So, last week, my teammate Joseph decided he wanted to become an editor. I wanted to get him the best computer to handle it, but it was a bit of a dilemma. Yeah, we couldn’t decide whether to go with Mac or Windows. Turns out that in 2023, there are now vast differences between what the two can do. So, I’ve ended up buying both kinds of machines so that we can test them and figure out which is better. Oh yeah, and this video is being edited by Joseph using the computer we choose, so you’ll be experiencing the results starting now.
So, our total budget was £1600 here in the UK, which if you go for Mac allows you to get the absolute highest-end new 15-inch MacBook Air that currently exists. With this same budget, you can also afford to go for one of the very best on the Windows end, the 2023 Dell XPS 15. And I gotta say, I’ve unboxed a lot of Windows laptops in my time; this is one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen. As always, the Apple unboxing experience is not generous, but quality. Love the braided magnetic cable, which is also now color-matched to whichever laptop you pick, and then a couple of manuals and stickers and the wall adapter. The Dell’s power cable is a little less pretty, but you do get a free little USB hub that gives you an HDMI and one full-size USB on the other side of the cable. This is a brick. All right, so anyway, it’s peel time, always my favorite moment. I’m sure that the quality of the presentation of Apple products is a big part of why so many people give them as gifts, but in this particular case, I think it’s been bested in the unboxing experience very slightly by the Dell XPS 15.
Now, as far as build quality goes, my preconception was that the MacBook would be a noticeable step up. Every MacBook I’ve used in the last 10 years has felt structurally unbreakable with its 100% aluminum enclosures and very few individual parts. Whereas, I’ve used a lot of even expensive Windows laptops made of cheap plastic that starts creaking the moment you take them out of the box. But that’s not the case here. The XPS 15 is machined aluminum paired with a carbon fiber palm rest. It’s got these snazzy glossy accents on the sides. The hinges are both very firm and can be opened, most importantly, with minimal fingering. And while both laptops will make a little bit of noise if you apply a lot of pressure because the material is so thin, neither feels like they’re about to fall apart anytime soon. So, we’ll give them a draw. The Dell does have more ports though, and you’ll tend to find this on Windows versus Mac in general. Considering it’s such a slim laptop, it’s cool to see them fit in not just three ultra-fast USB-C ports but also an SD card slot and a security lock port to chain it to a desk. Compared to just the two USB-Cs and no card slots that you get on the Mac. As a general rule, Apple goes for ultra-minimalism in everything they do, so you’ll tend to get exactly what they think you’ll need and nothing extra. So, in a very surface-level way, Windows takes the ports category too. But it’s not a whitewash. There are a couple of redeeming factors for this near-portless Mac. One is that instead of using a USB-C charger, it uses MagSafe, which I way prefer. It snaps into place; it feels satisfying. But most importantly, if you accidentally walk into it, it’s less likely to pull your laptop off the table with it and shatter it into oblivion. This is what happens if you walk into the Dell’s cable. Yeah, I’ve covered the floor in bedding because I do not trust this. It’s a pretty snazzy pull; it’s a little twirl at the end. Two, the Apple charger is this nice, slick, tidy thing that you can fit in a pocket, which is only possible because of how Apple’s engineered their laptops to have lower power requirements compared to the Dell brick, which is literally like lugging a whole second gadget around with you at all times.
