Are Macs More Expensive?

by Chris Howard Feb 04, 2009

I was on Digg the other day and saw a comment about Macs being more expensive. I couldn't help jumping in and throwing my support behind the commenter because Macs are more expensive for most people.

Statistics can prove anything. It's said that flying is safer than driving, but I read several years ago a very convincing argument that the opposite was true if you you used a different measuring stick. Unfortunately I don't remember what that was and a Google search didn't help, although it was probably based on number of trips per fatal accident, because there's hundreds of million car trips per day, compared to tens of thousands of plane trips per day. (Personally, since many car trips are short, I'm more interested in statistic that works on miles travelled, which is the one that favours plane travel.)

The Mac vs PC, "which is more expensive" argument is the same. The Mac fans like to go on about quality and TCO to support their argument. These are amusing because if people listened to those arguments, they'd all be driving expensive European cars. Ever noticed just how many cheap-ass cars are on the road?

But in the end it's got nothing to do with these. They're just furphies to fool people into thinking they should spend the extra money. It's about having the choice to spend less, which, within a spec-range, you don't get really get with Macs. And, consequently, it's also about budgets.

The way we should look at the Mac vs PC cost camparson is who's buying. In particular, home users and what's their budget. Mums and dads for example.

Mums and dads, first off, don't give a brass razoo about TCO, they just want to know how much it's going to cost today. However, they are influenced by whizz-bangetry, which gives the PC salesman, with TV tuners, surround sound, card reads etc all built-in, a distinct advantage.

So let's look at a tangible example. (Since I'm using Australian slang and spelling, I'll use Aussie dollars too.) Mum and dad want a computer for the kids. Nothing too swish, just internet, something to run an office suite, and a few low- to mid-end games. In the PC world they'll probably spend AU$700 - AU$1000. In the Mac world they don't get that choice. Down here in Oz, a Mac mini starts at AU$849. If it's their first computer or an additional, they've got to add at least AU$250 for a keyboard, mouse and monitor. If they want to get something a little better, the next Mac mini is AU$1148. Consequently, for these Mac purchasing mums and dads, the Mac range is AU$1050 to AU$1400.

Oh, and they did notice that all the PCs they looked at had at least 2GB of memory and 160GB hard disks. Those add another AU$270 to the Macs,making that range AU$1320 to AU$1670. (And that doesn't even consider that the Mac is way old, without an update since August, 2007.)

But hang on, this mum and dad just want a computer for the kids. They don't want to spend an arm and a leg. In fact, they'd really like to spend only about AU$1000. So the PC is already way ahead of the Mac.

For these mums and dads, the Mac is more expensive than the PC, and in fact, too expensive. Sold, one PC.

It's the same for so many other people, whether at home or in business. Most folks want a computer to do a job, they have a budget, and if the Mac doesn't fit into that budget, they can't justify paying a premium.

Macs are more expensive and I'm happy to pay the premium. But I fully understand why most people don't.

Apple also understands and accepts that. After all, it doesn't make no "$500 junk". Whatever market you look at, be it home, prosumer, or pro, Apple doesn't make junk computers in that market (current Mac mini excused), it makes premium ones. This implicitly says Macs will be more expensive than the norm.

Macs are more expensive. Apple accepts it, so should Mac fans.

(BTW If you're a PC user thinking of switching, and if you can stretch the budget, do it, you won't be sorry.)


  • I really dont understand this price debate, why does people buy Apple products when there are products that cost less.

    You are right, that there are less expensive computers then the Mac on the market. There are also more expensive computers on the market.

    When I look for a computer, I usually have a purpose for that particular computer. For a development computer, I want the fastest computer on the market. My Mac Pro was cheaper then the Dell alternative.

    If I wanted to buy a computer to connect to my Tv, I would want something similar to the Mac mini. The Dell alternative to the mini is actually more expensive then the Mac, even today.

    Apple computers are designed to meet the requirements of a specific market, and if that marked doesn’t include you, there might be a better choice in another brand.

    And if your “non-Apple” super-computer is way more expensive then any Mac, it doesent mean that the Apple is a better choice just because it cost less.

    Could anybody enlighten me a bit?

    sirch had this to say on Feb 04, 2009 Posts: 1
  • Only reason I can think of is to stir the pot. Attempting to address those standing on the irrational or, at least, unrealistic side of the debate is exactly that, irrational. In this case the apple core which only requires “Vs. PC” to begin, the details are irrelevant. My opinion is to facilitate the expected response.

