Classic Macs in the Intel Age

Is Windows XP Better than Mac OS X 10.4 'Tiger'?

- 2008.07.28 - Tip Jar

I'm sure you've all heard it at some point "Why use a Macintosh? Get Windows! That Mac won't run any games."

Windows users seem to find great pleasure in picking on Mac users. They claim that their operating system is the best and that it is a lot faster and more stable than Mac OS X.

Is that really true? As a daily user of both Windows and OS X, I've decided to find out.

First of all, I'm not going to be one of those Mac users who strike back at Windows really hard. Truth is, Windows is a good operating system. I use it every day.

I'll be comparing Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" to Windows XP for everyday use.

Startup Time

While both systems generally start fast, OS X can sometimes take a lot of time to boot. I have no idea what it's doing behind that pretty white Apple logo, but it obviously takes a long time.

My 1.42 GHz eMac (2005) with 1.25 GB of RAM and a 80 GB 7200 rpm Western Digital Caviar hard drive takes 1.45 minutes to boot, and my 350 MHz Power Mac G3 (1999) with 512 MB of RAM and 1 12 GB 5400 rpm hard drive takes 2 minutes to boot Panther (Mac OS X 10.3).

Intel Macs boot a lot quicker, but PowerPC is what I own, so it's the platform I'm testing.

Windows XP boots very quickly on a 2.0 GHz Sempron 3500 (2006) with 1 GB of RAM and a 60 GB hard drive.

Outcome: Windows XP wins, at least against older PowerPC Macs.

Browsing the Web

Windows XP comes with Internet Explorer 6 (upgradeable to IE7 or a beta of IE8), which is a crappy browser. Most websites are supported, but its weak spot is loading times - they are quite long.

It is, however, the best browser for low-end Pentium II systems.

But I'll be talking about IE7, which is a decent browser (the GUI is mostly a rip-off of Firefox and Safari), but it hasn't fixed those loading times. It's supported by all websites out there, save for a lucky few.

Mac OS X ships with Safari 3 and it is, as I wrote in an earlier article, the best browser ever. It has a great GUI, loads pages quickly, and is supported by most websites like Google (duh!), Low End Mac (duh! again), Yahoo!, and YouTube.

Its only weakness lies in somewhat bad website compatibility.

Outcome: It's a tie. Both browsers are good. Safari however, has a much better GUI and font rendering. It also loads pages faster.

Working with Documents and Spreadsheets

Both operating systems ship with a word processor: Windows has WordPad and OS X has TextEdit. TextEdit is a lot better than WordPad, but to get real work done, you need an office suite.

While Office is available for OS X, I'll be comparing iWork on the Mac and Office 2003 on the PC.

Microsoft Word is compatible with a lot of formats, but it has a pale, slow, and ugly interface and brings you back to the age of Windows 98 - and Excel is even worse.

iWork, on the other hand, has a sweet Apple-style GUI (duh!) and works very quickly on most Macs. Well done, Apple. Office suites have to be user-friendly.

Outcome: Mac OS X and its faithful companion iWork win this round.

The GUI and Desktop

Windows XP uses a GUI that dates back to 1995 with some slight improvements. I am very comfortable working in Windows XP and, overall, it's a great GUI.

In Vista however, Microsoft destroyed the beloved familiarity of Windows and replaced it with the brand new GUI named Aero (also known as Apple Rip-off 2.0), making it even harder for John Doe to use his Dell.

Mac OS X has the best GUI of operating systems so far. It combines speed, ease of use, and some sweet looks. The Desktop is very clean, even when it's full of icons.

OS X also has the Dock - it's like Windows' Quick Launch, only better. That's where you can store shortcuts to frequently used apps for easy access.

Outcome: OS X wins, with XP not far behind. Remember: Say No to Vista!


Windows XP ships with Outlook Express (replaced by something similar called Windows Mail in Vista), which is a very good mail program. It's just easy to use. No need to say more. It just works.

Mac OS X has, which is a great mail program, but it sometimes experience crashes and bugs.

Sorry Apple; I'm sticking with Outlook Express on this one.

Outcome: Windows XP wins.

General Speed and Overall Stability

Mac OS X is rock solid and never crashes.

This is a hard one: Mac OS X is rock solid and never crashes.

However, sometimes applications may crash, such as or certain games that don't minimize properly (there are a lot of them).

Windows XP is not as stable, but applications generally experience few crashes, save for certain pieces of Microsoft software.

Both systems run fast. OS X has a speedy desktop and Finder; XP's Explorer is decent, and so is the desktop experience.

Outcome: Both operating systems are equal on this point. Vista, however, might as well be renamed "BSOD 2.0: Biggest Virus of 2007".


There are a lot of good games for Mac OS X, but most of the "big" games out there are Windows only.

I guess we all have to accept that a PC is just better for gaming. I'm sure some of you have a PC for gaming only.

Outcome: Windows XP wins.

Bundled Software

Microsoft includes a very small selection of software with Windows XP, including Outlook Express, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, WordPad, Calculator, and Notepad. That's about it, I believe.

Apple thinks different. They include a ton of software like iChat for messaging and video conferencing, TextEdit for writing small documents, Photo Booth (on Leopard and iSight Macs only) for taking fun pictures, Safari for web browsing, Mail for email, QuickTime for watching movies, and iTunes for managing music - no need to say more.

Outcome: Mac OS X wins, with XP far, far behind.

Hardware Compatibility

This won't be easy.

First, let's start with computer system compatibility: Windows XP runs and installs decently on any x86 PC with at least a Pentium and 64 MB of RAM. Mac OS X 10.4 requires a G3 (a G4 is highly recommended) and at least 256 MB of RAM.

Keep in mind that OS X is a huge hog on my G3 with 256 MB RAM. If you have 1 GB of RAM and a 500 MHz or faster G3, it's very speedy.

Most peripherals - such as mice, keyboards, and game controllers - work fine with both platforms.

Outcome: It's a tie. XP however, has better compatibility with low-end computers. (I'd still recommend Windows 98 on a 200 MHz Pentium with 64 MB though).


Overall, it's a tie. Both operating systems are good; however, OS X is slightly better on most points IMO.

So Windows fanboys, stop picking on us! We can say that your operating system is decent (Windows XP, not Vista), so I hope you can accept our OS as well. :-) LEM

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