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.

By Erik Eckel

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...