    Neener neener raspberry

    Wundryn II had this to say on Feb 04, 2009 Posts: 11
  • My issue is not so much that Macs cost more, which is indisputably true, it’s the Mac-droids who insist that this isn’t the case.  And that “measuring stick” becomes quite the crooked and twisted pretzel when they get done with it.

    The reason why the “intangible” TCO argument is so appealing to Mac-droids is because they need it precisely because it’s intangible, ie not measurable.  This allows them to concoct all sorts of fantasy costs associated with the PC and calculate literally unbelievable cost-savings with the Mac.

    Speaking of notebooks, you can get some really good, powerful notebooks right now for $600, and $1000 gets you a lot more.  The CHEAPEST Mac notebook is $1000, with older technology and underpowered compared to the PC market.

    For some Macs, it’s true that spec-for-spec they are competitive.  But that’s like saying that because Mercedes and BMWs have similar specs for similar cost, that they are not expensive.  They still are, even if they are comparable among luxury vehicles.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Feb 04, 2009 Posts: 2220
  • If you try to compare a cheap PC to a Mac of course the Mac will always be a lot more expensive. That’s like saying that a Toyota Camry is more expensive than a Ford Escort. The fact is that Apple doesn’t make bottom-end computers. There are many less expensive Windows PCs than Macs, but it’s also true that there are Windows PCs that are much more expensive than Macs (some gamer rigs can cost 3 times as much as a Mac Pro). This is because Apple makes a limited number of models that don’t compete with the least expensive Windows PCs, nor do they compete with the ultra expensive Windows PCs. Apple’s computers are at a reasonably priced mid-range level.

    When comparing Macs to similarly featured and configured Windows PCs, all things being equal, Macs are usually no more expensive than a comparably priced Windows PC, or it may end up being slightly more expensive. This is the reality.

    When you add in the value of the excellent software included in the price of the Mac (e.g. the iLife suite) and the additional savings of not having to buy anti-virus software subscriptions and the down-time caused by Windows malware, Macs are a bargain compared to Windows PCs.

    But when making an informed, intelligent decision on buying any expensive item (such as a computer or a car) purchase price is not the only factor that we consider.

    For example reliability. Would you have buy a Toyota Camry if you knew that it wouldn’t start some mornings, or it burned more gas than other comparable cars?

    How much is your time (or frustration) worth per hour to have to reformat your computer and try to recover all of your important files every time you get hit with a Windows virus?
    How much is it worth to you to know that your identity (credit card numbers, SIN numbers, etc.) isn’t being stolen without your knowledge by Windows spyware?

    Other important factors when buying a computer, a car, or a house are build quality and expected life span. On average Windows computers get replaced every 3 years. The useable life span of a Mac computer is easily twice as long as that of a Windows PC (all of a sudden PCs are a lot more expensive than Macs wink.

    For example, I have a Mac that is 10 years old (bought in 1999) that still runs perfectly. It runs the current Mac operating system and all current applications at a reasonable speed. I wonder how many Windows uses have a 10 year old PC, and can it run Windows Vista?

    Harvey had this to say on Feb 04, 2009 Posts: 13
  • The problem with this ongoing argument is that when someone claims that Macs are more expensive than Windows PCs, the comparisons they give are not Apples to apples, they’re usually Apples to potatoes.

    If you actually configure a name brand Windows PC to a similarly spec’d Mac, the results can be surprising.

    For example, here is a comparison between the 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook, and the 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Sony Vaio VGN-Z690:

    Both have:
    - 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
    - 13” LED backlit display
    - Built-in video camera and microphone
    - 2 GB DDR3-SDRAM (DDR3-1066, 2GBx1)
    - 250GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
    - DVD-RW drive
    - 1000Base-T Ethernet
    - 802.11n Wi-Fi
    - Bluetooth

    The MacBook outdoes the Vaio with these features:
    - Faster NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor
    - Durable aluminum unibody (Vaio is plastic)
    - DVD-RW drive is slot loading
    - Keyboard has automatic back-lighting
    - The MacBook is 0.95” thin (the Vaio is 1” to 1.3” thick)
    - Multi-Touch trackpad
    - MagSafe power port

    And now for the surprise. These are the prices for each of these similarly configured notebooks from the Sony and Apple Web sites, checked today:

    Sony Vaio VGN-Z690 is $1739.99 US

    Apple MacBook is $1,599.00 US

    The MacBook, with better features than the Sony Vaio, is $140.99 LESS!!!

