Premium Apples!

I’m the “computer guy” to many of my friends. I had a friend ask for recommendations. Specifically, if I thought it was worthwhile buying from Apple.

I told him I’d check on it, but that I didn’t imagine it would be worthwhile. I had no idea how bad Apple would be until I ran the numbers.

For a high end Mac Pro, Apple.com lists a suggested configuration for $2,799. That’s a lot of money, but the machine is pretty impressive:

Two 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon “Harpertown” processors
2GB memory
ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT
320GB hard drive
16x double-layer SuperDrive

It looks great (but we’d want to add some more memory). Problem is, I priced the same rig, with 180gb more drive space, for $2,360. That makes the Apple $400 more expensive. I guess that’s not sooo bad, since the Mac comes with an OS. Vista ultimate 64 bit edition costs $169 with a system, so that makes the Apple OS more than twice as expensive. Maybe it’s worth it, I doubt it, but maybe.

However, my friend is unlikely to drop 2 grand on a computer and unless you’re rendering massive videos or doing large-scale computational analysis, dual quad core processors (*jazz hands* “Harpertown!” *jazz hands*) don’t actually make much difference. More cores doesn’t mean faster unless the applications are specifically tuned to use those extra cores. Neither World of Warcraft or Club Penguin are specifically tuned.

So I took a look at a “midrange” Mac.  The 24inch iMac, which apple retails for $1,799:

2.8GHz Intel Core 2 duo processor
2GB memory
ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT
320GB hard drive
8x double-layer SuperDrive
24 inch LCD monitor

This is where it got really ugly. I priced the same system for $891. That’s $908 cheaper. $908. The iMac is more than twice as expensive. But the iMac is white. And you can’t upgrade it. And it’s white.

Now, to be sure, I’m not looking at Dell, or HP; I’m building my own. But that means that I can get better hardware than I could at Apple, Dell or HP. Since Apple switched to a commodity platform, they compete within a mature ecosystem of motherboard/ram/drive suppliers. I can get premium components for less, much less, than Apple charges.

I could also upgrade the hard drive, ramp up the video card, downgrade the processor and bulk up the RAM for what would wind up being an even faster, more powerful system, for substantially less money.

So, I guess this is my offer: if you’re thinking of buying an iMac, I’ll build you the equivalent system and only charge a $400 premium! That’s a $500 savings! Buy three! With the savings, you could subscribe to Club Penguin for 25 years. (Or WoW for 9.6 years.)

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