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Portables (Apple) The Almighty Buck Apple

Puncturing the "PCs Are Cheaper Than Macs" Myth 823

jcatcw writes "The recently converted Scot Finnie went notebook shopping. At the high end of the notebook spectrum, in order to get comparable power and features, a Dell machine comes in $650 over the Apple, and it was clunkier and weighed more. Sony couldn't beat the Apple either. Midrange and low-end machines, though, turn out to be pretty comparable, with more choices in the PC arena but some good values if you happen to want what Apple has decided you need. So, if you're talking name-brand hardware, it's just no longer the case that PCs are cheaper than Macs."
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Puncturing the "PCs Are Cheaper Than Macs" Myth

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  • by traindirector ( 1001483 ) * on Friday June 08, 2007 @01:45PM (#19440591)

    Scot makes some great points about the high end and even the mid-range, but suggesting that Apple is competitive on the low end is just ludicrous. I'd call the low end $500-$1000. Apple's not even in that market.

    • by Frankie70 ( 803801 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @02:26PM (#19441471)
      Absolutely right.

      1) Dell Dimension C521 - 359 Dollars

      AMD Sempron 3400
      Windows Vista Home Basic
      512MB SDRAM
      160GB Serial ATA Drive
      48X CD-RW/ DVD Combo Drive
      NVIDIA GeForce 6150 LE Integrated Graphics GPU
      Integrated 7.1 Channel Audio
      Dell USB Keyboard and Dell 2-button Scroll Mouse
      56K PCI Data Fax Modem

      2) Mac Mini 599 Dollars

      1.66 GHz Intel Core Duo
      512MB SDRAM
      60GB Serial ATA drive
      Mac OS X
      Intel GMA 950 graphics
      No Keyboard, No Monitor

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @03:24PM (#19442575)
      I went through this at the end of 2006.

      MacBook Pro 15.4"
      Processor Intel Core 2 Duo T7400(2.16GHz)
      Memory 1GB DDR2
      Screen Size 15.4"
      Resolution 1440 x 900
      ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 128 MB
      Hard Drive 120GB 5400 RPM
      Optical Drive DVD±R/RW 6x
      LAN 10/100/1000Mbps
      WLAN 802.11g Wireless LAN
      Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
      Card slot 1 x ExpressCard/34 slot
      USB Two 480-Mbps USB 2.0 ports
      FireWire One FireWire 400 port at up to 400 Mbps
      Video Port 1 x DVI (VGA output using included DVI to VGA adapter)
      Audio Port Combined optical digital input/audio line in (minijack)
      Webcam Built-in iSight Camera
      Dimension 14.1" x 9.6" x 1.0"
      Weight 5.6 lbs.
      Currenly $1965 at Newegg []

      Asus A8JS
      Processor Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 2.00G
      Memory 1GB DDR2
      Hard Drive 120GB 5400 RPM
      Optical Drive DVD±R/RW 8x
      NVIDIA GeForce Go 7700 512MB (about 25%-40% faster than the x1600, which is underclocked on the Mac)
      Screen Size 14"
      Resolution 1440 x 900
      LAN 10/100/1000Mbps
      WLAN 802.11a/b/g Wireless LAN
      IRDA Yes
      Card Slot 1 x Express Card
      USB 5
      IEEE 1394 1 (aka firewire)
      Video Port 1 x VGA, 1 x DVI, 1 x S-Video TV-out
      Audio Ports 1 x Headphone-out jack (SPDIF)
      Card Reader MMC, SD, MS, MS PRO
      Webcam 0.35 Mega-Pixel web-cam
      Dimensions 13.19" x 9.65" x 1.37-1.46"
      Weight 5.25 lbs.
      Current $1380 at Newegg []

      Yes the screen is smaller but the resolution is the same and the laptop is an inch more compact in width as a result. Otherwise, the only major factors in the Mac's favor were the thinness, better construction, bluetooth (a $50 option I didn't need on the Asus), and an imperceptibly faster CPU. Everything else went in favor of the Asus. The price difference is currently about $600. At the time I was $700 ($1500 vs. $2200) or 46% higher for the Mac for a worse video card, no VGA out, no TV out, fewer USB slots, no memory card slot, and a bigger, heavier computer. There was just no comparison.

