bargain PCs vs. the Mac Mini

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacBytes, Jan 18, 2005.

  1. MacBytes macrumors bot

    Jul 5, 2003
  2. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Outstanding software power in 1/21 the space!

    "why do so many Windows writers neglect to include the value of bundled software, monetary or otherwise, when they “compare” computers? I suppose it’s because the “free” software that comes with most Windows PCs stinks—in the budget PC world, if it comes with the computer it must not be very good. Tip to Windows writers: You’ve been led astray. The software that comes with a computer can be free and great."

    Well said and well-researched.

    Dell is not cheaper. You really CAN'T get a Dell comparable to the Mac Mini without paying more--and it will still fall short in what you can DO with it! (In fact, I couldn't even get one as cheap as MacCentral says you can... maybe that's just the fault of's atrociously complex online store! Or maybe it's their ever-changing mail-in rebates and 1-day specials.)

    To sum up:

    Mini: 256 MB RAM, upgradable to 1024 MB max (no need to buy Apple RAM--your warranty is safe). Plus 32 MB dedicated VRAM.
    "Cheaper" Dell: 224 MB RAM: 256 minus 32 (or more) shared as video memory. Max is 480 MB: 512 minus shared.

    Mini: DVD player and CD burner.
    Dell: No CD burning.
    No Combo drive option. Even if you add a second drive for burning, full burning software costs extra too.

    Mini: Firewire standard.
    Dell: no Firewire.
    No DV cameras for you! No home movie editing. No external storage faster than USB 2--which cannot match Firewire except in a short burst.

    Mini: 1-year warranty.
    Dell: 90 days.

    Mini: wireless options entirely built-in.
    No external antennas/dongles needed for WiFi or Bluetooth.
    Dell: wireless options require external dongles.

    Most important of all--software is what lets your computer DO anything:
    Mini: Full versions of GarageBand 2, iPhoto 5, iMovie HD, iDVD 5, iTunes 4, Quicken 2005, and Nanosaur 2 and Marble Blast Gold 3D games; plus AppleWorks: simple MS Office-compatible word processor/database/spreadsheet/presentations/drawing/painting.
    Dell: Word Perfect (word processing only), plus three trial/starter apps including "Dell Jukebox" (full "Jukebox Plus" costs extra).

    Mini: full OS X, same as pro Macs. Complete with iCal, Mail, Safari, one-click Personal Web Sharing, etc. etc.
    Dell: limited Home version of Windows.

    Mini: no viruses, no spyware.
    Dell: vital anti-virus software not included--costs extra, plus monthly subscription.

    And I'll add:
    Mini: DVI and VGA out. S-video and composite TV/VCR out with <$20 adapter.
    Dell: VGA only. No digital out, no TV/VCR out.

    Mini: quiet and ultra-compact
    --85 cu. in., with 42 sq. in. footprint.
    Dell: full-size, noisy tower--1761 cu. in., with 121 sq. in. footprint. The size of 21 Mac Minis.

    Mini: under 3 pounds plus power supply.
    Easily portable.
    Dell: 23 pounds.

    Mini: 1.25 Ghz G4, equivalent to 1.6 Ghz Pentium 4
    , plus the benefits of Velocity Engine in many apps, plus Quartz Extreme offloading GUI tasks, plus other benefits of a low-end ATI graphics chip, as opposed to cheap integrated video.
    Dell: 2.4 Ghz Celoron, equivalent to 1.8 Ghz Pentium 4. Integrated Intel video.

    (Different CPU types can never be compared thoroughly, but Ghz alone is a well-discredited myth by now. See this other Mac Mini vs. Dell shootout and click "Notes" in the processor section.)
  3. 24C macrumors 6502a

    Nov 9, 2004
    Now where have I seen stuff like this before?...on our forums' column inches :)

    Nice to see argument instead of rantings.
  4. ALoLA macrumors regular

    Sep 23, 2003
    Greater Los Angeles Area
  5. shamino macrumors 68040


    Jan 7, 2004
    Purcellville, VA
    Yep. I've made this (or similar) arguments on several occasions.

