A New PC, but it’s not Apple

Out with the Old, In with the New

My ageing Windows desktop PC has finally reached a point where I need to replace it. The processor now struggles with the modern day demands of my rather large Lightroom Catalog and Preview files which just take too long to render. I  no longer have the patience to sit and wait. No, the time has come to get something new, shiny, sleek and a dam sight faster.

Desktop PC in NZXT tower caseIt’s 6-1/2 years old, which in PC terms is probably approaching ancient, and it’s been repaired and upgraded more times than I care to remember just to keep pace with those all too frequent software upgrades. It arrived sporting the once dreaded Windows Vista (what a disaster that was!), which was promptly upgraded to Windows 7,  and even that has been re-installed from scratch 3 times if not more. It currently houses a mishmash of 6 hard drives, including the original 2 x 250GB RAID array system drives it came with. These house my ever burgeoning image and video library. Over time, several hard drives have failed, been replaced, and some replaced again, but now a system RAID drives is malfunctioning and each morning I just don’t know if boot up is going to take 10 minutes or a couple of hours troubleshooting.

But not Apple?

Well despite my recent jealously over the speed of Lightroom of Doug Chinnery’s super looking iMac, and just this week being dazzled by images on Wedding & Portrait photographer Chris Langham’s 27-ich iMac screen, I’m not going to take the Apple route. Why not you may ask? Well it’s not that I don’t like Apple products. They look absolutely amazing. I already own an iPhone, a MacBook Air and an iPad; the latter two of which I think are fantastic. I also loved my iPhone till I (regrettably) upgraded to IOS7.

iMac 27-inchThere’s still nobody who can really compete with Apple on looks and desirability, however it’s that whole Apple ethos thing that bugs me; it’s their way or nothing else. Whilst I think Johnny Ive is a terrific hardware designer, he really needs to be kept well away from software design. I loved the whole skeuomorphic look on the iPhone, but now with iOS7 it’s all gone dull flat and boring, and is just not as easy to read for old gits like me. What’s more you can’t go back and can’t change it, not even the font.  Why ever not? I just can’t help feeling too, that without their charismatic but controversial leader Steve Jobs, Apple have seemed to have dropped the baton.

I know many love the whole Apple thing, but I’m firmly in the camp of where the user should have some choice of how their OS should look and work. Apple do some things really, really well, but something’s they do just suck! I suppose you can firmly put me in that Grumpy Old Man category where I want things my way, and to a certain extent that’s absolutely true, but hell, why not, why not indeed!

In the end my choice in not selecting Apple boils down to a couple of things which may surprise many readers. They are productivity and adaptability.

Adaptability

Some may tout this as Upgradeability, but it’s not just that. When you buy into Apple you’re pretty much stuck with what you’ve get. You may be able to upgrade your PC memory (but done via Apple will cost a small fortune) but low and behold if you want anything else changing, you can almost forget it.  Just try getting a hard drive upgrade for an iMac. There are third party companies who do this, but at a price. No, I want a system where I can easily change out and upgrade components when and as required, and have plenty of scope to be able to do this.

My new PC will have with 8 hard drive bays all pre-wired so I can simply slide a new hard drive straight in. Whilst your Apple system my be sleek and fast at the time of purchase, a couple of years or three and several OS upgrades later, it may not be as optimal as you thought. If some new interface come on the market, then the chances are you’ll be able to buy a card to slot in your PC; very doubtful for an iMac though. A Windows PC may be able to adapt to new technologies. With a MAC you’re probably going to have to buy a new machine.

Productivity

I know some may argue this point, but I find I’m just far more productive on a Windows 7 platform that Mac OS and I’ll tell you why. I run a lot of software, and I mean a LOT! My system is not just for photo processing. It’s my main work computer too, which gets used for report writing, graphics, business applications, and many more, plus some third party proprietary oil field applications used in my role as a geologist. The later tend to be Windows only I’m afraid, and I’ve tried ruining them under Parallels but it’s so slow. I know I can make my Macbook dual boot too, but it’s a real pain to switch back and forth.

Windows ExplorerI also deal with a multitude of files and if you are photographer you probably do too. In this respect, my most used (and valued?) application, Windows Explorer just whoops MAC’s Finder. I’m sorry MAC fans but Finder really sucks. I’ve looked at so many Finder alternatives for MAC OS but nothing comes close to the usability of Windows Explorer. My other bug-bear with MAC OS is the stupidly, childish-looking Dock. Give me the Taskbar and Start Menu any day. I know many love the Dock, and if you run a limited number of applications it may be just fine for you, but I have all my software accessed in logical hierarchical menus which just work so much better for me .. the way I actually want it.

You’ll notice I mention Windows 7. I’m not much of a fan of Windows 8. So I’ve opted to have Windows 7 installed on my new system, which for me looks so much better. I even find working on Microsoft Word a more comfortable experience within Windows 7 than on MAC OS. I admit this is probably due to familiarity and that I have ‘grown up’ using Windows, but after almost 3 years using the MAC OS I really can’t say it’s any better that Microsoft Windows. I prefer the look of Windows. I do like the quicker boot up time of MAC OS and the ability to get back up and running quicker after a crash; it does seem more reliable, but I hate having to be made to do everything the way Apple want you too, so pine for the flexibility of Windows which seems a so much more mature environment. If Apple versus Microsoft were a football match, then for me it’s probably a score draw. Neither is a winner. But Windows is just, well just more like an old pair of slippers .. for me it just fits.

And lastly, the Cost!

32Gb Fast DDR3 Memory

32Gb Fast DDR3 Memory

Whilst the lure and desirability of Apple products is a very powerful draw, their prices are certainly not. To provide another football analogy, it’s Championship components at Premiership cost. My new PC will come with an Intel Core i7 4770K Haswell Processor overclocked to 4.3GHz and 32Gb of really fast memory. You can’t get anything that fast in an iMac (at the time of writing). Xeon processors are available in the Mac Pro but even the base configuration is an unbelievable £3,299 here in the UK!

My system will have two, fast, 7200 rpm, 4TB internal hard drives and two 500GB, SSD‘s to house the system files and individual scratch disc for my Lightroom Catalog and Preview files. Specifications you’d be hard pressed to get in any Mac. I admit my black box may look quite utilitarian in comparison to a shiny iMac, but it will sit obliviously under desk as all my other PC’s have done, whilst my existing twin monitors will remain at eye level, until at some time in the future, they too can be upgraded.

My new system, is far from cheap, as the components may suggest, but it’s from a reputable and recommended UK builder and I think offers far better value for money than any system from Apple. I was able to negotiate too, and price match various components (such as Hard drives) that I could find cheaper elsewhere online; just try that with Apple! Lastly, it comes with a 5 year guarantee, Much better than Apple’s two!

Proof of the Pudding!

Is in the eating so they say. I’ve another two weeks to wait for my PC to be built and shipped. Then millions of files to be transferred. I just hope I’ve made then right choice!

I shall write and let you know later…

 

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