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We Build a PC to Match a Baseline Mac Pro

The Apple Mac Cost Misconception
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Laptops aside, things could be different for desktop machines. We set to find out by customizing an exact system in as many aspects as possible to a baseline Apple Mac Pro, which costs a hefty $2799. We tried to cut costs in our PC wherever we could without sacrificing quality, and also tried to pick components that would closely match Apple’s offering.

Here’s what we came up with on Newegg:

The Mac Clone
Custom built PC to orderMatched to baseline Mac Pro
Supermicro MBD-X7DWE-O Dual LGA 771$429.99
Intel Xeon X3360 Yorkfield 2.83GHz x 2$1109.98
Kingston HyperX 2 GB ECC FB-DIMM $134.99
Seagate Barracuda 320 GB SATA 3.0$79.99
Sapphire Radeon HD 2600XT 256 MB$34.99
Creative Sound Blaster Audigy SE 7.1$27.99
Cirago BTA Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR USB$9.99
SYBA 1394a FireWire400 Controller$12.99
SYBA 1394b FireWire800 Controller$29.95 on outletpc.com
Lite-On DL-DVD Burner$23.99
Lian-Li PC-A71A Aluminum Full Tower$229.99
Thermaltake Toughpower W0155RU$319.99
Keytronic E06101USBC Keyboard$38.99
Microsoft Wheel Mouse Optical OEM$11.99
Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate$277.49
Total price$2773.33
Price difference$5.67

The above is essentially a baseline Mac Pro replicated using the cheapest minimum required components to build. The difference? A negligible $5.67. Those who claim that they can build "the same" PC for half the price are at this point baseless.

Also note that the Mac Pro will ship with iLife ’08. Personally, I don’t use it. So I don’t need it. However, I know many people that do use it to create websites and manage their pictures. Windows Vista kinda comes with tools to manage photos, and such, but there’s no integration with online services.

There are obviously (or not) several reasons why Mac hardware is more expensive than the PC equivalent. First off, they’re all meticulously designed. Apple’s entire line-up all have the same look and feel, and everything feels coherent. There’s a theme to everything. Of course, this isn’t for everyone. Not everyone likes the Apple look and feel, and not everyone really cares about it either. The point is, there are people out there who just get very upset when talking about the other platform. Relax! No one’s forcing anyone to buy something they don’t want to buy anyway. This goes for both PC and Mac users alike.

The problem with the Mac Pro in particular is that it’s base hardware configuration is imbalanced. Massive processing power, but limp graphics and hard drive offerings. Apple needs to launch a Mac tower, with components in line with the iMac, which would prove to be more sensible and popular as well as more affordable. Interested buyers would then have an option of an expandable machine that’s not priced at Mac Pro levels.

Apple’s much smaller than say a Dell or a HP, and some of the pricing is reflected in this fact as well — although not much. Apple’s high prices are a matter of being "premium." Apple really isn’t out there to only sell a bunch of computers. It is out there to market a certain computing life-style. Where all your media devices and things you may do with a computer are tied together in an easy to use and manage methodology. The company definitely wants to distinguish itself from say Dell or HP or your brick and mortar PC builder.

This is the same for Voodoo PC. Why go through the order with an expensive Voodoo or Alienware computer when you can build one for way less? Because of the cool-factor. Don’t get me started on how many people actually own these systems. The answer is a lot. Otherwise, those two firms and others like them wouldn’t be so popular.

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Top Comments
  • 75 Hide
    rodney_ws , August 4, 2008 3:42 PM
    Cherry picking over-priced PCs does little to prove your point. I realize that when you're going the Apple route you don't have many options, but those of us on the PC side have TONS of options... and even the most basic among us would be able to purchase higher performing, lower cost PCs than the ones you selected to go up against the Apples.

    For $1549 I purchase an HP laptop w/ 4 GB of RAM, 20.1 inch screen, Blu-Ray, 5 speakers, and an Nvidia 8800 GTS. My system absolutely crushes that $2000 MacBook Pro in every category... and still cost $450 less.

    Don't get me wrong... I "get" Apple. They look awesome, are well built, have an awesome retail presence, and they are right for some people... just not for me.
  • 46 Hide
    compy386 , August 4, 2008 3:49 PM
    If you're stupid enough to pay retail for a Dell, then Apple just might be the computer for you.
  • 43 Hide
    hixbot , August 4, 2008 3:49 PM
    Wow, you took a PC desktop with identical hardware and proved that it would cost the same as the baseline Mac Pro.
    What's the point? You can build a PC with hardware that isn't identical but PERFORMS better for CHEAPER. Picking the same overpriced PC components doesnt prove anything.
Other Comments
  • 35 Hide
    Anonymous , August 4, 2008 3:41 PM
    The OS is proprietary since the EULA states you cannot use it on non-Apple hardware. Not because it doesn't have market share. Because it does.

