Is a PC or Mac better for Mograph? What's the best bang for your buck?
Apple recently made a hardware announcement. They do announcements pretty regularly, but this time it included the latest models in the Pro line. If you’re on Twitter, you know that the response from the Pro user community was, to put it mildly, not a happy one. Even months later if you search for the hashtag #macbookpro you can still find people talking about it.
If you don’t keep up on the biggest Tech news of the day you may have missed what exactly it was that Apple did to make their Pro user base so ticked off. A lot of it comes from a lack of updates to their hardware that would give users the power that they need. Right now Apple is lagging behind in the arms race for faster processors, and they haven’t come out with a machine that has the upgradeable CUDA accelerated graphics cards that 3D designers need. Instead of the improvements that people have been waiting for they gave everyone a touch-strip that many considered a gimmick and removed even more of the ports that Pro’s need.
Those on desktop machines have been totally neglected since the latest Mac Pro Desktop came out in 2013, and no one knows if Apple plans to continue their line of these more powerful workstations.
With so many of us feeling burned you may have been looking at the possibility of making the Big Switch to the world of PC’s and Windows. We wanted to take a closer look at what that switch would look like for you as a Mac user. To do that we sent out a bunch of surveys to all of our School of Motion Alumni asking them everything from what computer they’re using now, to their feelings on switching, and what they would miss most if they did. We even had them test their current machines and give us some cold hard numbers to compare. We got so much great info from those surveys we had to make this a three part series!
Let’s start out with the biggest question of them all….
If you're the typical Motion Designer is the jump really worth it?
That’s a loaded question and we can’t tell you “yes” or “no” either way. It’s a very personal decision, but over 80% of those surveyed said they would consider switching.
The prospect of changing over to a new software ecosystem is scary. We totally get it, switching out the platform that you pay your bills with is a big deal, and certainly not a decision to take lightly. You’ve grown comfortable over the years with the OS that you love and the ecosystem around it, but now the future of Motion Design on the Mac looks a bit uncertain. We know that you have a lot of questions about making the switch, so let’s take a look at some of the bigger ones and see if we can’t ease some of those concerns.
Can you really get more power from a PC for the money?
The short answer is yes. You will get more rendering performance for your dollar in both After Effects and Cinema 4D on a PC versus what you’ll get on a Mac. Just how much more power? Well, that all depends on a lot of variables.
HERE’S A QUICK RUN-DOWN ON WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT BETWEEN THE TWO…
We wanted to get a good feel for what industry pros are using right now. To do that we sent out a survey to our Bootcamp Alumni and asked them a bunch of questions about their computing preferences. About 60% of School Of Motion alumni that responded use Macs as their primary work computer.
We then asked those same people to put their machines to the test. We had them run Cinebench and an After Effects benchmark file that some kind soul on the internet created a few years back.
Let's start out by taking a look at some average After Effects render times. Now, this may not be the most scientific way of looking at the data, but we wanted to make this easy on the eyes and your brain. The graphs above show all of the render times for our Alumni machines when they ran the AE Benchmark file. We took all of those numbers and did a little math to get average times; the Mac came in at 10 minutes 22 seconds and only 9 minutes 16 seconds for our PC users.
The artists using PCs got nearly 15% faster render times with the After Effects Benchmark file. Of course there are a lot of factors that come into play when measuring After Effects’ performance, such as disk speed, memory speed, cache, and even which version of After Effects you use and that’s why for our second test we used Cinebench, which is a program that uses the Cinema 4D render engine to gauge how fast your machine is based on CPU performance.
Just by looking at those graphs you can see there’s more power on the PC side. We did the math again and the average Mac came in at 737 points and the PC came in at 984 points. That’s a whopping difference of nearly 35%!
What would the "average" Mac and PC look like in terms of price / specs?
Based on our survey responses the closest to average computer on the Mac side is the 2015 iMac with a 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 Processor for $2,199. With this machine, you’re getting 16GB RAM, 1TB of internal storage and a big, beautiful 5K Retina screen, and it should render that After Effects Benchmark file in about 10 and a half minutes.
Now let’s check out an example of a PC from our survey that scores close to our average of about 9 minutes in the AE Benchmark test. We checked on Newegg.com for a pre-built PC with the same amount of memory and similar storage, that comes out to only $1050. Of course the iMac has that awesome monitor built in, and we can snag a pretty high end Dell 27” monitor from Amazon.com for $480. That brings our total for a PC that performs better than the average Mac that our Alumni own to only $1530.
So just to recap real quick before we move on, we can get a PC that will render 15% faster in After Effects for 40% cheaper than the iMac. As an added bonus that PC comes with a pretty awesome Nvidia GTX 1070 video card that has more power than what the iMac offers. We’ll talk about how graphics cards can give you an edge later.
Here's one of the biggest advantages of joining Team PC...
Choice! Much like a buffet at your favorite restaurant, building a PC or shopping around for a new one allows for more versatile choices. You get to pick whatever you want to put on your plate, err, in your PC.
You can buy a machine with the biggest, baddest new Intel Processor with more cores than you can count on two hands, or you can pick up one that is a generation or two older and save some money.
