Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Study Finds Macs Cost 2X Windows PCs

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 156 comments

A new study released by NPD Group today says that the average price for Macs are twice as expensive as those for the "average PC." According to NPD’s study the average price for a Windows laptop has dropped from $877 to just $700 today. Although at this point, NPD Group did not reveal what laptops it was referring to.

NPD Group’s study also mentioned that the cost of the average Apple system remains above $1500 and has only dropped a measly $59 in the last two years of sales. NPD also mentions that the average price for a Mac is roughly $1000 more than the "common Windows desktop," which NPD says sells for $550. No configuration for the $550 desktop was revealed.

There’s definitely a large margin in prices for Windows PCs and Mac desktops. The issue with Apple is that while prices may be more competitive now than they use to be, there’s no major option in the mid-range for those interested. For example, while the iMac is well balanced and great for many, the higher-end Mac Pro is heavy weighted in processing power but very limp in terms of graphics and system memory.

Rumors over the last several months indicate that Apple may be introducing a tower desktop similar to the Mac Pro, with the balanced system components like the iMac, at a more affordable price than the baseline Mac Pro. Possibly called just "Mac" without the "Pro," the new system would offer users better affordability, more avenues for expansion, and no lock-down in the display category. The major drawback with the iMac systems is that customers are stuck with the display.

While Apple is quickly gaining market share, it’s total cut of the industry pie still lags far behind Windows desktops. Apple’s net gains on margins remain very high because of its pricing, and caters to the premium market. We contacted NPD Group for a clue-in on what system configuration it used for the $550 average Windows desktop it used in its study, but no comment was returned to us as of this writing.

We priced together the current Precision T7400 (the direct competitor to the Mac Pro) with similar specs as the base Mac Pro:

2 x Quad Core Intel Xeon Processor E5440 (2.83GHz,2X6M L2,1333)
Genuine Windows Vista Business Bonus-Windows XP Professional loaded
3 Year Limited Hardware Warranty with Next Business Day On-Site Service
256MB PCIe x16 nVidia Quadro FX570, Dual Monitor DVI Capable
2GB, DDR2 SDRAM FBD Memory, 667MHz, ECC (2 DIMMS)
16X DVD+/-RW w/ Cyberlink PowerDVD and Roxio Creator Dell Ed
C1 All SATA drives, Non-RAID, 1 drive total configuration
250GB SATA 3.0Gb/s,7200 RPM Hard Drive with 8MB DataBurst Cache
Dell 19 inch UltraSharp 1908FP Flat Panel, adjustable stand, VGA/DVI

Dell’s selling price for this system is $3948 ($4492 regular with discount). Dell however, includes a 19-inch Dell UltraSharp 1908FP display, which sells for $289 on its online store. We were unable to remove the display from the configuration as Dell indicated that the UltraSharp 1908FP was included in the system build. However, without the display, the purchase price would have been reduced to $3659 — for the targeted workstation space, Apple’s offering comes out cheaper. These two builds are based on current offerings from Apple and Dell. With both systems being offered with such closely related specifications, it’s clear that the systems are not for end-users and more for people doing business.

In the desktop space, we take a look at Dell’s Inspiron 518 desktop, which is comparable to Apple’s iMac offerings. In its best configuration, the Inspiron 518 comes configured as:

Intel® Core 2 Quad processor Q6600 (8MB L2, 2.4GHz, 1333FSB)
Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Service Pack 1
Dell E198WFP 19-inch Wide Flat Panel
3GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz (4 DIMM)
500GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache
16X DVD+/-RW Drive
Integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3100
Integrated 7.1 Channel Audio
Dell Entry Keyboard and Dell Optical USB Mouse

Meanwhile, Apple’s baseline iMac comes with only 1 GB of memory, a 250 GB hard drive but a slightly better ATI Radeon 2400 XT for $1199 — The Inspiron 518? $749. Apple’s iMac however comes with a 20-inch LCD. Adding a E207WFP 20-inch for $234 brings the Inspiron 518’s price up to $983 — still cheaper than the cheapest iMac by more than $200 and customers are not stuck with a screen for the rest of the computer’s life.

