macOS Catalina vs Windows 10 May 2019 Update: which is best?

macOS Catalina vs Windows 10 May 2019 Update
Image credit: Future Publishing
(Image credit: Future)

Apple has now unveiled macOS Catalina and announced that it will be heading to Macs and MacBooks later this year after a beta testing period. Meanwhile, Microsoft has begun rolling out its latest major operating system (OS) revision: the Windows 10 May 2019 Update.

Now that we know more about the two major OS updates, we can pitch macOS 10.15 Catalina vs Windows 10 May 2019 Update to see which one offers the best updated experience for users.

Will macOS 10.15 make you ditch your Windows PC for an Apple device? Or will Windows 10 May 2019 Update make you consider switching to to Microsoft's rival OS? Let's find out.

User interface

The user interface (UI) – how the OS looks and acts while using it – is one of the most important aspects of a computer's software. Both Windows 10 and macOS do things quite differently when it comes to their user interfaces – and both have iconic elements that users of the OS would miss if they swapped.

The UI for macOS 10.15 doesn't appear to be that different from the interface we've come to know and love with previous versions of macOS. That means if you've used Macs for a while, you're going to feel right at home with macOS 10.15.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has been more strident when it comes to tweaking the Windows 10 UI with the May 2019 Update.

The biggest change is the inclusion of a Light Theme in the May 2019 Update. As the name suggests, this is an alternative to Windows 10's Dark Theme. As with the Dark Theme, menus, apps and the taskbar and Start menu all change their looks to match the theme.

Apple's macOS 10.15 also comes with a Dark Mode, too, which tweaks how the UI and apps look.

macOS 10.15 also completely drops the Dashboard feature, which collected together widgets to make launching them quick and easy. The feature hasn't been a major part of the OS since OS X Yosemite, and in later versions it was hidden away. However, you were able to turn the feature back on. With macOS 10.15, this is no longer the case.

Overall, both macOS 10.15 and Windows 10 May 2019 Update make only slight tweaks to the UI, so if you're used to using either OS, you'll feel at home with the latest updates.

However, it also means that if you don't like the interface, there's nothing in the new versions that will change your mind either way.

macOS Catalina vs Windows 10 May 2019 Update

The Start Menu is an essential part of Windows 10. (Image credit: TechRadar)

There are similarities with the user interfaces, however. In macOS 10.15, apps are either launched from the Dock at the bottom of the screen (which is also used to switch between open apps, or using the Launchpad menu.

In Windows 10, you can launch apps in a similar way, either from the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen (which can also be used to switch between apps) or through the Start menu.

With Windows 8, Microsoft removed the iconic Start menu – which had been a staple of the Windows UI since Windows 95. The outcry was big enough that Microsoft promptly brought it back with Windows 10.

With the May 2019 Update, the Start menu is still a central part of the OS – and Microsoft is even asking its users what they think and how it can be improved, something Apple doesn't often do when it comes to its own OS.

Media capabilities

Both macOS 10.15 and WIndows 10 May 2019 Update are fine when it comes to playing back media, and they both come with pre-installed apps that can play music and videos.

In previous versions of macOS, iTunes was the default media player which would handle music – either bought from the iTunes Store or ripped from CDs – or play videos.

However, in macOS 10.15, iTunes is no more. Instead, three new apps are included: Apple Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts.

While splitting iTunes into three separate apps might seem like it's complicating things, the idea is that these apps will be able to focus on their individual media and offer more robust and specialized features.

Despite its large user base, iTunes wasn't widely loved, and many people found the app in need of an update. Breaking it into three new apps might not be what they had in mind, though.

With Windows 10 May 2019 Update, there are also separate apps for media playback. Groove is the music player, with Films & TV handling videos. These feature more modern and user-friendly interfaces compared to Apple's apps - though some may accuse them of being overly simplified.

Windows Media Player is also installed in Windows 10 May 2019 Update. This offers a more traditional desktop media playing experience – similar to iTunes.

Or course, both macOS 10.15 and Windows 10 May 2019 Update allow other media playing apps to be installed, and many are available for both operating systems.

Somewhat ironically, it looks like iTunes will continue to be available in Windows 10 May 2019 Update – so if you really love that software (there must be someone out there who does), then you may want to switch to Windows to keep using Apple's classic media player.

macOS Catalina vs Windows 10 May 2019 Update

Apple Music features heavily in macOS 10.15. (Image credit: Apple)

Apple also has a music streaming subscription service called Apple Music.  As of 2019, 50 million people use Apple Music, so the user base is catching up with Spotify. It costs $9.99/£9.99 per month and you can stream as much music as you like, as many times as you like, on as many devices as you like. As you'd imagine, Apple Music is tightly integrated into macOS 10.15.

Microsoft used to have a rival subscription service called Groove Music, however it struggled against Spotify and Apple Music, and at the end of 2017 it was discontinued.