And then you turn them on, and you’re faced with the components that you’re going to spend the vast majority of your time looking at: the screens. And for this, the Mac is quite a bit sharper. Windows laptops tend to stick to industry-standard resolutions, which in most cases is 1920×1080 or in this case, 1920 by 1200. But Apple pays very little attention to what the number itself is and instead just focuses on making what they call a Retina display—a resolution such that, from the distance, you’ll be viewing any screen, you shouldn’t be able to see any individual pixels. So, you’ll end up with some strange-sounding resolution numbers like, in this case, 2880 by 1864. But hey, I mean, in the end, that is two and a half times the number of pixels versus the Dell. Plus, you can probably tell this even through the camera; the fact that it’s a glossy screen also helps with the way that it represents color. Is it a two-and-a-half times better screen? No, there are diminishing returns to having more pixels. Both screens are just as bright as each other, and I prefer the bezel-less look that the Dell XPS 15 has going on as opposed to Apple’s dreaded Notch. But the Mac is still a little better here. And I suppose if you are going to have a notch, then at least you benefit from it on the MacBook with Apple having more room to slide in a better webcam. So, this is the Dell’s webcam. It’s 720p. Have a look at this. It’s pretty bad. Yeah, like the way it’s representing the skin tones, I look ill, you look pretty ill. And this is the Mac, which is 1080p. That’s one factor that makes it look better, but it’s not just a resolution thing. The skin tones look better, the exposure is more consistent, and the background behind us looks like the background behind us. Oh yeah, and then there’s the icing on the cake: you’re also going to sound better on the Mac. The audio has a level of richness to it which the Dell lacks. This one very much sounds like you are using an inbuilt microphone. One thing that very few people seem to consider when they buy a new laptop but that they really should is the keyboard. I managed to give myself a pretty severe repetitive strain injury last year from using a keyboard that had a high level of impact. I don’t think this will be an issue for everyone, but if you feel like you are susceptible to this, then I would slightly veer away from the Mac. I’d say that Apple generally just doesn’t like their keyboards to be in any way at all squishy, so they make it quite a sharp, clicky keypress with minimal cushioning that makes it nicer to use. It’s more
The question of performance has become more complex than ever before because Apple doesn’t use off-the-shelf parts anymore. There used to be a day when Macs and Windows would both have the same Intel processors and the same NVIDIA or AMD graphics, and life was easy. But almost everything Apple uses now is custom. That said, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that on the spec front, Windows feels like a clear winner. I mean, you have a 13th-gen Intel Core i7 with 14 cores that can go all the way up to 5 gigahertz, compared to just eight CPU cores that can go up to 3.5 if you get 16 gigabytes of RAM, compared to eight. Plus, one terabyte of solid-state storage, which is again double what you’re getting on the Air for the same price. And, providing that you’re in applications that can take advantage of that power, you’ll see the difference. Open up a CPU benchmarking app like Geekbench, and you can very clearly see a 35% higher multi-core score. Dive into a storage speed test, and the SSD in the Dell will come out on top, only slightly though. And running a game, even though this Dell is using Intel’s graphics, which are not the best, you’ll get like 20 higher frames per second. So, that should be it, right? Windows takes it away. Well, the numbers aren’t the full story. For the vast majority of your day-to-day tasks, we are long past the point where the limiting factor is your hardware. It’s all about the software. The perk of Apple making their chips is that they can build software around that hardware. So, if you do your work with Apple apps like Pages, Keynote, Safari, some coding platforms, and editing ones like Final Cut, those Apple apps will perform extremely well on the M2 Apple chip that this thing has—better than any Windows counterpart. Because, like, Dell doesn’t have any say at all about how programs are specifically optimized for the selection of hardware that it chooses. The biggest part of this, which flies so far under the radar, is that because the power requirements of Apple’s hardware are so much lower, it stays fast when you take the cable out. Windows laptops, not so much. Just unplugging this cable without changing any of the power management settings turns a 35% performance win into a 40% loss. And on a laptop whose entire purpose is to be portable, that’s a big deal. So, I’ll call this overall very broad performance category a draw. And that’s a good segue to the overall efficiency of this thing.
This Mac is silent. It doesn’t have a fan because these Apple-made chips, the M2 in this case, are based on phone chips which have had even less room for cooling than laptops. They allow the MacBook to boot up almost instantly, and battery life is the single biggest advantage that Macs in 2023 have over Windows. I mean, to give you an idea, an average high-end Windows laptop might get you five hours of browsing the internet. This Dell will be above average; it’ll get you seven or so. The 15-inch MacBook Air can pump out 10 to 12 hours. And because the Windows laptops also have to have so much larger batteries to even try and keep up, they’re bulkier, and it takes longer to charge them. So, we talked about this Apple brick. This is a 30-watt charger, which is not quite, by any stretch of the imagination, generous from Apple. I mean, I’ve got phone chargers with three times the wattage. But still, this thing can fully charge the MacBook in 140 minutes. There’s an optional 70-watt brick that can do it in 80. But the Dell, even with all of this, which is bigger than Milo’s face, takes about 150, which puts it very behind overall in the efficiency category. But okay, it’s time to shift gears to the software.
So, the Mac is running macOS Venture, and Dell is on Windows 11. Both will do the same core computer things, but each has a couple of clear perks. If you’re used to Mac, it never really feels lacking. But Windows is the one if you’re someone who wants to get into the guts of your system to make it yours. If you want themes, easy. If you want a Legend of Zelda wallpaper that reacts depending on where you hover your mouse, sure. Do you want to make it look like a Mac? You can do that too on Windows. So, Windows takes the customization point, just with a slight caveat that I think, out of the box, without any customization, macOS is the prettier one. I guess the one upside of a lack of customization is order. Like, the file explorer feels less cluttered, and apps have more design consistency because Apple forces them to all work in a certain way if they want to be on Mac. And there’s a very clear priority on animations, which makes the Mac feel less like a tool, and more like an experience.
