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B.J. Ahlen
Re: Question about PC or Mac
on Feb 7, 2006 at 11:41:19 pm

Boxxtech makes very high quality professional PC workstations. I just configured a 7400 system with Double Dual-core Opterons, a mid-range nVidia Quadro workstation card, a couple of hard drives, etc., and landed at $3,163. This machine more than matches a Quad Mac. They have a configurator at their site, they make them to order, and their customer support seems to be very good so far. It is possible to load it with options to the point you feel like it is like buying an American car in the good old days (I kinda miss the V-8s, although the electrical motor in my Prius has more torque than my old Chevy 350 engine, 395 lb.ft. to be exact). Don't buy any software bundles there, it's all full price except Maya.

HP/Compaq workstations are also very good, they also have Opterons. Local vendor support is best, otherwise there are lots of vendors on eBay, some of those are actually serious vendors.

For a smaller budget, you could do really well with an AMD X2 dual-core processor. I even saw a Gateway PC at Best Buy a few days ago for $1,099.00 that had an AMD X2 4400+, 2GB RAM, and decent hard disks.

Even this would match a Quad Mac in some benchmarks. I don't like consumer computers much though, they cut corners everywhere.

Avoid Dell like the plague. Their workstation support is much better than their infamous consumer support, but the machines are restricted in various ways that make it more difficult to upgrade them, and they don't have Opterons yet.

You probably have a fair investment in professional software at this point. This software is abviously worthless on a Mactel computer, even if there were pro Mactel computers available now. Some vendors have exchange programs though, where you can transfer your Mac license to a PC license.

For programs that are not available on the PC platform, like say FCP, you obviously can't benefit from this. OTH, you can do a lot of things twice or even four times as fast in say Sony Vegas 6 as you can in FCP. Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 is most like FCP though, mean people call it an FCP clone (I never liked earlier versions of Premiere, but the latest V2 package has impressive integration and a vastly improved user interface, you can even shuffle video between PP and After Effects through Dynamic Linking, with no rendering needed, and you can create Photoshop documents from inside PP for example). Neither one of these NLEs destroys entire disks like FCP has had a tendency to do recently.

As for switching from OS X to Windows XP, there isn't much difference frankly. OS X is more elegant to be sure, but the rest is 98% the same. The widgets have free equivalents, such as the excellent Google Desktop instead of Searchlight, etc.

You'll need a good virus checker, I recommend Trend Micro Anti-Virus as being best overall (don't get their security suite though, it isn't good). This is totally install-and-forget, and the only other thing I do in software is to turn on the Windows firewall (and I have a standard $50 Linksys hardware firewall/router too).

Norton's anti-virus, etc., was great in the past, but for the 2006 version you can read the reviews on Amazon..., although you may need to buy a bottle of hair coloring afterwards. Don't go there!

Working in Windows XP vs. OS X overall, well, unless you have an emotional tie to one of them, it really doesn't matter if you are a video/film professional. There are good tools on both, and anybody can learn to become proficient in either one or both (I did support on both for many years).

Oh, get a good 7-button mouse, if you didn't get one already for your Mac. One-button mouse = obsolete T-Ford way to work. I use 5 of the 7 buttons for nearly everything I do, the time saved is enough to go home at least half an hour earlier everyday :O).

My favorite keyboard and mouse today is the Logitech MX700 combo that sells for $40-$99 (yes, that's the spread), you can even see it at Staples. Excellent keyboard feel, great extra special keys, no cables (it's wireless), superb high resolution mouse with a longlife battery (and charger/holder). All for $40-$99. Many compositors in Hollywood's leeding FX houses prefer this type of mouse over Wacom tablets even (for heavy 600-layer compositing and related paint).

For a screen you can use any of the recent Apple screens, or if you buy new, the Dell 24" widescreen for about $900 is outstanding (better than the 23" Cinema Display that costs more), and the Gateway FPD2185W 21" 1680x1050 is a very very good choice for $499-$599. The latter has HD & SD component, composite, S-video, and DVI inputs, and there is even a Faroudja DCDi chip inside that gives a great picture.

Dell also has a 30" screen for abt $1500 I think, but it is too early to buy this I think. There were complaints that it was too bright even at the minimum brightness setting, others were happy. My thought is that Apple's 30" is better at this point (I have used it and thought it was 10/10).

If you need performance, PCs will have a significant advantage this year, and everything in my crystal ball indicates that this gap will even widen a bit next year (Intel may catch up with AMD in 2008, but my most trusted high level CPU expert friend says it is now looking like 2009).




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