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MacBook cheaper than Dell (or maybe possibly not)

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.)


  1. The Dell’s are all built-in modules, though the wifi is upgradeable to other types (a/b/g) simply by changing out the referenced “Mini Card”. One advantage of the Latitude, as a business class machine, is the media bay which allows the optical drive to be swapped, best of all, for a 2nd battery. Apple’s battery life stats tend to be pretty good, but we’ll see how they fare with the new architecture.

    Feature-for-feature I am sure Apple is very competetive with most PC laptops. The issue is that to get a Dell similar to the MacBook you need to buy a Latitude. Meanwhile most users find it easier to justify an Inspiron if they can save a few hundred dollars and give up Bluetooth, some drive space, and a few proc MHz.

    Just ordered my wife a e1505 Dual Core with 1GB RAM as a work at home computer. Mainly because it shipped at $1150 with 3 years of Complete Care (accidental damage coverage). Windows is mandatory to operate with her employer. I would have gone with a MacBook & Boot Camp in a second except she doesn’t quite need all the Apple’s features. Plus, Apple doesn’t offer their own Complete Care and they’re shipping with those damned glossy screens.

    By Joe Ego · 2006.05.18 06:04

  2. Someone should send this to Paul Thurrott.

    By Gareth · 2006.05.18 07:48

  3. Too bad making this argument tom large parts of the Wintel-community will just get you a blank “you’re a fool if you think the Earth revolves around the Sun” stare.

    By Peter Eliasson · 2006.05.18 09:26

  4. Except that it is only true if you try to create an exact match. On Dell Germany’s site I can buy an Inspiron 6400 with a 1.6 GHz Core Duo, a 15,4″ WXGA Truelife, 2 GB (!) RAM, ATI Mobility Radeon X1300 with 128 MB, DVD Dual Layer burner, 60 GB HD, WLAN, Bluetooth for 1.224,79 Euro. I’ll still buy a MacBook but claiming that the hardware is cheaper… well, that’s outrageous.

    By Nils Kassube · 2006.05.18 14:25

  5. FWIW, I’ve actually put together a detailed comparison between the $1,100 MacBook and a similarly-configured $1,100 Dell Inspiron E1405:


    I also ran a comparison between $1,500 models of each:


    This isn’t quite the same thing–in my case, I use the specific price point itself as the basis of comparison, then add options to the Dell to bring it as close as possible within that price point. Even so, the point is still the same–the MacBook at least holds it’s own overall.

    By Charles Gaba · 2006.05.18 17:25

  6. Re comment 5:

    The Core Duo has half the bandwidth the memory controller does. Using 2 banks of RAM means the the CPU and GPU don’t have to fight for bandwidth to the RAM. This is critical for something like Mac OS X, which uses the GPU much more than Windows.

    I thought the IR in Apple’s machines wasn’t bi-directional. That would make the Dell machines superior in this case (unless you’re only concerned about using the remote, in which case the front-mounted IR port on Apple’s machines has an edge over the side-mounted IR ports PC laptops use).

    I’ve got an older PDA with IR but I’ve never owned a machine with IR. I’ll be very pleased if it turns out I can use the MacBook Pro’s IR to sync with it.

    By Lincoln Ramsay · 2006.05.19 03:03

  7. dude, adding applecare is $1099 + $250 = $1349, not $1249

    By jon · 2006.05.19 09:36

  8. My boyfriend just bought a Dell, and although I’m a Mac fan, I did attempt to keep an open mind about his decision. And he’s regretting it. From his experiences with Dell’s tech support & customer service, you may as well not even factor in the extended warranty in comparing the two. I’ve never had anything but good experiences with Apple, while he sits on the phone for over an hour with Dell support before finally giving up in frustration without any resolution.

    By Loralie · 2006.05.20 03:01

  9. @ Nils Kassube, Surely the whole point is to create an exact match, otherwise what is the point in comparing prices. You could say a Kia is cheaper than a Rolls Royce if you’re not going to bother making an exact match.

    By GadgetGav · 2006.05.21 02:51

  10. Used both Macs and PCs for years. I still think Macs are easier to use and the service support is way better. I have had problems with my Macs (Powerbook G3, iBook, and iMac) but under AppleCare it gets fixed or the computer is replaced. I also own two iPods and Apple is happy to replace or repair either the entire unit or bits and pieces (2x earbuds so far). I hear horror stories from my PC using friends about service support. Also Apple Care is available to most people with an education discount (teachers and students) and I think there is a ilitary discount. This significantly lowers the price.

    By James Brothers · 2006.05.21 17:25

  11. The Apple IR port does in fact appear to be bi-directional. The remotes are as well, and can be paired to individual machines.

    By Brian · 2006.05.22 20:45

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