Mac vs. PC for College

Looking to buy a laptop but you can’t decide between Mac or PC? You’ve already read tons of reviews, opinions and articles about this and still don’t have a clear answer. We’ll try to settle the issue once and for all.



  • If you put together these two machines with the same specs, the mac will outperform the windows laptop but the windows laptop will be much cheaper.  Why? Apple optimizes both their software and hardware to make sure there are no compatibility issues between them. Windows laptop’s components are made by many different companies so you are likely to get less performance with them when you try to compare it with a Mac.
  • However there are far more options for a windows laptop. You can buy extremely powerful windows laptops that Macs can’t even get close, Macs do not offer such high end laptops just yet. If you are a student in need for an ultra high performance laptop, windows is your friend. Whatever type of performance you need, a Windows laptop will provide you with that.

Macbooks have a limit in terms of performance. But that’s alright or even good…Why?

You are a student. That 15 pound laptop with an octa core processor is not that gonna be much useful, trust me. You just need a regular laptop maybe with a dedicated graphics card in some instances and Macs also provide you with that(the MacBook Pro)

Better yet, using the campus facilities for the few instances that requires a much more powerful machine or graphics card has a few advantages.

  • They have all the software licenses you need so you won’t have to pay for them
  • You will be you more focused on your task
  • Your TA is waiting for you to finish all of that workload for you.
  • They are far more powerful than any windows or mac laptop you can afford for 2000 bucks.

However the ability to be able to have far more choices for performance is a huge bonus. Windows has an infinite variety of laptops with different performance levels for any type of student.

Winner: Windows. It offers far more options in terms of performance even though 95 % of students do not need it.

Battery Lifecharging station

As a student the last thing you want during final exams week is to waste time looking for an outlet all over campus (most of them will be taken). You’ll be tripping over other people’s cables in the library trying to secure one. A laptop with a long battery life is a must for a student.

Windows laptops come with a wide range of choices in terms of battery lives. Some examples of laptops with a long battery life are Dell XPS 13, Azus ZenBook and the ThinkPads.


Apple will always have the edge on battery lfe. The MacBook Air and The MacBook Pro are known to be unbeatable for the battery life they provide while also having high performance laptops. Both with +13 hours and +10 hours of battery life respectively.


The fact that every component in a MacBook is optimized to seemlessly work with each other saves a lot of energy. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, all mac laptops will beat every windows laptop in terms of battery life for the same performance. If you plan on being away from a charger for more than 6 hours, you may be forced to find additional power options if you decide to go the PC route.

Winner: Mac. Hands down.



Who breaks down first?

What kind of student would like their laptop with all their study materials, software and possibly a few projects on it break down and gone during the middle of the semester? Of course this won’t happen to every single student but chances are … it’ll be less likely to happen with a high quality laptop. Even if you back it all up, who has time to do all of that and get a new laptop? I didn’t.

Who’s the winner? 

Just look around you when you get to campus. How many students do you see holding up old and rusty MacBooks? A couple. You can’t say the same thing about windows laptops. How many 3 year old MacBooks do you see on Ebay for sale? A lot. Go to online forums and just pretty much any Windows User who switched to Mac can testify to this.


Again the reason is simple, a MacBook has better quality because Apple has control of the entire manufacturing process and everything will be more compatible with each other and less likely to break down. On the other hand, Windows laptops are made by many manufacturers so you may end up with a different manufacturer for each component. Apple also spends more money on high quality components which is why they are most costly.

Winner: Mac.


Freshman students can be really stubborn when you try to tell them to buy a light machine. They dont understand how important weight is for productivity until they make the mistake of buying a heavy laptop they wont even bring to school after the 1st month. I speak from experience.

Who has the lightest?

Windows laptops come in many flavors and colors with all kinds of different weights and performance. The current lightest windows “laptops” are probably the ZenBook and Dell XPS, both delivering a good performance and a great battery life too. The MacBook Air is around 3lbs and the MacBook Pro around 3.5lbs both half a pound or more heavier than the ZenBook and Dell XPS 13.

It appears Windows here is a clear winner. However…that’s because with a Mac you don’t really have a choice in terms of weight other than the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. But that’s another good thing. Macbooks are more lightweight than most PCs and regardless of which one you buy (Air or Pro)  you’ll be forced to buy a portable laptop no matter what program you are in.

Winner: Tie. They’re both portable but if you stick with Mac you will always end up with a portable laptop.


Who’s more compatible with software?

Let’s face it. If you stick with Windows, you’ll never run into compatibility issues UNLESS your department requires you to use a Mac which is super rare. A few instances are : architecture, graphic design and maybe computer science students who need to run Linux (on a Mac) or do iOS app development.

With a Mac however, you’re gonna run into multiple problems with compatibility especially with unknown third party software nobody’s ever heard of.

Who’s the winner?

It’s clearly Windows but….it’s actually a Mac.


BootCamp. Macs have the built-in program BootCamp that allows you to run Windows or Linux in addition to the Mac Operating System. It’s extremely easy to switch between operating systems too. Just turn it off press one button and it’s done. With BootCamp you will run with no compatibility issues if you buy a MacBook. Whatever application you need to run, no worries just use BootCamp. Can you BootCamp with a Windows Machine to access the Mac OS? Answer is no.

In fact some students benefit from learning using a Mac….and you might as well:

  • Those pursuing a publishing, design or art degree. It’s worth learning it for your workplace.
  • Computer Science Students. You will need to learn Linux at some point. A Mac allows you to do just about anything you would on a Linux Machine without giving you much trouble.

