You CanNOT Get a MacBook-Equivalent PC Laptop For A Lot Less Money.

I sent a series of tweets recently inspired by two things:

  1. My search for a MacBook-like PC to run Windows 7.
  2. My realization that no such PC exists for a lot less money than a MacBook, though everyone (including many who should know better) seems to repeat this nonsense.

Below are the the tweets:

  • Dear WSJ and tech pundits: You can’t get a MacBook-equivalent PC for a lot less money; you only get a lesser one.
  • I’m sick of these low-voltage 1.3 GHz no-power laptops being treated as MacBook equivalents. It’s BS.
  • I’m sick of PC laptop starting prices of ~$650 when they use old or weak processors, old WiFi, have no Bluetooth, etc.
  • Closest is an HP Dv3t configured similar 2 MacBook @ $900 with lots of HP giveaways. Nice, but not a lot less $$.
  • The HP has more drive space and RAM. The MacBook has better battery, trackpad, smaller, lighter, unibody.
  • My point is when you’re within $100 on two laptops, take your pick, but the cheaper one is hardly a no-brainer.
  • Oh, and Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo models comparable to MacBook are priced higher.
  • Summary: Go thru PC makers’ lengthy BTO process; see what you really get b4 claiming a MacBook for a lot less.

The summary nails it. As you go through all the BTO screens for so many models, you find where each promising PC either falls off the list (e.g., no Core 2 Duo processors, no LED screen), or the price keeps adding up as you configure it like a MacBook.

Think about this: What would a MacBook cost if Apple used an older Intel processor with just 2MB cache (or a low-voltage Centrino or Atom processor), slower DDR2 800MHz memory, Intel graphics, WiFi 802.11 b/g (not “n”), no Bluetooth, a weak battery, a tray CD drive, etc.? That’s exactly what PC makers do to create the low-end machines they (and a willing press) love to tout so much. And don’t even get me started on the big, heavy, lumbering beasts touted for having 15″ screens even though they have the resolution of a 13″.

Regarding the HP mentioned above, CNET configured one that was the same price as a MacBook. Theirs had a slower CPU, but like mine had more hard drive and RAM. They didn’t even list the MacBook’s great 7-hour battery, incredible glass trackpad, or unibody construction as advantages. Yet for the same amount of money HP didn’t include any of those things. In other words, CNET undersold the MacBook even as they acknowledged getting a PC close to it requires spending similar money!

I’m not blasting the PC makers. It’s a cutthroat industry for them; they need to make dirt cheap machines because they have to advertise dirt cheap prices. But one thing is crystal clear: if you don’t use yesterday’s technology, or drop features, or skimp on the battery, etc., it costs money. There is no MacBook-like PC for $700.

I wouldn’t care as much about this if a buyer knew what he was getting. But given the current tech reporting a lot of buyers think they’re getting a “MacBook” for much less money, and that’s pure, unadulterated crap. I’m disappointed the tech pundits haven’t seen the same trends I have and called it what it is.

Meanwhile, what I’ve learned from this exercise is simple: if your budget won’t allow a ~$1K machine, skip the cheap laptop crap and go straight to a netbook. Yes, they also use weak processors, low-cost components, etc., but at least they’re priced like it. Further, they’re smaller and lighter than a laptop, so they have a tangible advantage cheap laptops don’t.

Posted via email from The Small Wave.

11 thoughts on “You CanNOT Get a MacBook-Equivalent PC Laptop For A Lot Less Money.

  1. Just checking this out on Dec 5th here in the UK. Found this article quite amusing (and quite sad, as I wish it was true). My Macbook was showing its age (its a 2006 model) and I had a look at what I could get for £750 here in the UK, that was my budget.