NPD Group indicated that the drops in PC desktop and laptop prices will start to flatten out and unlikely drop further in the near future. The study indicated that competition in the Windows systems space is fierce and margin between systems remains extremely low. Apple’s margins however, remain relatively high.

With increased pressure from consumers and the industry overall, it will make sense for Apple to introduce systems in between its current offerings, which at this point leave a big gap between the low end and the high end. From the comments on Tom’s Hardware alone the biggest complaint is that people can source systems not necessarily from IBM, HP or Dell, that cost much less than the awkwardly configured Mac Pro — especially from the stand point of heavy gaming needs. For business needs, Apple’s pricing may make sense, but as many Tom’s Hardware readers pointed out, none of Apple’s offerings make any sense for them. Apple has indicated on several occasions that it would be more serious about gaming. While increased developer support in the form of dual platform releases (simultaneous Windows and OS X releases) indicate this to be true, its hardware configurations do not currently match the company’s promise. While the iMacs and Mac Minis may cater well to more casual or business users, serious gamers have clearly voiced their disgust at Apple’s pricier offerings.

Competitive Windows PC manufacturers continue to bulk up their systems with better specs to differentiate themselves instead of continuing to cut cost, have become very attractive to would-be Mac/PC decision makers. Apple on the other hand, has done little in comparison, to bulk up its specifications. Minor CPU upgrades over the last six months are disappointing to many who are interested in giving OS X Leopard a try, but are steered away from Apple’s up front costs.

My suggestion to Apple: Create several options that allow expansion, with a more balanced system spec instead of being heavy in the CPU department and lacking everywhere else. Offer a few more graphics card options and work with third party manufacturers to offer more compatible add-in cards and Apple may swing more favorable impressions from loyal Windows PC users.

While Apple may be competitive in the workstation market, its sparse desktop offerings and lack of upgrade options for the desktop leave many concerned. Apple’s prices for upgrades are also considerably more expensive than what Windows users are able to get.

Discuss
Display all 156 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 16 Hide
    tuannguyen , August 7, 2008 1:07 AM
    JTWrennSo you were biased the first time around?


    I may have been?
    The point here is this:

    I spent a considerable amount of time last night reading through each and every comment. Although, there were so many that I couldn't reply to any of them directly anymore. Many of them wanted me dead anyway.

    The outcome of that thinking and observing everyone's comments is this: My original article had a different argument, one that was something along the lines of "can you build the exact same spec, feature for feature, as Apple, for cheaper?" With that, the answer is not that much cheaper.

    According to the feedback I observed however, people were essentially saying "OK. But that does not equal Macs not being over priced."

    So I took a closer look at everyone's concerns and went to price out workstation for workstation, desktop for desktop. And the bottom line, desktops, Apple loses. Hence this article.

    / Tuan
  • 15 Hide
    tuannguyen , August 7, 2008 12:32 AM
    Yes, it's by the same author.
  • 14 Hide
    Anonymous , August 7, 2008 1:38 AM
    Nice follow up Tuan, seems to reflect more truth with regards to Mac vs. PC pricing, although, yes I would still like to see a REAL apples to apples comparison... i.e. build a similar PERFORMANCE pc at the lowest price and then see how price gaps stretch then... Respect to you though for the follow up!
Other Comments
  • 10 Hide
    Anonymous , August 7, 2008 12:18 AM
    so much for the mac cost misconception
  • 9 Hide
    anonymous x , August 7, 2008 12:21 AM
    this article is by the same author?
  • 7 Hide
    decoppel , August 7, 2008 12:24 AM
    Yeah I find this ironic.
  • 11 Hide
    cruiseoveride , August 7, 2008 12:28 AM
    shaping up T.dawg
  • 15 Hide
    tuannguyen , August 7, 2008 12:32 AM
    Yes, it's by the same author.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , August 7, 2008 12:37 AM
    Instead of the Dell Inspiron 518 why didn't you compare it against the Inspiron 530? For $849 you get the following specs:

    Intel Core 2 Quad Processor Q6600 (8MB L2 cache,2.4GHz,1066FSB)
    Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Service Pack 1
    20 inch SP2008WFP Wide Flat Panel with Webcam and Mic
    3GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz - 4 DIMMs
    500GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache?
    16X DVD+/-RW Drive
    ATI Radeon HD 2400 PRO 128MB
    Integrated 7.1 Channel Audio
    Dell USB Keyboard and Dell Optical USB Mouse

    I find your choice of Dells to compare against Macs biased.
  • 11 Hide
    decoppel , August 7, 2008 12:38 AM
    tuannguyenYes, it's by the same author.