    My gripe with apple's pricing is that there are no real budget oriented options. The cheapest macbook is 1000$+. The cheapest laptop I can find with Vista is 600 or less at Costco/Sams Club.

    Everyone says that OS X is faster and yada yada yada. I know people are going to shoot me for this, but I find all of the fancy desktop effects to be VERY laggy except on laptops with a dedicated video card. The Laptops especially slow to a crawl unless they have >2gb of ram. Like Vista. I work on these every day and if I ever bought one, it'd be for the looks- the OS is nothing special IMO. I'd install Vista on it.
  • 75 Hide
    rodney_ws , August 4, 2008 3:42 PM
    Cherry picking over-priced PCs does little to prove your point. I realize that when you're going the Apple route you don't have many options, but those of us on the PC side have TONS of options... and even the most basic among us would be able to purchase higher performing, lower cost PCs than the ones you selected to go up against the Apples.

    For $1549 I purchase an HP laptop w/ 4 GB of RAM, 20.1 inch screen, Blu-Ray, 5 speakers, and an Nvidia 8800 GTS. My system absolutely crushes that $2000 MacBook Pro in every category... and still cost $450 less.

    Don't get me wrong... I "get" Apple. They look awesome, are well built, have an awesome retail presence, and they are right for some people... just not for me.
  • 46 Hide
    compy386 , August 4, 2008 3:49 PM
    If you're stupid enough to pay retail for a Dell, then Apple just might be the computer for you.
  • 36 Hide
    ouch1 , August 4, 2008 3:49 PM
    Funny how you are comparing base model MAC's to bleeding edge PC's. That my dear journalist is not comparing apples to apples. It is comparing apples to apple pie. Big difference. That just goes to prove for that same cost as a very high end PC you can get a base model MAC with a very proprietary OS (i.e. can't install it on anything but a mac with invoking the Jobs cops, check the EULA). Please if you make the mistake of buy an Airbook have fun changing the battery (you can't) or watching a DVD while on the road (again you can't no built in DVD drive).
  • 43 Hide
    hixbot , August 4, 2008 3:49 PM
    Wow, you took a PC desktop with identical hardware and proved that it would cost the same as the baseline Mac Pro.
    What's the point? You can build a PC with hardware that isn't identical but PERFORMS better for CHEAPER. Picking the same overpriced PC components doesnt prove anything.
  • 30 Hide
    customisbetter , August 4, 2008 3:51 PM
    i read the first page and stopped. Apples are designed to look good and be reliable. I get that and many other people do as well. They really aren't designed to be performers for cheap. The PC will ALWAYS win in the price category (and usually performance as well) because you pay for the reliability and style of Apple. Please stop comparing the two.
    Just to humour you though. The ENVY has a Carbon Fiber Chassis. BAM! There's 300 right there.
    BTW i am both a PC and Mac Owner.
  • 26 Hide
    angry_ducky , August 4, 2008 3:55 PM
    I don't think that comparing the MacBook Pro and the XPS M1730 is a good comparison; the XPS is a desktop-replacement gaming machine, and is therefore bigger and heavier than the Mac. Also, the 8700M GT will outperform the 8600GT, and I am unable to find where it specifies that the 8700 has shared graphics memory.

    Dell sells the XPS M1530 which is a 15.4 inch laptop designed more for multimedia than for gaming (similar to the Mac). The M1530 starts at $1000, and with identical specs to the MacBook Pro (and Vista Ultimate), the price is $1650.
  • 27 Hide
    jwl3 , August 4, 2008 4:01 PM
    The main point is that with PC's you have hundreds of different vendors I can buy a computer from. Due to competition the price is always lower. The author is being disingenuous by picking for comparison laptops at non-discounted prices. Dell ALWAYS has deals with $400-$500 off. Apple NEVER discounts their products.

    I bought an Acer laptop from Newegg.com 2 weeks ago for $399. It came with a Dual core pentium, 120GB HD, and 1GB ram. What can you get for $399 at the Apple store - a tricked out ipod?