      Comparing to Dell's web prices is misleading. Dell frequently gives out coupons that give $500-$1000 or 25%-40% discounts on their systems and laptops. Everyone knows Sony is way overpriced. That said, the high end MacBooks are premium computers and are priced in-line with other premium computers. If you're OK with paying extra for a premium computer, then that's fine. But if you do a little searching, you can find better notebooks for less, they just won't be well-known brands. If Apple doesn't fall egregiously behind (their new Santa Rosa MacBook will use an nVidia 8600 GT, which looks like it'll be a solid graphics card), my next notebook will probably be a MacBook so I can run OS/X.

  • by nelsonal ( 549144 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @01:45PM (#19440601) Journal
    This has been the case for some time, but is masked by Apple's lack of a low end model (so they don't offer things at the sub $500 price point).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 )

      I think not just their lack of a low end, but a general lack of options. Don't get me wrong, I'm a mac user and I like them, but Dell (for example) has something like 10 very different laptop models, while Apple basically has three models with limited configuration options. Try to go in the Apple store and buy a laptop without a built-in camera. With Dell, you can choose to have XP installed, one of the 20 different versions of Vista, or even (recently added) Ubuntu. With Apple, you get OSX.

      Many of the

      • by bkr1_2k ( 237627 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @02:22PM (#19441373)
        Sure, you should purchase based on your needs. The problem with that statement, is that this article isn't about what Apple provides that Dell et al don't, it's about the FUD that Apple computers (comparably equipped) are more expensive than PCs. That's simply not true, at least in the laptop market.

        Yes Dell has a lot of options. Having 30 options with 28 of them being for a market I'm not in is no better than having 3 options with 1 of them being for a market I'm not in. I'd also wager that because Dell has so many options, people simply pick the one that's listed as a "special" more often than not, because they simply don't give a damn what is inside. It's no different for Apple users, for the most part. They just want it to work with the applications they want to run. Giving them an extra 20 choices won't really matter.
    • by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @02:15PM (#19441235) Journal
      I'm sure that Apple could go after the low end market but It's my belief that Apple intentionally avoids doing that for a number of reasons.

      1. Margins at the lowest end of the market are thin if not razor thin. Certainly profit per unit isn't great, so each of these sold would mean a minimal profit, perhaps not even enough over the long term to justify any R&D, marketing and support.

      2. Such a model would surely detract from sales of Apple's mid-range notebooks, as there would be a significant proportion of buyers who opted for the cheapest possible portable MacOS solution that they could lay there hands on. So, a low end model would, to some extent, cost Apple revenue, as it cannibalised sales from other, more profitable Apple notebooks.

      3. Cheaper products sometimes (but not always) require corners to be cut. Apple's image (to the public) is one of quality as well as simplicity, and a low end model would perhaps change that image in a way that wouldn't suit it. Certainly Apple would not want people's first experience of the brand to be a negative one, and a low end notebook computer (from any manufacturer) is certainly the sort of product that is likely to disappoint rather than meet or exceed the average user's expectations.

      The bottom line is that Apple just doesn't need to go chasing that segment of the market when doing so has so many cons and so few pros.
  • Figure out what you need and shop around. Don't pass by Apple because you think it's too expensive. You may be surprised that Apple, for the machine you're looking for, is actually more cost effective.
  • Blah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @01:46PM (#19440629) Journal
    All this shows is that Vaios and Inspirons are way, way overpriced.

    Why don't you compare the Mac to something from AOpen, Acer, or even eMachines?

    Hell, even Gateway or HP.

    They're all just as "similary equipped".

    You cant specifically compare overpriced shiny crap to overpriced shiny crap and say you "punctured the myth".

    And you can't compare Best Buy's jacked up retail prices to the Apple store. Hop online and see what it would truly cost you, the geek. I don't know where I can get discount Macs online.

    • Re:Blah (Score:5, Informative)

      by p0tat03 ( 985078 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @04:59PM (#19444119)

      You're entitled to your opinion, but take this from someone who's owned a number of PC notebooks, and knows a large number of people who own PC notebooks of all brands. (Dell, Toshiba, Acer, I am currently on a MacBook Pro, and very very happy).

      If you're comparing brands like AOpen, Acer, and Toshiba to Apple, you are seriously delusional about build quality. Toshiba in my experience constantly offers more bang for the buck - my Satellite M30 was insanely fast for its price point. Of course, it also sucked ass, was flimsy, and broke a lot. The keyboard would flex downwards while typing, the trackpad would be sometimes unresponsive and difficult to use... The multimedia keys just plain didn't work... I could go on.