    Harvey had this to say on Feb 04, 2009 Posts: 13
  • Harvey, everything you say is true. But that’s not how many PC users shop. They’re not going to buy the Sony any more than they’ll buy that Mac, UNLESS that’s in the budget they have. Otherwise if they can get it cheaper with similar specs (which they easily could), they likely will, and they will say “Macs are expensive” and they might even add “So are Vaios” Which is no surprise because they’re both premium brands.

    As I said, with the airline example, you can always work it out so it favours whichever side you take. That’s why you have to put yourself in the shoes of the shopper and think about how they make purchases, not how you do.

    And ESPECIALLY PC users. If their shopping thought processes were the same as yours, yes, they’d all be using Macs.

    As you said at the beginning: “If you try to compare a cheap PC to a Mac of course the Mac will always be a lot more expensive.” And that’s what most people do because they have a budget to stick to that often excludes Macs.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 04, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • Nicely said, MacGlee. “Intangibles” is such a good word.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 04, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • It is the usual rational:  lowest acquisition price!!  Cheap out on the front-end and you will pay for it in the long-run.

    WetcoastBob had this to say on Feb 05, 2009 Posts: 29
  • I buy a Macs because I prefer MacOS, like the external design more and am fortunate enough to be able to afford them.  But it’s total nonsense to pretend that Macs are cheaper (they’re blatantly not - given a fixed budget, I will always be able to find a PC that has higher performance) and nonsense about TCO is just that - unless, perhaps, you’re self-employed and time spent defragging your hard disk could be spent earning income.  Mac users make themselves look silly by pretending anything else.  The math is pretty obvious - even to a PC user…

    Paul Howland had this to say on Feb 05, 2009 Posts: 38
  • @Chris Howard:
    “They’re not going to buy the Sony any more than they’ll buy that Mac, UNLESS that’s in the budget they have.”

    As I wrote in my first comment:
    “This is because Apple makes a limited number of models that don’t compete with the least expensive Windows PCs, nor do they compete with the ultra expensive Windows PCs.”

    People should not be surprised, or complain, that Apple doesn’t make $200 netbooks, or $500 notebooks, or even $5,000 gaming machines. Even if Apple wanted to, there is no way that they could have an alternative product for every other Windows PC out in the marketplace. It just isn’t feasible. And if they ever tried to be all things to all people it would mean financial ruin for the company.

    One of the main reasons why Apple is not currently producing cheap computers is because low prices means low quality (something that goes against what Apple products are known for), and it also means low profit margins (which would put Apple in a precarious position financially).

    In the example I gave, Sony Vaio vs. MacBook, this comparison is valid because they are two similar products.

    Again, yes there are cheaper (in every way) computers than Apple’s. But Apple is not trying to compete with these cheap computers.

    “But that’s not how many PC users shop.”

    The fact is that there are currently no cheap Macs for those users. The sooner that these Windows users (and Mac users) realize this and stop complaining about it, the sooner they can get on with their lives.

    Harvey had this to say on Feb 05, 2009 Posts: 13
  • This really has nothing to do with the Mac vs the PC. It’s all about budget constraints for the initial acquisition, in terms of what a person is willing or able to spend.

    You might say that there are three price ranges for PCs: low, middle, and high. In comparison, there are only two price ranges for the Mac: middle and high. Macs are missing the lower price range. If a person has a budget constraint that places them in the low price range, then the Mac (middle) is more expensive than the PC (low). Of course that also means that the PC (middle) is too expensive for them too. If a person can afford the middle or high price range, then the Mac is a viable choice.

    I have a coworker who indulges himself by owning a BMW. He also has a visceral yearning to get a Mac. The problem is after the BMW, he doesn’t have enough money for it. On the other hand, I don’t make enough money for a three-letter German car (BMW), so I own a two-letter German car (VW). The money I would spend on that third letter goes to purchasing a Mac with all the trimmings.