    So I started off at the Apple store, and for £899 I can get the 13″ Macbook Pro, with a Core 2, 2GB of ram, 160gb 5400rpm hard drive, 9400m graphics. I was very taken by this, that was until I realised for (under) my original budget of £750 I could get a Dell Studio 15 with a Quad Core i7 processor with hyperthreading (so 8 possible threads), 4gb of DDR3 1333 memory, ATi 4570 graphics 512mb GGDR3 with HDMI out, WLED 15.6 inch screen @ 1920×1080, 500GB 7200rpm Seagate Momentus hard drive, backlit keyboard, slot loading DVD drive, firewire, E-Sata, Memory card slot, express card slot and Win7 Pro for £749. In fact they are £679 if you don’t spec the higher res and go with 1366×768.

    So, either way, I have to say this article, is a fail.

  2. Pingback: You CanNOT Get a MacBook-Equivalent PC Laptop For A Lot Less Money. « Chicago Mac/PC Support

  3. I’m not so sure about that comparison though – most red as 75% of the people that WANT laptops WANT them for internet and music.

    A lot of the higher end ~$400+/- netbooks are perfect for that. The best thing is you can install ANY OS on them you care to – one Dell even has a built in HDTV tuner in it – pretty nice.

    I think a lot of the comparison mistake is that people want what they don’t necessarily need. At the moment, as proven by Apple financials, the want crowd far exceeds the need crowd.

    You and I are NOT typical users – we need the speed of Core2Duo and the ports and the fancy smancy multitouch wondergizzes.

    Just a a quick devil’s advocate.

  4. Great post. The thing is that consumers know & of course, Apple knows. The market is split into three groups: corporate-enterprise, People who’s experience has been so devalued by Windows that the personal computing experience is NOT worth more than the ABSOLUTE minimum they can can spend and the third are consumers who are mac users or want something else. That is why Apple has 91% (NPD data) of the $1k plus retail marketshare … think about that … Windows PC in this critical high margin segment of the market have fallen from 98% in NINE YEARS to 9%! Why is that – most of their users want a computer but loath the experience so much they are ONLY willing LESS and LESS each year – now down to $399? While the average selling price of a mac has fallen about $100 in 9 years (PC’s have fallen from $1,400 to $500). Pundits and analysts seem confused as if only they are smart enough to see there are “cheaper” PC’s … duh, who cannot see the Sunday ads? But people who buy macs know that PRICE is not the only factor in choosing a PC … something EVERYONE clearly does in every buying decision but the things you do not care about? That is the WINDOWS PC market buyers – their experience has been so devalued they know hey need a computer and as the PC Hunter ads clearly state – I want a keyboard, 17″ and under $700 – that is their ONLY CRITERIAS. They presume all personal computing experience is just as bad so why spend an extra dime? If this were true of all PC buyers, then Macs would not be grwoing at 8 times the rate nor would the best selling Mac NEVER the cheapest Mac out there … clearly, PC buyers who are willing to understand that there are buying criterias besides just the register price – well 91% choose Macs … but of course, this would require an understanding of the market besides looking at market share.

  5. @Reestman—Thank you for debunking this oft repeated myth. It could have not have been more aptly timed as well. I was able to use this today as ammunition for an argument between a few naive coworkers.

    They repeat it like friendly little drones—then proceed to justify their ignorance by claiming “well, someone who knows computers told me once that Macs are more expensive”. Yeah, I’m sure they did. Did you also hear they just raised the value of the Nickel to $1.00. And what do you know, I’ve got some right here I could sell to you at a very reasonable price!

    Anyway—all that to say: THANK YOU! I’m also really enjoying the minimal blog design you’re using. Take care!

  6. Do Windows users even care that they’re getting less of a product for less money. As long as they’re happy with what they have then everything is just fine. Ignorance is bliss. They’d have to go around trying every computer in Best Buy to make comparisons in features and such. However, if most Windows PC users are represented by Laptop Hunter ads, they’re basically just trying to get the cheapest computer they can buy whether it be a Windows PC or a Mac. It’s like when the potential buyers in the Laptop Hunter ad says, “Forget the Macs, they’re too expensive” It either indicates that it’s more money than they want to spend or they don’t have that money to spend. They don’t exactly test it to see if they like it. It’s just “Too expensive, bye.”