When it comes to the job market, you might benefit from learning more than one Operating System. A Mac offers you with three: OSX, Windows and Linux.

Winner: Mac.



The most important feature for a student is how productive they can be with their laptop. How much work will they get done. How much time will they be saving with a Mac or a Windows laptop. Let’s see which one will give you more productivity.

A laptop that won’t malfunction that easily…

As explained before that’s a Mac. You won’t be spending nearly as much time (almost nothing) trying to fix a Mac. While your PC laptop might take you days to fix it.

A laptop that runs its software fast…

Software using OSX runs faster and better only because OS is much more stable and it won’t crash as frequently as a Windows Laptop does. I’m talking about basic students apps of course.

No Malware or Virus equals More Free Time to study 

You’ll be downloading a bunch of files for your classes for sure from textbooks to simple audio files ,images, resources, minor software, music, PDF files, etc. Chances are you’re gonna catch some viruses and deal with a lot of malware from downloading those files. Macs are more secure when dealing with malware and viruses simply because they are less targeted by them and they also have a better security system backing them up. Needless to say, you are not gonna be spending 2 hours trying to remove malware every now and then. Those 2 hours could be put to much better use for practicing a few more questions for your next exam.

No Bloatware equals Faster Performance

Bloatware is pre-installed software that comes with a new computer or laptop. Windows laptops come with a lot of “free software” from many other companies that over time slow down your computer. On the other hand, Mac computers do not have bloatware only software from Apple that won’t slow down your computer. Bloatware should be no issues for Windows laptops though unless you are not tech savy and don’t know how to remove it.

Better tech support

If for some reason your Mac starts to malfunction , Mac have outstanding support in the industry and they’ll actually solve your issues when you contact them (80% vs 57% windows based companies) saving you more time trying to find help from other sources.

If there is a problem, you do not need to contact hundreds of other vendors or companies to figure out who is responsible.

Integration of Other iOS Devices

You won’t be wasting your time trying to upload whatever work you got done from your mobile phone to your Windows laptop or have to upload it to the cloud to access it on your laptop either. If you have an iphone or an ipad, a Mac will automatically sync everything for you and your work/files will appear on your laptop.

Ex: Take a photo of your professor’s board. It’ll instantly appear in your Mac for you to save it to your folder of preference or a document where you keep all your notes.

You can also send and receive SMS messages straight to your laptop, making communication with your peers easier and faster.

Less Gaming

Windows is number one when it comes to gaming. They have far more powerful powerful graphics cards that even high-end macs cannot match.

Plus, macs are not supported by many games today. If you are gonna buy a Mac, your gaming addictions will probably be reduced by 50%. There’s much less tech support for those games that can run on a Mac too.

Needless to say, if you want to waste 4 hours playing games during school days and ruin the most important 4 years of your life, get a PC Machine with the latest features for intensive gaming. Make that laptop heavy, bulky and painful to bring to school too.

But if you want to be more productive, then get a portable Mac and leave games to your windows desktop back home for the weekends.




Macs are cheaper

Say what? Yes they are cheaper in the long run. Because as mentioned before, they last longer. You’ll probably see many Macs being sold online after several years of usage. Can you say the same about windows machines. Would you even dare to buy  a 3 year old windows laptop? Not even Window users would do that. You are less likely to spend money repairing or fixing minor software issues with a Mac machine too.

Macs have better Trackpads – No need to buy several mouse

Macs in general will have a much better trackpads than Windows Machines. Even if you have a spare mouse, you’ll find yourself using their trackpads much more frequently.

Viruses & Malware

A Mac is definitely more secure due to the fact that there are few viruses that can infect Macs. PCs need virus protection which can add up to the cost and sometimes that’s not enough.

Better Support

You can walk into an Apple store and get immediate feedback about your computer. When dealing with a PC,  you often need to talk to multiple manufacturers via phone to try and resolve your issue. Even then you may have to spend a few bucks trying to hire someone.

Winner: Tie. Windows are cheaper but Macs are worth the extra cash.


It’s pretty clear why for most student Macs are a better option. Note that I say students and I say a “better option” only if you have to choose between the two for a laptop.

If I had to do it all over again I would probably get a Surface Pro, a ChromeBook or possibly a MacBook Air again. 

Once you start to look for a job companies might force you to use a Windows or a Linux machine. I know for my dream job I will heavily rely on Linux. I am currently stuck on a Windows Machine and I would probably not be very satisfied with a Mac machine for the type of studies I have to do now.

But I am not a student anymore and I guess I have to thank the MacBook I had for that.

Author Profile

Miguel Salas
Miguel Salas
I am physicist and electrical engineer. My knowledge in computer software and hardware stems for my years spent doing research in optics and photonics devices and running simulations through various programming languages. My goal was to work for the quantum computing research team at IBM but Im now working with Astrophysical Simulations through Python. Most of the science related posts are written by me, the rest have different authors but I edited the final versions to fit the site's format.

Miguel Salas

I am physicist and electrical engineer. My knowledge in computer software and hardware stems for my years spent doing research in optics and photonics devices and running simulations through various programming languages. My goal was to work for the quantum computing research team at IBM but Im now working with Astrophysical Simulations through Python. Most of the science related posts are written by me, the rest have different authors but I edited the final versions to fit the site's format.

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