You can build your computer with only 16GB of ram, and then once you complete your first freelance job and have some money burning a hole in your pocket, opt to upgrade to 32 or 64GB.Oh, and there’s all those sweet video cards too! We know quite a few of you are interested in GPU Rendering, using plugins like Octane with Cinema 4D. These renderers allow you to render super fast using video cards that aren’t widely supported by OS X.
And if you’re just an After Effects user, this GPU-rendering technology is starting to apply to you too! With each update to Creative Cloud, After Effects supports more and more GPU-accelerated effects. So the importance of the video card in your machine looks like it will only increase over time.
"I don't care about specs, I just want it to work!"
We hear you, not everyone wants to become a hardware pro, you just want something to work out of box. You’re going to have to do a little more leg work than you would buying a Mac to get the right PC for your needs, but it will save you some cold hard cash and give you more power and customization options to work with.
If you want something that will work for you right out of the box with little to no added effort on your part you can grab a pre-built system from Dell, HP, or Boxx. You’ll still want to do some research on exactly what you’re getting, but grabbing a pre-built machine is going to be your easiest option, and they typically come with a warranty for when things go wrong.
If you want something more custom than those pre-built options you can go to a company like iBuyPower, CyberpowerPC, or Origin PC. You can tell them exactly what you’re looking for and they’ll help you build a custom PC with the power you need.
If you’re looking to save a little more cash and are up for the challenge you can build your own system from scratch. If you’re new to building your own computer your best bet is to go out and find some PC experts lurking on Reddit (r/buildaPC), the hardware forum of CG Society, the IT department at your studio, or maybe even someone you know on Twitter or Facebook. With the world so interconnected these days it’s easier than ever to find someone to help you out!
OSX is so beautiful, I can't imagine using something else...
Plenty of people aren’t excited about switching platforms because of the way Windows looks. Even the most loyal PC users take issue with some of Microsoft’s changes to Windows (Windows 8 anyone?).
Microsoft has made efforts to address some of these grievances in Windows 10, and while it’s not quite as pretty looking as OS X it’s still pretty solid. It will take you some time to figure out how to do certain functions on a new PC, but it took time to learn those when you first got OS X, right?
Certainly OS X has been very stable in its appearance and feel since 2001 with the release of Cheetah, and there’s something to be said for that consistency.
But at the end of this all, let’s not forget that our job is to make kick-ass MoGraph and we use After Effects and other programs to do that, so we aren’t going to spend the majority of our time staring at the Windows Start Menu. The operating system is just there to run the software that you need, whether it’s Chrome, any of your Creative Cloud Apps, or Slack.
But what about viruses?
Contrary to what you may have heard it’s not just the PC that can get the computer flu. Macs are also exposed to potentially harmful spyware and adware. The misconception that Windows computers get more viruses than Macs comes from the fact that there are a vastly greater number of PCs in the world.
Globally Windows machines outnumber OS X machines 14-to-1. That’s a big difference, which will impact the number of reported computer viruses.
But don’t take it from us, take it from a panel of information security experts. There isn’t anything magic about the way OS X is made that makes it less vulnerable to viruses. At the end of the day, the best security practice is to use strong (and unique) passwords for important websites, and to never download files from sketchy websites or click insecure links.
OKAY, SO MAYBE PC’S DON’T GET MORE VIRUSES, BUT THEY DEFINITELY CRASH ALL THE TIME, RIGHT?
Uhm… as a Mac user can you say that you’ve never experienced an app or your entire system crashing? Right. We thought so.
Any computer out there can crash, from your smartphone all the way up to IBM’s Watson. When you’re doing complex work that stresses the resources in your computer, or happen to hit bad bit of code in the software or app that you’re running, if it computes it can crash.
The same thing can be said about hardware failures. They happen to even the most well built of machines. And here’s one of the benefits of staying on a Mac: The peace of mind that Apple Care and the Genius Bar offer for technical support.
Yeah, the Genius Bar! Is there one of those for my PC?
This is one place where Apple currently outshines the PC, there is no Apple Store equivalent that you can just take a PC to, but there are other options.
When you’re buying a PC find out what kind of support options are available from the vendor. Most computers will come with a standard warranty and many places offer extended care packages, just like Apple Care. Two of the most well known PC manufacturers, HP and Dell, both offer additional support that you can purchase to help you out when something goes wrong, including hardware failures. Some manufacturers will even ship out your PC to be repaired and then ship it back to you free of charge. If support is your biggest concern we would recommend making that part of your checklist of needs when you’re shopping for your new PC.
Alternatively, if you’re the DIY type and put your PC together by hand, you will want to turn to the manufacturer if you have a broken part. And most of these parts will come with warranties that last years, with highly esteemed brands offering as many as 7-year long warranties.
We know this is a lot to take in…
Here’s the big stuff you can take away from this article. A PC is definitely going to get you a lot more bang for your buck than a Mac. If your main priorities in a system are power and speed, you really might want to consider going PC. The only real drawbacks if you do make the switch to PC is that you’ll have to sacrifice a bit of customer support, do a little more research before you buy, and get used to a new operating system. But that’s it!
Still feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to begin with making the switch? Remember how we mentioned finding a PC expert earlier in the article? In the next part of this series we’re going be that expert. We’ve got a whole lineup of PCs for you to pick from to help make it easy if you decide to switch. That’s it for this time, we’ll see you in Part 2, Mac vs. PC for Mograph | What to Buy.