Went shopping at Dell: MacBook equivalent costs $230 more from Dell?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by nagromme, Oct 23, 2009.

  1. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Friends ask me for computer shopping help a lot. Well, I recently recommended a cheap Dell Inspiron and it backfired: Windows crashed during an auto-update, so it no longer boots outside of safe mode, and the optical drive died after a few weeks. I guess that's the chance you take when you have very little to spend (and my friend really couldn't afford better). Her runaround with Dell support has been ongoing--not to mention her battles with her own anti-virus software! And she lives with a long-time Windows expert troubleshooter (meaning the machine steals BOTH of their time--plus mine when she calls me for help).

    So with the new MacBooks out, I thought I'd go shopping at Dell.com and see what they have that really compares. Apple has no cheap bottom-end models, but they do have mid-range and high-end models just as Dell does. Despite how incredibly painful it is to browse options and specs at Dell, I think I arrived at a pretty fair comparison.

    Even I keep instinctively expecting Macs to cost more than PCs... until I do the actual math. They don't--not more than name-brand PCs. (And that's not counting lower lifetime support costs, longer usable life, and much higher resale value.)

    New MacBook vs. Dell Studio XPS 13
    Base specs:

    After matching the options on both systems as closely as possible*, the Dell costs $230 more. So much for the "Apple premium" :eek:

    Both have the same base cost of $999 (and an optional bundled printer deal).

    Additional Mac upgrades to match Dell:
    $100 for 2GB additional RAM (or could be less if self-installed)
    = $1099

    Additional Dell upgrades to match MacBook:
    $125 for LED-backlit display
    $20 for Bluetooth
    $35 for 1GB additional RAM
    $150 for Windows 7 Ultimate
    = $1329 (or could be $1179 with Home Premium; $80 more than Mac)

    There are still various minor specs that favor each machine—they cannot ever be identical. But some differences are important enough to note.

    Important differences in the Dell's favor:
    Internal SD reader (vs. cheap external reader bundled with many SD cards)
    Backlit keys
    (Both available on aluminum MacBook Pro, starting at $1199)

    Important differences against the Dell:
    Slower processor (2.13 GHz vs. Mac's 2.26 GHz; or could get 2.53GHz for $75 more)
    Lower battery life (not stated by Dell but reviewed poorly, vs. Mac's 7 hours; or could get Dell 9-cell battery for $180 more and increased weight)
    Heavier (4.9 lbs. before adding Bluetooth module, vs. Mac's 4.7 lbs.)
    Thicker (1.35" at thickest point vs. Mac's 1.08"; overall volume 131 cu. in. vs. Mac's 128)
    No multitouch trackpad
    No free setup help (30 days phone or in-store help is $49 from Dell, vs. included with Mac; and of course Apple's support is the best around)
    No anti-virus/anti-malware (limited free options exist, if you self-install)
    No software bundle (Mac includes iLife media software; free office software available for both systems)
    Windows 7 Ultimate still does not fully match OS X Snow Leopard (and Mac can also run Windows)

    Bundled software ($0 added to either system):
    Mac's bundle: music making, movie making, photo editing/management, DVD authoring, screen recording
    Dell's suggested additions (not included in this price):
    Roxio DVD authoring $79
    Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo $30 or Sony Imagination Studio Suite $100

    * The details - specs to match in choosing which Dell (no Inspiron model could match the MacBook):
    Processor type: Core 2 Duo, 1066 FSB, 3MB L2 cache, 2.26 GHz
    Hard disk: 250 GB
    Optical drive: 8x DVD burner
    RAM: 4GB (the only amount that both models can handle)
    Wireless: WiFi N and Bluetooth
    Display: LED-backlit, 1280x800, 13.3" with webcam
    Graphics: NVidia GeForce 9400M
    OS: top non-server OS available (closest to Snow Leopard is Windows 7 Ultimate)
  2. jbernie macrumors 6502a


    Nov 25, 2005
    Denver, CO
    The Apple premium comes more from the entry price point than anything else. $999 is about the entry point for any new current model with a screen.

    Ultimately it is buy the system that best suits your requirements & budget and compromise in between when one or the other causes issues. Your experiences may vary, so will your needs.
  3. thegoldenmackid macrumors 604


    Dec 29, 2006
    dallas, texas
    This has been discussed numerous times before, for example, a similar situation exists here.

    The Apple Tax exists, it varies from machine to machine. In a lot of cases you are paying for something that is better built when you buy it from Apple and you are paying for the ability to use an OS, something most people (almost all here) pay a premium for.
  4. nagromme thread starter macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Also, here's a bit lower-end comparison:
    Without upgrading RAM or OS:
    MacBook is $999
    Dell Studio XPS is $1144
    (All that has been added to the Dell in this case are the LED screen and Bluetooth. Dell has 1GB more RAM than this Mac config.)

    The "Apple premium" doesn't have one official definition--but people generally use it to mean that you're paying extra for a product of the same basic kind. And in this case, it's Dell that has you doing that.

    For instance, nobody would take a $1000 HP and compare to a $500 Dell Inspiron and talk about the "HP premium" or "HP tax"--they'd acknowledge that they were looking at two entirely different kinds of systems, and that the HP has lots of higher specs and benefits that make it a better machine. Yet some people WILL look at a $1000 Mac and a $500 Inspiron and talk about the "Apple premium" or "Apple tax" (no doubt because both machines have the same size screen or other limited glance at selected specs). It's a myth that is dying, but as I say, even I often expect the "premium" myth to be a bit true, until I actually compare. (Now, back in the 90s--yikes! The term was absolutely true once upon a time! Not that it made Macs a bad deal, since the OS is a huge factor, but on specs alone you used to pay a lot more for a Mac. And it kept me away from Macs for ages.)

    Basically, Macs vary in price relative to other name-brand PCs in just the same way that they vary in price relative to each other. Sometimes one particular Dell costs less, or one particular HP, or in this case, a Mac. But they're all in the same price range, despite Apple's typically better design and build quality--and most importantly, the OS.

    Maybe Apple SHOULD charge extra for what they offer--but they generally don't. (Not for computers, anyway. External displays* are another matter! A MacBook plus a cheap Dell display is a combo I've recommended many times.)

    * Then again, I just read that Dell's top display, 2560x1600, costs $1699 with no LED backlight and no camera. Which is the same price as Apple's 2560x1440 model that is a bit smaller but DOES have LED backlight and camera. Oh--and Apple's $1699 model happens to have a free iMac built in, complete with 3GHz CPU, 4GB RAM, 1 terabyte drive, and wireless keyboard/mouse!
  5. chill. macrumors 6502

    Sep 1, 2008
    try comparing the macbook to the studio series and the macbook pro to the xps series
  6. alent1234 macrumors 603

    Jun 19, 2009
    in this case the Macbook wins. but if i was to get a 15" MBP with the 9600GT graphics it would cost me $3000 by the time i added applecare, tax and a few other things. A Dell Laptop with the same or slightly better specs would run less than $1500

    with iMac's the prices are the same again spec for spec. Reason is that Apple releases computers gradually over the course of the year while Dell will have less new releases but will drop the price every few months. Apple will keep the same price

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