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Is a MacBook Pro really more expensive than a Dell Latitude?

Take a look at Erik Eckel's math, which proves that the MacBook Pro might actually be more economical than a Dell Latitude.

Macbook Pro

I have this conversation all the time. Clients, friends, and neighbors invariably claim to understand the merits -- including approachability, reliability, fit and finish, performance, and security -- of Macs. Even diehard Windows aficionados admit application incompatibilities are now largely eliminated thanks to cloud computing’s popularity. Cost remains the holdouts’ sole argument.

But is a MacBook Pro really more expensive than a comparable Windows system? While debating the cost differential between a standard Mac and business-class Windows laptop at lunch one day with a Windows holdout, I promised to explore the question. Here’s what I found.

The Intel Core i5-powered 13.3” MacBook Pro Apple possesses 4 GB RAM, a 500 GB hard drive, integrated Bluetooth, a webcam, an SDXC card reader, a backlit keyboard, and a DVD burner standard. The cost on Friday, September 27th, 2013, was $1,199 (USD). And most everyone knows you typically receive a 5% discount if you establish a business account, but let’s pretend you don’t know that and you pay full price. Considering OS X includes Mail, Contacts and Calendar, plus iPhoto and iMovie, $1,199 is a competitive price.

But just how competitive is it?

Consider Dell’s Latitude E6330, a corporate workhorse 13.3” laptop. While Dell touts a low E6630 price on its web site, customizing the laptop to match the MacBook Pro and include a backlit keyboard, DVD burner, Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, integrated Bluetooth, and a webcam results in the Latitude costing $1,166.30 (USD), after $499.84 (USD) in promotional business pricing discounts.

In other words, the Dell computer is only $32 (USD) cheaper.

But wait. We haven’t calculated the costs for office productivity tools. And remember, OS X already includes Mail, Contacts and Calendar, and personal information management tools fully capable of replacing Microsoft Outlook. OS X also includes iPhoto and iMovie, tools that small businesses frequently use to complete basic marketing and social media campaigning tasks.

So, to the Dell computer's cost, we need to add a copy of Microsoft Office Home and Business 2013 for $219.99 (USD) and a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements bundled with Adobe Premier Elements for $149 (USD). Now, we’re looking at a Dell that really costs $1,535.29 (USD).

To be fair, we also need to add the cost for Apple office productivity tools to the MacBook Pro’s price. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are each $19.99 (USD) from the Apple App store, bringing the MacBook Pro’s total cost to $1,258.97 (USD).

Thus, comparing a business-class Apple MacBook Pro with office productivity tools, a photo-editing app, and a video-editing tool to a comparable Dell Latitude with similar Office productivity tools and audio- and video-editing programs results in a cost savings of $276.32 (USD) when purchasing a Mac.

Have you experienced different pricing than what I discovered? If so, please share your findings in the discussion thread below.


About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

20 comments
geoffpickard
geoffpickard

For every article you post preferring the Apple OS, one could find an equal and/or opposing article that favors the Windows OS...  cost of a MacBook Pro vs. a comparable Dell Latitude, but that is not the point of my comments. I looked at your credentials and you seem like a sharp guy, yet you leave out one of the most important overlooked item in the IT industry. TCO always includes support. In our company, the Mac support costs more. Windows has more HD staff, more resumes, more business hold, and keeps the support costs down. I use a Mac, and I use a PC, and I use an Android, and a BlackBerry, and a iPad, but none are as easy to support as a Windows PC. One of the arguments in the past was, Windows needs AV and Mac's don't. Well, they do, but still they are not subject to the same attacks, so the cost of protection is higher on Windows. It all goes back to what some of your comments say, what is the application you are using? Are you a Graphic Designer? Do you need Live Video Editing equipment? Then use a Mac. Are you a business user that needs to create pivot tables on the fly, then use a Window's based computer with Excel. What's a Pivot table, then obviously you need to use a Mac. I almost think you wrote this article just to stir the pot and not to really inform the public which has a better TCO. Am I right?

n.gurr
n.gurr

I thought that perhaps putting this through the lens of the Educational organization I work for as a contrast with educational pricing may be more realistic to many of us than Eric's example.  It shows a significantly different pricing.  All pricing is in pounds as I work in the UK.