    Seriously, way to man up here.

    I didn't think you would but this is good to see this.
  • -8 Hide
    weepee , August 7, 2008 12:42 AM
    hi decoppel
  • -8 Hide
    decoppel , August 7, 2008 12:47 AM
    weepeehi decoppel


    Hi WeePee
  • 7 Hide
    tuannguyen , August 7, 2008 12:49 AM
    werasdfasdInstead of the Dell Inspiron 518 why didn't you compare it against the Inspiron 530? For $849 you get the following specs:Intel Core 2 Quad Processor Q6600 (8MB L2 cache,2.4GHz,1066FSB)Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Service Pack 120 inch SP2008WFP Wide Flat Panel with Webcam and Mic3GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz - 4 DIMMs500GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache?16X DVD+/-RW DriveATI Radeon HD 2400 PRO 128MBIntegrated 7.1 Channel AudioDell USB Keyboard and Dell Optical USB MouseI find your choice of Dells to compare against Macs biased.


    No, because the 513 has just the same specs and an even bigger gap between it and the iMac. This indicates a even better value for the end user if they went for the 513. The 513 is about $500 cheaper than the iMac for essentially the same internal hardware and is even cheaper than the 530 you mentioned. I don't think I'm being biased this time around. :) 

    / Tuan
  • 12 Hide
    bardia , August 7, 2008 12:50 AM
    This article is a bit more balanced, but I still have issues with it. The author still characterizes people who find Apple expensive as either 1) Hardcore Gamers, or 2) "Loyal Windows Users.

    Many of us don't fit in either category. I use OSX, Vista, and Ubuntu on a regular basis, and enjoy different aspects of all of them. And although I'm a gamer, neither do I need any video card above the $100-$200 range. I've only payed more than $150 for a video card ONCE.

    Yet I still complained as loud as the rest of them about the last article. It was gross caricature of average retail PC field, not to mention custom building, which pulls out even further ahead.

    A Mac simply can't come close to a PC in advanced computer tasks for the price. Compare a Mac with my Antec Case/PS, E8400, HD4850, 4gb RAM, and RAID (Mirror) desktop in performance and options. NOTHING exists like it. To get raid for example, you'd have to hit $2800 as a base unit, and mine would still be an overall better system.

    Macs have their place as idiot computers and highly specialized programming computers, NOT as mainstream enthusiasts computers.

    Tuan may like Apple's offerings a lot. Great, I loved my ibook, and love my father's macbook... but seriously, I expect an editor of THG to have a little more common sense when it comes to the intelligence of his readers.
  • 6 Hide
    tuannguyen , August 7, 2008 12:50 AM
    tuannguyenNo, because the 513 has just the same specs and an even bigger gap between it and the iMac. This indicates a even better value for the end user if they went for the 513. The 513 is about $500 cheaper than the iMac for essentially the same internal hardware and is even cheaper than the 530 you mentioned. I don't think I'm being biased this time around. / Tuan


    Er sorry, the 513 has BETTER specs than the baseline iMac for a far lower price.

    / Tuan
  • 7 Hide
    tuannguyen , August 7, 2008 12:54 AM
    bardiaThis article is a bit more balanced, but I still have issues with it. The author still characterizes people who find Apple expensive as either 1) Hardcore Gamers, or 2) "Loyal Windows Users.Many of us don't fit in either category. I use OSX, Vista, and Ubuntu on a regular basis, and enjoy different aspects of all of them. And although I'm a gamer, neither do I need any video card above the $100-$200 range. I've only payed more than $150 for a video card ONCE.Yet I still complained as loud as the rest of them about the last article. It was gross caricature of average retail PC field, not to mention custom building, which pulls out even further ahead. A Mac simply can't come close to a PC in advanced computer tasks for the price. Compare a Mac with my Antec Case/PS, E8400, HD4850, 4gb RAM, and RAID (Mirror) desktop in performance and options. NOTHING exists like it. To get raid for example, you'd have to hit $2800 as a base unit, and mine would still be an overall better system.Macs have their place as idiot computers and highly specialized programming computers, NOT as mainstream enthusiasts computers. Tuan may like Apple's offerings a lot. Great, I loved my ibook, and love my father's macbook... but seriously, I expect an editor of THG to have a little more common sense when it comes to the intelligence of his readers.


