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Grow Your Business Technology

Mac or PC: What Should Your Small Business Use?

Laptop shopping
Credit: Shutterstock

Choosing computers for an entire team can be a daunting task, especially when everyone has strong personal opinions. To clarify things, we've taken a no-nonsense approach to explaining the options available to business buyers. While we have positioned these facts in the context of an 'either/or' shopping decision, many business owners choose to purchase a blend of Macs and PCs and distribute them based on department (typically with creatives receiving Macs and other staff sticking with PCs). Additionally, some business owners allow their staff to choose which type of machine they want. This is a good option for companies that want to emphasize employee autonomy, but it can be a costly choice.

If you're on the hunt for business laptops and desktops but still in the 'Mac or PC?' stage of decision-making, this guide is for you.

The most obvious difference between Macs and PCs is the operating system. The interfaces are visually very different, menus aren't set up the same way, and many keyboard shortcuts vary between the two types. Most die-hard Mac or PC fans are primarily attached to the brand they like because of the general interface, but the exterior design can be a major selling point (or detractor) as well.

While PCs vary drastically in design from machine to machine, Macs have a more consistent look and feel that appeals to people who prefer a high-end experience. If your employees want Macs because of the look and feel, you may be able to win them over with a high-end PC, like an HP EliteBook or Microsoft Surface Pro. On the other hand, if your employees prefer a Mac or PC due to efficiency or ease of use, you may have a harder time convincing them to switch. Workers who use extensive keyboard shortcuts or specialized design, visualization, or analytics software may be particularly sensitive to laptop type, and while it is possible to switch from being a Mac user to a PC user and vice versa, there is something to be said for keeping productive employees happy.

Low maintenance: If your small business doesn't have the budget for tech support and you're uncomfortable with basic maintenance, a Mac may be a good option. Apple laptops and desktops are famously low-maintenance and not often a target for hackers.   

High status: While it may be tough to admit to oneself, status and perception by others is a reason many people prefer Apple computers. If a large part of your business involves impressing clients or investors, it might be worthwhile to spring for the company's "designer" laptops.  

Industry standard for design: If you employ a lot of designers or creative professionals, Macs are a good option to satisfy your staff. Digital graphic design really got its start on Macs, and the system still has a pretty tight grip on the artistic community. Even Photoshop was born on Macs. Because of this, many designers first learned how to design on Macs and remain fiercely loyal to them.  

Luxurious design: Compared to some other laptops (even many high-end PCs), Apple computers feel and operate like luxury machines. The company is known for bright and colorful displays, responsive keyboards, and highly sensitive track pads. For many people, the sheer quality level of the aluminum unibody chassis is reason enough to buy a MacBook.  

For details about the latest Mac operating system, check out the best business features of macOS High Sierra.  

Expensive: All Mac products are expensive. Part of that comes from the luxury design and high-status perception. Apple doesn't make a budget option. If you are not interested in paying a minimum of $999 per laptop, a MacBook is not for you.  

Very few choices: Apple is the only manufacturer of Mac products. When you shop for a MacBook or an Apple desktop, your design and configuration options are limited. Likewise, if a power cord breaks, you'll have to either shell out top dollar for an Apple replacement or take your chances with a third-party cord.

No touchscreens or hybrids: There aren't any Macs with 360-degree hinges, touchscreens or stylus capabilities. However, Apple does make a line of iPads to serve this market. If touchscreens on a laptop are important to you, it might be worth buying tablets in addition to laptops.  

Office for Mac: It used to be that you could only run Microsoft Office on a PC, but now there is a Mac version of Microsoft Office. If you've never used Office before, you'll probably enjoy using Mac for Office. If you're already adept at using Microsoft Office on a PC, you'll go through an adjustment period using Office for Mac, because it's not identical to the PC version (especially when it comes to Outlook).

