The Apple Mac Cost Misconception

We Build a PC to Match a Baseline Mac Pro

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:

Swipe to scroll horizontally
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
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.

  • 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.
  • rodney_ws
    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.
  • compy386
    If you're stupid enough to pay retail for a Dell, then Apple just might be the computer for you.
  • ouch1
    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).
  • hixbot
    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.
  • customisbetter
    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.
  • angry_ducky
    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.
  • jwl3
    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 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.
  • jwl3
    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?
  • 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!