MacBook Pro vs. the PC competition

About The Author

CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

Round three: features

Connections are key.

If you believe the marketing hype, everything on a laptop is a feature, from the lid latch to the dock connector. But for comparison's sake, we've broken features down into three subcategories: audio/video, storage and slots, and networking. Things have improved massively for Apple here recently, offering nearly the same options as the PC competitors.


Apple prides itself on its products' audiovisual capabilities — but the MacBook Pro includes the bare minimum of A/V features: a microphone and some average but loud speakers, one FireWire 800 port and only two USB 2.0 ports for connecting to external peripherals, such as a camera or a mouse. It also has mini-DisplayPort video out, although its usefulness will be limited, as you'll need to buy an adapter to hook it up to anything other than Apple's own monitors. Apple also doesn't support HDMI, so you'll need to get a third-party adapter and send sound over another wire if you wish to hook up to your TV.

You'll need a third-party adapter to get HDMI out of a MacBook. (Credit: Monoprice)

The Dell has all of this except the FireWire 800 and mini-DisplayPort, but trumps with the full-sized DisplayPort, VGA and HDMI. One of its USB ports also doubles as an eSATA port, and it also has FireWire 400.

Both have line in and out 3.5mm jacks, although the Dell uniquely has dual-headphone jacks while the Apple alone supports optical audio. Both have webcams, although the MacBook Pro's video quality is significantly better. The Dell's speakers are also quieter and tinnier than the Apple's.

We're going to call this one a draw: while the PC offers more video connectivity, the Apple offers a better audio/visual experience. Advantage: nil.

Storage and slots

If you have lots of MP3s or digital video, storage capacity matters, and the Dell Studio XPS 13 provides an extra 250GB of storage space compared to our MacBook Pro test configuration, which will set you back another AU$220 to upgrade to match. While both laptops are equipped with dual-layer DVD burners and SD card readers, the Mac's card reader can only read SD, SDHC and MMC, whereas the Dell adds MS and xD reading into the fold, and throws in an ExpressCard Slot to boot. Advantage: Dell.


The MacBook Pro and the Dell Studio XPS 13 both include gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), and 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity. Advantage: nil.

Winner: the Dell Studio XPS 13 takes this round, but by the barest of margins.

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Round 6 Round 7 Round 8

Add Your Comment 183

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rclemens posted a comment   

PC's require the use of a virus scanner and Mac's do not. Virus scanners use up resources. They should have placed a virus scanner on the PC and then tested the two. The outcome would have been different and Mac would have been a much better performer in all categories.


EdipB posted a comment   

Apple lets you chuck on windows. Isn't that freedom enough? :P


Ribbet06 posted a comment   

I'd rather buy a pimped PC for the same amount of the basic Macbook Pro. I do get mad at my crappy pc, but I'm just not sure about the exclusivity of Apple, I like my freedom lol.


akaked posted a comment   

I am an Engineer and University Professor. My last computer was a MacBook Pro 15.4'', 2.8 GHz and at this moment i own a MacBook Pro 13.3, 2.7 GHz i7 processor and it cost to me 1407 euros (about 1970 US dollars). The graphic card, an Intel HD 3000, it is fraud. This mac don't worth the money it cost. I need some software that don't exist for mac however, virtualization it is a crap on this mac. Ok, you could say that i should buy a MacBook Pro 15.4''! But it cost a lot and i have also to use virtualization. Ok you could say that i could use BootCamp! BootCamp??? To do dual-boot? For that i buy a PC and use linux! At this moment i switch my MacBook Pro 13.3'' for a Toshiba Tecra R840-10T that cost me 1010 euros (about 1414 US dollars)! Toshiba has an excellent processor, excellent battery life, excellent graphic card and cost less 300 euros (about 420 US dollars)! The only thing that i don't like on Toshiba is the OS, that is, the Windows OS, but i will never have to make dual-boot or virtualization. Macs are to expensive. They are well constructed, not excellent hardware but very well fitted. Another advantage of Macs is the OS. Mac OS X (Unix) is great, fantastic, but Mac definitely don't worth the money they cost!


idiotphone4lover posted a comment   

And the winner is - Windows 7 !


Mac+PC=Linux posted a comment   

I'm getting tired of reviewers. A of the time when they compare two popular products they end up with a draw.


kp posted a reply   

I agree. It's so annoying!


Craig Simms posted a reply   

Last time we ran this the Apple won -- this article is quite old now, so it's probably time for a refresh.


Somedude posted a comment   

Without being overly prejudiced against Apple, I'm not a huge fan of OSX. Installing windows isn't a concern but (from what I've heard) Apple offers terrible support driver-wise for Windows. It's been like that for a while now, so I'm starting to think that they're doing it on purpose or something. For that reason, I will never touch a Mac, because I'm essentially locked into their inflexible OS (or choose to opt for a subpar Windows experience on their machines) that offers barely any advantages over Windows. Seeing how everything on a Mac can be done on Windows, but not the other way around, I'd take a Windows-based machine any day.

If anyone wants "prestige" associated with Macs, then PCs have their options with the premium Sony Vaio line.


AnnK posted a comment   

After a year with an IPhone, my first Apple product I plunged & bought a MAC Book Pro 13". I have never been so disappointed with a computer in my life & I bought my first computer a Kay Pro XT in 1985. I would strongly recommend buying a PC product for anyone contaminating purchasing an Apple. And don't mention ITunes, OMG

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