Windows software.

Better together

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MacOS hardware works exceptionally well with Apple’s iOS products, the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Users who go all-in on Apple hardware for both desktop and mobile enjoy a unified design language, tools like Siri and Apple Pay that work with both devices, and cross-functionality through an Apple account for apps like iMessage. Apple’s Continuity function is perhaps the most exciting example of how well MacOS and iOS are integrated, with the ability to pick up where you left off in a document on any device and take phone calls and answer texts on your Mac.

Owners of the Apple Watch can even log in to the latest version of MacOS without a password. This synergistic approach simply doesn’t exist to nearly the same extent on Windows, although Microsoft is working hard to integrate Windows 10 with mobile devices, as noted above. While it’s technically possible to acquire many similar features on Windows with third-party tools, it’s much more difficult than using MacOS.

Limited options

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Apple only offers a few product lines running MacOS, and that’s a problem for many. The hardware is expensive, yet not always up-to-date, and it may not fit your needs. There is no 17-inch MacBook, for example, and Macs don’t offer a touchscreen in any form factor. In fact, the 2-in-1 isn’t a thing at all in the MacOS world, leaving behind anyone who’d rather carry just one device compared to lugging around a notebook and a separate tablet.

Apple did, though, recently introduce a much more powerful iMac Pro line that helps to make up for the aging Mac Pro with its limiting cylindrical design. The iMac Pro is a beast of a machine, with up to 18 processor cores, incredibly powerful AMD Vega graphics, and access to tons of fast RAM and storage — offering a much better workstation-class option for high-end professionals who were starting to look away from MacOS and towards Windows.

At the same time, Apple machines can also be limited by the company’s aesthetic choices – the thin-and-light MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro laptops offer limited connectivity that requires expensive adapters and add-ons for more complex functions. And the MacBook Pro dropped down in battery life due to Apple’s pursuit of thin, which has disappointed many MacBook users and helped maintain the Windows PC ecosystem as the industry leader.

Is MacOS for you?

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Mac computers and MacOS are for users who want a premium desktop experience without having to work on it. Apple’s top-to-bottom philosophy makes its software relatively accessible to newcomers. It’s also a great pick for people who are dedicated to Apple’s mobile products.

However, Mac systems are expensive, and often don’t offer hardware on par with Windows alternatives. The operating system also lacks certain features that can be found on Windows, like touch support and a focus on mixed reality.

Read our full MacOS review

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