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Summary:

Kudos to Harry McCracken on two counts. First, the former PC World Editor-In-Chief has struck out on his own with his Technologizer blog. And B: he’s penned what I think is the most even-handed Mac versus PC comparison yet. We just touched upon on this topic […]

Macsexpensive1Kudos to Harry McCracken on two counts. First, the former PC World Editor-In-Chief has struck out on his own with his Technologizer blog. And B: he’s penned what I think is the most even-handed Mac versus PC comparison yet. We just touched upon on this topic (and saw the requisite partisan commentary that’s to be expected), so Harry’s timing is right on.

Instead of using a high-level indicator like Average Selling Price, Harry actually compares Apples to non-Apples Apples as it were. His approach was to use a high-end MacBook and find three Windows-based notebooks that are as equal as possible in terms of size, features and overall specs. I think that’s fair and while you or I might have picked other systems to use, I don’t think Harry went out of his way to pick systems that would prove a pre-conceived hypothesis. He chose a Dell XPS M1330, an HP Pavilion dv4t and a Sony VAIO VGN SR190. Read through his excellent analysis for the final word and see what you think. We’ll batten down the hatches for the anticipated brouhaha in the comments. ;)

Coming from an economics and statistics background (yes… exciting stuff!), I know that I could prove or disprove the theory fairly easy. There’s the easy way: just pick a lower-costing notebook in the sub-$1,000 range, since there’s no Mac in that range. Yup, that proves the point… for that particular market. In the case of a comparable feature set in the $1,200 to $1,400 range? You’ll generally find price parity and it may be an issue of a particular feature that’s more important to you.

  1. I think the thing is that although Apple doesn’t compete in the mid to lower end of the market most consumers are looking there. As a result, a low-end or standard Mac costs a lot more than than people are prepared to pay. For most people this is the reality.

    Also, if we are comparing prices to persuade PC users to switch then there’s another cost that rarely gets considered – the cost of software. If I buy a new PC I know that all my current software will work on it. If I buy a Mac I have to find and pay for alternatives and this often costs more than the computer itself.

    Anyway, at the end of the day if you want to pay a bit more for a computer then it will come down to more than just price. This argument will go on and on – Macs can’t be upgraded to the same extent as PCs, PCs don’t look as good as Macs, PCs don’t require a rolling booking at the Genius Bar, etc.

  2. I think the thing is that although Apple doesn’t compete in the mid to lower end of the market most consumers are looking there. As a result, a low-end or standard Mac costs a lot more than than people are prepared to pay. For most people this is the reality.

    Also, if we are comparing prices to persuade PC users to switch then there’s another cost that rarely gets considered – the cost of software. If I buy a new PC I know that all my current software will work on it. If I buy a Mac I have to find and pay for alternatives and this often costs more than the computer itself.

    Anyway, at the end of the day if you want to pay a bit more for a computer then it will come down to more than just price. This argument will go on and on – Macs can’t be upgraded to the same extent as PCs, PCs don’t look as good as Macs, PCs don’t require a rolling booking at the Genius Bar, etc.

  3. Sorry about the double post. I blame Firefox for that.

  4. If i was reviewing it id have compared the macbook with say a uk vaio FZ31s which has advantages of bluray, nvidia 8600m gs, hdmi, instant on for pics, movies, dvds, matches the macbook very well in other departments and is cheaper. I like how prices are compared with models that have literally only been out a few days/weeks

  5. That was a very good and interesting article, although I don’t think his up-front conclusions agreed with his in depth ones entirely… notice that that at “parity” price compared to the Dell or HP, the macbook lacks a fingerprint scanner or express card slot. Still, that’s a much smaller gap than I tend to expect!

    As for Sony’s being more expensive for no reason… well, everyone knew that. ;)

  6. Jake, your point about software compatibility is taken, and I counter with Vista. Actually, even if you could run old software on your new computer, there are often glitches that tempt you to upgrade to the latest versions.

    However, I don’t think software compatibility is a major issue. Open source software tends to run on both and, unless there’s some historical silliness (OpenOffice.org, Firefox), they tend to run better on Macs. In proprietary software, there are major programs that run better on one or the other (hate Adobe now), so go with the platform that gets your “work” done; but I suppose it’s too much to ask for people not to assign value to utilitarian judgments. Smaller developers’ software on Macs, also, has tended not to be as full of spyware as Windows software.

    Though, I agree that Apple just has no entry in the low-end market. Their lowest is a premium PC. Then Apple will $20 (née nickel-and-dime) you to death with MPEG2 support for Quicktime or the various mini-DVI dongles or something (in 2006, it was draft-N support for the existing hardware). I just don’t buy all these comparisons that show that a PC tweaked and upgraded to a Macbook’s specs is around the same price; stock, it’s usually cheaper, and good enough.

    Seeing how quickly people get MacOS X on MSI Winds and Acer Aspire Ones, I don’t think there’s a good technical reason for Apple not to have an entry in the low-end market. The iPod Touch so much does not count.

    In the comparison, I see Works being listed as an advantage, but I count it as a setback because people bring Works files to where I work and Office doesn’t open Works files. It’s so confusing.

  7. I would like to post here the same comments I posted there at the original site:

    I am a MacBook (and a Dell M1530) user.
    MacBook Cost me $1350 (with APP)
    Dell Cost Me $1400 (with 3 year warranty)

    Dell is 2.5Ghz (vs Macbook’s 2.0)
    Dell is 15″, with Nvidia 8600MGT (found in MacBook Pro, which is nearly around $2000 (with APP, of course).
    Dell has (as you noted) more ports, Card Reader, HDMI out, (Same Slot Loading Dual Layer DVD)
    Dell has 4GB RAM (while macbook was only 2GB)
    Dell has bigger HDD 250GB vs 120)
    Dell has Express Card Slot

    and more ..

    Dell for $1400 is same as Macbook Pro (but NOT MacBook) for >$2000.

    Now .. how did Dell fare ? The only contention was OS X .. which makes all the diff .. but now … you can even load OS X on the Dell

  8. i’m not really sure how this article is any better. even as a Mac user i cant deny it is Mac bias, he just leaves out too many PC options too make it accurate. it’s clearly a case of creating a theory to support a pre-determined conclusion.

  9. Gears of Peace Friday, August 15, 2008

    MilMac,
    “If my math is right, I said that the machines were at PARITY in nine of the categories above. The MacBook had an ADVANTAGE in five categories, the Dell in five, the HP in eleven, and the Sony in eight.”

    How is that “Mac bias”?

  10. I’ve had this conversation enough times to know that it’s not a conversation worth having.

    First the Mactards will throw in their two cents about how OSX, and Apple’s amazing customer service, is worth every penny.

    The the WinBlows idiots will jump in with how Apple stuff is too locked down and made for dummies.

    And don’t even get me started on the junk the Linux dip shits bring to the fold…

    … it’s a vicious cycle. Why can’t we all just get along?

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