The Groove app in Windows 10 May 2019 Update can play streamed music, but it is now integrated with Spotify for that purpose.

Both operating systems are accomplished at handling media – and often use the same apps and services. However, for a more cohesive media playing experience, we've got to hand it to macOS 10.15.

Productivity

Many people use macOS and Windows for their work computers, and both operating systems are geared towards productivity.

macOS 10.15 is compatible with most major software applications, and it comes with a number of new productivity features. 

For example, Sidecar allows you to use an iPad as a second display. You can use it to expand the desktop, making it easier to work on numerous apps at once, or you can use the iPad to control your Mac by using its touchscreen.

Best of all, this feature can be used either with the iPad plugged into your Mac, or wirelessly.

Apple also introduced the Voice Control accessibility feature to macOS 10.15, which allows you to easily control the OS using just your voice.

Windows 10 has a commendable range of accessibility features, and offers a similar method of voice control.

New productivity tools in Windows 10 May 2019 Update include an improved Start menu search box which lets you find documents on your PC quickly and easily.

There's also a new Windows Sandbox tool for Windows 10 Pro users, which allows users to run software in a closed-off virtual version of Windows 10. This lets you test out software without it affecting the rest of your PC. It's not a feature everyone will want, but it's a great productivity tool for testing out new software from the internet.

Microsoft has also beefed up its Windows subsystem for Linux, which allows you to run Linux apps (and even entire distributions – or 'distros') from within Windows. You can now access Linux files and directories direct from Windows 10's File Explorer in Windows 10 May 2019 Update.

While both macOS 10.15 and Windows 10 May 2019 Update are great operating systems for productivity, the new features of the May 2019 Update, along with the platform's openness and larger range of available programs, means Windows 10 May 2019 Update wins this round – but barely so.

macOS Catalina vs Windows 10 May 2019 Update

Siri is macOS 10.15's virtual assistant. (Image credit: Apple)

Virtual assistants

Both macOS 10.15 Catalina and Windows 10 May 2019 Update have their own virtual assistants that are deeply integrated into each OS. Not only do they allow you to control your PC using your voice, but you can ask them to perform tasks such as creating events in your calendar and sending messages.

In macOS 10.15, Siri is the virtual assistant. It's expected that some of Siri's new features, such as Siri Shortcuts, and a more 'human' sounding voice, which are included in iOS 13, will also make their way to macOS 10.15.

Siri is one of the oldest virtual assistants, and one of the most feature-rich. Apple has put a lot of time and effort into making Siri a genuinely useful addition to macOS.

With Windows 10 May 2019 Update, the virtual assistant is Cortana. Cortana isn't as popular as Siri, but it's still capable of most of the things Siri can do.

It doesn't quite feel like Microsoft is as invested in Cortana as Apple is in Siri, however, and while Cortana is still a big part of Windows 10, with the May 2019 Update it does feel like it is being sidelined a bit.

For example, Cortana is now separate from Search box in the taskbar – whereas before it was integrated into it. It's a small move, but one which could make it less used by people.

You can also disable Cortana completely, or use Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant instead. It's good to have those options, but for the best virtual assistant experience on PC and laptop, macOS 10.15 and Siri are the way to go.

macOS Catalina vs Windows 10 May 2019 Update

The Game Bar in WIndows 10 (Image credit: Microsoft)

Gaming

This is a pretty simple comparison. If you're into games, then Windows 10 May 2019 Update is easily the best OS. Not only do you get a much larger selection of compatible games with Windows 10, but it has some great game-centric features as well.

The Xbox Game Bar is an easy-to-use overlay which allows you to chat with friends, launch games, record and steam gameplay and a lot more. To launch it, you just press the Windows Key and G on the keyboard.

Meanwhile, while more games are getting ported to macOS, the selection is still quite thin compared to Windows. As a result, there's not many game-centric features in macOS 10.15.

That might change in the future, but for now Windows 10 May 2019 Update is the one to go for.

macOS Catalina vs Windows 10 May 2019 Update: who wins?

So, macOS 10.15 Catalina versus Windows 10 May 2019 Update: which is the best OS in 2019?

It's a tough call, as both are legitimately good OSes which bring some great new features to Mac and PC owners.

It's also worth noting that macOS 10.15 is still in beta – so, more features could be added before its release later this year.

Microsoft is also known for adding and tweaking Windows 10 even after major updates, so the May 2019 Update could continue to evolve.

As it stands, both operating systems are fantastic updates. However, unlike last year, when we said that macOS 10.14 offered a bigger leap over its previous version compared to the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, this time we think that the Windows 10 May 2019 Update is a more compelling upgrade compared to macOS 10.15.

However, it doesn't matter if you have a Mac or Windows PC – these new operating systems are well worth installing when they become available.