The New Mac mini VS. Dell's Studio Hybrid
by, October 21st, 2009 at 03:07 PM
One of the biggest criticisms constantly leveled at Apple is that their computers are too expensive. All too frequently there is talk of an "Apple premium", an extra price you pay just because you want to have an Apple. Although I haven't found this to be true in the past, I thought I would take a quick look at some of Apple's newly released models and see how prices compare.
For my test, I picked the lowest-priced Mac mini. At $599, the price isn't too hard to swallow, and makes it the most affordable way to get a Mac. I picked the Dell Studio Hybrid, which competes with the Mac mini in spec and in size. Using both manufacturer's customizing abilities, I've tried to match the specs as closely as I could. Here is a breakdown of the specs that matter most.
As you can see, the price difference ends up being negligible. The Mac mini has a better processor and adds Bluetooth capability, but for the price of a fast food meal you can easily just pick the brand or operating system you prefer. There are differences other than hardware that are worth considering.
I won't get into the whole operating system debate here, but if you pick the Mac, you will be getting a full version of their latest operating system. The Dell comes with Windows 7 Home Premium, which is a stripped down version of all that Windows 7 could be. While many users will never miss the premium features that could be found in the Ultimate version of Windows 7, you should be aware that if you want to upgrade it will cost another $150, shooting the Dell up to way more than the price of the Mac.
Another point in favor of the Mac is pre-installed software. Dells typically come with useful things like AOL, fee game trials, and various craplets that you will most likely want to remove pre-installed. Apple chooses to pre-install iLife, which will allow you to manage your photos, movies, and music, edit video, record music, and create web sites.
Warranty and support are another factor to consider. I chose the standard one year warranty for the Dell. The Mac mini comes with a one year warranty and 90 days of free technical support. Both can be upgraded for similar prices as well.
While I chose the Mac mini and Dell Studio Hybrid for my comparison, a quick peek at the Dell XPS One and Apple iMac show that you should see similar results there. The same can be said for laptops as long as you're honestly trying to compare all the specs. Although I chose to compare to a Dell here, I have done the same comparisons in the past with HP, Gateway, and several other brands and found the results to be similar.
So what's the verdict? There is no Apple premium. You don't have to pay any more to get a Mac than you would pay to get a Dell, or any other brand. The catch is simply that Apple doesn't make cheap computers. Apple's entire business is based on providing products that work very well and meet peoples' needs, and they have chosen to not use extremely cheap hardware to compete at the lowest levels of the market.
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