      Acer is not better off either. If your machine doesn't have some major glitch on arrival, thank the Gods, and then proceed to discover little design flaws like whiny fans, crappy bearings in cooling units making strange grinding noises... etc. Things that Acer simply refuses to fix, regardless of how much you yell at the poor heavily-accented guy at the other end of the line (after holding for 2 hours). I will be quite content with my Mac, which if it ever has problems (it's had a few minor gremlins) is a quick phone call, with minimal waiting time, and a support rep that actually speaks English and won't run me through the checklist.

      I've never dealt personally with Sony support, but like IBM, I suspect the quality is FAR above what you would get with brands like Toshiba and Acer. I've never been on hold more than 10 minutes on an Apple support line, and every time I called and described my problem, the support tech immediately got down to the issue, instead of running me around with insipid "is your computer plugged in" checklists. Repairs are similarly painless. When the latch on my MacBook Pro broke, I phoned in, and got a FedEx box in the mail the next day. No arguing, no hassles, I gave them my serial number and they confirmed my warranty, and BAM.

      But yes, build quality is important to those of us who rely on our laptops for a living. I have a level of respect for Sony Vaios and IBM/Lenovo ThinkPads, because I have used them first hand and I know that their quality is excellent. The same goes for Apple. Toshiba, Acer, and older Dells are invariably crap in a plastic shell, though Dell has made some major improvements in recent years (support still sucks though).

  • by Zork the Almighty ( 599344 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @01:50PM (#19440733) Journal
    Although the new Santa Rosa chipsets make the MacBook less competitive than it was before, overall it is still a good value. For a while there was almost no competition if you wanted a 5 lb. Core 2 Duo laptop w/ 4MB of L2.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dave420 ( 699308 )
      But if you wanted that notebook to have a WUXGA screen and a 160GB 7200rpm hard disk, or with a nVidia graphics card with 512MB of ram, you couldn't chose an Apple if you wanted to, as they've only just figured out people might want that. And you still can't get a 512MB graphics adaptor in an Apple, come to think of it. Apple don't offer everything out there, so if you do want something Apple doesn't have, you have to go somewhere else. There is no choice.
  • Economies of scale (Score:4, Insightful)

    by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) * on Friday June 08, 2007 @01:52PM (#19440755)
    Apple focuses on making only a few models, so they actually get better pricing than their overall sales volume would normally yield. The problem is, large enterprise customers can get quality workstations with 17" LCDs for like $600, smaller ones cost a little more.

    When you compare apples to apples (to use a bad pun), their pricing is excellent. The problem is that Apple is very selective about what market segments that they appeal to.
  • Wow. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yourOneManArmy ( 986080 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @01:53PM (#19440777)
    They compared to Dell and Sony -- both notoriously overpriced. Everyone knows Dell jacks up their prices and releases thousands of coupons to grab a larger range of profits. It's another piece of "news" designed to give /unbiased/ proof of the author's opinion by skewing statistics and using generally unqualified comparisons.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      They compared to Dell and Sony -- both notoriously overpriced.

      Well, who do you suggest they compare to? HP/Compaq's pricing is about the same. I think you're full of shit. Sony is notoriously overpriced, but Dell is typically around the average.

      I wouldn't even involve Sony, because everything they make is a pile of crap, at least in the land of computers. I've owned a couple Sonys and worked on more, and I know what I'm talking about. Sony is about the worst manufacturer about providing drivers for newer

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @02:01PM (#19440939)

    Midrange and low-end machines, though, turn out to be pretty comparable, with more choices in the PC arena but some good values if you happen to want what Apple has decided you need. So, if you're talking name-brand hardware, it's just no longer the case that PCs are cheaper than Macs.

    Okay, so if you are looking for something that happens to be exactly what Apple thinks you want, and if you restrict the universe to major name brands, Apple isn't more expensive. True, but this isn't a "no longer", and doesn't point to any real "myth". The whole "Apple is more expensive" thing has always been based on the fact that people don't always want exactly the combination of features Apple has decided they need, and, even more importantly, because in the PC world, the universe of options is not restricted to the biggest names.

    And, also, has always been more about desktops, rather than notebooks: in notebooks, the options even in the PC world have always been narrower than for desktops, and so the difference has never been as pronounced there.

  • Dell Discount (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WarwickRyan ( 780794 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @02:06PM (#19441025)
    If you compare Dell's standard prices, then you may well find Apple hardware at a similar price.

    However, you're ignoring the fact the Dell regularly have fantastic offers. When I bought my current laptop, the Dell standard price was £500. However, I paid £350 thanks to their special offers.

