Stop the Noiz

Mac Value Comes from Productivity and MacBook Integrated Graphics Debated

Frank Fox - 2008.05.29 - Tip Jar

Mac Value Comes from Productivity, not Price

From Jason:

Hey,

I read your article and found it very interesting, but I thought some of the conclusions were rather unrelated to the actual task of comparing pricing or tended to inflate the price of PCs to compensate.

I've seen many Mac vs. PC pricing articles that have priced in expensive, unnecessary software in order to try and even out the price difference and make the Mac look better. It's definitely worth noting that while many Mac users consider purchasing iLife to be indispensable, there are many free alternatives available for PCs, including the terrific Picasa from Google. As for iMovie, iDVD, GarageBand, and iWeb, there are not really comparable Windows counterparts at all - at least without stepping up to the expensive pro market.

In terms of antivirus, Norton is pretty horrible, and most PC users would not use it for free, let alone pay $39 for it. There are several powerful free antivirus programs out there including AVG Anti-Virus. Basically, I don't think it's really valid to include software comparisons when factoring price - I consider iLife to be one of those intangible advantages of the Mac platform, not a monetary one.

for normal usage (of course, YMMV), there's also no need to factor in the price of Vista Ultimate or other upgrades. The standard Vista Home Premium matches Leopard in terms of designed usage, at least for most users (once again, YMMV).

Finally, I thought a few your conclusions were a bit flimsy. for example, you accused cheap Windows PCs of being poor at gaming, but it's pretty much the opposite: If you look at the price of a low-priced Dell Vostro with an 8600GT, it will absolutely demolish a MacBook in all objective gaming performance tests and likely match or beat a MacBook Pro, which costs twice its price.

I don't think there is anything wrong with admitting that Windows machines are cheaper. They just are. That doesn't mean Macs aren't a great value in terms of actual productivity, time saved doing maintenance, build quality, etc. I think it's important to stress the user experience and design of a Mac when trying to convince someone to switch, since it's useless to play with numbers and make Macs look like they are cheaper.

(And as a side note, once you factor in the multitude of coupons offered by Dell, their computers really bury MacBooks in pricing)

Bottom line for me is, Macs still require a modest premium over PCs to attain the same level of performance, but the real question is whether the overall ownership experience is worth that premium. I suppose that in the great LEM tradition, the core of the argument lies in actual functionality and productivity. for the vast majority of users, the Mac will provide a better workflow that would be well worth the extra money. However, there's also lots of software developers, gamers, etc. who require performance/dollar. In their case, it's hard to argue with the financial advantages of PC laptops.

Wow this turned out to be a lot longer than I planned. Hope I made a couple worthwhile points!

-Jason

Jason,

I may be wrong; I don't think we disagree on much, but my emphasis was different. I agree that there are cheaper PC laptops, but they have lower specifications than a basic MacBook. I raised the specifications on purpose to show that these extras cost more whether you buy from Apple or HP. Once we get to close specifications, the gap in prices get much smaller. Sometimes, depending on specification and model, the price can be in Apple's favor.

I actually point out most of the things you are talking about:

  1. for the dv2700t, I gave HP the win for hardware, and I said that software would depend on personal needs. That's not automatically in Apple's favor, nor did I assign it a monetary bonus, but if you were starting from scratch, it would be useful to have.
  2. for the XPS 1350, equal hardware was just as expensive as the Mac. That does include the battery, because what good is a laptop with a short battery life?
  3. Buying Norton Antivirus isn't my idea; that is what Dell and HP post on their websites. I only suggest that with a PC you do have to take this into account.
  4. The multiple flavors of Vista is simply greed on Microsoft's part. It would make the comparison easier if there was only one version to compare. I still use just Leopard when I compared high-end desktops that came with Vista Business. If you do want or need one of these other Vistas, then I listed the price quoted by HP and Dell.
  5. Cheap computers not meeting expectations are not something I invented. Search the Web for the class action suit by those people who bought" Vista Capable" machines. They aren't happy about the missing features. I did simplify the whole story to one sentence for my article, but it does happen to PC buyers. It has even happened to me using Macs - in one year a new game came out that needed slightly higher processor speed and graphics card than I had. You can't tell me that this doesn't happen to PC buyers.
  6. Ask your self one question: Why can Dell sell the "Vostro with an 8600GT, it will absolutely demolish a MacBook", but Dell's own XPS 1350 is priced the same as a MacBook. There has to be something better in the XPS 1350 or the MacBook that you are missing in your comparison.
  7. No I didn't go looking for coupons or other price savings ideas. I used each vendor's own website and any instant savings they listed. If that wasn't good enough, then these vendors are at fault for making it difficult to find out the actual prices.

Good luck with whatever you buy and use.

