If your church uses ProPresenter, you might wonder which computer system is best. Whether a church plant just getting started, or an established church looking to upgrade your computer systems, this article aims at helping your church be a good steward of its resources by choosing the best computer system to run ProPresenter.
While there are good reasons for each, when it comes down to using ProPresenter in YOUR church, which should you choose?
In church tech groups on Facebook and elsewhere, you’ll often see this question. Most of the answers will be “Mac” or “get a Mac” or “I tried it on Windows, but the Mac version is just so much better.”
So, that seals it, right? Mac is the winner.
On those same online forums, you’ll also find people who say things like “We have both, but for us, the Windows version works better.” What could be going on with these outliers?
There are a few things to consider, other than popular opinion when it comes to this particular situation.
Let’s look at these factors which might affect your decision, keeping in mind they aren’t equal in their weight, based on your situation:
- Compatible systems
- The 32-bit vs. 64-bit issue
- Original platform
- Module support
- Syphon support
- Text formatting options
- PowerPoint import
- Hardware costs
- Licensing costs
- Operating System familiarity
While the first six listed above are solid reasons to choose Mac and the next two are reasons to choose Windows, the last two could go either way. So, depending on your situation, you might find that it’s six to four in the Mac’s favor, but only three of the Mac features are ones you’re interested in. It really is dependent on your situation.
Let’s look at each and see what features matter most to your church. Here’s an overview video:
While ProPresenter costs the same whether you run it on a Mac or PC, there is something to be considered with the ProPresenter license. If your plan is to run it on a Mac in the sanctuary and on a Windows box for the youth in their space, but you only have the single license, it won’t work.
The single license is for “one event at a time” to quote the Renewed Vision website. While you can install ProPresenter on as many machines as you like with the single license, running one at a time, they all have to be the same platform. You can’t install and license them all if they’re different platforms, not with the single license.
For that, you would need the campus license which is $799 vs. the single license at $399.
Advantage: It depends on your situation
When it comes to the hardware itself, you might think, “Windows machines are cheaper.” A quick look a the computers on Amazon tells the story, right? Some are even less than $200.
In comparison, the cheapest Mac mini sells for $799.
However, price isn’t everything. Let’s compare specs.
- 8 GB of RAM
- 8th gen core i3
- 128 GB SSD
- Four Thunderbolt 3 ports (along with USB 3, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11ac wifi).
The cheaper Windows boxes tend to have spinning hard drives and older processors. Comparisons start to get murky, too, because while the Apple computers tell what generation the chips are, the Windows computers may not. So an i5 might seem like a better deal than an i3 until you realize that the i5 was from several years ago and the i3 is brand new. The advances do make a difference in performance.
Overall, even comparing identical hardware, the Windows computers tend to be less expensive than Macs, although less so (see below) than it might seem on the surface.
If you check the system requirements page for ProPresenter, you’ll start to notice something else.
ProPresenter requires one of the last three MacOS versions, but only a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4 GB of RAM, and doesn’t require dedicated graphics.
For a PC, the requirements are stricter. You need either Windows 8 Pro with Windows Media Center or Windows 10, an i5 or equivalent AMD processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a dedicated/discrete graphics card that supports OpenGL 3.2 or higher (like the NVIDIA GeForce or AMD Radeon series with a minimum of 1 GB of dedicated memory). Certain graphics cards are not recommended (like the AMD FirePro or NVIDIA Quatro cards). Some may or may not work (like Intel HD Graphics).
The normal advantage that Windows has a variety of hardware, is a disadvantage here. While RAM and processors are something that people often look at, unless the machine is bought by a PC gamer, you might not think to compare graphics cards. What’s more, while it’s normally safe to assume that “better than the minimum” is fine, if you missed the “AMD FirePro cards are not recommended” part of the requirements, you might think an AMD FirePro W7000 with 4GB of video memory is better than a Radeon with 1GB. In most cases, you’d be right, but not in the case of ProPresenter 6 for Windows.
Finding a Mac that works with ProPresenter is easy. Finding a Windows machine that does is tougher.
32-bit vs. 64-bit
Windows and MacOS are both 64-bit OSs. So, you might not even give that a second thought. You should though.
ProPresenter6 for Windows is a 32-bit application. When it launched, this meant the maximum amount of RAM the Windows version could address was 2 GB. Not knowing this, some churches decided to try and speed ProPresenter up with additional RAM. It didn’t help.
That’s recently changed, though. Now ProPresenter 6 for Windows is “LARGE ADDRESS AWARE”. That means that it can access 4 GB of RAM, leaving the rest to run the OS.
By contrast, ProPresenter6 on Mac is a 64-bit application. This means it can access as much RAM as you have AND virtual RAM on top of that. As a result, it will just “feel” faster. Practically, that translates to also being able to open ProPresenter a bit quicker and being able to actually do what you want to do without the dreaded “beachball of death”, more often than not.
All of this comes down to one advantage that the Mac version of ProPresenter has over the Windows version. Renewed Vision has been writing a Mac version since Brad Weston came up with the idea for it. They know how to code software for Mac and how to do it well.
This doesn’t mean that the Windows version is just a port that they spend a few minutes tweaking. No, the two systems are different enough for something as intensive as ProPresenter that, rumor has it, it was rewritten.