    I'd like a Macbook (assuming I can install XP on one) as they're pretty machines which appear to have a better resale value than Dells..
  • by marquinhocb ( 949713 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @02:16PM (#19441281) Homepage Journal
    Alright guys, so to start off, I'm a big Mac fan at heart - I started off on the Mac more than 12 years ago, and was a hardcore mac user (the type that would take an argument with anyone about Macs being better).
    And I still think that Apple computers are some of the highest quality computers you can get, and believe me, if mid-range Macs were cheaper, I'd have one.
    But this is simply a ridiculous claim with nothing to back it. For starters, Dell constantly has sales, whereas Macs are always the same price, no drops, no competitive pricing, nothing. A macbook is a macbook is $1,099 is $1,099. No matter where you go.
    Just going to both the Apple store and the Dell store right now, this is what we have:

    MacBook: $1374 (13.3", 2.0 GHz, 1GB, 160GB HD, generic crappy graphics card, 1 year warranty, standard ports + wireless)
    Dell E1505: $1374 (15", 2.0 GHz, 1GB, 160GB HD, ATI X1400, 2 year warranty, standard ports + wireless)

    And mind you this is not even with a Dell sale, this is just your standard off-the-shelf prices. Not only is the Dell $100 cheaper, it comes with a 2 year warranty instead of 1 year, a graphics card you can actually play games with, and a display that's 2" bigger.

    Sorry to burt your bubble, but PC's/Dell has apple beat on the low-end. High end I'll even give you, but again, if you get Dell/AlienWare on a sale, I bet you the PC would still be cheaper than a Mac (Apple doesn't have sales).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by alphaseven ( 540122 )
      That Dell might not the best comparison, it's a lot bigger (208 cubic inches vs 120 cubic inches for the macbook) and almost a pound heavier, no wonder it's cheaper.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by merreborn ( 853723 )
      The graphics chip in the macbook easily outperforms the standard Mobile ATI chips that you'll find in most $1100-and-under laptops.
  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @02:22PM (#19441379)
    While Apple laptops are very competitive across the board, they certainly aren't in the deskop arena. We have the low-end Mac mini, then the mid-high iMac (price-wise), and then the way up there Mac Pro. There's nothing that would compete in a corporate or education range with, say, a Dell GX745. A complete desktop system is about 1200 (20" screen). All Apple has in this area is the iMac, which for this size of screen comes in close to $2000 or $2200. There's just a huge hole in the Apple lineup. If I want just a tower case, I have no choices at all between the Mac Mini and the Mac Pro. For a lot of people that would want to get into video production, for example, there's nothing to choose from on Apple. My brother, for example, wants at least a Core 2 Duo, 2-4 hard drive bays, and room for 4-8 GB of ram. Dell can provide this for under $1000. Apple's only choice is the Mac Pro which will start him at $1500, going on up into the stratosphere from there.

  • I don't know about you, but I tot up the stuff that's important to me, and look for something that gives me those features.

    So I don't care if adding a video camera to a Wintel laptop would put it over the mark or not, because I wouldn't buy a laptop with a built in video camera. That feature has no value to me.

    I don't care if making a PC as small as a Mac mini costs $100 more, that has no value to me.

    But I do care if the GPU in my computer does native 3d OpenGL or not.

    So when I look at laptops, the cheapest acceptable model from Apple is the 15" Macbook Pro. An acceptable model from Lenovo is around $1250. If I'm going to put up with the GMA950 I can get a decent laptop for $750.

    Tricking out a Thinkpad T-series (what I'd be using if I could get OS X for it) with everything I actually care about in my Macbook Pro would cost me $1800.

    On the other hand, there's no amount of money I can pay to Apple to get me a Macbook with a Thinkpad keyboard.

    See... the ONLY way you get Apple's products looking as cheap as Wintel version is by demanding everything that the Mac provides be included in the PC, but completely discounting the value of anything that comes with the PC that the Mac doesn't include.

    * Contoured keyboard.
    * Two trackpad buttons.
    * Ultrabay.
    * Trackpoint mouse.
    * Docking port.

    The only way I can see to get a Macbook that's comparable to a Thinkpad would be to get someone to build you a custom case, a-la the Modbook. What? That's ridiculous? Then why isn't demanding a built-in camera ridiculous? You can't have it both ways... either handicap BOTH sides equally, or don't treat EITHER as a requirements spec.
  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @02:41PM (#19441763)
    Before the flames start - I have a 13" Macbook.