    Oh and another thing - if you play games at all, you can forget the Apple. Games just aren't made for it and the ones that are come out 1 year after the PC release.
  • 31 Hide
    jwl3 , August 4, 2008 4:08 PM
    Additional thought:

    The author's main point is that Macs are similarly priced to PC's. Then halfway through the article, he states that MAC prices are at a premium because it's from a top-shelf manufacturer and it is sold to cater to a "lifestyle. "

    Which one is it you duplicitous fool? Are you actually acknowledging that Macs are severely overpriced vs. PC's?
  • 37 Hide
    Anonymous , August 4, 2008 4:13 PM
    wow they messed up big time with this article. comparing thickness and weight of a 17" laptop vs a 15" macbook pro. sounds fair to me. also lets go ahead and say that the 8600m GT is faster than the 8700m GT. who wrote this, honestly? anyone who knows even a small amount about graphics cards should know that an 8700m GT does not use shared graphics memory. The 200GB drive in the dell is also most likely a 7200rpm vs the 5400rpm in the macbook pro. 802.11n wifi is a $20 upgrade on the dell, had to not include that to make the mac look better. Also that dell is designed for SLI graphics cards upto two 8800m GTX with 1GB of memory, lets see the 6lb macbook pro do that. Different machines designed for different purposes. Pick a better comparison tom, seriously!
  • 29 Hide
    Anonymous , August 4, 2008 4:16 PM
    Wow Tuan? Why compare prices with a Dell XPS? How about you go down to your Local Frys/BestBuy or w/e and look at prices.

    Sony, with the same processor, better graphics, double the ram, bigger hard drive, and a Blue Ray drive, for $200 less.
    http://shop3.frys.com/product/5635641?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN_RSLT_PG

    How much does it cost to get 4GB of ram on an Apple, oh yes another $200, so thats a $400 gap, and you still have a smaller screen, no blue ray drive, a smaller harddrive, and half the video memory.

    Your Component list, and Laptop comparisons were clearly set up to put the mac at an advantage. Because there are so many many PC vendors, it should not be hard to find one that is screwing its customers like apple and charging too much; but the prices at the store shelf tell the true story.

    Furthermore you choose two out of three products that are low volume special use items. The number of people that want a super thin and light notebook, or need a Dual Quad Core Machine, are very few. What program are you running that you need 8 processing cores? High End specialty systems are always going to draw a high price; that is to be expected; that Apple is competitive in the $3000 range does not matter to the vast vast majority of people who spend not even half that.

    But when you compare Apple against a Mid range system, which the average buyer will be purchasing, the Mac falls short every time.

    How about Mac Monitors?
    20" $600 really?

    http://store.apple.com/us/product/M9177LL/A?fnode=home/shop_mac/mac_accessories/displays&mco=MTI1NzI

    That blazing 16ms response time is insane.

  • 29 Hide
    hixbot , August 4, 2008 4:19 PM
    Seriously, I have NO IDEA why he compares the MACS to PCs with the EXACT SAME OVERPRICED HARDWARE. The point is you can pick a PC with cheaper hardware that can perform better. I completely agree that OSX is awesome and so are Mac's ergonomics. Those things may justify the extra cost for some, but this article attempts to prove that Macs are the same price. That's ridiculous. You can get a better performing PC for a fraction of the cost, and its not a misconception. The hardware in the PC will be cheaper, faster alternatives... obviously if you build a PC with the exact same overpriced hardware, it will be exactly the same price. Good grief. Tomshardware used to be my favorite site, because it had objective, technical articles. This is garbage.
  • 25 Hide
    PMR100 , August 4, 2008 4:19 PM
    MacBooks are way overpriced. Just look at the laptop below. The person who wrote this article should be more objective. He just tried to make macbook look better and compared this macbook to a totally different laptop that is priced equally with the macbook. This will not work.


    MacBook Pro, 15-inch, 2.4GHz $1,999.00
    Part Number: MB133LL/A
    2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM - 2x1GB
    200GB Serial ATA @ 5400 rpm
    SuperDrive 8X DVD+R DL/DVD+RW/CD-RW)
    MacBook Pro 15-inch Widescreen Display
    Backlit Keyboard


    HP Pavilion Entertainment dv5t $1,124.99

    * – Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium with Service Pack 1 (32-bit)
    * – Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo Processor P8600 (2.4 GHz)
    * – 15.4" diagonal WXGA High-Definition HP BrightView Widescreen Display (1280 x 800)
    * – FREE Upgrade to 2GB DDR2 System Memory (2 Dimm) from 1GB DDR2 System Memory (2 Dimm)
    * – 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT
    * – FREE Upgrade to 250GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive with HP ProtectSmart Hard Drive Protection
    * – HP Imprint Finish (Mesh) + Microphone + Webcam
    * – HP Color Matching Keyboard
    * – Intel(R) WiFi Link 5100AGN and Bluetooth(TM)
    * – SuperMulti 8X DVD+/-R/RW with Double Layer Support
    * – 6 Cell Lithium Ion Battery
  • 19 Hide
    Preytor , August 4, 2008 4:20 PM
    You may think I just down right bashed your last article.
    However I do have solid reasoning. I also have legitimate hand’s on experience of [with] Macs.

