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Are Macs More Expensive? Round Four: The Skinny on the Mini

Pity the poor Mac Mini. After being unveiled with plenty of hoopla in January 2005 as “the most affordable Mac ever,” it departed the limelight with surprising swifness. The glossy white micro-Mac has received only minor updates such as CPU upgrades and actually got less affordable when the base model went from $499 to $599. Last year, there were even premature reports of the Mini’s imminent death, and most Mac enthusiasts didn’t seem too griefstricken at the prospect of its demise.

But the Mini lives–and even though $599 is no longer anywhere near a dirt-cheap price for a computer, it remains the cheapest Mac. It also comes in a super-small package that’s still fun and distinctive. So it’s the subject of my fourth excessively in-depth Mac-vs.-PC price comparison. My goal, as always, is to gauge whether you pay a “Mac Tax” when you buy a Mini instead of a roughly comparable Windows PC.

Before we get started, here are links to earlier comparisons in this series, just in case you missed ’em:

Round one: A mid-range MacBook vs. custom-configured Windows laptops.
Round two: The cheapest MacBook vs. cheap Windows laptops.
Round three: The iMac vs. Windows all-in-ones

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Are Macs More Expensive? Round Two: Survival of the Cheapest

On Thursday, I began my multiple-part look at the cost of Macintoshes by comparing a mid-range MacBook to some Windows laptops which I’d configured to be as similar to the MacBook as possible. Compared to those machine, I concluded that the MacBook was in the zone in terms of price and power, or, in other words, “not expensive.”

I also managed to stir up lots of controversy, in the form of dozens of comments and discussion elsewhere on the Web. So as promised, I’m back with another round of price comparisons, and based in part on comments to my original post by a reader named Michael, I’ve decided to stick with the MacBook and compare it to Windows laptops that happen to be on sale at Best Buy at the moment.

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Are Macs More Expensive? Let’s Do the Math Once and For All

[UPDATE: This is one of the most popular stories we’ve ever published, but with the arrival of the new MacBook on October 14th, it’s also obsolete. Read it if you like–but this new article compares the new MacBook to comparable Windows computers.]

It’s of those eternal questions of the computing world that never seems to get answered definitively: Does the “Mac Tax” really exist? Some folks are positive that Macs are overpriced compared to Windows computers; others deny it steadfastly. Almost nobody, however, bothers to do the math in any serious detail.

So that’s what I’m going to do. And since Apple manufactures multiple models, I’m going to do it one computer at a time, starting with the MacBook, the company’s consumer notebook.

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