By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 12:36 am
Let’s review the specs and other features and the scores I’ve been awarding. If I mistallied anything here, I know you’ll notice and tell me…
I have the MacBook Pro scoring highest, followed by the Dell and the Lenovo, then the HP, and the Sony lagging behind. I don’t want to suggest this is definitive, or that the MacBook’s 19 points make it a runaway winner. For one thing, I haven’t weighted the categories (in part because their importance is so subjective–depending on your needs, the MacBook Pro’s lack of memory-card slots could be either a huge flaw or irrelevant). You could also argue either that I’ve given the MacBook Pro points it doesn’t deserve (is it really worth awarding it a point0 for DDR3 RAM?) or that I’ve ignored areas where it should have been rewarded (topic for comments: The Mac’s relative lack of security problems is the single biggest argument for buying one–discuss).
But I will say this: After going through all these specs item by item, I don’t think you can make the case that the MacBook Pro is a meager piece of hardware compared to the three Windows systems I compared it to. Even if you were to convince me to remove some of the points I gave it–and you might–it would come out of the contest doing okay.
Which leaves one topic to discuss. Price.
Here’s the cost of the five systems as I configured them at the Web sites of the manufacturers on March 30th. Dell, HP, and Lenovo, like many PC manufacturers–but unlike Apple–all quote a high list price, then try to reel you in with a sizable discount. I’ll use the price after discount in these cases.
MacBook Pro: $2799
Dell Precision M6400 Mobile Workstation: $2955 (after “instant savings” of $257–normal price is $3212)
HP EliteBook Mobile Workstation GW678AV:$2815.06 (after applying an 18% discount e-coupon–normal price is $3433)
Lenovo ThinkPad W700: $2444 (sale price–normal price is $2853)
Sony VAIO VGN-FW390: $1604.98
McCracken’s Third Law of Computer Buying specifies that when you’re spending $1000 or more for a system, you shouldn’t obsess over price differences of $100 or less. So here’s my bottom line on the prices before taking the configurations into account: The MacBook Pro and the HP essentially cost the same; the Dell is more expensive, but in the same ballpark; the Lenovo is significantly cheaper, but not in an utterly different ballpark; and the Sony is in a far more affordable ballpark.
Which makes the Sony’s lower score in my spec analysis make sense: It’s a somewhat less luxe computer for hundreds of dollars less than the other laptops here. And note that the comparison would be much different if you didn’t factor in the sales prices on the Dell, HP, and Lenovo–in that case, the Dell and HP would look pricey and the Lenovo would cost about the same as the MacBook Pro.
But where does this leave the Apple laptop? There’s no way to boil the question down to a math problem, because there’s no way to configure a Mac to be precisely the same as a Windows machine in terms of specs. But I don’t see how you can look at this comparison and declare there’s some sort of unique Mac Tax. High-end laptops tend to command high-end prices, whether the software they run hails from Redmond or Cupertino.
I hope it’s obvious that the vast majority of laptop shoppers won’t buy any of these computers, because they don’t need to spend anywhere close to these prices to get a computer that’ll suit them just fine. (Me, I’ve never spent two grand on a computer in my life.) Or to put it another way–there are a lot of Laurens in the world, and a lot of computers that don’t attempt to cater to their needs. Including some Windows laptops and all Mac ones.
Thus ends this chapter of Technologizer’s Are Macs Expensive? Unless I’m very much mistaken, some of you are going to want to dive into the conversation…
[UPDATE, IF YOU’RE STILL WITH ME: I’ve done a follow-up comparison of the 17-inch MacBook Pro vs. more consumery Windows laptops.]