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Portables (Apple) The Almighty Buck

Doing the Math On the New MacBook 783

Posted by kdawson
from the compared-to-what dept.
Technologizer writes "Apple's new MacBook is a significantly different machine than its predecessor — a slicker laptop at a higher price point. But does it carry a large price premium over similar Windows PCs? I did a painstaking spec-by-spec comparison versus three roughly comparably-configured Windows machines, and came to the conclusion that the value it offers for price paid is not out of whack with the Windows world." The article uses the phrase "Mac tax," which one commenter points out is a recent Microsoft marketing canard.
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Doing the Math On the New MacBook

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  • by Breakfast Pants (323698) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:14AM (#25450319) Journal

    I don't know who paid it, but someone did:

    The challenge of the thumbscoop was to create a crisply machined scoop that was still comfortable to use. The designers at Apple worked on hundreds of versions of the thumbscoop -- even examining them under an electron microscope -- to get it right.

    If anyone can read that last part without laughing...

    • by TitusC3v5 (608284) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:23AM (#25450353) Homepage
      Nonsense. Everybody who's anybody knows the real tax you pay with a Mac is the pain of being hipper than all of your friends.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:29AM (#25450385)

        It's all relative. For the average slashdotter to be hipper than all his friends he can do any of the following:

        1. Walk up to a girl and say "hi".
        2. Move out of his parents basement.
        3. Shower.
        4. Stop reading /.
        5. Stop quoting The Simpsons/Star Wars/Monty Python/etc.
        6. Beat the Cheetos and Mountain Dew addiction.
        7. You know what - screw this list. I'm way too hip for this.

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @07:55AM (#25451669) Homepage

        I know you jest, but Every man that I see that touches one of the newest Macbook's has a wet stain on his pants and says in a low tone..."I must have this"

        Honestly, If Dell made a laptop that was near the macbook pro caliber in build they would sell just as well and cost as much.

        I tolerate dell lattitude laptops simply because the parts are dirt cheap. I have had "high end" sony Viao laptops and they are utter crap in build quality and design. Alienware laptops feel cheap and I dont want to carry a cartoon character around, they look incredibly dorky in the boardroom, I might as well have a giant "the TICK" sticker on my laptop and wear a TICK t-shirt.

        Well the hipper part is kind of fun... When you walk in with a laptop that makes the suits stare, and then you use keynote to show them a presentation that makes their best power point look like a childs crayon drawing... well yeah, it's nice to look hipper than the CEO that makes 40X your salary. You end up closing the deal far faster that way.

        it's why all our salespeople have them. That and the sales idiots cant infect a OSX laptop in 20 seconds with all their inane clicking and downloading. They still bitch they cant have windows laptops.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @08:11AM (#25451801) Homepage Journal

          Every man that I see that touches one of the newest Macbook's has a wet stain on his pants and says in a low tone..."I must have this"

          You have to get out more. The notion that "every man" is a shallow, childish consumer-bot who has sexual feelings for a chunk of metal and plastic (don't forget the glass!) is really sad.

          The last time I had "a wet stain on my pants and said in a low tone..."I must have this"" is the first time my wife kissed me.

          Lumpy, I can understand the appreciation of good design, but for me the most important part of great design is the ability to offer the product at a reasonable price.

          Considering that a lot of people are having some serious financial problems at the moment, not only here in the 'States but worldwide, I'd think that it might be time for a little re-evaluation of the importance of the objects we desire.

          When you walk in with a laptop that makes the suits stare...

          Lumpy, you have to try to find other ways to feel good about yourself in front of the "suits". You will find in life that the pleasure achieved from making others "stare" is fleeting and ultimately hollow. Your self-worth should not derive from something you can buy because at some point (probably soon) you will have maxed out your Visa and it's going to be harder to get those bumps in credit that the banks have been so happy to dole out to us over the years to make up for the fact that our real income has been stagnant. You simply have to find something inside yourself that creates a sense of pride and self-worth. I'm sure if you really really look (really) you'll see that there are good enough, smart enough and darnit, people like you. Probably.

          Now come here and let me give you a hug, Lumpy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by PietjeJantje (917584)

          When you walk in with a laptop that makes the suits stare [...] power point [...] it's why all our salespeople have them.

          Were you arguing against or in favor of the machine you described here as MacDouchebag?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @10:30AM (#25453269)
          From my experiences, Dell Latitudes have excellent quality parts in them, minus the hard drives... That would be why they are a premium price over an equivalently spec'ed XPS, or Inspiron, if you could even spec them the same.
          Plus, Dell's Tech Support has been phenomenal for us where I work, every Latitude we've had an issue with, which hasn't been many out of the 200+ we have deployed; have been resolved within 20 minutes, and the parts are here to repair the machine by the next day.
          Don't knock the Latitudes, they are an amazing machine, thats why I recommend them to anyone who wants a laptop they can rely on.
          As for infecting machines.... Have you considered a lock-down policy, with not giving every user admin rights?
    • by caitsith01 (606117) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:55AM (#25450507) Journal

      From Apple's Macbook mini-site:

      All engineered to standards that don't even exist yet.

