Macs versus PCs: Post A Comparison

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By: switchtoamac at: 11:19 AM on October 27, 2006 | Comments (20)
With the release of the Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro earlier this week, I thought it was an ideal time to rehash the Mac versus PC price and feature comparisons.  As of this post, Apple has released revisions to all of it's Mac models with the only exception being the MacBook.  The 2006 holiday shopping season is fast approaching so it's a great time to lay down some comparisons.

So I leave it up to you, the visitors to this site to post your comparisons.  This way, we'll have a one-stop view of numerous system comparisons and I won't be accused of bias by posting my own comparison.  I ask that you post a comparison on whatever you'd like, including both notebook and desktop systems.  Be as detailed as possible, include links if you feel that it will aid in your comparison.

I would however urge that logical comparisons be made.  For example, if you're comparing an iMac against a system manufactured by Dell, be sure to include a monitor and webcam (including price) as the iMac includes a built-in iSight camera.  Also, be sure to include a software suite or list of software titles (including price) for PCs that add photo editing, video editing, DVD creation, music management, and music creation as these features are included in all new Macs thanks to the iLife suite of applications.  You may decide to include freeware, the decision is up to you but include software you feel is relevant such as anti-virus programs for PCs.

If possible, list pros and cons (such as hardware pros, hardware cons, software pros, and software cons) for each system so others can view and comment.


20 Reader Comments

I wouldn't even want to buy anything other than a Mac. I do however look forward to the comparisons because I think it will show that Macs are better buys.

I happened to see this post the other day on a Mac vs PC price argument and thought it was pretty good. One thing the PC guys always throw out is they can build one cheaper and better. They fail to realize that build it yourselfers are not who Apple caters to and neither are HP, Dell, etc. They also fail to figure their time in, which I guess they feel is valueless. They also forget to add the cost of eqivalent software apps and OS, which I guess they pira... er, borrow from a friend.

Posted October 26, 2006 @ 2:21PM by papajosh
I just wanted to put in my 2 cents here. Up until I purchased my first Powerbook for development purposes, I had built every computer that I had owned. This is the way I prefer purchasing computers and gives me some kind of (probably unfounded) sense of satisfaction. So out of curiosity I decided to spec out what it would cost to piece together a machine comparable to the Mac Pro. Here's what I came up with:

Lian-Li Silent PC-767 Alumnium ATX Case - $210
SeaSonic S12-600 ATX12V 600W Power Supply - $145*
Pioneer 16X DVD±R DVD Burner Model DVR-111D - $32
TYAN S5370G2NR-RS Dual Socket 771 Intel 5000V SSI CEB MB - $320
Intel Xeon 5150 Woodcrest 2.66GHz Socket 771 BX805565150A - 2x$715
WINTEC 512MB 240-Pin DDR2 FB-DIMM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300) ECC - 2x$92
Western Digital Caviar SE WD2500JS 250GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s - $70
XFX PVT73EUDJ3 GeForce 7300GT 256MB GDDR2 PCI Express x16 - $94
Microsoft Windows XP Professional x64 Edition SP2b English - $140

Grand Total: $2,627.90

The closest configuration I could get from dell had a single Woodcrest processor, but had 2GB of RAM and a workstation graphics card (QuadroFX*** I think) for $2739**. I would say that the Mac Pro, at least, is pretty competitive.

Regarding the MacBook Pro - the closes configuration I could come up with is a Dell Precision M65 with the following specs:

Core 2 Duo 2.6GHz
XP Pro SP2
Quadro FX 350M (better than the X1600M, obviously)***
15.4" WXGA Screen
120GB 5400rpm HD
8x DVD+/-RW Drive
Dell Wireless 802.11a/g Card

This spec'd out at $2425** Vs. the MacBook Pro's $1999

* As far as I could find, the Mac Pro has a 1KW power supply, but I compromised in price here with a decent 600W power supply
** Obviously, Dell prices are before any coupons/rebates
*** There may be more comparable Dell models that compete directly with the video cards, but I would say that $400 price difference vs. video card would make these deals comparable.

