For most computer users, deciding between a PC and a Mac is not usually a life and death decision, but try telling that to the diehard technology buffs, and you will have just stirred up a hornet’s nest. The PC or Mac debate is one of those tempests in a technological teapot that never ceases to calm down. Some have dubbed it the new Cold War. Getting an unbiased opinion from experts over a simple purchasing decision like a PC or a Mac is often an exercise in futility, leaving you wondering if that is old.

MacThe Underwood Five typewriter is still in the attic. But do not despair. By the end of this article, you should draw your conclusions about your preferred choice and maybe even add to the ever-dividing fan base of either Gates or Jobs. Today, the personal computer endearingly called “PC” is commonly associated with Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Although common sense says that the Mac is also a personal computer, it has become sacrilegious to refer to it as a “PC.” The Mac uses an operating system known as OS X, and its operating systems are often legendary for their prettier interfaces.

When deciding between these two computer titans, it’s important to consider your needs before purchasing. This decision would have been easy if we were to turn back the clock to the 90s. The Mac was the design and print industry’s choice for graphic-orientated things. On the other hand, the PC was confined to everyday use in the office and the home. This would have explained the exorbitant pricing discrepancy between both desktops.

Today, this distinction has been blurred. Although the Mac still costs more than the average PC, it’s in more homes and offices than at any other time in Mac history. Therefore, dissecting the pros and cons becomes more important before investing cash in these oversized gadgets. So, let’s break it down and get you moving in the right direction. These comparisons do apply to both desktops and laptops.

Hardware and Performance

The PC

Dollar for dollar, the PC offers more hardware specifications than the Mac, which, for the budget-conscious, requires no further deliberation. Intel-based dual-core CPU allows for a blistering pace on the PC, even for the most general-purpose PC user with a budget of less than $1,000. If you drive a hard bargain, head to Best Buy, and you can get a PC for less than $350.

Various PC desktop sizes are also available, from the small form factor to the full tower case types. Again, sizes directly relate to the user’s needs, so do not mistake an all-in-one like the Sony VAIO to have the same power handling and speed as a mid-tower case like Dell.

Even as a power user, whether using the PC for gaming or turning it into a mini home-theater system while running business applications, the PC can still meet all those demands at a very reasonable cost. Bargain basement prices are the main reason PCs still dominate the desktop and laptop markets. It is economically driven and caters to all segments of the buying public. Try as you might, you may never get a Mac for anywhere close to $350.

Performance-wise, PCs are still very cost-effective. Upgrading the graphics card, RAM, or hard disk space is still much cheaper than buying a new PC altogether. This makes it easy for anyone to customize their PC without worrying about maxing out their credit cards. Another advantage is that businesses running multiple PCs will have a much easier time finding replacement parts or upgrading components because it’s so widely available at a meager cost.

As far as the operating system goes, Vista is the latest introduction from Microsoft, although Windows XP is currently the more stable version. According to Gartner, XP will be installed on over 77 percent of PCs worldwide by the end of 2007, while Vista might crawl to just about 12 percent. This suggests that if you plan to get a PC, buying one with Windows XP installed is still the preferred choice over the latest Vista.