Anti-Buzz: Mac vs. Windows (Again), Part 2

by Andrew Emmott on October 5, 2013

in Anti-Buzz,Hardware

newface-620x461I’ve decided to extend last week’s discussion. We received some comments about the Mac/Windows price jump, and it’s true enough that many Mac fans don’t believe it is as large as it is. Just this week I engaged in this discussion with a friend of mine and he flatly did not believe the price gap was that huge.

All the same I’d still like to encourage any Mac fans reading this to articulate why they like the brand. Recall that I myself, after using the machines for a few months, did agree that they are better. I’m just a little confused because the reasons I liked using a Mac are obscure computer geek reasons. What are the “normal person” reasons for preferring the brand? This isn’t a call out; it isn’t that I don’t think there are good reasons, I’m just too removed from the normal experience to understand what they are. I can make some speculations, (next week), but first: was my price comparison fair? My friend didn’t believe that the Apple premium is 100% – was there a reason?

Last week the models I compared were two high-end laptops. Not everyone needs a high-end laptop. In fact, being that you are small business owners, you would probably build mid-range desktops for your office. So let’s make that comparison. Starting with this $1,300 iMac, their basic 21.5-inch desktop machine, with no added accessories, let’s build a Lenovo that matches it. If you tweak this model, (and remember to add a monitor), you can actually match the specs almost exactly, and you come in around $1,000. A 30% Apple premium is still probably more than many Mac fans would assume, but it’s a lot less jaw dropping than what we were working with last week.

Additionally, there is a big point in Apple’s favor on this comparison, which is that the iMac has a famously small footprint. It’s pretty much just a monitor and keyboard and mouse, instead of a mess of components held together by numerous cables. Is this small footprint worth $300? It’s an indulgence, but for your office it might be. It’s not crazy.

As it happens, Lenovo offers a similar design, a so called all-in-one, where they reduce the computer’s footprint to monitor/keyboard/mouse. Here. If you modify this model until you match the iMac’s specs, you still come in at around $1,000. Hmm.

Counterpoint to all of this, however, is that one we start building desktops, custom designs can bring the price waaaay down. I’m not going to research a good modern build, but if you have tech support that is willing to design, build and maintain computers from scratch, you can probably come in well below the Lenovo prices, much less the Apple ones. You definitely lose the small footprint at this point, however.

I tried to make another comparison, the high-end desktop, but this proved somewhat difficult. The Mac Pro, to be fair, is meant as a server platform, while the high-end Lenovos are meant as either gaming machines, (with terrible customization options), or simply high-end workstations. However, the pair I did build were about $1,500 and $3,000 respectively, though again I’m not completely confident in the fairness of the comparison.

To be honest, the Mac Pro is probably not sitting in the homes of your typical Mac fan anyway, which is actually what brings home the larger point: the Apple premium goes down for lower-end models.
It is telling that we hit the smaller, 30% price jump on product that was:

  • A lower-end item, (by Apple’s standards).
  • A build with no upgrades.

The $3,000 Mac Pro I built had a lot of upgrades. Some of these upgrades were not priced competitively, and some were, (RAM upgrades, for example, are priced about the same at Apple as they are at Lenovo, but optical drives are $100 apiece, which is, well, about double what they should be).

It seems, really, that as you increase the quality of the Apple product in question, the price accelerates much faster than Windows PCs, so the “Macs costs double” observations isn’t completely true. It’s more that, any Mac I would ever want to build costs double what it should, but the average user might not suffer so badly, and thus we have found the source of the confusion.

Again, I encourage any discussion of why the brand is appealing to regular folk. Next week I will either expand on those ideas, as well as provide some of my own insight.

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