The pricing for a Dell of an identical spec as Erics comes out at £643.86.It must be noted that as we have a site upgrade license for Windows I just need to ensure that we have a copy of Windows on the unit to start with, so I can save £16.17 and as we have a site license for Sophos neither the Mac or the pc needs AV.  As we have an image for all the machines on site I would re-install Windows. I have increase the power adaptor to a 90w to get quicker charging, this is a free option for the Dell.With a site licnese for Office I do not need to purchase this for either the Mac or pc, although I would consider this update for the Mac normally.While the Mac does come with bundled crapware I have not considered this in the price and would urge no-one else to do so unless it is a part of the intended use.The Dell comes with a 3 year onsite warranty, next day, onsite something Eric has neglected to add to his Mac costing.All in the Dell is £772.63.It must be noted that creating the same spec with another commercial Dell, a 330 comes out a £563.76 so it is surely possible to do this cheaper! 

So onto Apple’s educational store: This would not open from Campus and then when it did I got told that I was not the the Uni network, which I was.Still onto the general store, I know that this is not quite so good for comparison but is at least accessible.The same spec as Eric has chosen comes in at £999.  To obtain the same spec warranty as I have for the Dell I need a warranty.Applecare is an extra £199.Oops.This is not onsite, I would have to travel to a venue of Apples choice, probably when I get there one of our less bright former students will then speak to me – mind you PC World also contains former students with poorer degrees (on the whole.) The Dell will out the box connect to a VGA based projector, which is still the standard around campus, the Apple then needs an adapter to perform the same task this is another £25.So all in this is £1222.99.

I think that this tells it’s own story. From the perspective that I known it seems that Eric is playing games to make Apple seem reasonable.

MrBoa
MrBoa

And add the cost of removing all the crapware that bundles with every windows machine. Those 30 day trial software that constantly nags you. In every article of this type, always theres a guy who claims to build a "similar" machine to a macbook pro at half the price. That is a fat lie. Be fair, take a machine with the same specs, same battery duration, same weight,  same display quality and then you realize that the windows machine, in fact, is more expensive. 

sinc2k
sinc2k

Another point is peripheral costs. Mice, keyboards, even VGA / DVI adaptors for Apple cost a fortune, plus most office-based users with a laptop will need a docking station and external monitors - I'd like to see that get done at even a remotely reasonable cost.

I love my MacBook, but for using a laptop everyday for most business tasks, Windows and Office (lot of Visio work) still runs away with it for me. On the few times I've used iMovie I've been blown away by it, but unless you're doing that day-in, day-out (and not on a 13" screen thanks!) then it's still Windows for most businesses. The other thing is when hardware goes wrong. Like the iPhone, people laud it all over the show, but you can't repalce the battery, upgrade the memory, or (easily) replace the HDD if it goes pop.

Like I said - love it, but it's not 'Enterprise' enough yet.

Technically_speaking
Technically_speaking

Lets not forget that adding non standard upgrades to a standard computer is ALWAYS more expensive. Before I would customize the E6330, i would find another computer that has these features, if they all really matter. Actually I am offended. Mr. Eckel assumes we are STUPID enough to purchase the upgrades at FULL price. Our purchasing agents would not do that in a business situation and I wouldn't do that for myself. Besides, I no longer feel that Dell is the standard bearer when there are so many other choices. I would be looking for the "Apple fanboy" ID card in Mr. Eckels wallet! 

I purchase both Wintel and Apple-tel based products but shop as wisely as the choices permit. No point in giving anyone a larger bottom line unnecessarily.

cbslc
cbslc

Don't business class Dells come with 3 yr warranty? Mine do. So chuck on a couple hundred onto that mbp for applecare. And a parallels and windows license. Oh now you have to maintain 2 OS's... Sorry this article is very lacking.

GaryLK
GaryLK

The big difference for me is how much time the machine eats up to keep it going and how aggravating it is.  Windows needs a good amount of time to keep it working and is much more subject to getting problems that are hard to solve, and much more aggravating.  Macs mostly "just work" and you do not need to fool with them or find someone else to help you .  You get to do whatever you want to do and not baby the computer.  Also you avoid learning things about the software that you do not need to get your work done.


Classic windows fun examples:  Cannot connect to the internet, run windows diagnostic and it tells you every thing is fine, you still cannot connect.  The Mac says restart the router and it works.

So, if your time has value and if not being aggravated has value Macs are much cheaper.

rcw86
rcw86

Of course the other point that could be made is that an ASUS, a Dell or any other clone has practically ZERO resale value. 