Varied price points: PCs crush Macs in offering prices suitable to a wide range of budgets. You can purchase a very low-end PC for as little as $300 (we don't recommend that) or a ridiculous gaming monster machine for $30,000 (we don't recommend that either). The average cost of a PC is between $400 and $500, while the average cost for a Mac is $1,500, per NPD Group.   

More customizable: PCs are highly customizable. Many of the well-known manufacturers (Dell, Lenovo, HP, etc.) offer many upgrade options, such as additional ports, CPUs, GPUs and plenty of accessories. This is a huge asset if you're outfitting a large team with drastically varying needs.

Many design options: Because so many different companies manufacture and sell PC laptops, there are lots of design options. You can purchase heavy and powerful workstation-style laptops, portable ultrabooks, hybrids that can transform from laptop to tablet, and so on.  

Business standard: Outside of the design world, PCs are the general industry standard for business users. With the widespread use of PCs, your employees are likely to be familiar and comfortable with using a PC laptop at work.  

Quality varies: Because there are so many manufacturers of PCs, the quality varies massively from machine to machine. Using buying guides on reputable sites and looking at product specifications can help ensure you get a quality PC. Keep in mind that if the price is super low, the actual build is likely to feel cheap and flimsy.  

Sometimes OS updates are terrible: Macs are nothing if not consistent. While Apple updates its OS occasionally, adding in features and power, the company more or less maintains the status quo. Sometimes Windows OS updates feature minor improvements too, but other times Windows decides to do something completely different and terrible, like Vista (an OS everyone hated) or Windows 8 (an OS no one understood).

Security software: If you purchase a PC, you should also purchase some form of antivirus security software. In general, this is not a huge expense, but it is something you need.

Less stylish: PCs are getting better-looking, but there are still many manufacturers of business machines that pay little attention to aesthetics. You can find nice-looking PCs that feel like high-quality machines, but PCs aren't considered as universally stylish as Macs, and in some cases they are downright dowdy.  

You may want to consider something outside the PC/Mac paradigm. There are OS alternatives that can run on nearly any machine, and several viable business Chromebooks are currently on the market.

An easy way to give your staff (especially your tech pros) flexibility is to allow them to install their own OS on their work PCs. The Linux-based Ubuntu is a popular open-source software OS that appeals to people who don't like Windows or Mac but also don't want the hassle of running Linux with no frills. Once installed, Ubuntu functions much like any other OS, and it is relatively intuitive and user-friendly. Few companies make machines with Ubuntu preinstalled, but you can find them from Lenovo, HP and Dell. It's also easy to install it yourself, thanks to Ubuntu's extensive online training materials.

Chromebooks have come a long way in the last few years, but Google's introduction of the gorgeous Pixelbook (complete with high-end chassis, stylus and flexible touchscreen) is what really tipped the scales. There's even a rumor that Google is adding a dual-boot function that allows users to toggle between Google's OS and a third-party (perhaps Windows?) OS. Even if this rumor doesn't come to fruition, the Pixelbook and other standout business Chromebooks deserve consideration when you're shopping for a business device.

Currently, Chromebooks run a largely web-reliant operating system by Google called Chrome OS, which is easy to navigate with a modern design. These machines tend to last longer on a charge than their PC counterparts, and they tend to be inexpensive, due in part to a lack of storage space. Chromebooks are meant to run web applications rather than downloaded software. As more storage moves to the cloud, SaaS continues to spread, and downloading software becomes a less frequent occurrence, it's possible Chromebooks will naturally take over.

Chromebooks are inexpensive and growing in popularity. Check out our guide to learn more.  

Mona Bushnell

Mona Bushnell is a New York City-based Staff Writer for Tom’s IT Pro, Business.com and Business News Daily. She has a B.A. in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College and has previously worked as an IT Technician, a Copywriter, a Software Administrator, a Scheduling Manager and an Editorial Writer. Mona began freelance writing full-time in 2014 and joined the Purch team in 2017.