    Nah it wasn't like that at all, or at least not suppose to mean that.

    What I was trying to say is that, Apple's is trying to go after Windows users, and EVEN hard core Windows-based PC gamers. If they want to do that, they seriously have to offer:

    1. more options
    2. cheaper prices
    3. more variety of upgrades
    4. more partnerships with 3rd party vendors like graphics card makerse
    5. lower systems that aren't permanently tethered to a display
    5. lower systems that aren't cramped into a box with no avenue for upgrade

    The problem with Apple is that all their affordable gear is locked down. That's a problem.

    / Tuan
  • 10 Hide
    Slobogob , August 7, 2008 12:56 AM
    Ah, the winds of change...


    Repent! Repent! Repent!
  • 7 Hide
    zunaro , August 7, 2008 12:57 AM
    "My suggestion to Apple: Create several options that allow expansion, with a more balanced system spec instead of being heavy in the CPU department and lacking everywhere else. Offer a few more graphics card options and work with third party manufacturers to offer more compatible add-in cards and Apple may swing more favorable impressions from loyal Windows PC users."

    I agree 100%, I have considered giving OS X a spin, but the price and limited options make me consider the validity of the choice. I wouldn't mind trying it, but at the same time don't want to be bit in the backside and end up with something that doesn't suit my needs properly.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , August 7, 2008 12:57 AM
    Lenovo will sell you the same setup (except - larger HD and nVidia video rather than ATI) for $3057, or $700 cheaper than the Dell. Still $250 more than the Apple...

    ...except that Lenovo includes 3 years of next day on-site warranty. Apple Care is another $250 dollars, bringing the price difference to a whopping 10 dollars. Lenovo's warranty docs include time guarantees... Apple says they'll send someone, *if* you're close to an Apple store, with no word on when they'll show up.

    The Mac Pro isn't obscenely overpriced like the laptops are, but it's only cheaper if you don't bother comparison shopping.
  • 0 Hide
    JTWrenn , August 7, 2008 1:02 AM
    tuannguyenNo, because the 513 has just the same specs and an even bigger gap between it and the iMac. This indicates a even better value for the end user if they went for the 513. The 513 is about $500 cheaper than the iMac for essentially the same internal hardware and is even cheaper than the 530 you mentioned. I don't think I'm being biased this time around. / Tuan



    So you were biased the first time around?
  • -3 Hide
    spaztic7 , August 7, 2008 1:04 AM
    Can we say, told you so?

    Other, please view these:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/forum2.php?config=tomshardwareus.inc&cat=56&post=1985&page=1&p=1&sondage=0&owntopic=1&trash=0&trash_post=0&print=0&numreponse=0"e_only=0&new=0&nojs=0

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/apple-mac-leopard-windows-vista,1985.html



    I vote no confidence in THG.



    *UPDATE*
    I chose on my own will to strike what I said because it was wrong for me to do what I did and make a remark as such against THG. It is not THG that the comment should have been against, but the people who are defending their distorted point of view about Mac's not being more expensive.
  • 16 Hide
    tuannguyen , August 7, 2008 1:07 AM
    JTWrennSo you were biased the first time around?


    I may have been?
    The point here is this:

    I spent a considerable amount of time last night reading through each and every comment. Although, there were so many that I couldn't reply to any of them directly anymore. Many of them wanted me dead anyway.

    The outcome of that thinking and observing everyone's comments is this: My original article had a different argument, one that was something along the lines of "can you build the exact same spec, feature for feature, as Apple, for cheaper?" With that, the answer is not that much cheaper.

    According to the feedback I observed however, people were essentially saying "OK. But that does not equal Macs not being over priced."

    So I took a closer look at everyone's concerns and went to price out workstation for workstation, desktop for desktop. And the bottom line, desktops, Apple loses. Hence this article.

    / Tuan
Display more comments