      So there you have it. If Apple is funding the development of technology to send their designers into the future, where they must then spend years infiltrating futuristic IEEE meetings before returning to the present to design laptops, then of course their machines will be a little more expensive.

      But just think of the money you'll save when you can browse the Omninet using remote mind-control in 3245AD while those Dell suckers are stuck with forking out for Dell's by-then outdated brain-implant technology.

      • by GrahamCox (741991) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @06:58AM (#25451361) Homepage
        From Apple's Macbook mini-site:

        All engineered to standards that don't even exist yet.

        Even as a Mac user/developer this makes me cringe. Ewww...

        • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:55AM (#25452831)

          From Apple's Macbook mini-site:

          All engineered to standards that don't even exist yet.

          Even as a Mac user/developer this makes me cringe. Ewww...

          There's at least two things they are referring to.

          1) Snow Leopard will support OpenCL. You might say well so what, eventually my Dell will to, after all that's what Open means. True, but look at the architecture in the macs. They elimiated the Northbridge and the Bus chips. The CPU now connects directly to the GPU.

          If you have ever tried to program an NVIDIA GPU for computational work you know that the slow step is shuttling the data back to the CPU. So having OpenCL with an insanley fast bus means that standard is going to actually be useful.

          2) the Open HD video connector.
          on the new macs, running H264 high def has dropped processor utilization from 100% to 20%, presumbaly because of the NVIDIA chip. So now streaming HD is going to be a reality and will actually exist for the mac world. And TVs that support the Open HD are becoming available.

        • by lymond01 (314120) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @11:23AM (#25454191)

          All engineered to standards that don't even exist yet.

          Is that even possible? That's like giving directions and using landmarks that haven't been built yet. "Do a gravity-assisted left turn as you approach over Moon Base Alpha...Stay on course until you see the Asteroid Collection Colony...go through the Ceres tunnel...and then it's basically a straight shot to Jupiter Red Spot Resort and Spa."

      • by nimbius (983462) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @08:51AM (#25452117) Homepage
        are arbitrary and often proprietary notions regarding the engineering of a product. more often they are just poor excuses for design, built to lock consumers into your product at the expense of everyones time, energy, and sanity.

        they can also be marketing gimmicks that infiltrated engineering via a useless first-line manager with no more product engineering insight than "it needs to be wireless."

        this kind of "engineering" isnt new. microsoft has been engineering things to standards that dont exist for around a decade. the only difference is windows ME didnt come with some shitcock in a turtleneck banging the invincible OS drum and treating me like i was a six year old with nothing better to do with my time than swoon over magnetic power cords..
      • Re:I also like this (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mdwh2 (535323) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:36AM (#25452553) Journal

        IOW, they're engineered to a non-existent standards. Once again, something that would be a serious bad point for any other product is twisted around to be a good point for Apple...

    • by SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @07:12AM (#25451437)

      I laugh more when I walk into a computer store and look at all the plastic PC laptops. Nothing wrong with being cheap and functional, of course, but some of those laptops try too hard with silly designs because they have no eye for detail.

  • by Dogun (7502) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:17AM (#25450331) Homepage

    There's one major difference this analysis doesn't cover. If you're patient, you can get a dell for up to 40% off, and although it's not quite as drastic with Lenovo, the same is true. This macbook will ALWAYS be expensive.

    • by caitsith01 (606117) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:48AM (#25450479) Journal

      You will also get some brands of Windows laptop much cheaper by shopping around. In fact, Dell is one of the only companies who don't fall into this category.

      Not to mention that the review picks Lenovo and Sony, two of the most expensive brands. Where is Asus, for instance?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Almahtar (991773)
        Price isn't all of it. You can get an HP notebook with great specs really cheap, and I did. The DV6130us was a steal for its specs back in its time, but it didn't perform like a machine with those numbers should (they forgot to tell you the front side bus was totally gimped) and it degraded quickly in ways that weren't covered by warranty.

        Now fingers crossed here, but I haven't had a problem with the mac mini I bought to be my web/svn server/jukebox/snes/arcade machine wannabe nor my macbook pro, and I
    • by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @04:39AM (#25450731)

      Moreover, the Dell that was pointed out as being equivalent to the Apple laptop in the comparison is already 400$ cheaper.

      And yet the fanboys want to pass the Apple laptops as not being overpriced. Go figure.

      • by beelsebob (529313) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @05:19AM (#25450895)

        The thing is, that Dell laptop really isn't the equivalent of a MacBook. Dell's real equivalent of a really nicely equipped, beautiful machine is the XPS m1330, which is the same price as the MacBook.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bigstrat2003 (1058574) *
          That Dell isn't the equivalent of the MacBook only in bizarro world. The specs are damn near the same. And it's $400 cheaper.
          • by je ne sais quoi (987177) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @10:22AM (#25453175)
            I know this is slashdot and RTFA is a problem but here ya go:

            If my math is right, I said that the machines are at PARITY in six of the categories we've reviewed. The MacBook has an ADVANTAGE in thirteen categories, the Dell in nine, the Lenovo and Sony in eight apiece, and the white MacBook in seven.