    The Laptop Hunter people don’t even want to spend more on higher-end HPs or Sony Windows PCs. It’s like all their glee is based on “Wow! Look how much money I got back.” They didn’t say, “I got a great computer.” They’re only happy about getting a cheap computer. So maybe they’re not interested in buying quality computers at all and can’t even tell the difference. If Microsoft gave me X number of dollars to buy a computer, I’d spend it all and likely add some of my own money to get the best possible specs.

    Anyway, the many Windows fan curmudgeons all say that Macs are equal to the same spec’ed Windows PC and all the Apple sucker fanbois are paying extra for is the Apple logo. If that’s what they believe then why try to convince them otherwise. They obviously don’t care to find if it’s true or not. It’s their loss.

  7. Then by all means compare the $20K Chevy to a $10K Kia, and compare that to a $5K Motorcycle, and compare that to a $1K Trek, which of course you can compare to a $200 Schwinn.

    Hey, they all do “the same thing” (in this case, get you from point A to point B). You seem to imply there’s no line to be drawn, and that’s just wrong in my opinion. Frankly, I’m sure even you can see a line is needed somewhere.

    But we’re getting off track anyway. To the point of my article, as long as you don’t imply the $20K Chevy is the same thing as the $40K BMW (i.e., that BMW is just way overcharging for the exact same thing that Chevy sells for half the price), the point of my article stands.

  8. It’s similar to the following arguments:

    $40k BMW vs $20k Chevy
    Dinner at a locally owned, quality restaurant vs Dinner at Chevy’s
    Blu-Ray vs downloaded video

    In all examples, the lesser choice does the same thing as the higher quality choice and costs a lot less.

    My friend’s new computer does all the same things that a Macbook does and costs a lot less.

    Note: I am playing the devil’s advocate. I own a couple of Macs but I do think Macs are more expensive but are worth every penny.

  9. sfmitch,

    “You are absolutely correct that if you try and copy the specs of the Apple Macbook, PCs cost the same.”

    Thank you.

    “Why would/should you copy the exact specs of the Macbook?”

    The entire premise of my article is that the tech press is implying you can get something nearly the same, or similar, or just like a MacBook for a lot less money. That’s BS.

    If the press admitted that you can by lesser machines for lesser money, that’d be fine. Instead, they talk about Macs being too expensive, and Apple charging too much, when in fact they charge the same as any PC vendor does if that vendor sells you something that’s actually similar.

    If your friend is happy with the Toshiba, that’s great, but he didn’t get anything like a MacBook, and I assume you didn’t claim he did, or tell him he was going to. In other words, if you were writing some of the articles I’ve read lately I may not have needed to have written mine. 🙂

  10. You are absolutely correct that if you try and copy the specs of the Apple Macbook, PCs cost the same.

    Is that really the issue? Why would/should you copy the exact specs of the Macbook?

    I just helped someone buy a new laptop – a Toshiba 16″ laptop with Intel Core 2 Duo (2.2GHz – 800MHz), 4 GB RAM, 500GB Hard Drive, Wireless BGN, Webcam, speakers, 12 cell battery, etc. It was $600.

    Are the Specs as good as a Macbook? No. Is the build quality as high as a Macbook? No. Is Windows 7 as awesome as OS X? No. Did it come with high quality bundled software? No. Did it come with a free ticket to the best support (phone or in person)? No.

    However, the buyer didn’t have a list of specs they were copying, they just wanted a new laptop to replace their 4/5 year old PC tower. They were very happy buying the laptop for $600 and spending $1000 or $1700 (for one with a screen over 15″) was not an option at all.

    I think it comes down to who controls the narrative.

    From an Apple point of view, why offer anything below a high quality product (mid to high end products only – we don’t play in the shallow end of the pool) that is fairly priced?

    From a PC point of view, PCs are cheaper.

    Can both sides be right?

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