28 Jul 2008

Busting the Macs-are-now-as-cheap-as-PCs Myth

We've been repeatedly reading on Mac users' blogs about how Macs are now as cheap as PCs, but most of them make the mistake of configuring a PC to be as identical to the chosen Mac as possible. That's just stupid. You should configure both systems to be as close to your needs as possible. Who cares if the Mac has Firewire 800 if you're not going to use it?

So here's my list of requirements:
  • Laptop.
  • CPU powerful enough to play 1080p video, which means a Core 2 Duo at 1.8GHz.
  • 2 GB RAM.
  • 7200 RPM hard disc if possible, otherwise a big 5400 RPM disk (where there's no concrete requirement of bigness).
  • If possible, the system should be able to drive a 30-inch monitor at 2560 x 1600.
So I head to Dell India site (I live in India) and end up with a VOSTRO 1510 Laptop (n-Series) with a 1.8 GHz Core 2 Duo, 2 GB memory, 15.4" widescreen 1440x900 display, 160 GB 7200 RPM disc, a combo drive, a 256 RM Nvidia GeForce 8400M GS, an intergrated 1.3 megapixel webcam, Wireless-N, and no bluetooth for about Rs. 38,000 (Indian rupees).

The Apple India store doesn't let me configure a machine online; I have to pick one. The cheapest Macbook costs me Rs. 50,000, and it has only 1 GB RAM. The guys at the local Apple store told me I could bump the memory to 2 GB for approx Rs. 1000, and the disc space to 250 GB for another thousand or two rupees. So I end up with a Macbook with a 2.1 Ghz Core 2 Duo, 2 GB memory, a 5400 RPM 250 disc for something like Rs. 52,000. Note that the disc runs at only 5400 RPM as opposed to the Dell's 7200 RPM. If I were to configure the Dell with a 5400 RPM 320 GB disc (bigger than the Macbook's), its price would actually drop by a couple thousand rupees. Also the Macbok can't drive a 30-inch monitor at full resolution. So let's compromise with a 1920x1200 video output. Still it's Rs. 52,000 for the Macbook vs. Rs. 38,000 for the Dell.

How does the Macbook compare to the Dell? A slightly faster CPU (2.1 Ghz vs. 1.8 GHz) (which I don't need), a slower (5400RPM vs. 7200 RPM) disc or a smaller one (250GB vs. 320 GB), ability to drive only a 24-inch monitor at full resolution instead of a 30-incher (this is important to me), Firewire (which I never used), Bluetooth (did you try transferrring a hundred MB over bluetooth?) Or for the sake of comparison let's add Bluetooth to the Dell for less than a thousand rupees. Still it's Rs. 52000 for the Macbook vs. Rs.39,000 for the Dell. I'm sure that among the amazing skills Mac users have is the ability to compare two numbers. So tell me, isn't that a significant difference? Or if I insist on the ability to drive a 30-inch monitor at full resolution, I'll end up with a Macbook Pro at Rs. 89,000 as opposed to Rs.39,000 for the Dell -- more than twice the price.

OS X may actually be worth the money, but let's say that outright. Don't make stupid claims that a similarly configured PC costs as much as a Mac because for many people the Mac will have things you don't care about.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:27 pm

    Reeval your answer in October :) (mac pricing is not as dynamic as others, nor its hw as varied). October is good month to check (or whenever Apple updates) ...
    Anyway if your argument to buy a computer is just "the maximum bang (whatever it may be now, GHZ, # stages in the pipeline or ...) for your buck" ... Buy something in South East Asia ...
    It is not in Apple's interest to be the cheapest, but you may like to hear that Apple has announced taht its expected benefit per product will be reduced from about 30% to about 25% (whatever it may mean, IANAE).