    And in my case, I actually bend over backwards to try and give Dell as many breaks as possible. In the case of my comparison with the mini, I went with the following Dell:
    • Dimension 3000 with a 2.8GHz Pentium 4. This is much more powerful than the Dimension 2400, but has a similar base price, and it offers expansion options that allow it to come closer to a Mac mini than a 2400 ever could.
    • Upgrade to Windows XP Professional
    • Upgrade to 1 year warrantee
    • Upgrade to 512M RAM
    • Upgrade to 80G disk
    • Upgrade to ComboDrive
    • Remove the monitor
    • Add FireWire
    • Add WordPerfect Office 12 (nearest equivalent to AppleWorks)
    • Add McAfee Security Center with a 15-month subscription. (As the MacWorld article said, a Windows PC without antivirus software is like a car without brakes.)
    • Total cost: $782
    and the following Mac mini:
    • 1.43GHz model
    • Upgrade to 512M RAM
    • Add keybaord and mouse
    • Total cost: $732
    So we end up with a Dell that costs $50 more. And the Dell still is missing:
    • Dedicated video memory
    • Any equivalent to iPhoto
    • Any equivalent to iMovie
    • Any equivalent to iDVD
    • Any equivalent to GarageBand
    Now, to be fair, the Dell does have a much faster processor. A 2.8Ghz Pentium 4 is substantially faster than a 1.43GHz G4. (It's also substantially faster than the 2.4GHz Celeron offered with the Dimension 2400.)

    But if we want to be completely fair, we also have to note that the Dell's usable system memory is 32-64M smaller than the Macs, due to the shared video memory. And a lot of that fast processor's CPU time is going to be consumed by the antivirus software that must always be running in the background, inspecting every file accessed by every program.

    Overall, I would expect the two systems to perform similarly under real-world conditions. Apple's software bundle (iLife, specifically) is what breaks the tie, in terms of features. A pricetag $50 lower is just icing on the cake.

    We can leave out the antivirus subscription to give Dell the price edge ($720 total - making the system $12 cheaper than the Mac mini), but if you don't already have antivirus software from some other source, you're shooting yourself in the foot with this configuration.
  6. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    I find if I upgrade a Dell and Mac both into the $750-$1000 range, the Dell starts to come out pretty close in price. Some of the BTO hardware options are cheaper from Dell than from Apple, so the more you add, the better the Dell can compete. BUT then you spend that advantage away buying apps to try to compete with iLife. And you won't succeed.

    Plus, you're approaching iMac G5 price territory pretty fast! When you get within a couple hundred dollars, you may as well tighten your belt and get the great flat panel screen and G5 speed.
  7. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    I don't even use all iLife apps, only iTunes and iPhoto, so its no biggie for me or most people if iDVD come with the system or not. Again, that's for the majority of users out there, especially for $499 budget users. iTunes is freely downloadable, and a program like iPhoto comes with cameras. Canon's software isn't that bad (if I remember correctly ;) ).

    Also, I find that the hardware of both systems is comparable. Its just that I don't like viruses, so I'd get the Mac. Isn't the lack of headache-inducing viruses and spyware enough of a reason to get a Mac? What value do you place on your sanity? :cool:
  8. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Virus safety is the biggest reason I can't see myself able to run my business on Windows. You CAN protect Windows--most of the time--if you educate yourself and take the time. But I don't have the time or energy to do so. The same issue seems to be pushing Windows users I know towards Macs.

    Re software: Some people need none of what a Mac comes with--but that's quite a software bundle: chances are, most people will find several items of value there. Not so with the Dell's lack of software.

    And "of value" means a lot... iLife was already a great package, but iLife 05 even more so! This is not mere mortal software, with equivalents for Windows.

    Free software that comes with a camera does not = iPhoto 5. The app does slideshows with custom panning and 3D effects, custom book creation (which you don't have to buy--you can just print them out!) and many other things--and all very streamlined.

    Looking at the quality of iLife apps--features and ease-of-use both--and the prices of other apps at can easily imagine Apple's apps selling for the following prices if they were in the Windows market:

    GarageBand 2 with 1000+ loops: $149
    iMovie: $99, but with HD support: $149
    iPhoto 5: $99
    iDVD: $99
    iTunes: $49
    AppleWorks: $49

    I get ~$450 (since iDVD isn't relevant and iTunes is free anyway)

    Now throw in Quicken 2005, Nanosaur 2, and Marble Blast Gold. (We're not talking small-scale shareware games here.) You're easily in the $600 range. That doesn't count other valuable apps that come with OS X, like Mail and iCal.

    It's easy to see why some call a $499 Mac Mini a great software bundle with a Mac thrown in free! The perfect "upgrade to your PC."
  9. vollspacken macrumors 65816


    Oct 17, 2002
    Boogie-Down Berlintown
    that's a good article :)

    I just "bookmarked" it, in order to show it to some buddies...


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