 Should you decide to part with the MBP it will still have a significant value after three or four years if you look after it.  

I did the self same computation before buying a 17" flat screen iMac (the dome stand version).  At the time there was no equivalent machine available anywhere for a similar price, the flat screen saw to that.  The fact that it would run Photoshop made it a no brainer.

markpenny
markpenny

One assumes from the article that the that those business users already have a PC that is running Office and the iCandy laptop is there just to pose.

Do iCandy users not requrie all the other parts of Office that the general population use? This is a very poorly written and article and shows the bias of the author.

Why iMovie & iPhoto are considered essential and basic Office functionaliy is not sums up the underlying issue with many Apple reviews and users.

There are plenty of very good open source verions of these types of software available for Windows, & many printers, cameras and video cameras come with them. There simply is no need to spend a fortune on premium software to make iCandy look cheap.

Eric Eckel's maths may work in adding up the numbers but the basic concept is crucially flawed.

realvarezm
realvarezm

This is a biased comparison; come on man! you will be able to find an ASUS of 14" with the same specs and tweaks of a mac book pro for half the prize and to that you add their international premium 1 year warranty. There is no doubt about it and please don't use the M$ software line since that brand is heading the path of blackberry, there is plenty of open source software to replace that tool and many others.

Look if Apple offered you some bucks for this article, that's all right but be more realistic and professional about this kind of approach, since this really makes me doubt to continue reading your articles and news.

lkarnis
lkarnis

But what about life-cycle costs. Dell has a much lower quality and customer satisfaction rating than Apple (I'm writing this on a 4 yr old MBP that still gets 4hrs battery life - try that on a Dell). Apple has better build quality and a warranty that is actually worth something (I've had Dell significantly delay honoring warranty work multiple times). Apple software updates are either free or about $30 (for major version updates). What about Windows version updates? Throw in the cost of all of the anti-malware software you need to keep a Windows machine from getting completely borked up and the Dell starts to look a lot more expensive.


The only gripe I have against Apple is that they now solder in all of the memory onto the motherboard (no more memory sockets). So, if during the life of the machine you want to upgrade ram - you can't.


BTW, my last 4 notebooks before my MBP were D'Hells. No more.

Adrian Watts
Adrian Watts

I sense a bit (all right a lot) of forcing here. Why the Dell Latitude E6330 and why force the spec to match the apple with things that don't make sense to really pay extra for on a business laptop. I'll give you the i5, 4gb ram, and 500gb hdd, i'll even allow the dvd burner; but I can't allow the backlit keyboard, the webcam, card reader, or bluetooth as essential business requirements.

Since I am in the uk an apple mac pro 13" i5 costs £999, it should be noted that the i5 runs at 2.50GHz

Specing out a dell E6330 the slowest cpu i could get was a 2.70GHz i5 and it costs £809 but there is no way I would buy this for business use as it looks like you are paying a significant price bump for the backlit keyboard, plus the screen is a lowly 1366x768 which is too small, especially if you plan to do image/video editing on it.)

The similarly specced Latitude E5430 is only £612 and that inlcudes a 1600x900 lcd, webcam, and card reader.

This results in a price differential of £387 which can be spent on software as you need it.

Discussing your software choices above you again are forcing things a bit. If this is a large organisation then either they are both going to require MS Office or neither, and also the image and video tools are not a requirement for everyone so those cancel each other out. If it is a soho business then if they are really pinching the pennies they will not have an exchange server for email (and if they have hosted then they can use thunderbird with it.) For documents they can use an open source like libreoffice, just remember when sending them out to save them in either office format or pdf. For image editing gimp is free. If they really need video editing (and I find this a real stretch for a soho) then premiere elements makes sense.

The only things which makes the mac stand out is the retina display which is an impressive 2560x1600 which can be a persuasive argument for those who need the real estate.

RealNonZealot
RealNonZealot

@adornoe:   For all or most of the software mentioned, there are also the same or better open source alternatives for Mac OS X, like this http://www.openoffice.org/porting/mac/ or this http://www.neooffice.org/neojava/en/index.php or this http://www.libreoffice.org

The fact that you don't know that immediately means that you're not qualified to comment knowledgeably.

But with the addition of MS Office for Mac ($176), you can have the real deal if you insist.