            He didn't even count the magsafe connection for the power adaptor, so my count would put it at 14. So, instead of just called them the same specs, how about you actually point out why this guy spec comparison is wrong? But no, unsubstantiated assertions are insightful as long as you're bashing Apple, Microsoft or Google here at slashdot.

            And you know something? I've used/administered several Dells -- they're $400 cheaper for a reason, it's called QA/QC and Dells lack it in my experience. Average lifetime of a Dell 3-5 years maybe with better luck on the monitors. Average lifetime of my Apple machines: 5-6 years. This is counting all warrantied replacement parts as included in the lifetime.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by bigstrat2003 (1058574) *
              I did RTFA. Without RTFA'ing, I would have had no way of knowing that the assertion that the Dell isn't equivalent is bullshit. The Mac has a slightly better processor, the Dell has 50% more RAM (slight benefit to each side). The Dell has more hard drive space. In all the specs that ACTUALLY MATTER (no, looks and power connector and other such bullshit don't matter... just stuff that makes the compy run better), the Dell is equivalent.
    • by Joce640k (829181) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @04:46AM (#25450745) Homepage

      Is it more expensive than a high-end Windows machine? Not really.

      Who buys those high-end Windows machines? Nobody with any sense.

      Does Apple offer $500 laptops? Nope.

      Ergo, Apple is expensive.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Is it more expensive than a high-end Windows machine? Not really.

        Who buys those high-end Windows machines? Nobody with any sense.

        Does Apple offer $500 laptops? Nope.

        Ergo, Apple is expensive.

        Yes, but they are also not cheap.

      • by beelsebob (529313) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @05:20AM (#25450899)

        Yes, apple is expensive. But the question was -- are apple taxing you for buying their brand. Answer no -- you get the high end kit, and you pay market rate for it, if you don't want high end kit, don't buy a Mac.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by GrahamCox (741991)
        Who buys those high-end Windows machines? Nobody with any sense.

        Yet they are manufactured. Thus someone thought they did make sense business-wise. Perhaps, not everyone just buys the cheapest, and actually buy things that offer better quality, fit or finish?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LWATCDR (28044)

        "Who buys those high-end Windows machines? Nobody with any sense."
        People that make their living with their computer should.
        The junk that they sell as a consumer notebook these days is terrible.
        Audio recordings are full of static. Hard drives seem so slow that it just isn't funny and a build quality that is just a bad joke.
        The specs are close on a lot of consumer notebooks but they cut corners on the parts that are not on the spec like hard drive speed, power supply quality, and build quality in general.
        Yes

    • by Almahtar (991773) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @04:55AM (#25450795) Journal
      I got my macbook pro for 33% off from the refurb site. I saw a macbook air there for 42% off the other day.
  • Design items... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:18AM (#25450333) Homepage

    Macs are design items. Some people don't mind paying a higher price for something which appeals to them.

    Price is what you pay, value is what you get. If you subjectively feel that the value of the product matches the price paid then an objective comparison is not significant.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mxolisi06 (1009567)
      Exactly ! That's why there isn't much point in trying to squeeze Macs in an objective comparison : you buy a Mac to get pleasure from purchasing a nice item, whereas you buy the winner of an objective comparison to get pleasure from being a smart customer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Stan Vassilev (939229)

      Macs are design items. Some people don't mind paying a higher price for something which appeals to them.

      Price is what you pay, value is what you get. If you subjectively feel that the value of the product matches the price paid then an objective comparison is not significant.

      For those of us (many of us) who need Mac/OSX for their work, opinions that the premius is worth it because of the fancy design is frankly insulting.

      In a situation where Apple is the only official and legal seller of OSX compatible computers, claiming that all buyers buy it since they love the design (as if they have a choice) sounds as if all people who bought a Windows PC in the last year or so, do it because they love Vista.

      • Re:Design items... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:59AM (#25450531) Homepage

        Many of you? With all due respect there are not a huge number of things that really honestly require a Mac these days. I've done desktop publishing, graphics work, sound recording and design, video editing all on Windows. It works quite well with the right software these days. Granted, if you _have_ to have some particular OS X only software a Mac is the only option. But that's a clear minority these days.

        So no, not that many.

        But I never said that everyone buys Macs for the nice design. I said that an objective price comparison is irrelevant to someone who did. Don't jump to generalizations just because I managed to irritate you when you didn't bother to read my post thoroughly.

  • the big diff (Score:4, Insightful)

    by raffe (28595) * on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:19AM (#25450343) Journal

    is the OS. You dont get mac os x on another machine!

    • by sqrt(2) (786011) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:25AM (#25450365) Journal

      And thank goodness for that!

      (Mod me down, it was worth it)

    • Re:the big diff (Score:5, Insightful)

      by iced_773 (857608) <`ten.yevadnai' `ta' `nai'> on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:48AM (#25450481)

      Which is exactly why I'm a PC guy

      Seriously, I'm just going to install and use Linux anyway - I want the best hardware for the lowest price.