The other upside to this control: is stability. The fact that Windows is made for everyone from the extreme gamer with their colossal twenty-thousand-dollar rig to the person who just wants to make their TV smart with a literal stick, means that there’s a lot of room to encounter unexpected problems. Not to mention that Apple offers a lot more of the experience, whereas on Windows, you have to rely on third-party developers making their drivers which tell your computer how the hardware should interact with the software. And they get it wrong. And then the cherry on top of all this control is that Macs are harder to penetrate with viruses. They’re not invulnerable like I’ve heard a lot of people say, but there is less malware out there for them. Because if you’re a hacker, you’re going to want to build your hacking tools to target the operating system that has the most number of users. So, Windows. And because Windows is so widespread across countries, versions, and devices, it naturally has more vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit.
Speed is a bit of a weird one in that on one hand, this is where you feel the benefit of an operating system that lets you do whatever you want, like with Windows. The fact that you can snap windows into full screen and half screen is so much quicker than on Mac, where Apple’s basically just said no, and instead, you’re left there fiddling with your windows manually until they’re exactly 50/50. But on the other hand, the lack of customization on Macs allows for more optimization. The software feels less of a burden on them than Windows can, and they tend to be able to perform better with equivalent hardware compared to Windows. Plus, they age better. You tend to find that Windows computers get very clogged up over time with the mountains of Windows updates they chuck at you and the file fragmentation that occurs as you install more and more programs. Macs do also slow down to some extent as new updates introduce new complexities, but it’s not been nearly as noticeable in my experience.
Here’s the key thing that I’d say it boils down to, though. Well, first, you can’t get a new Mac for anything less than a thousand or so. So, up until that price, Windows is your answer by default. But then between a thousand and two thousand dollars, I think the Mac, as a general light computing device, feels like a more luxurious experience than an equivalently priced Windows. In that, I think Apple prioritizes the little things that add up, like the sound and the feel of the trackpad, and the stellar hardware construction, and Apple also optimizes its apps in a way that Windows hasn’t yet found a way to compete with. But the Mac lacks compatibility. This is the single biggest redeeming quality of Windows: compatibility with a lot of work programs, especially those involving servers, and also games. If you want to game in any serious capacity on your computer, the choice is made for you. You’d instead use this 1600 pounds to specifically buy a Windows gaming laptop like this ROG Strix. You’d sacrifice a little on the sleekness of the XPS or the Mac, as well as the color accuracy of the screen. But you’d get a bucket load of RGB and a graphics card that’s almost four times more powerful than the one on the Mac. So, overall, then, the scores are in. The Mac has more points, but obviously, different categories are worth different amounts. So, for you, which is the winner? Well, I think the scoreboard doesn’t lie, right? And the Mac won in all the areas I care about, and there’s nothing that I need that’s Windows exclusive. So, I think I should crack on with the Mac right now. Right now. Okay, I apologize for the last 15 minutes of editing.
Whichever one you end up going for in the end, one tool you should set up is Guardio. No word of a lie, just today I’ve had 50 spam fishing emails, and if I so much as click on one bad link within them, that’s enough for someone to gain access to my accounts and my data. So, Guardio is a browser extension and a mobile app that acts like a digital shield looking over you. It scans all links before you click them, it scans all files before you download them, it traces the source of all the intrusive notifications you’re getting to make sure they’re not coming from viruses, and it can clear them from the source. As soon as you install it, it’ll run an initial scan, it’ll show you what threats you already have, and then as soon as you start your seven-day trial, it’ll remove them. But it’s the ongoing protection that’s the key thing, given that scammers are reinventing themselves every single day, and that genuine malware is now lurking in legitimate places like Google ads. And what I like about Guardio is that it’s very much an all-in-one solution. It tells you if the site you’re about to click on is legit or not, it’ll alert you in real-time once your data leaks online so that you can change your passwords immediately. They have a cross-device feature that alerts you in real time when a malicious email bypasses your spam folder. And they’re now offering us a seven-day trial and 20% off the already super affordable price of a subscription for one Guardio account that covers five users. And that will auto-apply if you head to guard.io/bossfoundit. How do I download Final Cut Pro?