1 Virtually no maintanence. Are there any users here willing to admit they've never virus checked their Mac? I'm not suggesting beligerence but the first OSX worms and viruses have only just been discovered....(hence, can anyone recommend some AV software that won't destroy my sysem resources?)
A quick correction: There have been no trojans, worms, or viruses found on the Mac despite what the media has incorrectly hyped. The two "Trojans" that were circulating the news were proofs of concept and were completely benign. They were created to prove that there was a security hole that could be exploited if the user followed certain steps and they did absolutely no harm. One week after the proofs of concept were released, Apple published a security update patching the holes.
Since there are no viruses or spyware on the Mac, there is no way to verify if any of the AV products out there for Mac (McAffe, ClamAV, etc) actually work. They are nothing more than snake-oil.
what are the options - i did notice that apples seem to be a lot more expensive,
Macs aren't any more expensive than a comparable PC. In fact, in the high-end they are cheaper. When I got my Mac, they were a good $1,000 less expensive than a comparable PC. Now that dual-core chips are out, I'm sure the difference is much less ($400-500 mabye).
Apple in in the middle of a transition from PPC to Intel chips. If you buy a Mac, you will need to get a PPC system otherwise PS will have to be emulated and thus it will perform slowly. At this time, that means your only choice is the PowerMac or a used/refurbished iMac.
It would be impossible for Aperture to be released for Windows as it utilizes many of Apples technologies which are specific to OS X. Even if they could port it over, they wouldn't as it is a selling point for their hardware. Lightroom is Adobe's competing product (currently Beta). Again, it's Mac only but a PC version of LR will be available soon. You can read about both programs here as Michael has written articles on each.
The 20" Intel iMac is reported to be comparible with the G5 quad - no idea if this is true or marketing hype
Hype. Ars did some [a href=\"http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/imac-coreduo.ars/5]benchmarks[/url]. There are more benchmarks in their other two intel-mac reviews too (mini and MacBook Pro).
Based of what you said...Windows
I really can't recommend any OEM company in particular or PCs as I think they all currently are crap one way or another. I'd recommend AlienWare but they seem to have been bought up by Dell which means your customer support experience will be hell. However, these are some things to look out for when shopping:
CPU: I'll let someone else recommend a processor for Win-PC hardware as I am a bit rusty on what's currently out (I've been focused on the upcoming Core chips from Intel since those will be in Macs by the end of the year).
RAM: 3GB - As much as you can get. RAM is cheap these days and Photoshop sucks it all up.
Video Card: Pretty much any 128MB card will do. The card will have no performance benefit for PS. If you run a CRT, Maxtox makes the best analog cards out there. If you run a LCD or plan to, it doesn't really matter what you get, As long as the card can run at the resolution of your display(s) and has at least one DVI port for a digital signal.
Optical Drives: A drive that can burn both DVDs and CDs. There is no need to buy two separate drives for each task as all-in-ones are fairly inexpensive (~$50).
Case size: It may be tempting to buy a very small form-factor case or an ultra-thin case from an OEM, but there are sacrifices to be made. Mainly in what they can hold. Many can only hold a single HDD and are very limited in expansion slots. They also tend to be a bit more pricey.Apple
This is simpler. Yo have three choices of PowerMac.
1. Dual 2GHz
2. Dual 2.3Ghz (what I have)
3. Quad 2.5GHz
I have the 2.3 G5 and I know it certainly will be able to handle what you plan to do with it and it has enough umph to allow you to upgrade your camera equipment. It chews through Raw files and handles 48-bit files quite well. If you want to save a few bucks and by the sounds of it, you aren't working as a professional photog. I'd say you will be more than happy with the Dual 2GHz model.
Each of those Macs can have up to 16GB of RAM (!). I put in 3.5GB, you could get by with at least 2GB (Macs are much more efficient with RAM than PCs) but once you get that 5D, you should consider going to about 3GB or more.Either Way
Hard Drive: A second HDD should be gotten for storing Photos only. Don't store them on the main HDD along with the OS since they both consume allot of space. A 250GB should last you for some time based on what you said and is cost effective (about $80).
Backup: To start, buy an external HDD the same size as the drive you store your images on. A FireWire drive is recommended as they perform faster than USB 2.0. Depending on the PC, you may need to buy a FireWire expansion card though ($20-30).
Monitor: If you go the LCD rout, you are going to be spending at least $700. It is very difficult to find a LCD display which can be calibrated properly for our kind of work. The problem these days is mostly that a majority of displays are just too dang bright. NEC, Apple, (some) Samsung, Lacie, and Eizo are the companies to look at for LCDs.
It's hard to find good CRT monitors too since the push anymore is for LCDs. Viewsonic's G series has a good rep and NEC makes some good CRTs. Beyond that, I'm not up to date with them.