- Frank

MacBook Needs a Better Graphics Processor

From Joe:

Frank

You missed a few things, like on the dv2700t you can add a 128 MB Nvidia Geforce 8400M GS for $50 that you can't add to the MacBook.

The Dell XPS M1330 let's you add a 128 MB Nvidia® Geforce™ Go 8400M GS for $100. They also have more CPU choice as well.

With Apple, even at $1,500 you still get onboard video and a 13" screen.

There are other good laptops at $1,200 - $1,900+ with the same of better video than the $,2000 MacBook pro.

Joe

Joe,

I missed many things; HP has 9 different home laptop choices. I could spend days going through all the details and the different choices. That wasn't the point I was trying to make. One of the first things I pointed out was that Apple has a simplified line up.

I think that using each vendor's own website, like any average shopper, I found that for the MacBook the prices were not outrageous for the configuration. Yes, I did show that HP could save you a few dollars. I'm sure if I wanted to spend the time I could have hounded that point as well. Looking all these facts up and double-checking the numbers takes time. I had to stop the comparison at some point.

The MacBook Pro is an entirely different beast. It is more expensive, and you either want the features it has or you don't.

You are right that PC vendors can offer higher speed processors on some models, but that just raises the price. That would not have helped them sound any less expensive - no point going on about how much more expensive I could make everything. I did state the price range I was going to cover at the start, which is mostly the base model on the Mac side. Adjustments were made to even things out.

I'm sure that many PC website have taken the time to compare dozens of different models and configurations. If you want more of these facts, it may be better to search those sites.

Good luck with your own computer choices and finding the best price.

- Frank

Frank,

But something should be said about the lack of a real video card in Apple laptop systems under $1,900 and the many PC system that do have one or let you add on for not that much. Also, at $1,500 no real video card is bad.

Joe

Joe,

I purposely avoided comparing video cards for a number of reasons. The most important is that I am not up-to-date on the latest news about graphics cards. This is mostly because I gave up gaming on a Mac and spent the money buying a PlayStation and a Wii. I no longer wait for the Mac version of a new game to be released. Macs were always behind getting the latest games, and I don't think that has changed much.

Without video games, the need for average person to buy a better graphics card is very small. Some people might do 3D modeling or connect to a 67" LCD monitor, but generally these aren't your average Joe. for regular work or 2D drawing, any modern graphics card is more than enough.

You may not know this, but Mac OS X heavily uses the graphic card for core service and displaying information on the screen. The screen redraws, shadows, etc. are all handled by the graphics card. The integrated graphics card is plenty capable. I own a MacBook, and I like how quickly it handles all my everyday tasks. The processor speed and memory is mostly what gets taxed.

Since Apple doesn't design their system to be used by games, there's not much reason for them to burden the system with a video card option on the MacBook. That is just one of the many differences that I had to take into account when comparing Macs to PCs.

If you want a cheap system to play video games on, you'll just have to stay with a PC. Of course the MacBook Pro is different, but it isn't cheap.

- Frank

Frank,

Graphics cards are not just for games, and the Intel board video is the weakest video systems out there. Other onboard video chip sets are better. Also, at $1,200 onboard video is bad, and at $1,500 is a big joke. The OS uses 3D on the desktop; having to use onboard video eats up system RAM and slows down the system by eating up RAM I/O that your apps can use to run faster. The older Mac laptops had lower end real video cards at that price. The low-end video cards in most systems at price are not designed to be used by games, as they can't run them at high detail with good FPS.

Joe

Joe,

I can tell that this video card issue is important to you, but I'm not sure if you are looking at this from a Mac or PC point of view. It may be nice for Apple to offer a choice, but they don't. They are good enough business people to know that this won't hurt sales of their laptops, and it hasn't.

I've seen your arguments before back when I wanted a computer to play games. But I can't think of a single program that the average person uses for 3D graphics that isn't a video game. AutoCAD might use it to render a 3D model of a house, but that isn't exactly an average Joe program. Even Photoshop or DVD editing software really doesn't push the graphics card too hard.

It is fair to say that shared RAM will use up resources for your computer. That tells me to buy more RAM, not a fancier video card. Extra RAM has always been a good resource for a computer, even if the graphics card isn't using it at the time.

Mac OS X has a pretty good memory management system. You'll know when to buy more RAM because it will be hitting the hard drive more often. I'm ready to buy more RAM for my desktop computer, and it has a good graphics card.

The older Mac laptops did have a separate video card, but they didn't use Intel chips. Intel has got a lot of computer companies - Dell, HP, Sony, Apple, etc. - using its integrated graphics. Apple is in a crowd of other computer makers that are taking advantage of the price and performance savings of an integrated video card. The integrated graphics drain less power and give better battery life for your laptop. That is more important to me than playing Halo 3.

If you have programs that need a better graphics card, you can either buy a MacBook Pro, get a desktop computer, or find a PC that has one. You've got to find the solution that works for you.

- Frank

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