    We have about the same income. For his priorities, the BMW is affordable and the Mac is too expensive. For my priorities, the BMW is too expensive and the Mac is affordable.

    So if someone says the Mac is more expensive, they are right. And if someone else says that Macs aren’t more expensive, they are right, too.

    Hugmup had this to say on Feb 06, 2009 Posts: 40
  • Macs aren’t overpriced. The worst perpetrators to this myth seems to be Apple users themselves. They think because they have a superior product that it just makes sense that it will cost more. No, they really don’t. They are reasonably priced.

    Check the following article out:

    annoy had this to say on Feb 09, 2009 Posts: 1
  • A good article, thanks, annoy, and reasonably objective. but still the same old same old about comparing apples to apples.

    Folks just don’t do that. They do compare apples to potatoes. They compare sticker prices. They don’t want to go thru all the fuss and effort this guy did just to discover the Macs are reasonable value.

    As I said, if everybody went to this much effort to compare apples to apples, there’d be a lot more BMWs and Mercedes on our roads.

    People just don’t compare apples to apples. They compare stickers to stickers. And that’s what makes the Macs expensive, regardless of whether anyone can trick up a comparison that says otherwise.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 09, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • It’s what MacGlee said about intangibles. Mac folks trying to prove Macs are on par love to throw in the intangibles - the longer expectancy, the software that comes with Macs, the higher quality parts etc.

    But the only thing that is really tangible is the folding stuff that has to be plonked down today.

    Here’s littel example. I wanted a digital SLR with twin lenses. Cost - about $900. Just couldn’t justify that much and I’d budgeted closer to $700. So I bought one with a single lens for $730.

    Now, telling my wife the camera only cost $730 instead $900 sounds pretty good, eh? But uess what, since then I’ve easily spent the difference on filters and an a second lens. I think I’m up to $950

    Same with PCs. Sure Macs have iLife and you’ll have to fork out for something equivalent on the PC and not to mention anti-virus software. But it’s the upfront cost that matters most.

    That’s the one we use to convince ourselves we got a bragain or stuck to our budget. smile

    Chris Howard had this to say on Feb 09, 2009 Posts: 1209
  • Over and over and over, it has been clearly demonstrated Macs are NOT more expensive, when comparing the same thing. But that’s not what you are saying. You are asserting that Macs are more expensive than the lowest level of Windows econo-rubbish.  Yes. But so what?  To say a Lexus is more expensive than a Ford Colt is true, and it is also just an empty and valueless assertion - with no concretely relevant or actionable implication.

    What is the “therefore” of such an assertion? In this article, the only “therefore” is “Macs are more expensive. Apple accepts it, so should Mac fans.”  Well, it’s still an empty statement.  To be really valid, this should read, “Macs are more expensive than the lowest level cheapo Windows crap computers.  Apple accepts it, so should Mac fans.”  Well, yeh. I accept Macs are more expensive than bargain basement rubbish. But so what?  Somewhat similar to saying, “Cars are faster than bicycles.”

    To respond to some other points in the comments…

    Total cost of ownership, time spent battling viruses and crashes, and greatly increased efficiency are NOT intangibles. They are easily (and extensively) studied concrete factors. Whether a particular purchaser takes them into account or not is a separate question. To call it “intangible” because you or someone else doesn’t pay attention to it, or because it is not written on a card, is specious.

    The whole price question is just foolish. Whether with computers, websites, shirts or cars, the question of “How much does it cost?” is just about the worst question you can ask (unless you are living on welfare or are one of the “working poor”). The vital question is, “What am I getting?” If you want to buy a smoke-trailing, 1980s Lada, by all means, buy one.  But never yourself it’s better than a Lexus, or that Lexus should make similar cars, or that total cost of ownership doesn’t matter, or that such a purchase is automatically wise.

    “....  it’s the upfront cost that matters most.”
    Yes. Unfortunately, to many people, that’s the primary question—- and, I would assert, a horribly mistaken distortion of sensible purchasing. To have a knee-jerk response of automatic purchase of the lowest-priced product shouts, “I have no clue.”

    So if that’s all you’re saying - that many people will by low-level econo goods for the lowest price (a la WalMart) - yes, you’re absolutely right. But…. uhhhh…. soooo? What’s that got to do with Apple?

    Michael Linehan had this to say on Feb 09, 2009 Posts: 2
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