Here's mine: I say the MacBook Pro is the Winner

Apple 15" MacBook Pro $1999
2.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
DDR2 -SDRAM PC2-5300 (667 MHz) --> Better
1.0 GB (1 DIMM)
3.0 GB (2 slots) Max Ram ---> Better
120 GB Hard Drive
6x4x8x DL DVD±RW
24x10x24x CD-RW --> Better

1 ExpressCard/34 slot
2 USB 2.0 ports
1 400 Mbps Firewire Port
1 800 Mbps Firewire Port ---> Better

ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 ---> Better
128 MB GDDR3 dedicated
DVI out ---> Better
Built-in mic
Analog In & Optical Digital Audio In ---> Better
Analog Out & Optical Digital Audio Out ---> Better
Included iSight video camera ---> Better

10/100/1000 Base-T Ethernet ---> Better

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger
Can run Windows and Linux ---> Better
iLife ---> Better
No viruses ---> Better

Dell Inspiron E1505 $2003
2.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
DDR2 -SDRAM (533 MHz)
2.0 GB (2 slots) Max RAM
8x6x8x DL DVD±RW ---> Better
16x10x24x CD-RW

1 ExpressCard/34 slot
4 USB 2.0 ports
1 400 Mbps Firewire Port
No 800 Mbps Firewire Port

ATI Mobility Radeon X1300
128 MB GDDR3 dedicated
No DVI out
USB mic support
HP jack/line-out and USB speaker support
No included video camera

10/100 Base-T Ethernet

Windows XP Media Center Edition
Can't run OS X but can run Linux
No integrated software like iLife

I used as a guide

Lantzn: * As far as I could find, the Mac Pro has a 1KW power supply, but I compromised in price here with a decent 600W power supply

The Mac's power supply is actually 1440 Watts... and your 600 W compromise is far too anemic to drive the 8 possible monitors the Mac Pro is capable of supporting... or the full compliment of RAM.

A 1000 Watt power supply would be more comparable. That will set you back between $350 and $500 at NewEgg.

Also, you can build a dual Xeon on Dell if you select the Small Business store at the start. You should also start with the Dell Precision 690 that can accept a 1000W P/S.

Usually the way Apple gets people believing they're cheaper is by configuring with a bunch of superfluous, barely supported things (like Firewire 800) that shouldn't add a lot to the price, but do when you configure it on Dell.

So let's try this the other way for a change.

Acer Travelmate TM8210-6038:

* 2.16ghz Core 2 Duo
* 15.4" WSXGA+ (1680x1050)
* 2G DDR2
* 160GB 5400
* ATI x1600 w/256M of RAM
* Built in 5-in-1 memory card reader
* Built in 1.3 megapixel camera on a swivel
* and, oh yeah, double layer BLU-RAY reader and writer!

$2750 at NewEgg.

How much does it costs to configure a MacBook Pro to do all that?

Why would I want a BLU-RAY reader and writer since the new HD video format war isn't it over yet?

On the other hand, which software comes by default with the Travelmate to create the HD video files that you will burn on your BLU-RAY writer? Must you, maybe, buy an additional app to do it, which will increase your choice's price while all Mac users have one for free (iMovie) just for getting a new computer?

Ego, you're changing the subject. Instead, address the problem with these comparisons head on: why must they always be dictated by Apple's configurations?

Maybe I'm a consumer that wants to be able to write 50g of data to a disc at a time (BLU-RAY). Maybe I'm a consumer that can't afford $1000 for a MacBook, but I could afford $550 for one of Dell's new AMD laptop.

The world's more complicated than taking Apple's exact configurations and price comparing them against Dells. Whoa, I'm having a flashback. Isn't that what you Mac users said for all of the years that Apple was using PPC priced significantly more expensive than Wintel?

This post is about comparing the prices of equal-configured PCs and MACs, Fota proposed not to do that comparison… and I am the one who is changing the subject? Mmmm… I see an oxymoron around here. The subject, again, my dear friend Fota, is to compare the prices of Macs and PCs. Let me explain it easily: to do this comparison it is not possible to put together apples and pears… Necessarily we have to compare the prices of products with same features; this is the only way to determine which is more expensive… That is not too hard to understand…

If you want a notebook for $us 600, that’s good for you… But, why would that have relevance to this post? You could buy more than one model of car. Nevertheless, if you want a high-end Mercedes Benz, it is not logically sustainable to compare its price to a low-end Chery’s price. That’s all the point of this post. Your point, an interesting one, is that on PC market everyone can get cheaper products, but resigning to get some “superfluous, barely supported things”, as you put it (I guess a BLU-Ray reader is, surely, a very necessary gadget by now). That point, however, is not in discussion here. So, the only one who missed the point here is you, my dear friend.