    • Re:the big diff (Score:5, Interesting)

      by caitsith01 (606117) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:50AM (#25450489) Journal

      Interesting. Does Apple offer a refund for OS X to make itself competitive in this regard?

    • Re:the big diff (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @04:34AM (#25450699)

      There's more than that. What I don't get on other notebooks is:

      1. True multi-touch trackpad (not just scrolling). You can go on ebay and try for a fingerworks trackpad when they are available at ebay but they go for big money and are for desktops (but nice software, too bad company was bought by apple).

      2. Economizing ports. I like a lack of ports, it always irks me when I see something as antiquated as a serial port on my notebook. Don't ask me why, but it's rather like seeing a floppy drive on a notebook.

      3. Stylish elegance. THe unibody construction is really nice. It may be silly, but even the upper end notebooks from competitors seem like hunks of ugly black plastic, and if not, they still get a lot of little things wrong. The little things like their crappy bezels/logos on the back or just the obvious overpacking of ports to fill out a bureacratic checklist. It's like they try to a certain extent, and then promptly give up once they have to invest in something that costs more money than usual.

      Yes, Apple owns me completely, I guess I'm their whore in this direction. But since a notebook is a tool I work with all day (has replace my desktop as well), I might as well get something I like, even if it costs a bit more.

      I honestly don't get the debate. Either buy it or don't. But this issue/whining comes so frequently, I have to wonder if its from people who want to get one but can't afford it, can't talk their boss/SO into it, or just too cheap. I never hear people obsess over Alienware's prices as much. Even the new Macbook, lacking firewire, may be called the new 13 inch Mac Book Pro for all intents and purposes and considering some of the upgrade, the rise in price was probably warranted (more RAM in both offerings by default is called for though).

      Instead, it seems like they are constantly trying to make others feel bad for their purchase. Lighten up, it's just a notebook. I would got with an MSI Wind|EEEpc + cheap desktop if I couldn't afford the Mac right now. Not a big deal.

      • Re:the big diff (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @04:46AM (#25450747)

        To add:

        4. Backlit keyboard. Really nice in dim rooms.

        If there are other differentiations, I either don't know about them or not that important to me.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SolitaryMan (538416)

        I honestly don't get the debate. Either buy it or don't. But this issue/whining comes so frequently, I have to wonder if its from people who want to get one but can't afford it, can't talk their boss/SO into it, or just too cheap.

        From my experience -- It is mostly from Mac owners trying to justify the money spent.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pizzach (1011925)
          From my experience, it is mostly from PC users complaining about a lot of features they would never need. (Though for some reason when you have them they grow on you...) It's two groups of users pidgin-holing the opposite sides.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I bought 2 of my 3 macs second-hand, all were a bargain, and still I'd gladly pay the 'mac tax' on a new macbook if I needed a new laptop. However, at the moment I can still manage with the $600 iBook G4 I bought like 4 years ago or something. This isn't Windows, you don't _need_ to upgrade your hardware every 2 years (which already more than offsets the 'mac tax').

          Anyway this should disprove your argument, at least in my case. It's not so much 'us mac users' feel we need to 'justify our money spent', but i

  • by netwiz (33291) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:23AM (#25450355) Homepage

    Seriously, no FireWire? I know they tried to screw the IEEE 1394 working group with the bait-and-switch license pricing tactic, and the beating they took in the industry was well deserved. But 1394 is superior from an operational standpoint, even if the controllers are a bit of unwieldy packaging-wise and expensive to boot. To have removed it completely from the low-end laptop doesn't bode well for it's future in the rest of the consumer hardware line, although lots of people still have MiniDV cams that use it. USB2/3 will in no way be able to fill that gap, even with the coming surge in hard-disk video cameras.

    You fail, Apple. No FW400 (at a freakin' minimum, come on), no sale. I'll get the Dell or the Lenovo and Hackintosh the bejeezus out of it.

    • by nEoN nOoDlE (27594) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @04:29AM (#25450677) Homepage

      I think Apple's thought process is that if they get rid of the firewire from the low end laptops, people who need it are going to upgrade to Macbook Pros. Which probably isn't that far off. If you require firewire for your work and you're accustomed to FCP, then chances are you're not going to get a Win laptop and Hackintosh it, you're just gonna put in the money to get the one with firewire.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      the coming surge of hard disk recorders is a raging joke. Most use a freaking strange format to record in. JVC uses the bizzare mpeg2/mpeg4 hybrid called TOD... WTF is that? sony is using a strange mpeg4 format as well.

      All of these mean you get the files on your pc and then spend 12 hours converting them to a format that can be edited. yeah I saved a lot of time.... NOT.

      plus the sustained transfer rate of usb2 cant even touch that of firewire 400 so it still wins.

  • "Mac Tax" (Score:5, Informative)

    by IBBoard (1128019) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:25AM (#25450367) Homepage

    The article uses the phrase "Mac tax," which one commenter points out is a recent Microsoft marketing canard.

    Did that commenter also point out that "Mac tax" is (the first time) both written in quotation marks to imply that it's not their phrase and link to an article that was called "Are Macs More Expensive? Definitely - Just Ask Microsoft!"? The whole point of the article is that the phrase has been coined and they're investigating whether Macs are more expensive for the specs than comparable PCs.

    Not that I'm saying Macs are cheap - I'd rather custom build/upgrade and slap Linux on it - but it's not as if it's an unbalanced comparison article.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by F34nor (321515)

      I think a more interesting question is, why aren't they as expensive anymore? The Mac Tax was real when they had a small market share and low cash flows. Now the iPod sales have flushed them with cash and they can offer the Mac at a discount. Not a huge "loss leader Xbox below cost discount" but more of a "thank god we don't have to gouge the fuck out of our loyal fans price." Once we throw the iPhone money hose into the mix and we might even see price parity, oh wait, we do.

      The wonderful long awaited days

    • Also a Microsoft Tax (Score:3, Informative)

      by BBCWatcher (900486)

      The bundled Microsoft Windows license, which is still way too difficult to shake loose, is a significant "Microsoft tax." In fact, it's the single most expensive component in most PCs. As the price of other PC components continues to fall, the Microsoft tax is becoming more onerous as a greater share of the cost structure, causing consumers and vendors to rebel increasingly. The tax is particularly acute with netbooks, so Linux is gaining a significant foothold in that market segment.

      Microsoft's share pric

  • Fingerprint items (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:29AM (#25450381) Journal
    Here is one of the items of comparison:

    Fingerprint Scanner
    The Dell and Sony have one. ADVANTAGE: DELL AND SONY

    It makes me laugh every time: Hmmmm a finger print reader......where would I be able to find fingerprints of someone who has used this laptop that I have just stolen? Sure hope they don't always use gloves when they type.....

    I mean, where can you think of a more cool-but-useless feature? And it is sooo cool.......

    • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @05:42AM (#25450983) Homepage Journal

      Seriously, how many categories did he need? I guess he wanted ads.

      The problem is, that for the target market it is horribly overpriced. This guy had to go out of his way to ignore all the similarly TARGETED machines that you can find in your Sunday circular for $500 to $800. Some of them even have discreet graphics at that price.

      Better yet, everyone knows Dell is always on sale. You can find deals on any laptop maker other than Apple.

      The real Mac tax is found when comparing targeted audience. In other words, the people who would love to have a laptop for light work. This the audience Apple misses completely by pricing themselves out of consideration.

      I could probably find half a dozen laptops that would serve just as well, if not with more features, but they wouldn't look cool.

      (fwiw I own an iMac, 2nd gen iPod, and 2nd gen Touch, and am awaiting the next gen iMac to come out)

  • Groundhog Day: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cosmocain (1060326) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:34AM (#25450409)
    1) MacBook (Beginning of 2006):
    "AAAAH, EXPENSIVE"
    "See, i did the math, it's comparable!"

    2) MacBook (End of 2006):
    "AAAAH, EXPENSIVE"
    "See, i did the math, it's comparable!"

    3) MacBook (Mid 2007):
    "AAAAH, EXPENSIVE"
    "See, i did the math, it's comparable!"

    4) MacBook (End of 2007):
    "AAAAH, EXPENSIVE"
    "See, i did the math, it's comparable!"

    5) MacBook (Beginning of 2008):
    "AAAAH, EXPENSIVE"
    "See, i did the math, it's comparable!"

    And now - totally surprising:

    5) MacBook (End of 2008):
    "AAAAH, EXPENSIVE"
    "See, i did the math, it's comparable!"

    Who would have thought!
    • by dafing (753481) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:43AM (#25450465) Journal
      In Europe (UK at least) Apple computers are taxed more, I've heard the stories of people flying to america to buy their Macs there, even with the plane tickets it still works out less than buying at a local shop! WTF?

      Im a big Mac guy, but even I felt bad for my friend who wanted to switch, he wanted to rebuy his computer again (long story), his $1500 NZD PC (some media centre thing with tv tuner card etc) was roughly equal in specs to the $3000 NZD iMac he ended up getting, once the warranty on the Mac was brought up to 3 years as well as rebuying Office for Mac. It was painful, and he misses the TV Tuner, ones I've seen that plug in cost HUNDREDS! Ouch.

      Maybe in America, but I think in many parts of the world, Macs are very sadly more expensive than PCs. I compare my Macs to computers a friend has built for himself, and theres a big difference in price. I would still take the Mac for design and OSX, but they are not cheap here in New Zealand :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by barrkel (806779)

      TFA is completely bogus. He explicitly compares mass-produced Apple configurations to custom-configured generic versions:

      I priced them in build-to-order configurations sold directly by the manufacturers so I could customize them to match the MacBook when possible

      In other words, when there's a generic laptop that has higher specs than the Apple, and priced lower under the usual deals that e.g. Dell does (40+% discount), it is expressly ignored.

      When you manipulate the data like that, you can prove anything.

  • Sigh... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by caitsith01 (606117) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:37AM (#25450419) Journal

    There are many, many examples of how the 'reviewer' has simply picked the wrong comparisons. Sony and Lenovo are notoriously expensive. Generic Dells are notoriously crappy. And of course, where the Apple is deficient (e.g. hard disk space or RAM) the reviewer doesn't add the necessary upgrades at Apple's prices to make the price comparison fair, it simply ignores them.

    I can't link to it because of Dell's site, but for about $100 more Dell currently has an XPS 1330 which whips the Macbook in virtually every respect: much better graphics, much more RAM and HDD, significantly faster CPU, bigger battery, better connectivity, and so on. Mysteriously, the reviewer has instead selected a relatively poor quality Dell as a comparison point.

    Some other selections from TFA:

    Those Windows cheapies are simply a different class of computer

    How? This is not explained. Does "different class" mean "much cheaper?

    I looked for ones with 13-inch screens and Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs, and I priced them in build-to-order configurations sold directly by the manufacturers so I could customize them to match the MacBook when possible.

    I understand that the objective is to compare "like-for-like" and see whether Apple is adding a premium, but if an AMD chip (or a different Intel chip) offers comparable or better performance but is not available on a Mac, then how is that not part of the 'cost' of buying Apple? Limiting it to Core 2 Duo seems unneccessary. And why is it legitimate to reconfigure the competition, but not the Mac? Could it be that Apple savagely gouge you for any upgrades?

    I configured the MacBook, white Macbook, and Sony with 160GB drives The Dell and Lenovo come with 25GGB ones. Theyâ(TM)re all 5400rpm models. ADVANTAGE: DELL AND LENOVO

    Why not pay whatever Apple charges for the same capacity? One of the biggest Apple gouges is when you add RAM or storage to their preconfigured systems. Ignoring this is not justified.

    Macs sometimes suffer in comparison to Windows PCs when it comes to the quantity of USB ports, but all these machines seems to provide just two of âem. PARITY

    And yet, there would be hundreds of x86 laptops on the market that provide 4 or more.

    Everybody can output to a VGA display, but the MacBook has the new DisplayPort connector, and you need to buy a $29 adapter to do VGAâ"but on the other hand, you can also buy a $99 dual-link adapter that can drive a 30-inch display. The white MacBook has mini-DVI, and also needs an extra cost adapter to do VGA. The Dell, Lenovo, and Sony have standard VGA connectors. Iâ(TM)ve going to give the ADVANTAGE to the MacBook for its power but also to the Dell, Lenovo, and Sony for their convenience.

    Or you could pick a different Dell, like an XPS series model, and get HDMI, s-video and DVI as standard. In addition, the review does not appear to add in the cost of Apples various dongles and attachments.

    Theyâ(TM)ve all got audio in, audio out, and a microphone; the MacBooks are the only ones with optical in and out, or at least the only ones that tout it. ADVANTAGE: BOTH MACBOOKS

    HDMI equates to "optical out" and is arguably more useful for modern hi-fi equipment. I am relatively ignorant about audio in options.

    Iâ(TM)m going to give the MacBook the ADVANTAGE here, for the aluminum case and near-seamless design

    Again, this is simply a result of picking the wrong competition - again check out (for instance) Dell XPS laptops, which are extremely well built and solid.

    • In fact (Score:5, Informative)

      by caitsith01 (606117) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:43AM (#25450461) Journal

      To reply to my own post, knocking the 13" Macbook up to the same specs as the Lenovo in terms of RAM, HDD, and video out increases the price to $1,457.00, or $150-200 more than the Lenovo depending on whether we go by the "sale price" or the list price.

      So in summary: yes, there is a "Mac tax" (which incidentally is a phrase which was in use long before MS adopted it).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frag-A-Muffin (5490)

      How? This is not explained. Does "different class" mean "much cheaper?

      Let me explain it for you then :)

      I've said it once [slashdot.org], and I'll say it again: The power brick of the macbook (any mac laptop i guess) alone is worth the price difference already. :)

      Also add in the:
      - magsafe power plug
      - the new glass trackpad
      - LED backlit screen
      - OS X
      - the new unibody design
      - (to me) fantastic industrial design

      Some of the other companies have 1 or 2 of the above po

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:39AM (#25450431)

    Long story short, the least expensive Windows laptop he found comparable to the $1400 MacBook was an $820 Dell, making the Mac Tax a whole 70% on top of the price-conscious buyer's choice in the Windows world.

    However, he did succeed in finding two similarly overpriced models to the Mac from Sony and Lenovo, demonstrating that bad choices are also available in the PC world, if you look hard enough.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by batkiwi (137781)

      You failed at reading comprehension. In what way is an underpowered Intel X3100 comparable to a geforce go 9400? You might as well say that the dell is overpriced compared to an EEE.

    • by guruevi (827432) <<evi> <at> <smokingcube.be>> on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @07:33AM (#25451555) Homepage

      This sounds like the start of a lame joke but: A Dell, a Lenovo (aka IBM Thinkpad) and a Mac fall off a table...

      Either way. I have had Dells and Mac's (and IBM Thinkpads). The only ones still floating around at my house is the Mac and the IBM. The Dell machines just break as soon as they're put up to a little bit of abuse and I won't put up any longer with their support department. Like this time that I got a bundle from work which included a laptop, a docking station, a screen and keyboard/mouse. Something was DOA so I contacted support which is apparently in India, they told me to send it back... oh, I have to pay for packaging and shipping by FedEx or UPS. They then ship it back a week later saying that parts are missing and they can't do anything with it. Call them again and after about an hour or so on the phone, apparently I need to ship EVERYTHING back and STILL pay for shipping because it was bought as a bundle. That's over $100 just to get something replaced? Then it takes them over 3 weeks to get me my stuff back.

      Ever called Apple support? You can call without any support contract and get help for just about anything Mac related (or walk in any Apple store) in about 5-15 minutes. If it's really a big problem and you're friendly, they might even connect you to an engineer that worked on the product. If something breaks like a hard drive they will OVERNIGHT you a package with the new hard drive and schedule to pick up the dead one without any cost to you, you just take off the first mailing stickers and magically a well-formed return sticker appears. The same goes for laptops, they will overnight or same-day you a special package that fits the laptop and if you can convince the FedEx guy to wait a second while you pack it back up, a repaired or new laptop will arrive within 3-5 business days.

  • by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:57AM (#25450517)

    In TFA it is stated on page 3 that the MacBook costs 1299$ while the Lenovo is 1264.84$, the Sony is $1194.99 and the Dell is $819. Yet, in order to make the MacBook appear to be not so expensive in comparison, it states that they are all of comparable value and therefore, as you should ignore price differences in the scale of 100$, they all cost the same. I mean, WTF?

    But that isn't all. There are a few more laptop manufacturers that, oddly enough, happen to be the world's leading laptop manufacturers (Acer, HP, Asus, etc) and also, oddly enough, offer similar laptops in the same price range of the Dell laptop. In fact, Sony and Lenovo are known as the inexplicably expensive laptop brands.

    So, having said that, how exactly can anyone claim that the Apple laptops aren't expensive when you realize that their laptops are more expensive than the already expensive windows laptops? You can't.

    P.S.: The current Apple laptops are also PCs. It doesn't make sense to claim that a Windows laptop is a PC while the Apple laptop is something else.

  • by c.r.o.c.o (123083) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @04:19AM (#25450623)

    One reason I dislike current laptops are their (generally) crappy LCD resolutions. Over the past 7-8 years I've only used laptops with 14.1in SXGA+ LCDs, including the T60p I'm typing this from. I actually prefer the 14.1in SXGA+ LCDs, but I know it's a losing battle. A very limited number of T61p were released with them, and I'm pretty sure they'll be the last in history.

    I'm not unreasonable, and I understand that movies look better if they fill the widescreen. Although with all the variations in widescreen ratios, I'm yet to see a movie without any black borders. You can also display two documents side by side, even though 90% of people I've seen only show a single maximized instance of MS Word with a single document open. Widescreens do take less room in cramped spaces, allow for more keyboard space and even numpads, etc. However I use my laptop for typing, and screen height is far more important than width. I'm a minority though, so I'll adapt.

    Now assuming I'd be looking for a replacement laptop tomorrow (hopefully my T60p will last a while), moving to Apple would mean going "down" to a 15.4in WSXGA (loss of 150pixel height) on the Macbook Pros or 13.3in WXGA (loss of 250pixel height and 200pixel width) on the Macbooks. THERE ARE NO OTHER OPTIONS.

    On the other hand I just checked out Lenovo's site. Their T500 laptop is offered with a 15.4in WSXGA or WSGA+ resolution. The WSXGA+ is only a $75 upgrade, and it offers the same height and much more width than my SXGA+. The rest of the specs are very close to the Macbook Pro, but at first glance it's about $200 cheaper.

    Beyond their arguably sleek design, the absolutely only reason any rational person would even consider a Macbook or Macbook Pro is OS X. I used it briefly, and I really liked it. Unfortunately given my laptop use, the OS alone is not incentive enough to put up with the limited and (slightly) more expensive hardware.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by lagfest (959022)

      SXGA+ ?
      WSXGA ?
      WSGA ?
      WSXGA+ ?

      Except the W which obviously means wide, what does all the other pre- and postfixes mean?

      if S,X,+ all mean higher resolution, then WSXGA+ must be omgwtfbbq high resolution.

  • Battery life (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Andtalath (1074376) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @05:22AM (#25450901)
    The thing which I find annoying with all these analysis is that they never, ever compare battery life, which to me is the singulary most important spec of a highly portable laptop (10-13 inches or so, above that is portable (14-17), below that is netbooks (7-9)).
    The cheapest MacBook/iBook has, from at least 2005 (as long as I've checked out the market) been in the top cathegory for battery life in it's priceclass, and, they don't even lie that much with how long time they can actually be used responsibly.
    Also, they are pretty much noiceless and doesn' generate extreme hot spots like many laptops do, making them more comfortable to use in your lap.
  • The Thinkpad has pretty much always had the best keyboard in a laptop, ever since Toshiba quit putting full-sized keys in their Satellites. Apple's keyboards have never been great, but they peaked with the Extended II keyboard just before Jobs came back and since the iMac and blue-and-white G3 Apple's keyboards have been downright horrible, to the point where I have to use an external keyboard with my Macbook Pro to avoid physical pain.

    And Apple's passive-aggressive refusal to just put two goddam buttons on their mice and trackpads is worth about a million points against them.

    Advantage Lenovo.

  • by Wingsy (761354) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @06:05AM (#25451079)
    Even if I could buy a PC at $300-$400 less than a MacBook, even with all the features (or a little more), I won't get what I really want: A computer with OSX, UNIX, and able to run anything on the planet. You can call that a tax if you like.
  • Resale value... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joh (27088) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @06:17AM (#25451153)

    Has anyone checked the price of Apple machines seen over several years? Try to sell a cheap PC notebook after a few years and do the same with a MacBook. You will see that there may be a "Mac tax" but it also applies to used machines.

    And I've seen many people being cheap with their notebooks and really regretting it very soon. Paying a bit more hurts only once but using a crappy notebook hurts every day.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by v1 (525388)

      That's a double-edged sword too. We sell new and used macs, but we actually don't get in many used macs. People run them for 5, 7, even 10 years before they upgrade. And by then they get handed off to the kids. We see few used desktops to sell, and VERY few used laptops. I have yet to see us set out a used laptop that lasts more than a week before someone buys it.

      What that means for the person that buys it is, you are pretty much guaranteed to get a good price when it comes time to sell it. My new ma

  • by Ash-Fox (726320) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @06:51AM (#25451327)

    I did my own comparisons, and really, I see the Mac tax.

    I have a HP Pavilion DV6000 [google.co.uk], comes with pretty much everything. I bought it a few months ago for £400 (GBP). A Mac Mini costs £399 (GBP).

    This laptop has dedicated RAM for graphic card (GeForce 8400M GS - runs all my games just fine, with excellent quality [steamcommunity.com]) usage, 2GB RAM, sdcard reader, firewire, A/G/B wireless, DVD burner, HDMI, three USB ports, VGA, modem, ethernet, video out, webcam, microphone...

    I use this machine as my mobile gaming machine (it works great) and work stuff (software development, office work), home stuff (movie editing etc). The only disadvantage with it, is that it each core has 1.66GHz, while on the Mac Mini has 1.83GHz. That said, I couldn't use the Mac Mini for decent gaming, or for the majority of the stuff I use this laptop for without significant performance costs, lack of hardware options etc.

    That's just the Mini, the cheapest laptop from Apple is the MacBook is £719.00 (GBP), which has Intel GMA graphics, no dedicated graphic card RAM, only 1GB RAM.

    Sorry, I'm not convinced Apple systems are on par with PCs for their cost.

  • This is news? (Score:3, Informative)

    by alisson (1040324) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @10:24AM (#25453199)

    Did anyone still believe that? It's easy to do this comparison, and Macs have almost always been similarly priced to comparable alternatives.

    Of course some of their items are still overpriced, such as the monitors.

  • by Budenny (888916) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @11:26AM (#25454251)

    As usual the article and the commentaries ask and answer completely the wrong question.

    The interesting question is NOT whether, if you take a Mac spec as your starting point, you can duplicate it for less elsewhere from another vendor. The answer is usually, no, not very much, and sometimes it costs more. Which tells us just about nothing about suitability of product or value for money.

    The interesting question is whether, if you are looking for a computer, you can find a better value choice better suited to your needs from the Mac range or from other vendors ranges.

    You almost always can. The reason is, the paucity of price points and specification points in the Mac range. This results in Macs being an overpriced or underfeatured choice for most people most of the time.

    This leads to a simple conclusion. For most people, most of the time, the Mac product is going to be overpriced. For most people, the other vendor product is going to offer better value. Which is quite compatible with the proposition that for any given point in the Mac range, its hard or impossible to duplicate it for much less. This was however never the issue.

    The Mac range is not the starting point for comparisons, any more than the Louis Vuitton range is. How one wishes people would stop pretending that it is.

  • by earlymon (1116185) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @04:29PM (#25459227) Homepage Journal

    I was always convinced of the Mac tax on their laptops.

    Then I owned one. I didn't want it at first. I didn't lust after it.

    Now I am convinced that there is no Mac tax. I happen to know that I'm immune to the idea that I'm a fanboi suffering from post-purchase justification. I just know that once you own one, if you had the Mac tax issue, you lose it. Quickly. Completely. Forever.

    Then your next laptop will be a Mac. And you'll recommend them. And you'll probably try to explain something in a post that might not be easily explained.

You know that feeling when you're leaning back on a stool and it starts to tip over? Well, that's how I feel all the time. -- Steven Wright

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