My brother brought something very interesting to my attention recently. Although Dell offers a 15.4″ Inspiron starting at $499, to make it even roughly comparable in performance to a MacBook, you need to make it cost more than the Apple. No, seriously:
Once you start “customizing” the machine to be anything capable of running a modern OS, a category in which we are forced to include Vista, the total more than doubles. The default shipping OS for the $499 machine is Vista. The laptop, as configured initially, has 512MB of RAM, or a quarter of the recommended amount for Vista. The processor is a single-core running at 2GHz, and the drive capacity is a scanty 60GB, of which between a fifth and a sixth will be consumed by the OS, and somewhat more by preinstalled third-party software.
So, starting from the base price of $499, I added:
Dual core 2GHz CPU: $150
Windows XP Pro: $129 (Yep, you have to pay the price of Leopard to upgrade from XP Home to XP Pro)
1 GB RAM installed: $50
80 GB drive: $25
85 W/Hr battery: $50
802.11n wifi card: $100
McAfee AV software: $99
MS Office: $149
3-year warranty: $240
Dell grand total: $1501
And what of the Mac? Well, aside from costing slightly less, it’s also much less of a hassle to custom build.
At the Apple Store site, I configured a low-end MacBook for purchase.
Stock configuration: 2GHz Core2Duo, 1GB RAM, 80GB disk, 802.11n,
Leopard installed. To this I added:
3-year AppleCare: $249
MS Office: $150 (Or only $79, if you go the iWork route)
Apple grand total: $1498
Checkmate, Dell. I would really like to commend Apple for how easy it is to use their online store compared to Dell’s. The Apple experience is a single page, loaded only with relevant tools to install. Meanwhile, the Dell site is loaded with multiple versions of the same piece of software, or bizarre configuration options most people could not possibly give a crap about. I mean, really. Can you explain off the top of your head why an 85 Wh battery is better than a 60? Or what a 9-cell versus 6-cell battey is? More importantly, do you think anyone you know would? I mean, come on. Just give people what they need. This is absurd and ugly. Shopping at Dell’s site is like buying a used car from a guy named Moe off of Craig’s List (trust me, I have). There continue to be hidden costs you couldn’t have imagined, and it just keeps getting worse.
At this point, is there any reason to stick with Dell? There’s Parallels if you really need it, and MS Office, Quicken, QuickBooks, and most of the other staples have already migrated. Heck, Apple Mail even has built in Exchange support — which Windows doesn’t, unless you buy Office Pro with Outlook. How do you like them Apples, Redmond?