Regarding the world’s complexity, your assumption is, again, wrong. To buy a computer you have two big options: a Mac or a PC. The only way to compare the prices of both options is to fit the same hardware configuration. If you don’t want or need that configuration, it’s your problem. A lot of PC users are very disappointed because some of the best a/v hardware runs better on a Firewire than on a USB 2.0 port. If this is not your case, I’m glad for you. However, one of the most naive fallacies is to translate one’s preference to all consumers’ preference.

The interesting issue here, although your missed argumentation, is that the only empirically tested fact still remains: at same configuration, a PC is most expensive, something you were not able to refute…

a PC is most expensive, something you were not able to refute…

Well, that was easy, took 10 minutes and only one site.



Now if it's worth 17% for an 8% speedbump or or 25% for a 16% speedbump, that's your prerogative Mac or PC. But I think we can agree these machines are "comparable," if not exact. In the case of the Acer, it does have more RAM than the MacBook 15".

Anyway, the point I've been trying to make in prior posts is that we're talking about two different philosophies of pricing:

Mac: Price dictates configuration. Apple will think of a price they want to sell something for and buy components to make it most profitable yet seem worthwhile.

PC: Commodity dictates price. If you want a laptop with a built in camera, this isn't necessarily something Dell stocks up on (since few need them), so it will be more expensive than Apple's, since they bought 2 million of them.

BTW, I have not bought a PC without firewire in 5 years, so I have no idea what you're talking about. Firewire 400 is a must have thanks to DV. It's firewire 800 that's relatively rare.

That was easy? It took 10 minutes? Are you kidding me? You didn’t even get F on your assignment. What do you understand for “same or very close configuration”? None of your examples comes with a built-in camera; none of your examples comes with video and audio software authoring tools; none of your examples comes with Firewire port; one of your examples (Acer) does not come with IR port; one of your examples (Acer) does not come with remote control; and one of them (Acer again) has a 128 Mb graphic card… What “comparable machine” are you talking about? If you buy all those “superfluous and barely supported things” to match a Mac, the price of both of your choices easily will increase in, at least, $us 800 or 900 each. So, the fact still remains: at same configurations, a PC is most expensive than a Mac…

P. S. Here, at this point, is where all you PC guys wrongly say “Touché!”

Um... hey Ego. Back away from the ledge and try clicking on the little picture of the Acer laptop. It does have a camera.

OK, so the Acer does bring a camera ($us 30 or less). But it still lacks a video and audio software authoring tools, a Firewire port, an IR port, and the remote control. However, it lacks one of the most important “barely supported things”: the 256 Mb graphic card…

I'd like to take a different tack. Fota is entirely correct in pointing out that a large difference between Windows PCs and Macs is that Apple builds and prices computers as a package product (at a configuration and price point that balances consumer attractiveness with profit margin), while PCs are sold as rock-bottom commodity items (hardware a la carte). The result is this: Macs are a designed package, with hardware, software, and their integration tuned to maximize usefulness. PCs do get some attempt at integration treatment from their vendors (though sometimes this is little more than a special theme), but mostly it is their low commodity pricing that sells them.

The point I would make is that while the different levels of Macs may or may not be below the pricing of similarly configured PCs, it is very impressive that Apple has managed to, on average, make their machines competitive on price while retaining the "experience." The integration of a Mac is worth considering in the comparison, and perhaps even worth putting a value on, in terms of time lost building and configuring a PC.

Good point, Donn. However, this post's issue is still at stake... Macs are not only most valued for its software, hardware, and peripherical integration, but, by now, most important, its price is lower than a PC with same hardware/software configuration...

I've read this little debate with interest, and i thought i'd throw my 2 cents into the circle.

I've been working with Pcs now for over 10 years (various configurations and for various environments), and i've worked 'on' macs for about 6 years (mostly music production and video editing).

My research into what was inside each machine i worked with or on(hardware and software) has lead me to the conclusion that dollar for dollar, Macs are better machines. They are built solid, they will carry the speed and usefulness further into their life. The software titles available on the market for both formats are not competitive (more for pc), but the mac wins by providing the better quality versions of almost everything you need.

I look at value for money as a package - what you initially paid and what you got for it, how well it works, how long it works for, how stable it is, how much time you lose trying to 'fix' it..

Macs are better value for money than PCs any day, any time.

I'm getting my stock 2.16GHz C2D MacBook Pro next week, my first mac, and you know what, i can't wait!!! Byebye Windoze!!!

