View Full Version : The Apple Mac Cost Misconception

June 15th, 2011, 05:04 PM
Note: This isnít a guide to evangelize and convert people from Windows to Mac OS X. Itís a guide to give people options. If youíre happy with what youíve got, great! But if youíre interested in alternatives read on.

After my first article on Macs and OS X, there were several readers who just down right bashed Macs for pricing and OS X without solid reasoning or legitimate handís on experience of Macs. So this is a follow-up.

Letís get straight to the point. Tomís Hardware isnít about being a "PC fanboy." Itís about finding the best hardware, revealing up and coming tech and debunking predetermined notions. That begs the question, especially here: whatís so special about a Mac anyway?

Hereís the short answer: nothing really, just some very elegant aluminum chassis designs. The key, is the operating system. Even still, letís settle this issue about price.

In a recent comment, someone came up with an analogy that a Mac isnít really a BMW, but rather a Hyundai dressed up in a nice exterior. One problem: Hyundaiís donít have nice European car exteriors. And to generalize it this way shows the lack of willing to understand the core of the Mac: itís operating system. Because thatís really what itís about. But for the sake of these first few pages, letís leave Mac OS X out of the picture for now. Letís just see where Apple comes in on hardware.

In terms of hardware, thereís nothing really special about a Mac aside from elegant designs, be it a Mac Pro or MacBook Pro, that makes it incredibly more worthwhile than the PC equivalent. And thereís no doubt that you can get an equally equipped PC, or build one yourself, for less money. In fact, I mentioned this in my previous article, although some people seemed to have completely missed the page where I complained about Appleís outrageous prices altogether. However, building a PC to do the same isnít the point, because you can always buy a cheaper car to get you from A to B. Instead, letís see what you can get for $2000, from Apple and from others. For $2000, do you really get much less?

Letís take a quick look at some of Appleís competition and their pricing structure compared to Appleís:

We went to Dellís website and picked out what Dell indicated was a serious gaming laptop. We also took the XPS model that was priced the same as the baseline MacBook Pro. Letís take a look at the results.

For the most part, the two systems are comparable, indicating that at least for a laptop, Appleís pricing fits in line with comparable hardware. Certain things like shared memory for graphics leave some performance desires for the XPS, but the XPS has a strong leg up on the MacBook Pro with the larger screen size.

Appleís MacBook Pro has several small advantages over the XPS, mainly with the MagSafe connector and itís nearly take-for-granted use. I have seen several incidences where people have tripped over or through someone elseís MacBook Pro power cord and the MagSafe design literally saved the laptops from flying.

The biggest differences are the screen size, weight, thickness, and shared memory. For absolute performance, the screen size wonít matter here, but the slow shared graphics memory on the XPS will. For a laptop that Dell indicates is a gaming machine, shared memory is a disappointment, as graphics is an important area for 3D gaming.

At this point, the Envy is $300 more expensive than the MacBook Air. Although the Envy 133 does include an external optical drive, tacking on Appleís quite expensive $99 MacBook Air SuperDrive to the purchase of the MacBook Air still leaves a $200 gap.

Bottom line: Macs arenít "way more" expensive than PCs. So where do things get really hairy with Apple? Upgrades. Apple really stabs you in the face when youíre upgrading your Mac. All goes well when you want to buy a base system, but as soon as you want to add options, be prepared to be murdered. Iíll talk about this later.

June 15th, 2011, 05:09 PM
I like rolling my own hardware and the simplicity of DOS/Windows 9x for rolling drivers. I also like the wide range of Linux support for doing things like microcontroller and FPGA development. Why is Mac the better choice?

Note that I'm not talking laptops. That'd be like building a house with a pocketknife.

I've got a few classic Macs of varying vintages. They never get used.

June 15th, 2011, 06:30 PM
You do realize this is a *vintage* computer forum, right? We're not talking OSX. We're talking 68k Macs...

That said, I used to have a lot of respect for Macintosh hardware - their PowerPC stuff in the G4/G5 days couldn't be beat. Now it's just a fancy IBM PC clone with a funny bios. Macintosh OS X is great, it's very powerful, and I love it's UNIX compatibility. I spend most of my time on my Mac running *nix apps anyway. But the newer releases of OS X are diluting the operating system, it's going from elegant and clean to weird and clumsy. Dashboard widgets, transparent dock, a "Mac App Store", it's really a lot of annoying. And, on top of that, the newer versions of the Apple X server are losing features that I use - like TCP/IP support. No more remote X sessions with the Apple X server - you need to use something else now.

So, if I buy a new Mac to replace my aging G4, it's more or less a very expensive (albiet very well built) PC clone. It's using the same CPU and chipsets that I can get in the form of commodity hardware. Only in an Apple case with only one optical bay. Now, if they'd have stuck with the PowerPC architecture, or moved to the full out POWER processor, then I would have already bought one...

I'm also not talking laptops. Never cared for them myself. Clumsy and hard to use - never could see how anyone did any serious work with one. Apple also missed the mark there. A friend of mine has a MacBook - the keyboard is abysmal. I thought we were done with chicklet keyboards. They proved that they were a crummy idea in the 80's. Tandy tried it... heck, even IBM tried it. So, now that Apple does it, it's OK? Or, has it just gotten to the point where people don't know how to type anyway, so it doesn't matter if the keyboard sucks.

Not that I'm bashing Apple - they make great hardware. They're just starting to veer off course. That and I'm still ticked that they killed off the Apple IIgs. They could have done a lot of really great things with that line...


June 15th, 2011, 09:33 PM
Well, computers aren't Apple's main focus anyway. I suspect that Mac sales don't account for much of their revenue nowadays. (Note that it's now "Apple, Inc." and not "Apple Computer, Inc." as before).

June 16th, 2011, 07:11 AM
Pretty much what RetroHacker said. I don't really have a problem with either modern Mac hardware or OSX, though neither are my cup of tea (and Macs just frankly cost more than I'm willing to invest in commodity Intel hardware.) My big problem is with the company. Apple's always had a tendency towards being overly-controlling, but that's really come to the fore now that the iPhone is their cash cow - they'll charge developers a large percentage of the sale price for app-store downloads, then demand, in the case of a refund, that the developer cover both the percentage that they do get and a healthy chunk of Apple's slice - and then they'll go and clone someone's app right into the next version of iOS so that the developer's completely SOL. That's not a company I want to support, in any way.

That said, I do have a lot of residual fondness for the 68k machines, and even the PPC ones (I have two 68k Macs, and I just obtained a G5 to play around with, though it's going to be running Haiku instead of OSX.)

June 16th, 2011, 07:22 AM
If you do some quality Google research, you will find this article is reposted at about 64 different forums across the net. That is another name for spam, which is why I'm reporting this thread to the moderators right now. At best it is off-topic, but the original poster is most likely not able to answer any questions about the topic anyway.

July 3rd, 2011, 07:55 AM
I bought my first Mac in June 1984 - 128K (and I still have it). Did a lot of work with it. SInce from around 1993 I've made my living using Windows. I'm a corporate CIO. I could NEVER make the case to bring in Macs. They just don't work well in a corporate environment where Windows is a better and less expensive alternative.

Macs are great for indivuduals. If you like them, super. Enjoy them but I won't let them on my corporate network. They don't provide a solution that a Windows machine can't at a lower price.

To me the best Macs ever were the Quadras. I use a goosed up Quadra 605 at home for my personal enjoyment. I wish I had a modern browser for it and I would use it more often.