Saturday, March 22, 2008


There has been some MS bashing in comments here lately, and of course the ever present suggestion that one should simply drop MS entirely and buy a Mac.

Well, I have just one thing against Macs, and that's the price.

I need a new laptop rather badly. My current ThinkPad T43 is an unreliable POS, the backlight has dimmed a huge amount, the power jack is loose and sometimes disconnects the power for no reason, and the battery is down to 20 minutes of life.

So, I've been looking around, pricing new laptops. I'm not looking for a economy priced model here; I want a higher end fully capable model. Not necessarily a desktop replacement, but I need some serious juice, because I run multiple virtual machines on my laptop.

I want a fast processor, a minimum of 2 gigs of RAM with a free dimm slot, or 4gb of ram, a DVD burner, integrated G and preferably N wireless, integrated bluetooth, and discreet graphics with dedicated video memory.

Oh and I'd like them all in an attractive, and hard wearing package that's easy to travel with, and that has an EXCELLENT keyboard; because I type for 8+ hours a day every day.

Both Apple and Lenovo can give me all that, with their MacBook pro, and ThinkPad lines.

I can get all that I want, in both 14" and 15" models, with the ThinkPad T series for between $1350 and $1400; or in the cheaper (but somewhat bulkier) R series, for $1150 or $1200 (theres only a $50 price difference between 14" and 15" in the thinkpads).

Configuring a Mac Book Pro IDENTICALLY, with exactly the same features and specs (actually the IBM has a higher end video card)... $2499

Dropping down to the Mac Book (non pro), you only get a 13" screen and integrated graphics, and yet, the damn thing costs $1899 when configured with 4 gigs.

If I want to go crazy and configure the IBM out to the max, the t series has a very high end graphics option (Nvidia QuadroFX 570), 2.6ghz processor, a higher resolution, finer dot pitch screen, a larger faster hard drive, and a higher capacity battery... all for $2400.

A MacBook pro in maximum configuration, with the same ram and proc, but a smaller hard drive, lower end graphics, and a lower capacity battery... $3200.

... Sooooo I'm paying $800 to $1300 more to Apple for identical (or inferior) hardware for what? The privilege of basking in my aesthetic and cultural superiority? The joy of residing in the Jobsian reality distortion field?

Oh wait now, it's the price of running the "vastly superior" Max OS-X... which is in fact a fancy graphical shell over a MachBSD mashup...

$1300 for MacOSX or... Ubuntu/Kubuntu for free... hmmmm...

No thanks bubba.

Now lets continue the excercise.

Skipping on over to the desktop side of things, the CHEAPEST Mac Pro starts at $2300, with one 2.8ghz quad core xeon, 2 gigs of ram, a 320gig hard drive, and crap graphics.

Moving to a more typical configuration of 2 processors, 4 gigs of RAM, 2x 500 gig hard drives, and decent graphics brings us to $3999.

Building an IDENTICAL box from Newegg (using comparable case and motherboard, and otherwise the exact same pieces Apple is using), gives me about $1900 for the lower end configuration; and $3100 for the higher end model.

Of course both of those are with no OS, so adding $150 for the MS tax bumps that a bit; but it still doesn't bring it up to pricing parity; at $500 and $900 pre-os difference respectively. Moreover, you can always run Linux for free.

And of course as always, the higher you upgrade an Apple, the more disproportionate the difference becomes; because unlike other vendors that charge 20% or so over retail, Apple charges several times (as in 2x to 4x) the full retail price of the components to upgrade. They justify it by saying their components are certified, tested, and warranted to work with Apples hardware and software; but the identical part numbers at normal retail prices are guaranteed to work with Windows too (to be fair, the other major OEM vendors do this as well, especially when you add the word "workstation" to anything; they just don't do it as badly as Apple does).

If I want to go to a 16gb dual video card configuration with 4 hard drives, and maxed processors, the Mac Pro comes in at just under $10k. Doing the same with at Newegg brings me to just under $5k.

Now remember, we're not talking about Macs having any special hardware anymore. They run the same chipsets, same processors, same memory, and same drives, as comparable machines running Windows and Linux. The only differentiators are the attractive industrial design, and MacOS.

I love Macs, I really do. They're well made, beautiful, and have excellent customer support. The operating system as exists today is very well designed (though not always as well executed), and the user environment is quite good.

Unfortunately, they're also slapping some new body panels, leather seats, and a fresh coat of paint on an Oldsmobile; and trying to charge me Mercedes prices for it.

Once again I say, no thanks Bubba... I mean Steve.