September 13, 2010

531 words 3 mins read

$800 in Apple Tax?

Yesterday I stopped by Digg, which I don’t do much these days since they went Spam-Point-Owe. I did catch a few interesting things, once of which was an infographic titled “Why You Shouldn’t Buy A Mac”. The author took a picture of the configuration screen for a Mac desktop and annotated the parts with what they would cost elsewhere. It was an interesting view, something I had not thought to try. It peaked my curiosity as to how it would apply to me. So I thought what better test then to spec a 15” MacBook Pro against a Dell Precision M4500 (15”), which are as close to identical machines as I can find from Apple/Dell.

Base/CPU: I started with a MacBook Pro base of 15” with a 2.66 GHz Core-i7. On the Dell side I picked a mid-range machine model with identical 2.66 GHz Core-i7.

**RAM:**Both machines started with 4GBs. Both the MacBook and Dell offered an upgrade to 8GB for $400. That made for a good/fair start, I did the upgrade even though it didn’t make any difference, mainly because I was configuring a “power” machine. Dell also offered an upgrade to 16GB.

Screen: Apple offers a 1680×1050 anti-glare display as their top end option. Dell’s close equivalent was a slight step up with their 1920×1080 (Full HD) anti-glare screen.

Storage: Both machines offer a variety of options of regular hard drives and solid state. Since this could terribly skew things one way or another (really didn’t look), I decided to stick with something more normal. Both machines got a 500GB 7200RPM drive.

Graphics Card: With the MacBook Pro you don’t have an option for graphics cards, you get the NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M and that’s it. With the M4500 you have the option of a NVIDIA Quadro FX 880M or the higher end Quadro FX 1800M. As it turns out the 880M on the Dell and the 330M from Apple are the same core chip, so they are relatively close — though Dell’s has twice as much video RAM.

Office: If I were a normal person buying this machine to use I’d probably want to have Microsoft Office on it. As such I added Office Business 2010 to each configuration.

Other: I didn’t add anything else on the Mac, but it did have a couple of options already on the Dell. I added a webcam, microphone, bluetooth, and any other misc bits on the Dell that I thought the Mac would have (such as the backlit keyboard).

So what’s the end result?

The price as configured for the Dell Precision M4500 was $2,358.00 [PDF]. The price as configured for the Apple MacBook Pro (15”) was $3,198.95 [PDF]. The “Apple Tax” for this comparison is $840.95. If you ask me, that is a very steep premium. Not to say that there aren’t some niceties about Mac’s that you simply don’t have upgrade options for on the Mac — such as the aluminum bodies. Even still, is OSX & a shiny case worth a second (low end) machine’s in price difference?

Note: Not hating (too much) on Apple, just doing a comparison. This post was typed up on a MacBook Air