Unlike the early days, they have teams of coders working on the software, including some who code exclusively for Windows.
It’s still the case that Renewed Vision started on Mac and created ProPresenter for Mac initially, so while the features are getting closer and closer, they’re not perfectly aligned yet. Part of that is because they’re different platforms and part of it is that the Windows version is busy playing catch-up while the Mac version is growing.
The feature sets are similar enough that maybe the next major version will see feature parity, but only Renewed Vision knows that for sure.
With the release of ProPresenter 6, the Windows version supported nearly every module that the Mac version does.
- If you want to output multiple screens, the multiscreen module works on both.
- If you want to edge blend, the edge-blending module works on both.
- If you want to output alpha for a video switcher, the alpha keyer module works on both and supports more hardware on Windows.
- Need to send NDI or SDI? The SDI/NDI module works on both.
- Need one computer to control one or more others? The Master Control Module works on both.
The only exception is the Communications Module and its subset, the Midi Module. They only work on Mac. If you want to control a lighting console, switcher, a device over midi, or have ProPresenter be controlled by them, such as with Ableton Live, Mac is your only choice right now.
In ProPresenter preferences, in the display tab, there’s a checkbox at the bottom that says “Enable Syphon”. Unless you know what that is, checking it, doesn’t seem to do anything.
Here’s what it does and why you should care. Syphon is a utility that captures the screen of one app and sends it to another. This means you could use it to send ProPresenter to OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) for live-streaming or use other software (like Resolume) to send its output into ProPresenter.
In Windows, there’s a similar utility called Spout. Unfortunately, it’s not a part of the Windows version of ProPresenter. If you want to send the output of Pro6 for Windows to other software, you have to find another way to do it, like the NDI module or Newtek’s NDI Tools, which also work on the Mac version.
Text Formatting Options
ProPresenter is NOT as powerful as Photoshop when it comes to text formatting. So, if you’re hoping to do everything you can do there, you’re out of luck.
There are a lot of text formatting options you can still use inside ProPresenter. Of course, you can change the size of the font, change the color, make it bold, italicized, or underlined. You can also outline it (what Photoshop calls a stroke) and change the justification and centering. On top of all that you can also change paragraph spacing and space between letters or even make them all caps with just a single checkbox.
At least you can do all those things on the Mac, but not in the PC version. This stems from the fact that typography has always been something that was very important to Apple. Adding in various text formatting options is pretty simple in MacOS. It’s harder on Windows. Sure, the basics are still covered, but not the things like the all caps checkbox and modifying the space between letters. Those are Mac only.
Almost any worship software can import PowerPoint as still images or switch to PowerPoint in the background, so it feels like you’re not using it.
Both versions of ProPresenter take it a step further. With either, you can import the text and images from the slides so you can edit them in ProPresenter, too.
The Windows version goes a step further. It allows you to import transitions and animations. From an artistic perspective, this might not be good news to you, but if your pastor is insistent that each bulleted list item looks like Bill Gates is delivering a keynote, then you have an advantage with the Windows version.
Finally, there’s a piece of the puzzle that no one can decide but you. Maybe none of the advantages of one or the other sway you, so it doesn’t really matter which you use.
How do you decide if the two are basically equal, in your situation?
Simple. Look at your team.
Do you have more hard-core PC users or Mac users? If it’s one-sided, then the decision becomes easy…all other things being equal.
Depending on the people you have, it could be an uphill battle to get a Windows person to use Mac or vice versa.
There is some value in having operators who are comfortable with the systems they’re working on. So, choose appropriately.
Which should you choose? From all the Mac advantages, you might think it’s obvious. Mac, right?
Look at the features you need or are likely to need. Are price and OS familiarity most important to your Windows-favoring team? Then maybe the Windows version is the one to get.
If you want to go with Windows, take a look at this HP Pavilion Power 580-023w Gaming Tower. The NVIDIA GTX 1060 video card in this computer comes with 3GB of video RAM and supports OpenGL 4.5, so it should be fine with ProPresenter 6. One thing to keep in mind is that it ships with a spinning drive, so you’d probably want to upgrade to a solid state drive (SSD) for better performance. The base model, before adding the SSD, sells for $689.90, currently. For that upgrade, a 240 GB SSD runs about $30-40, so if you have someone techie who will install it for free, the whole thing, including the upgrade should come in at just over $700.
Does your church need the Midi module to do automation with lights or automation of ProPresenter from Ableton Live? Then the Mac version is the one you should choose.
If you’re going for a Mac, take a look at the new Mini which starts at $799. If you want more than the base amount of storage, it will cost you ($200 for the upgrade to 256 GB), but unlike the RAM, which is upgradeable, the SSD is soldered on the board, so you’ll need to decide that at time of purchase. Unlike previous models, this one does support three external displays, so you can have one to control ProPresenter, one for the congregation, and an optional stage display.
One final point, don’t pick one over the other based solely one data point unless that’s the most important by far. As we’ve seen, there are churches that run ProPresenter on Windows and others that run it on Mac. You might find that your church is one of the ones that runs it better in Windows. For most churches, though, the features of the Mac version push the decision in that direction.