The MacBook is lots cheaper than Dell. A Slashdot reader put together a comparable package (14″ instead of 13″ display, one memory module instead of two, wireless perhaps external modules instead of built-in).
The Dell landed at “$1466.00 or 1216.00 after instant rebate.” The Dell matches the base MacBook config, and the base MacBook costs $1099.
While Dell’s warranty is one year pickup, Apple’s offering (costing $250, bringing it up to $1349 at $133 above the Dell) is a three year warranty. Even if it’s not a 100% check mate, I think it’s safe to say that whenever someone tells you that Dell’s machines are cheaper than Macs with comparable specs, they’re bullshitting you. My assessment was wrong; I refer to the updates.
Update: People have made good points: Dell offers cheaper computers where Apple offers nothing at all (thus, if you only need a cheap computer, Apple is perceptively more expensive because you have to spring for a computer with more features). Furthermore, it may also be true that Dell offers better support conditions and that Dells that are not built to match a spec like this have better value. I’m buying all these points, but from all I’ve read and experienced repeatedly over the years, support in the computer industry sucks, and in actual performance, Apple sucks the least. I also don’t see anyone singing the praises of Dell’s bundled software compared to Apple.
Update 2: Apparently, my math skills only escape me when there’s a possibility it could get embarrassing. $1099 + $250 is indeed $1349, and thus a lot of my point is lost. Having tried configuring the laptop myself, a basic laptop offering much the same in the way of CPU, RAM and HD (but not in the way of bundled software and port roster – no optical audio, no six-pin Firewire, no Gigabit Ethernet and so on) can be had for about as much as the MacBook if you’re springing for the Inspiron. However, configuring a Latitude D620 again (like the Slashdot poster did) with two exceptions, a/g dual band wireless support (which the MacBook offers but doesn’t advertise) and a 3-year “mobility”, “Dell Recommended” warranty deal, I ended up with $1483.
The message seems to be: If you want a Dell comparable to the MacBook in CPU, RAM and HD, spring for the Inspiron, but don’t expect it to measure up in other ways. For that, you want the roughly comparable Latitude, which is $134 more expensive. (I’d also like a word with Dell’s web usability team; I’m having a buffer overflow after all those widgets, buttons to “Choose” (yes, this time you actually do choose, well, no, not really) and fucking banner ads in the four page customization form. I’m wondering how Dell ever sells anything to anyone on a dial-up modem.)