A quick price comparison between a new iMac 24" and a Dell XPS 410.

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.

14 thoughts on “A quick price comparison between a new iMac 24" and a Dell XPS 410.

  1. Sebhelyesfarku meant to say:

    Unnecessary to make comparisons. Winzealots routinely buy even a turd with the Windoze logo on it.

  2. From Apple’s online store I chose the 2.4GHz 24-inch iMac then upgraded it to 2.8GHz. This model comes with only 1 Gig of RAM. From Other World Computing I ordered two 2 Gig sticks of RAM for $229 — thus boosting the iMac’s RAM to a full 4 Gigs.

  3. I’m answering an old post, but I suppose you will be interested to hear about this.

    Another anonymous said: “Let’s do another comparison: HP Pavilion m8150n (GC676AA) Core 2 Quad Q6600(2.40GHz) […] $350 less 🙂 For a MUCH more powerful machine.

    Well, it depends. According to this CNet review, the iMac (2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700) is outperforming the HP Pavilion Media Center TV m8120n (2.4GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600) in the Photoshop CS3 image-processing test and in the multimedia multitasking test. In the CineBench test, the iMac gets his ass handed to him by the quad core CPU, but who will buy an iMac to run CineBench? That’s not really the target market.

    CNet concludes that: “compared to a wide range of competing mainstream desktops, the new Apple iMac more than holds its own, with one typical exception: gaming.

    With the iMac you get a stylish integrated computer, it’s smaller, quieter, and fast enough for most uses.

  4. Let’s not forget the fact that 32 bit Windows machines cannot access a full four gigs of RAM like MacOS can. If you switch to 64 bit Windows then you give up basic functionality like Flash on the web and working drivers for most 32 bit compatible hardware.

  5. Anonymous,

    Let me respond to your points:

    1) 1 MB RAM equals the difference between 2.4 and 2.8 GHz? That _might_ be true if moving from 1 to 2GB (Mac OS X and Vista breathe a lot better with 2), but both systems already have 2GB.

    2) Well, then how can you say that the 2.4 system is MUCH (emphasis yours) more powerful?

    3) You just made my point for me. The only advantage your system has is four cores instead of two. Yet the bottom line is one core is going to do most of the work in the real world. I want that core running 2.8 instead of 2.4.

    4) Huh? You can’t buy a video camera that doesn’t have a FW connector. For large amounts of data USB is too slow. Firewire is here to stay for quite some time.

    5) OK, thanks.

    6) Sure, so it’s another $40, and another piece of hardware on my desk, and another cable. Remember, aesthetics counts.

    I’m not knocking HP, my primary system is an HP laptop from nearly three years ago and I’ve been happy with it.

    Bottom line to me is if I’m going to spend $2K or more on a machine, it shouldn’t look and act like one of the $599 pieces of crap being sold at Wal-Mart, even if it does have much more under the hood.

  6. Sebhelyesfarku,

    Thanks for dragging out the “Maczealots” name while providing no information or counter-point whatsoever.

    Also, thanks for interrupting an intelligent discussion between myself and an anonymous poster who, unlike yourself, is bringing arguments and supporting information to the party.

  7. Unnecessary to make comparisons. Maczealots would buy even a turd with the Apple logo on it.

  8. Didn’t see the redundant comments 🙂

    Difficult to respond in such a small box…

  9. @Tom – let me try to respond to your points.

    3. RAM produces much more advantage in performance than minor clock speed. 1GB more RAM on the HP system – which you didn’t mention.
    2. Can you differentiate between the performance of an application on a 2.4 and 2.8 GHz machine? The milliseconds difference, in reality is not noticeable.
    3. How many apps out there really are multi-threaded and can even take advantage of 2 (or 4) cores? Very few.
    4. Firewire as a spec is going the way of the dodo – in spite of Apple’s earlier attempts to push it. Compare the number of devices that offer USB as standard vs Firewire. Heck, even Apple now offers USB cables standard for iPods.
    5. The HP system DOES have a wireless mouse and keyboard.
    6. Webcam? buy one for 40 bucks.

    So for OVER $500 (more, if you count the tax savings from newegg) Apple gives you Firewire, 100GB hard drive space, Photoshop Elements (equivalent) software, wireless ‘N’
    Much slower CPU.
    Less RAM.

    As you said, it’s difficult to compare OEM systems spec for spec, but this comparison is close enough for average users.

    Bottomline – you’re paying over $500 (more, if you count tax savings from online retailers) for the Apple experience.

  10. Dear Anonymous:

    Please note: In the end, regardless of price, Macs simply run more software. More…. as in all of it! Windows, Linux and most importantly…. OS X! OS X utterly puts Vista and Linux distros to shame.

    After all, Vista with it’s Aero interface is nothing more than a bloated, inferior copy of Aqua; Linux gets praise for it’s Beryl, Complz, etc., all of which, I might point out, are directly inspired and copied from OS X!

    It’s the software that makes a computer great; it’s the choices and number of applications that make the machine worth it’s silicon. With my Macs I can do it all, conveniently, simply and elegantly!

    I use all three major OS’s… all on my Macs. However, that said, if I could only use the one OS it would be OS X. It’s what makes a Mac a Mac and a delightful experience it is!

    You can run lots of Window and Linux apps on your PC and so can I on my Macs. You cannot, however, run the thousands upon thousands of elegant and cool Macs apps!

    Regardless of the price or power of PC’s, without the ability to run OS X, PC’s will never be a better value than a Mac.

  11. How many apps do you have that will take advantage of quad cores? Exactly. Clock speed is still King; the 2.8GHz box will be faster than 2.4GHz 98% of the time. Smaller hard drive, too. Further, What about a built-in camera? Wireless keyboard and mouse? Firewire? “N” wireless networking? Software? Basically, what about _all_ those things I specifically pointed out to match the machines? Incomplete comparisons will be ignored.

    As for your point about most users not wanting $2,300 machines, I agree. But I already said that as you drop in price Apple competes less. Heck, Apple doesn’t even TRY to compete once you get close to the $1K mark, they let HP and Dell have that segment.

  12. Sorry, missed the Samsung monitor link, but you get the idea….

  13. Let’s do another comparison:
    HP Pavilion m8150n (GC676AA) Core 2 Quad Q6600(2.40GHz) 3GB DDR2 640GB NVIDIA GeForce 8400GS Windows Vista Ultimate
    Samsung 24 ” monitor.

    HP system: $1400
    Monitor: $ 500
    Shipping: $ 50 (approx)
    TOTAL: $1950

    To summarize, QUAD code, 1 GB more RAM, 100 GB less HDD, Vista Ultimate.

    $350 less 🙂
    For a MUCH more powerful machine.

    Links to both…
    HP System: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883107406
    Samsung Monitor:

    Apple will never be as cheap as Windows machines.

    And, not to belabor the point but most users don’t want a $2300 machine. In the $1000 machine category Apple doesn’t even come close.

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