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How to buy the best laptop

Mac vs PC: pros and cons

By Adam Marshall

Article 2 of 6

It's one of tech's most titanic battles - Apple MacBooks versus Microsoft Windows laptops. We've put them head-to-head so you can decide which is best for you.

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Ask anybody who's interested in computers whether they prefer Apple Macs or Windows PCs and they'll almost certainly give you an impassioned opinion one way or the other. 'Macs are way better because of abc', or 'I'd always go for Windows because I need to do xyz'.

It can feel like a needless dispute, since both Macs and PCs let you do roughly the same things. Word processing, web surfing, video watching, photo editing and gaming can all be done, whichever you pick. But there are some differences between Macs and PCs that go more than skin deep. We explain all you need to know when choosing a home computer.

Just want to see our in-depth reviews of Apple MacBooks and Windows PCs? Then find comparisons of every model we've tested in our laptop reviews.

Mac vs PC: main features

So what are the prime differences between PCs and Macs? You can learn more about their main features by exploring our interactive choosing tool, below.

Should I buy a Windows laptop? The pros

  • There's something comfortingly familiar about owning a Windows laptop. For most people (Windows 8.1 users aside), the most commonly used features are all where they should be. There's the handy 'Start' button in the bottom-left-hand corner. Plus, a clearly laid-out set of folders and files to navigate around.
  • Windows lets you run Word, Excel and other Microsoft products with ease, and it’s flexible, too. For basic users, it tends to be easy to work with. While for more advanced enthusiasts, there are plenty of tweaks you can make.
  • There's a massive range in prices that you can choose between if you're buying a Windows laptop. We've tested models that range up to around £2,000. But, we've also reviewed bargain Best Buy Windows laptops that will cost you just a couple of hundred pounds. Check out our best cheap laptops for under £500 for the finest budget models.

We've reviewed bargain Best Buy Windows laptops that will cost you only a couple of hundred pounds

Should I buy a Windows laptop? The cons

  • Windows PCs are a much bigger target for virus creators than Macs. Although the security that's baked into Windows 8 and 10 – Microsoft Windows Defender – is pretty nifty, you'll never be 100% protected from malicious software. A dedicated Best Buy antivirus program is the best way to give your computer a fighting chance against cyber nasties and scams.
  • A lot of people became disenchanted by PCs after Microsoft launched its much maligned Windows 8 operating system. But Windows 10, which was given away free for the first year after its summer 2015 release, has also had issues. Reports of missing data and lost compatibility with printers and other hardware meant a perilous upgrade for many people. Mac updates tend to be a much more straightforward affair.
  • Although it's handy that Windows laptops come in all shapes and sizes, so you can handpick one that suits you best, the huge choice can be a curse, too. There are just as many duds as there are stunners, without the same consistent quality of the smaller Mac range. Make sure you don't pick a Windows stinker by avoiding our Don't Buy laptops.

If you think that a Windows laptop sounds like the right choice for you, then take a look at our pick of the best Windows 10 laptops.

Should I buy an Apple MacBook? The pros

  • Apple's operating system, MacOS, has a well-earned reputation of being fast, slick and impressive. There may be a bit of a learning curve while you adjust to its layout and functions, but once you’re up and running, you may never look back.
  • Apple has invested a lot of money on the look and feel of its computers. That usually means a premium, metallic finish, but on top of that, MacBooks really feel like they were built to last. It also often leads the way in innovation – for example, the Force Touch trackpad, or the high-quality Retina screens, or replacing function keys with a Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pros.
  • MacBooks come pre-loaded with strong software for video and photography editing and making music. That's why you'll often find that they're the go-to choice for people with a creative leaning.

With their premium, metallic finish, MacBooks really feel like they were built to last

Should I buy an Apple MacBook? The cons

  • One word – price. Unless you can find a deal at another electrical shop, Apple will charge you £950 for its least expensive MacBook (the MacBook Air 13). The 12-inch flagship MacBook is more than £1,200, while if you want to get your fingers on the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, it's at least £1,750.
  • Instead of the likes of Word and Excel, Macs have their own word processing (Pages or TextEdit) and spreadsheet (Numbers) software. These free Mac programs lack the depth you'll be used to from the Microsoft Office versions. And if you want to open a Word or Excel document from your old computer or that somebody has emailed you, then you may notice they look a little different. But you can always purchase Office for Mac or download a third-party program if that's a major concern.
  • For all Apple's innovation, MacBooks sometimes seem to regress when it comes to 'everyday' functionality. You won't find a DVD drive on a MacBook, and the latest machines have also done away with traditional full-size USB ports – meaning you'll have to buy adaptors to use your existing flash drives and other accessories. If those features are vital to you, then you'll need to go for a Windows laptop.

Got a taste for Apple? Head to our Apple MacBook reviews to compare models.

What about a Chromebook?

Cheap, portable, easy to use – Chromebook's have steadily carved out a niche as affordable computers for users who only need to carry out basic tasks. Rather than Windows or MacOS, they run off Google's dedicated Chrome operating system, but they generally require you to be online to access your documents.

See our full guide, what is a Chromebook? This also includes some top models picked out from our testing.