Macs are better machines. They are built solid,

Now this is a claim I just don't get. Macs now use exactly the same parts as any PC out there. And Apple uses the exact same Chinese manufacturer as many PC vendors: Foxconn. So your claim is that Foxconn builds a better machine for Apple over another PC vendors when they use the same parts at the same price?

Furthermore, if you compare the repair rates of all laptop vendors, they're all within a couple percentage points of each other (graph from Consumer Reports).

Ok, so they all outsource to China, where they all have the same manufacturers building their PCs with the same exact parts, and have nearly the same return rates! What am I missing?

I'd rather hear Mac users say they want to pay more for a Mac because they like the Mac rather than try to explain why it's "built better". That would be just personal preference instead of ignorance.

Macs are more expensive than PCs. Maybe not at the higher end, such as Mac Pros, but definitely at the lower end. I've seen all these different configurations and the prices attached to them but when I go to Dell's website and configure one to compare to the Macbook Pro, it always comes out significantly cheaper.

Fota asks what is he missing. It is a very funny question, because obviously the only thing he missed in this discussion is the point. He talks about sacred and profane things, but still did not refute the fact known by everyone in this post: at same configuration, a PC is most expensive than a Mac. Why still we did not receive any empirical information that says other thing?

And now Mark point out the same uncorroborated (an most probably false) fact. He said, without providing any information, that Macs are more expensive.

Com'on guys, we are discussing the mythological believe about Mac's expensiveness to learn more. But we cannot learn if you just make religious points without any proof. If you say that a Mac is more expensive, please at least submit the information that probes your point. Or do you pretend we believe on your revealed epiphany, like people did on dark times? To state a fact like "macs are expensive", please simply submit the information that proves it.

Just an example to illustrate how Mark can do it: a Dell-MacBook Pro comparision:

DELL Noteebook (17”): $ 3554

Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T7600 (2.33GHz, 4MB L2 Cache, 667 MHz FSB)
Genuine Windows® XP Media Center Edition 2005
17 inch UltraSharp™ Wide Screen UXGA Display with TrueLife™
100GB 7200rpm SATA Hard Drive
8X CD/DVD Burner (DVD+/-RW) with double-layer DVD+R write capability
256MB NVIDIA® GeForce™ Go 7900 GS
Integrated Sound Blaster® Audigy™ HD Software Edition
Hi-Speed: Dell Draft N Wireless
Dell Wireless 355 Bluetooth Internal (2.0 + Enhanced Data Rate)
No Pre-installed software
Norton Internet Security™ 2006 Edition 15-months
Premium Pack - Advanced Photo+Music: Deluxe Pack + Paint Shop Pro XI
Laplink PCmover: Moves Applications, Data and Settings to New PC!
Webroot SpySweeper
Combo: Roxio Creator Deluxe and MyDVD Deluxe (DVD+RW only)

Network Card and Modem
Integrated 10/100/1000 Network Card and Modem
Adobe Software
Adobe® Acrobat® Reader 7.0
Award Winning Service, Support
Future Operating Systems
Windows Vista™ Capable
XPS Specialized Support
Inspiron XPS, Specialized Support
Processor Branding
Intel Core 2 Duo Processor

MacBook Pro (17”): $ 2699

• 2.33GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
• 2GB 667 DDR2 SDRAM - 2x1GB
• 100GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm
• SuperDrive 8x (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
• MacBook Pro 17-inch Widescreen Display
• 1 FireWire 400 port, 3 USB 2.0 ports, ExpressCard/34 slot, DVI output with support for VGA (requires adapter, sold separately)
• Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T (Gigabit); built-in 54 Mbps AirPort Extreme (802.11g); built-in Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
• ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics processor, dual-link DVI support, 256 MB of GDDR3 SDRAM

As even Mark and Fota can see, the Dell lacks a built-in camera, a FireWire port, an IR port and a remote control. Still, the Dell is almost $ 900 most expensive. And, of course, we’re omitting the therapy cost for using such an ugly thing everyday. Leaving this important issue aside, the only empirical fact that we can clearly see here is that, even in a poorer hardware configuration, a Dell Notebook is most expensive than a MacBook Pro. So, maybe Mark should check carefully before doing a categorical statement…

All along this debate I've been using the expression "most expensive", when I should use the expression "more expensive". Please forgive this lapsus calami from a non-english native speaker. And when you read, "most expensive", please imagine you're reading "more expensive"....

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