When I started writing websites professionally, my work computer ran Windows so I had to learn to set up PHP and Laravel using IIS (an unpleasant experience). However, my personal computer was a 2015 MacBook Pro and I really liked the Bash terminal, Homebrew and Valet. When I moved to my current employer, I had the option to have an HP laptop or a MacBook so I naturally chose the MacBook. I became a full Apple convert. It was really easy to work on web development because macOS is so similar to Linux. Homebrew makes package installation really easy. PHP runs really well on macOS because of the Unix environment. I was ready to ride in the sunset as a satisfied Apple customer.
Well guess what? I am writing this blog post on Windows right now.
You do not hear many stories about users going back to Windows after switching to Mac. So what happened?
Well first off, I am not a total Microsoft convert. I still use a MacBook for work and am generally happy with it. I recently got an upgrade to a 2019 MacBook from my employer and it works well. I want my escape key back (my pinky shudders on the cold Touch Bar every time I exit Vim), but overall it is a solid laptop.
At home, my personal computer is a custom assembled PC running Windows. This year my 2015 MacBook started showing its age. I also was running out of space on the hard drive. 256GB does not go very far these days. I found that I was not using the laptop part of my MacBook very much. Generally, I just used it on a desk and it never left the house. When I looked at the prices of a new Mac, an equivalent replacement to what I had would have cost me $2400 (USD) which was not worth it to me because I use my personal computer mainly for blogging, streaming and small side projects. So it was then that I decided to try my hand at building a PC. I ended up with a desktop PC that has better specs than a 15" MacBook and only cost me $1300.
My custom PC has a six core Ryzen 5 processor with 16GB of RAM and a Nvidia RTX video card running off of two SSDs. It is very fast, apps load immediately and basic things like web browsing feel incredibly snappy.
I also love that I can upgrade the hardware on my PC whenever I want. Do I want to upgrade to 32GB of RAM? Easy. Add another hard drive? Piece of cake. MacBooks will never offer this level of customization.
Unfortunately, there are always downsides. The number one for me is the Windows filesystem. I really miss using a POSIX operating system. Microsoft is working on it with the Windows Subsystem for Linux which I have been using some. I have run into a lot of bugs with it though and Microsoft is having to rewrite it for WSL 2 which supposedly will offer more stability. I am hopeful that WSL 2 will solve my complaints. We will see when it comes out of beta in 2020.
I also am struggling to find equivalent apps on Windows for what I use on Mac. There is no Alfred or iTerm or Sequel Pro on Windows. While I have found some alternative options on Windows, they are not quite as good as the Mac apps.
If you asked me if you should get a Mac or PC, I would say:
On a PC, you can have faster hardware that can be upgraded for much cheaper than a Mac. However, web development is still easier on a Mac because of the Unix underbelly and app ecosystem. I am crossing my fingers that Windows will improve with projects like WSL 2 and the new Windows Terminal, but only time will tell if they become as good as what Macs offer.
Ultimately, I am happy with my PC right now. I like to play video games so that is another plus in the PC column. If I was having to use it full time for PHP development though, I doubt I would be as productive as I am on a Mac.
What do you like to use for web development? Have you recently switched to Windows from a Mac? What are your favorite apps?
P.S. I have tried to use a full Linux distro (Ubuntu), but had basic issues with it like audio not working, so left it out of the comparison. I may attempt to use a Linux distro again in the future.