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.
Once again, I’ll begin with a mini-FAQ:
Q. How did you decide what Windows laptops to include in this comparison?
A. I looked for ones that are currently on sale at Best Buy, then limited the options to ones that were in-stock at BestBuy.com, to avoid any deals that were irresistible but unavailable. I then selected machines from Gateway, HP, and Sony that were as close to the base MacBook as possible. (Best Buy does sell Dells, too, but the only similar one was out of stock.) Since Best Buy doesn’t stock machines of all sorts and I couldn’t do custom configurations, the Windows boxes weren’t as close to the MacBook as in my first comparison–for instance, they all had larger screens, and none of them had Bluetooth.
Q. How do you factor in the obvious superiority of the Mac platform? (Or, if you prefer, its obvious inferiority.)
A. I don’t! Not in this story, anyhow. Ask just about anyone who likes Macs what they like best, and OS X will be the first thing they mention. But that’s ultimately subjective, and I tried to make my research err on the side of things that are easy to measure, like hard-drive size and the availability or unavailability of a particular feature.
Q. Can I find the Windows laptops even cheaper somwhere other than Best Buy?
A. Um, maybe, but I believe that these models are designed specifically for sale at Best Buy. Very similar models with slightly different names and slightly different configurations are probably available elsewhere. All of which makes precision comparison shopping maddeningly difficult.
Q. Will you tell me which of the systems is best?
A. Nope–this isn’t a review. I’m just trying to determine whether the cheapest MacBook looks pricey or reasonable when compared to low-cost Windows notebooks that are at least vaguely similar.
Q. Will you tell me your conclusions now so I don’t have to read any further?
A. Oh, okay–unlike the custom-configured Windows laptops in my first comparison, these Best Buy sale machines are all a lot cheaper than the basic MacBook, with more RAM, bigger hard drives, and larger screens.
Q. Why do you spend so much time asking yourself questions and then answering them? Is it some sort of nervous tic?
A. Sorry about that. Let’s get on with the show, starting with more details on the computers I compared.