    I see no point to your obvious Mac-fanboyism, though I'm sure you'd argue there is a point and that you are not a Mac fanboy.

    You attempt to argue Mac's are similarly priced to PC's. You then say Mac charges a premium.

    BTW a Mac is a PC! PC = Personal Computer.
    Mac is a brand name, so is Dell, HP, Alienware, Voodoo... These are all personal computers.
  • 32 Hide
    emp , August 4, 2008 4:26 PM
    I respect the fact that you 'tried' (Keyword here is tried) to show the good qualities of Mac computers, however this is mainly an enthusiast site, so you will be VERY hard pressed to fool us into thinking apple offerings are anywhere near as good as others (especially on price/performance ratio). We KNOW what we're buying, we KNOW what each piece of hardware is capable of doing, you can't just throw fancy numbers at us and expect us to fall for it.

    The thing is, with the first article I thought you were just sharing your personal opinion, however, with this article it's clear you're an apple fanboy and will be labeled as such. And yes, I'm being brutally honest here... it's for your own good.
  • 13 Hide
    wh3resmycar , August 4, 2008 4:27 PM
    jeremy clarkson will burn this author alive...what a silly comment about hyundai lol
  • 18 Hide
    Anonymous , August 4, 2008 4:29 PM
    Not even close. You should be a little embarrased having published this article. I own a small computer retail chain and we actually have 2 back to school packages (1 Apple, 1 Windows) for the identical price and have yet to sell 1 of the Apple packages. For the same price the Windows Package runs the same CPU, 4GB memory, a 320GB HDD, better graphics, 16" screen 16:9 Widescreen, a choice of 3 nice Cases, Wireless 300N Router, Microsoft Office Home and Student and a Logitech VXNano Wireless Mouse. You still want that MacBook for the same $? Derrr.
  • 16 Hide
    jeb1517 , August 4, 2008 4:30 PM
    I've never used a MAC (OS X I should say) long enough to know anything about it so I'll take your word for it. It's faster. It's more reliable. It has many cool utilities. But let's face it, thats not why people have MACs. Mostly, scratch that, EVERYONE I know that owns a MAC, has it because, like you said, they want to be cool. But you know what, I want to see what all the hype is about. I need an OS for my new system so since OS X isn't proprietary, can you please point me to where I can pick up a copy to run on my computer. Thanks.
  • 23 Hide
    Anonymous , August 4, 2008 4:31 PM
    This article has no intellectual honesty whatsoever. I priced a matching XPS 1530 (same size screen and resolution), with identical specs to the Mac, excepting only the built-in bluetooth, for $1399. So that's a 42% premium for the Mac. Not only that, PC's aren't "sole source", like Macs, leaving open the option to shop around for a better deal.
  • 10 Hide
    russki , August 4, 2008 4:37 PM
    It would be a shame to regurgitate the above posts, but again, quite lackluster, Tuan. The funny part is that most of the utilities you mentioned when touting OSX are actually present in Vista (most obviously, the accelerated desktop with seamless animations). If you're gonna go comparing, compare latest gen vs. latest gen. Although OSX is *nix (I think BSD) based, *nix it is not. Heck, even Torvalds has been critical of the file system.

    There is yet to be a rational pro-OSX argument aside from the general idea of "usability," which, admittedly, Apple spends a lot of time on and usually gets right. I gotta say though, I was forced to use one of these atrocities at a BestBuy the other day to access internet, and I was quite turned off by several things that appeared to be major annoyances. I am an experienced user, though, and like things to be my way; easily accessible; not screwed up. And I use all 5+ buttons on my mouse and the scroll wheels. The one-button mouse MUST DIE. A painful death.

    Out of the box, for a clueless person, Macs are indeed a good (albeit expensive; read the posts above) option. But c'mon, let's hear something actually convincing.

    How about this. The next version of Photoshop will only natively support x64 in Windows. This does result in better performance with larger files, and the media-junkies are Apple's historical bread and butter (by the way, write about WYSIWYG, color management, etc. for Apple, which is much better, actually). Whoops.

    Anyway. Better luck next time.
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