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The Mac versus PC debate is one of the oldest, most contested, in the world of tech…full of misconceptions, fervent arguments, and ugly transistor talk. Many of you have asked me what is the best travel laptop – and I’ve always said there is no one best. Yet you may be looking to purchase a new laptop or upgrade your existing one and if you’re on the fence between a PC and Mac, these are some of the real differences to consider as a traveler.

Start With The Software You’re Currently Running

Let’s start with the basics of Apple economics – Macs are more expensive gram per gram over most equivalent PC laptops. There are also added costs and considerations, especially if you’re switching between Windows or OS X. You can’t natively run most software built for Macs on Windows machines and visa versa, so you’ll need to factor in the cost of updating all of your must-have software – or stick to free alternatives.

Also, some programs (*cough, cough Photoshop on Mac*) just work better on one operating system (*harrumph Excel on PCs*) over the other. Mostly because developers tend to program for the operating system power-users of a piece of software are likely to be using.

These added costs may give your travel budget cramps, so you can either ditch the paid software, never travel without these free programs, or find (mostly) legal versions of any program.

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justin bieberMacs Are More Expensive – Not For All The Reasons Hipsters Think

You’ve probably overheard a neatly-dressed, sleeve-tattooed, skinny dude with tight pants and thick black glasses arguing himself toward a brain hemorrhage that Apple products are more expensive because they’re “better”. Not quite – you middle-aged Justin Bieber clone – there’s more to Appleconomics than that. Apple designs all of its products to run on specific hardware so that its software (like iOS or OS X) can be as compatible as possible with all of the parts it’s controlling. Unlike PCs, who are much more liberal about sharing their hard parts with any software that happens to walk by. This Apple hardware-software tie makes Macbooks and other Apple products generally more stable than gadgets running Windows but parts more expensive. The tradeoff – and big consideration for travelers – is that Mac components aren’t as easy to find since stores tend to stock what people buy (roughly 85% of the world uses PC).

For travelers close to an Apple store or large computer retailer around the world, finding replacement parts (e.g. dying hard drive) in an emergency is an inconvenience, but typically not an issue.

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Business travelers and others who take shorter trips probably don’t have to worry too much but if you’re off for a few months in Iraq, you may want to consider a backup laptop or iPad (as I do) to keep yourself connected until you can locate a repair shop to accommodate you.

For Most Trips The Advantages Depend On Your Preferences

Generally speaking, you buy a Mac because you enjoy its features and like what Apple’s operating systems have to offer. PC laptops aren’t inherently inferior: most of the best travel laptops of 2012 were running Windows. For travelers, the advantages of a Mac or Windows laptop aren’t pronounced. For most trips there’s no real advantage to getting a Mac over a Windows laptop. On extended trips to remote parts of the world however, you might find a replacement part a bit harder to find if that reliable Mac does ever decide to have a breakdown.