In a previous post I discussed the lower price of a high-end iMac (the 24″ model), and that I actually bought one.
For those of you who may want to regale me with tales of much cheaper comparable PCs, I priced a similar system at Dell for comparison.
I chose Dell because I have owned a few and liked them. I chose the XPS 410 because it’s getting great customer reviews, and is also well thought of in the PC mags. It’s also in the middle of Dell’s offerings, as the iMac is in the middle of Apple’s. I configured one with the following:
- Vista Home Premium
- Intel 2.66 Core 2 Duo (they don’t have the Core 2 Extreme available)
- NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT (comparable to the iMac’s ATI 2600HD PRO)
- Remote control
- Wireless keyboard and mouse
- Dell’s 24″ monitor
- 750GB hard drive
- 2GB memory
- Wireless “N” networking
- Firewire (only 400)
- Office Home and Student Edition
The cost is $2,574 without tax or shipping.
The iMac described in my previous article, stripped of the .Mac membership, tax, and shipping is $2,578. Only $4 difference between them!
Of course, when configuring them for purchase one can only go so far in making them equal. There are differences in the machines that can’t really made up for. The three factors to judge are hardware, software, and aesthetics.
For the Dell, hardware “pluses” are that it’s expandable with hard drive bays and PCI slots, has a 16X DVD burner (iMac’s is 8x), and a media card reader. For the Apple, hardware “pluses” are that it has the faster Core 2 Duo Extreme processor, Firewire 800, a built-in camera, and a built-in microphone.
From a software perspective, frankly, I was kind to the Dell. I went with Vista Home Premium but could have insisted on Vista Ultimate. Why should I settle for only part of an OS; Apple doesn’t require I make that choice. Still, Home Premium will likely do what 90% of users want so I won’t quibble (Ultimate would have increased the cost by $200). Further, the Dell has nothing even close to iLife. I included iWork on the Mac for productivity functions (the Dell has Office Home), but what can I add to the Dell for iLife equivalence? The closest thing would be Adobe’s Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements bundle for $79. I use the Adobe bundle now and it’s pretty good. That makes the Dell $75 more than the iMac, but even then there’s no iWeb or Garageband equivalent.
From an aesthetic standpoint it’s not even close, the iMac wins hands down. Seriously, the Dell is one ugly machine. Maybe you’re Mr. He-man who doesn’t think that matters, but when it’s in my office it matters to me.
So the price is the same, with each having points and counter points for their hardware. I believe Apple clearly wins (and by a wide margin) in software and aesthetics. For me the choice is obvious, and I made it.
By the way, anybody who’s hung out at Dell’s site knows that the same system could be priced differently at any given time. The fact is their prices tend to wander. My point is that I don’t care if you price it and it’s $100 more or less. At the price of these machines it’s a wash, and it really comes down to the other factors.
Further, if you want to “roll your own” PC, that’s great. I’ve done many but the last one was probably ten years ago. I’m not interested in comparisons with no-name PCs from “Bob’s Computer Hut and Pizza Emporium,” nor am I interested in building one from scratch. Both the iMac and XPS 410 I specified are high-end machines (though not for gamers) from a vast middle-ground short of what professionals might use. They come ready to use for a good out of the box experience, have full factory warranties, and one place to go for support. I’m not comparing computer prices for geeks.
Finally, this represents a price point at which Apple and Dell are pretty much on par (though I believe the iMac is superior for other reasons). As you move down the price scale Dell becomes more of a value if you’re OK with the disadvantages compared to an iMac. As you move up the scale Apple tends to widen the gap and become even more competitive.