    That said - servicing the damn things sucks. I routinely gut Dell laptops in the field to replace/upgrade hard drives, ram, WIFI cards - even CPUs. Good luck doing that with a Mac.

    Other flaws: No docking stations for Macbook/Macbook Pros and no option for 7200 RPM hard drives. I can't understand why Apple wouldn't give that option to a high-end laptop consumer.

    Apple has made tremendous strides in converting corporate IT guys like me. They still have a way to go to really take share from the big guys.

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Friday June 08, 2007 @02:44PM (#19441825) Journal
    A entry level Mac laptop runs for about $1250 retail from the computer store near where I live. For the same price I can buy a PC laptop with more than double the storage and a larger monitor and still have $300 or more left over to buy accessories. The performance is only marginally lower on the choice of most of the PC laptops that I noticed were available (in fact, I only saw one PC laptop in the store that had at least equivalent performance to the mac laptop based on the CPU type and speed, and although it was significantly more expensive than the entry-level mac laptop, it also came with significantly higher specs in other areas such as storage and built-in accessories). And to top it all off, the entry-level mac laptop doesn't even have a writeable DVD drive with it, where I was unable to spot a single new PC laptop that didn't come with one. Okay... so all the PC laptops they sell come with Vista, but hey, you can always put Linux or BSD on them.
  • by nightsweat ( 604367 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @03:02PM (#19442107)
    15.4" Aspire notebook, WXGA, Centrino mobile 512Mb RAM, $399. You can't buy a Mac mini without kb, monitor, mouse for that much.

    Macs are great, but they cost.
  • by mattgreen ( 701203 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @03:07PM (#19442207)
    Now, when I get in a heated debate that approaches fisticuffs over the prices of personal computers, I have a reference which will assure me victory. I merely need only bait my opponent into saying, "but Apple computers are so much more expensive!" Then, I pull the trigger, and navigate to the article. I will strike Darth Vader down with a single stroke of logic from this Slashdot post and shall rescue the galaxy from this horrible, horrible misconception that plagues the minds of so many. Then a new empire shall be ushered in...
  • Right and Wrong? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by catdevnull ( 531283 ) on Friday June 08, 2007 @03:20PM (#19442489)
    The research on pricing might be right and it might be wrong, but I'm willing to spend the extra money to run Mac OS X (legally) on supported hardware. I prefer not to deal with Linux but I would take it over Windows anyday. Some people don't care or they have applications that require Windows. I can boot into or virtually run Windows, Linux, or MacOS X on my Macbook Pro if I need/want to--and I am happy with the choices I have.

    I am also a Final Cut Studio user, so I'm not going to be able to use an El Cheapo PC laptop (I'll have to beef up the HD, the video card, memory, etc. *AND* buy Sony, Adobe, and/or Avid software). That makes buying a PC laptop more expensive--at least as much as a well-equipped Macbook Pro w/ FCS2.

    If you're not that picky about the OS or have needs that push the limits, I suppose a $500 laptop from Acer makes you happy. Some people, however, wouldn't or couldn't use that bargain laptop if you gave it to them for free.
  • Bollocks! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rantingkitten ( 938138 ) <(kitten) (at) (> on Friday June 08, 2007 @04:42PM (#19443859) Homepage
    CHIP: 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    RAM: 1 gig, DDR2 533mhz
    DRIVE: 80 gig
    VIDEO: Integrated Intel with 64 megs (not a typo!) shared memory.

    DELL INSPIRON 1501: $799 (from Dell's site []
    CHIP: Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 2GHz
    RAM: 1 gig DDR2 533mhz
    DRIVE: 120 gigs
    VIDEO: ATI Radeon Xpress1150 256 megs dedicated memory

    So where does Apple win? Dell just gave me a technically superior machine -- 64 bit processor, larger hard drive, insanely better video card. The Dell also comes with Vista Home, if you're wondering -- I didn't cheat and go for some freeDOS or anything. For three hundred less.

    Oh, the Macbook is smaller. Whooptee do. That doesn't matter at all to me; it's purely subjective if it matters to you, but is it really worth 300 more dollars and a crappier machine?

    This was just the first random Dell I saw, so don't give me wah-wah-wah Dell sucks or Inspiron sucks. When I was shopping for a laptop I actually did consider a Macbook until I saw how much more I could get from other manufacturers for less money -- Toshiba and HP had similar prices for similar machines. (I ended up with an HP.) IBM's Thinkpad came very close, but the specs were close enough that you could call it a borderline case and the Thinkpad came out like a hundred dollars more.

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein