Sunday, April 08, 2007

Pricing an Apple notebook computer versus Toshiba, Dell, and Lenovo

Most people know instinctively that an Apple notebook computer is going to be more expensive than a Windows-based notebook PC, but occasionally I hear anecdotes about some Mac configuration being less than Dell or Sony, so this morning I decided to do a price comparison.

Comparing Mac and PC prices is much easier now that Apple is using Intel x86 chips. Previously, it was pure guesswork to try to figure out how to compare x86 and PowerPC.

For the sake of this experiment, I presume that I would be upgrading from my own mid-range Toshiba notebook computer. I don't have the exact specs, but I think it is around 1.6 GHz, 512 MB, 100 GB disk, and 14-inch wide, bright screen.

I visited the Apple online store and see that the MacBook is the only machine in my price range (under $1,500). The MacBook Pro looks interesting, but starting at $1,999 is way too steep for me. I'm a mid-range kind of guy, not an unlimited budget, high-end type.

Unfortunately, I immediately run into a comparison problem: screen size. I like my current 14-inch, but that is no longer offered. Toshiba shifted to 15-inch, and Apple focused the MacBook on 13-inch. Apple also offers the MacBook Pro at 15 and 17-inches. The Pro does offer the higher resolution of 1440 x 900, which I would prefer, but the Toshiba doesn't offer that option for the budget-conscious Satellite.

Personally, 13-inches is too small a screen for my eyes, but I might be willing to tolerate it in exchange for the smaller form factor.

I priced the Toshiba with the $40 extra option for TruBrite.

I priced the Toshiba with Windows Vista Ultimate, which added $150 over Vista Home Basic. I could save $130 by going with Vista Home Premium, but Ultimate has some of the nice UI features that make it more "Mac-like."

My current machine has a 100 GB drive, so upgrading to 120 GB is the sensible thing to do.

I'll use 2.00 GHz as the baseline processor. I do note that the MacBook Pro has a modestly faster 2.16 GHz chip.

I'll use 1 GB as the baseline memory.

The PC prices are all after "rebates."

So, here are the comparisons for a mid-range notebook computer better than my current machine.

So, assuming I went with Vista Ultimate, I would save $191 over the MacBook.

If I went with Vista Home Premium, I would save $287 over the MacBook.

If I were willing to drop back to an 80 GB drive, which is feasible since I don't do any video today, here is the comparison:

So, even with Vista Ultimate, I would save $51 over the MacBook.

With Vista Home Premium, the savings would be $147 over the MacBook.

I also quickly checked out Lenovo and Dell:

In summary, the Toshiba at $1,308, the Lenovo at $1,249 (without Vista Ultimate), or the Dell at $1,293 all seem quite attractively priced compared to the MacBook with the small screen at $1,499 or the MacBook Pro at $1,999.

Personally, I'd probably stick with Toshiba since reliability is a concern and I have had no significant problems with my three Toshibas over the past ten years.

I'm sure that Apple and its supporters honestly believe that the Mac is somehow "worth" the price premium, but the idea that the Mac is somehow price-competitive in the mid-range simply remains untrue, at least for the class of machine that interests me.

-- Jack Krupansky


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