No "business grade" Windows OS is needed:  Macs can bind to and authenticate via Active Directory, attach to Windows fileservers, etc.

Is Windows an absolute must in certain cicrumstances, generally with specialized veritical apps?  Sure.  But not that often.

So if anything is "very tortured", it's your post.  Silly person.


adornoe
adornoe

That was a very tortured attempt to make the MacBook look better.

For all, or most of the software mentioned, there are open source alternatives which the Dell computer could use, which would keep the original price of the Dell at it's sales price.  

Furthermore, most of the "included" software that comes with the MacBook, are not of the same quality as what Microsoft offers, and most businesses don't  use Apple's included applications, which means that, those businesses might still have to pay for the MS software and other required software.  


In addition, most businesses use Windows in their work environments, which might mean that, they'd have to pay an additional $200 (or more) to equip the MacBook with a business-grade Windows OS.


No doubt the MacBook Pro is a nice PC, but the price advantage is never on Apple's side. 
adornoe
adornoe

That was a very tortured attempt to make the MacBook look better.

For all, or most of the software mentioned, there are open source alternatives which the Dell computer could use, which would keep the original price of the Dell at it's sales price.  

Furthermore, most of the "included" software that comes with the MacBook, are not of the same quality as what Microsoft offers, and most businesses don't  use Apple's included applications, which means that, those businesses might still have to pay for the MS software and other required software.  


In addition, most businesses use Windows in their work environments, which might mean that, they'd have to pay an additional $200 (or more) to equip the MacBook with a business-grade Windows OS.


No doubt the MacBook Pro is a nice PC, but the price advantage is never on Apple's side.
scott
scott

You forgot to add oranges to that apple.

pivert
pivert

@markpenny and don't forget a license for parallels or a citrix license to run business apps! and hours of it-support because something's not working on your mac where windows has no problem...

info
info

@realvarezm What you, and a number of commentors, fail to understand is that we're making reference to the greater part of the business world. These are the people where, if you were to take away their MS Office they would just stare in total incomprehension at what you replaced it with, no matter how 'easy' it was to use, and be nearly totally unproductive until you gave it back to them. I'm not being an MS fanboy, either, as this effect would happen with nearly ANY software these workers were used to. "Just replace them with computer-LITERATE people," you say? A comment made by the young and naive. You wouldn't be able to replace the business skills and experience these people have, so most business leaders have elected to not even try.

The author should have just added in either the cost of MS Office 2011: Home and Business ($249) which only excludes Powerpoint and Publisher, tools the greater amount of business users don't use anyway (so long as they have a Powerpoint viewer). The other alternative, the amount of extra training and confusion is hard to justify, would be to run Boot Camp or Parallels or another virtual PC solution to add Windows compatibility.


But yes, like trying to deny the existence of the new iPhone 5c, although the Dell is probably cheapest, it's still a 'business model' notebook. Again, in my experience, a great number of businesses purchase consumer-grade gear because 'it's good enough'. For the most part, it usually is.

adornoe
adornoe

@RealNonZealot No matter how hard you try to justify or rationalize the MacBook Pro's value, it still doesn't work when comparing the features and usage.

No open source applications can replace what's available for the Dell system as opposed to what's proposed as adequate or good enough for the Mac Pro.  Open source applications cannot really be compared to the developer supported apps, such as Office.  Sure, open source can be cheaper, but when it comes to support, where would you get it from?  Would it be through a web-page were you file a problem and hope somebody in the open source community gets back to you with an answer in adequate time?

I use open source applications, such as Libre Office, and I also use an open source DBMS, like Postgresql, but, support is not as easily obtained for them, and to get that support, you need to sign up and pay for it.  Postgresql is a very robust product, and I appreciate having it for "free", but, when it comes to having a product that is backed up from beginning to end in all aspects, I'd prefer to work with Office and perhaps even SQL Server.  SQL Server is still a bit expensive for what I do, but if I had a large application that needed a DBMS and I didn't want to be hunting around for support, then, SQL Server, or an Oracle database would be preferable.  To boot, Apple doesn't even provide its own DBMS, so you're stuck using somebody else's application.  

Fact is that, Apple in the enterprise is an afterthought, and the only thing they do provide, is nice looking and good quality, but as far as complete solutions, they're very lacking.

I stick with my description that the article above was a "tortured" attempt to make the Mac Pro look better, while it's not.