Has Apple reached price parity for their laptops?

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I’m considering buying one of those thar “MacBook Pros”:http://www.apple.com/au/macbookpro/, but at a base price of AU$3199, it’s a little pricy. Now, Apple has a long-standing reputation of charging premium prices, but seeing as how the MacBook is Intel-based, it should be possible to do some good price comparison.

Dell has released the new “Inspiron 9400”:http://www1.ap.dell.com/content/products/productdetails.aspx/inspn_9400_au?c=au&l=en, which is also based on the Intel Core Duo chip. So, we can do a comparison that is better than Apples to Oranges on this.


Now, the Inspiron 9400 has a starting price of AU$2598.20 (why twenty cents?) – considerably cheaper than the MacBook. However, it’s not as well spec’ed out. So here I’ve done a side-by-side comparison of the two (with options added to both to bring them into par):

| *Feature* | *Apple* | *Dell* |
| CPU | Intel Core Duo Processor 1.66 GHz, 2MB Cache, 667 MHz FSB | Intel Core Duo Processor 1.66 GHz, 2MB Cache, 667 MHz FSB |
| Display | 15.4-inch TFT display with 1440×900 resolution | 17″ Ultrasharp(TM) Wide Screen XGA+TFT (1440×900) |
| Graphics Card | ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 with 128MB of GDDR3 SDRAM and dual-link DVI | Intel Media Accelerator 950 (up to 128MB shared system memory) |
| RAM | 512MB (single SO-DIMM) 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM (PC2-5300) | 512MB 533 MHZ DDR SDRam (single DIMM)[1] |
| HDD | 80GB Serial ATA/100; 5400 rpm | 80 GB 5400pm Ultra ATA hard drive[2] |
| Ethernet | Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T | Integrated 10/100 Ethernet |
| Wireless | Built-in 54-Mbps AirPort Extreme (802.11g) | Intel Pro/Wireless 3945 802.11 a/b/g Mini Card Wireless |
| Bluetooth | built-in Bluetooth 2.0+EDR | Dell Wireless 350 Bluetooth Module[3] |
| Modem | Apple USB Modem[4] | Internal 56K Modem |
| Inputs | Apple Remote; full-size, illuminated keyboard with ambient light sensor; Scrolling Trackpad | Internal Dell 87 key keyboard, trackpad (no remote) |
| Battery | 60WHr lithium-polymer | 53WHr lithium-ion |
| Power Adapter | 85W power adapter with MagSafe connector | 90W power adapter (x2)[5] |
| Warranty | 1 year | 3 years |
| OS | Mac OSX 10.4.4 | Windows XP Pro[6] |
| Bundled Software | * iLife ’06 (includes iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie HD, iDVD, iWeb, GarageBand)
* QuickBooks for Mac New User Edition
* Comic Life
* Omni Outliner
* Photo Booth
* Front Row | * Microsoft Works 7.0
* McAfee Security Center (36 months)[7] |
| Extras | | Carbon Fiber Colour Kit[8] |
| *Total* | *AU$ 3,278.00* | *AU$3,014* |

fn1. Upgraded – the standard configuration is 2x256MB chips. Note that the Dell memory is slightly slower, designed for a 533MHz bus.

fn2. Upgraded – the default is a 60GB drive. I also think that Serial ATA is a bit better than Ultra ATA.

fn3. Upgraded – the Inspiron doesn’t normally have Bluetooth

fn4. Upgraded – the MacBook doesn’t have an internal modem, so you have to use this external USB modem.

fn5. I’ve bought a second adapter for the Dell because I keep hearing that the connectors on them break – one of the reaons Apple introduced the MagSafe connector.

fn6. XP Pro isn’t as good as OS X, but at least it’s closer than Windows Home.

fn7. Windows just isn’t a good idea without a virus scanner subscription – not a problem for the Mac.

fn8. To make it look nice, like the MacBook. 🙂

NB: I’ve left off a few specs which are essentially the same for both (e.g the DVD drive).

So, the Dell is AU$274 cheaper – not inconsiderable. However, these systems aren’t quite identical. Let’s look at the major differences:

* The Dell has a bigger screen – same resolution, but physically larger. That counts. At this time, the MacBook doesn’t have a 17″ equivalent, though that will come.
* The MacBook has a much better video card – AND the video memory doesn’t eat into system RAM. (The Dell upgrade – to a better card again – was nearly AU$500)
* The MacBook has a built in web cam – the iSight camera. It also has better audio processing, making it a lot better for things like video conferencing or Skype.
* I suspect the MacBook’s battery is better – lithium-polymer batteries are better than lithium-ion, but I didn’t know if it was better enough to justify upgrading the Dell battery ($48.50)
* Microsoft Works is more business than the iLife suite – however, iLife is probably better for personal use, and for business use, you’d upgrade both with Microsoft Office (for about the same price). However, if you upgrade the MacBook, you still have iLife. 🙂
* The MacBook is a lot lighter – ~2.5kg, vs 3.49kg for the Dell.

All up, I suspect this makes the MacBook worth the extra $249 (particularly the video card!).

So it appears that Apple has actually achieved price parity – quite impressive, really.

Author: Robert Watkins

My name is Robert Watkins. I am a software developer and have been for over 18 years now. I currently work for people, but my opinions here are in no way endorsed by them (which is cool; their opinions aren’t endorsed by me either). My main professional interests are in Java development, using Agile methods, with a historical focus on building web based applications. I’m also a Mac-fan and love my iPhone, which I’m currently learning how to code for. I live and work in Brisbane, Australia, but I grew up in the Northern Territory, and still find Brisbane too cold (after 16 years here). I’m married, with two children and one cat. My politics are socialist in tendency, my religious affiliation is atheist (aka “none of the above”), my attitude is condescending and my moral standing is lying down.

3 thoughts on “Has Apple reached price parity for their laptops?”

  1. And after a salary sacrifice, you’d hardly even notice the difference…

    And let’s not forget the unquantifiable benefit of having your Macaphilic collegues in awe over your new toy 🙂

    Good review though – I was wondering what the difference was after a straight comparison to a Wintel config.

  2. Rob, I was in Brisbane working on a Sharepoint project in July and I was given the opportunity to use a top of the range Mac Book to play with podcasting – nothing to do with Sharepoint, but I get easily distracted. I was sold on Macs all over again. It had an Intel Duo chip and ran Windows XP Pro like a charm. Am getting one at work to play with podcasting.

    See you soon, Dad

    There are 10 types of people. Those who understand binary and those who don’t.

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