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Apple has, as far back as I can remember, always been accused of having overpriced products in comparison to the clone counterparts. I say clone, instead of PC, as an agreement with the argument that Apple, for the most part, uses the same components that you find in a PC.

To examine this argument, I stopped by Apple’s site, priced out a Macbook Pro 15″, then visited Dell and built a comparable model. The Macbook has a video card one generation newer and the Dell as a higher resolution screen, but other than that, they are a good comparison.

Dell Alienware m15x
Intel i5 2.53 GHz
15.6″ 1600×900 LED glossy Display
4GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM
500GB 7200RPM SATA-II Hard drive
nVidia GeForce 260M 1GB video card
8x DVD burner
85 watt Lithium Ion battery
Windows 7 Home Edition
Plastic case

TOTAL: $1949.00

Apple Macbook Pro
Intel i5 2.53GHz
15″ 1680×1050 Glossy LED
4 GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM
500GB 7200 RPM SATA-II drive
nVidia GeForce GT 330m 256MB video card
8x DVD burner
iSight Camera
77.5 watt Lithium Ion Battery
Mac OSX 10.6

Aluminum case

TOTAL: $2207.00

So, on the surface, it looks like you are paying $258.00 for an aluminum case and a newer generation of video card. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll see a slightly difference picture. In benchmark testing, the 260M is a significantly faster video card than the newer 330M. The only advantage that the 330M has is better thermal management, which results in a cooler laptop and longer battery life. A friend of mine has a nice high-end clone laptop with one of nVidia’s higher performance mobile video cards and he had manually lower the performance of it to avoid his computer constantly overheating and crashing. Nice.

Why pay more for the Apple?

1. Preference of OS X over Windows 7. I like OS X, but Windows 7 is turning out to be better than I had anticipated. OS X is a safer operating system for a non-techie, in my experience, which usually results in a lower total cost of ownership since “OS cleanup” isn’t required as often. Once again, I haven’t enough experience with the newer Windows 7 to give an honest comparison on that level, other than considering virus threats.
2. Better physical device quality overall. I’ve  owned a number of Dell laptops (and still have one netbook around) and they have consistently had crap build quality when compared to Apple’s machines.
3. Cool factor. Why would anyone buy a BMW over an equivalent Lexus?
4. The Apple Store. They have done a great job of creating an environment where you feel appreciated and supported. I’m not a fan of the name “Genius Bar,” but it serves its purpose quite well.

For me, the choice is the Apple laptop. The security of knowing that I have a physically more rugged device, necessary for me dragging it around all day, is priceless. Downtime is too valuable for me to pinch pennies. At the same time, I wouldn’t fault you for buying the Dell machine. They are exactly the same weight and the Dell will do a much better job of cranking out high frame rates when you have the penchant to play video games.

Of course, with the Apple, you can run OSX and Windows 7, at the same time, if you so choose!

** note. Prices and links are Canadian dollars.