The myth that Macs are more expensive

Yesterday I had an argument with my younger sister, about what kind of new computer my parents ought to buy. I was in favor of a Mac, but my sister (who ironically uses an e-Mac herself) protested quite vehemently.

She claimed that I was being selfish, that I was biased against ‘normal’ computers that run Windows. In short, she accused me of pushing my parents to get a Mac, because what I really wanted is to use it for myself. One of her main arguments for this ridiculous accusation: Macs are far more *expensive* than normal computers!

But then you begin to doubt yourself, and you start thinking: Could she be right? I thought that these days the prices of Macs and PCs where just about evenly matched, but now I wasn’t so sure anymore. I needed to be certain, so I decided to compare a Mac to a PC.

To make the comparison fair, I selected the kind of Mac that closely matches what other hardware vendors are selling: a laptop. I chose the Macbook, because it is probably the kind of Mac I am going to buy myself in a few months, when I begin studying biology. It is well built, very portable and relatively affordable. To represent the PC side of the comparison, I opted to compare it against a laptop from one of the largest online retailers: Dell. And the closest Dell laptop that matches all the hardware on the Macbook is arguably the Dell XPS M1210, with 12.1″ widescreen LCD.

I selected the 2.16Ghz white macbook with SuperDrive for this comparison. Then I upgraded the RAM to 2GB, which is what Dell would recommends for Vista if you are using a computer without dedicated graphics memory. And besides, you can never have enough RAM ;)

All other options remainded unchanged, so the total sum came to €1419,- which includes delivery.

That’s quite a sum of money, so if my sister is correct the Dell should be considerably cheaper. Fearing she may be right, I reluctantly opened the Dell hompage in my browser and set to work.

Well, I selected the same 120GB SATA harddrive (5400 rpm), the same 2GB 667Mhz DDR RAM, the same 2.16Ghz processor, about the same sort of screen with built in camera, the same wireless card, the same bluetooth, the same onboard Intel graphics. I also selected Windows Vista Ultimate, which I think is a fair decision since I am not getting any kind of lesser OS X version from Apple either. The warranty conditions are equally similar, although maybe a little better than Apple’s: one year international on-site.

Now can you gues what Dell asked me for all of this?

The Dell XPS M1210, configured as above, with delivery costs included, costs the following sum of money *drumroll* … €1881,85

Yes, that is a staggering €462,85 more than the Macbook! So even if I’d selected the normal version of Vista, that figure would still have been over three hundred Euros more. So it’s not even close, the Mac wins outright!

Now, I realise of course that the trick with Dell is to keep waiting untill they have a series of discounts on the model you want, like free memory upgrades and free shipping. But the difference I have calculated is so large, Dell would have to offer a discount of around 25%, just to make the prices equal! To be convincingly cheaper, that discount would have to be in excess of 30%. And that is a massive discount, even for Dell.

I realise that this is just one example, but I have performed a similar kind of calculation on the Mac Minis in the past. At the time, I found them to be very good value for money, for the kind of hardware you’re getting (slotloading DVD, powerful Intel CPU in a mini-itx formfactor).

So I think that the claim, that a Mac is more expensive than a PC of the same specification, is not true. Of course I haven’t gone through the whole collection of Macs you can buy, and I’ve conveniently left out PCs that are much cheaper due to having inferior components. But who in their right minds would advise their parents to buy inferior crap anyway?

I can’t wait to rub it in! >:-)


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