Pros and Cons Comparison: 17" MacBook Pro versus 17" Dell XPS M1710

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By: switchtoamac at: 9:47 AM on June 4, 2006 | Comments (5)
The goal of this post is to demonstrate that the long held position that PC users have held, "Macs are more expensive" no longer applies.  This will be accomplished by expanding on the prior Dell 17" XPS M1710 and 17" MacBook Pro comparisons.

Having demonstrated the cost misconception (prior post), I have to question why those in the Windows/PC camp fail to realize the value proposition offered by Macs.  More so now that the Apple has transitioned to Intel based Macs.

In my experience, those who criticize Apple and OS X are the very same people who have never taken the time to objectively compare the differences between the Apple/OS X platform against the PC/Windows platform.  Perhaps it's the fact that most Windows users have never used a Mac and/or OS X, or it could be that many Windows users have never had an alternative, or it's because they have never made the attempt to see what a Mac has to offer.  Perhaps is as simple as a fear of learning something new.

Regardless of the reason, the main characteristics that separate the Apple proposition from the PC proposition are Apple's quality engineering, operating system, total cost of ownership (TCO), and vision.  What does a Mac user gain from using a Mac?  I think it can be summed up in three words, "total user experience".  Apple's approach leads the way to a superior experience via innovative, easy to use, integrated, high-quality products.

I will build upon the recent Dell 17" XPS M1710 and Apple 17" MacBook Pro comparisons that can be found on the web.  A list of features can be found here.

Having seen the features offerd by the two systems and their associated price tags, let's take a look at pros and cons of each system from both a hardware and software perspective.


Dell 17" XPS M1710

Harware Pros

  • Higher maximum screen resolution
  • Better for gaming
  • Longer battery life
  • Longer standard warranty
  • 3 more USB ports

Software Pros

  • Runs the most widely used operating system, Windows.  Perhaps this should be placed in the cons column.  The fact that it only runs Windows and Linux is a negative.  Many people consider OS X to be a superior operating system and would argue that this alone would place a PC in the negative column.

Hardware Cons

  • Lacks firewire 800
  • Lacks a built-in video camera
  • Lacks 5.1 surround sound support
  • Lacks a backlit keyboard
  • Larger
  • Thicker
  • Heavier

Software Cons

  • Only runs the Windows and Linux operating systems
  • Limited to the third-party software that can run on those operating systems
  • Can't legally run OS X
  • Lacks a true digital lifestyle software suite
  • Relies on third-party software to extend capabilities ie, bundled security suite to protect from viruses, spyware, and malware that ultimately slows the system down.

17" MacBook Pro

Hardware Pros

  • Firewire 800 and 400
  • Built-in video camera (iSight)
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Sudden Motion Sensor - to protect the hard drive when the computer is dropped
  • More elegant optical drive (slot load)
  • Capable of full native notebook resolution and simultaneous 2560 x 1600 pixels on a Apple 30" Cinema Display
  • Smaller
  • Thinner
  • Lighter
  • Better desktop and laptop repairs (2004)
  • Best Tech Support (June 2006)

Software Pros

  • Ability to legally run Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux
  • Many people consider OS X to be a superior operating system
  • Comes with a true digital lifestyle suite, the award-winning iLife
  • iChat AV for video conferencing
  • Front Row
  • PhotoBooth
  • Boot Camp
  • Can run a greater number of software when all three operating systems are considered

Hardware Cons

  • Lower maximum screen resolution
  • Not the best for gaming
  • Shorter battery life
  • Shorter standard warranty
  • Fewer ports (USB)

Software Cons

  • Less software available on OS X when compared to Windows

Note both systems will be able to run Windows Vista when it is released sometime in 2007.

Let's start off with the names of the two systems.  On one hand we have the Dell "XPS M1710" and on the other, the "MacBook Pro".  I don't know about you but for me, the short-but-sweet "MacBook Pro" rolls off my tongue a lot easier than the "XPS M1710".  The laptop naming schemes adopted by the two companies clearly capture the essense that separates them.  Names aside, one can reach the conclusion that that both platforms and brands have their pros, cons, and price.  It isn't difficult to see that a the 17" MacBook Pro Mac holds its against a similarly configured Dell 17" XPS notebook.  We can see that the Mac not only costs less, but offers greater hardware and software features and capabilities to a buyer.  A Mac is capable of legally running OS X and other operating systems such as Windows and Linux.  A Dell does not offer that ability.

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5 Reader Comments

when i first started reading this review, i knew its purpose was not to compare the two notebooks but to promote the mac, albeit from a consumer point of view. right now i am comparing the two notebooks spec's which are different given the inherent differences between a mac and pc. however, the pc has a few advantages. it is the most widely supported software platform, it has double the warranty of the macbook, and (being a gamer i must include this) has a much better graphics card. and if graphics is unimportant, why are you comparing it to a gaming notebook that is meant for gaming. i look now at the inspiron e1705 at about 2200 with better specs hardware wise than the macbook at less than a pound more. and i grant you that osx has fewer viruses, but when you hold less than 25 percent market and probably less in business, it would be kind of sad otherwise. i would love to debate further, but i have to go do something more important than hearing apple fanboys bash pc's

I am just building upon the prior comparisons between the two system. You can do a search on the web to find them.

In the post I stated the following:

"one can reach the conclusion that that both platforms and brands have their pros, cons, and price"

From a value perspective, a Dell can't offer the features provided by a Mac. Thanks to Boot Camp, owners of Intel Macs can boot into both OS X and Windows. Dell owners can't.

I can't make someone see the value advantage of Macs, that's up to an individual to make the realization. I'm just putting forth the data.

I always held out purchasing a Mac because the work I do requires that I have a PC plain and simple. However I purchased my first Mac (MacBook Pro 15") after Apple released Boot Camp.

I can use both OS X and Windows now. I find myself using OS X more and more for things such as surfing, and managing my photos. I'm tending to use Windows for work related activities.

I think the argument boils down to how you intend to use your computer. If you're a gamer, get the Dell. If you want a secure system with a better software suite to manage pictures, music, and movies, get a Mac.

fkdiii, to set you straight, OS X doesn't have any viruses.

Buy a new Mac with an Intel processor.

Install Bootcamp. (A free app from Apple.)

Install Windows XP.

Run OS X for the best of that system and Windows XP for the best of that system.

Instead of buying two machines to do it, or having to decide which way to go, now you can make your life easy and do it all on one.

See ya.

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