To be fair, it’s almost impossible to compare apples to apples. Sure, both Apple and Dell make computers (the addition of Microsoft Windows on the Dell notwithstanding). In many cases the computers serve the same purpose; email, web browsing, word processing, music, digital photos, spreadsheet, and so on.
In general functionality, there’s not much difference between the two platforms. Many will argue there is substantial difference in the “quality” of functionality with even hard-core Windows media pundits favoring the Mac platform.
Tera implied strongly in a recent article that Apple had all but abandoned the low end of the market; the sub-$500 PC. Since the lowest of Apple’s low end is the eMac and it’s priced at $799, that would appear to be the case. Apple doesn’t compete at the low end, right?
I decided to be sure and did a quick comparison of the low end Dell Dimension 3000 on Dell’s online store to Apple’s eMac. The results are quite surprising; perhaps more to Windows PC users than Mac users.
First, let me point out that a fully direct comparison between a Mac and a Dell PC is nearly impossible. The eMac comes with a number of components (Firewire, for example) that costs extra on the Dell. The eMac also comes with plenty of software that is not easily compared with Windows applications.
Second, the eMac costs more than the Dell. That’s true only if all you want is the box, and what’s running on the box, or connected to the box doesn’t matter to you. Boxes are cheap.
Since the whole idea of a shootout is to compare like-for-like (or, as close as you can get) then the landscape changes considerably.
Finally, a point made by many Windows users is that there’s just NOT as much software available for the Mac as for Windows. When I’m tossed that bone, I usually respond with, “How many applications are there for Windows? How many do you use? Did you know there’s about 10,000 applications available for the Mac?
The conversation improves from that point forward.
Most Mac users will recognize all the basic features of the low end eMac. Mac OS X (the same one that ships with the PowerBooks or dual 2.5 ghz PowerMac G5), iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and GarageBand. Then there’s Mail, Safari, iCal, iSync, iChat AV, AddressBook, and much more.
Most low end PCs are loaded with Windows software, too. So much so that Windows users are often overwhelmed with the choices. That seems particularly true with virus protection software, but I digress.
Regardless, to compare apples to apples it’s necessary to add a few items to the lower priced Dell Dimension.
Part 1—Features Shootout: eMac vs. Dell Dimension 3000
The eMac comes loaded and ready for work. Setup could not be much easier, although the eMac is surprisingly heavy coming out of the box.
– Mac OS X Panther 10.3.5
– iLife Application Suite
– Mail, Safari, iChat, iSync
– Address Book, iCal
– AppleWorks 6
– WorldBook Encyclopedia
– Quicken 2004 for Mac
– 1.25 ghz PowerPC G4
– 256 megabytes RAM
– 40 gigabyte Ultra ATA HD
– 17” Flat CRT Display
– CD-RW/DVD-ROM Drive
– 3 USB 2.0 Ports
– 2 Firewire 400 Ports
– Audio in/Audio out
– 10/100 Ethernet
– 56k Modem/Fax
The comparison is with the Dell Dimension 3000 desktop PC. The base price is $549, although discounts are available. Yes, it’s Windows.
Dell Dimension 3000
– Windows XP Home Edition
– 256 megs RAM
– 2.4 ghz Intel Celeron
– 40 gigabyte Ultra ATA HD
– 17” CRT Display
– CD-RW Drive
– 10/100 Ethernet
– 56k Modem/Fax
– Integrated Sound Card
– 5 USB 2.0 Ports
Software? That’s extra on the Dell. Firewire? That’s extra on the Dell. Speakers? That’s extra on the Dell. Productivity suite? That’s extra on the Dell. Get the idea? Let’s bring the Dell up to speed so we can compare apples to, well, uh, apples.
Click Here for Page 2 and a comparison of final prices—eMac vs. low end Dell.
Continued from Page 1…
Part 2—Price Shootout: $799 eMac vs. $549 Dell Dimension.
For this comparison I’m going to leave the base, low-end eMac as is. No extras. Not even RAM. Just as everything Mac OS X runs better with more RAM, so it would be for the Dell. The Dell comes with a 40 gigabyte hard drive (same as the eMac) but has a promotion which upgrades that to 160 gigabytes. But you have to order today.
The Dell Dimension is missing a number of things that the eMac has standard, built-in. One is the CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive. No such animal on the Dell unless you have more money.
The Dell Dimension has USB 2.0 ports, but no Firewire. Most digital movie camers (not all) use Firewire. $49 is an average price for a two/three port Firewire PCI card.
Guess what? According to Dell’s web site, if you want to burn data CDs you need CD burning software. RecordNow (popular on low end PCs) will set you back another $35 from Dell.
The Dell comes with “integrated audio,” whatever that is. Let’s assume it’s audio in/audio out connectors, just like the eMac. Except the Dell doesn’t come with speakers. Those are an extra $9.00 for the low end Dell A215 Speakers (they can’t be much worse than those in the eMac… can they?).
Dell doesn’t supply you with Microsoft Office unless you pay extra. On a low end machine MS Office is overkill and doesn’t compare to AppleWorks. Microsoft Works is a closer comparison and that costs $26 extra.
Dell charges $18 for the Dell Jukebox Plus. Dell says it rips and burns CDs faster (than what? doesn’t say). Windows Media Player 10 does that, too. So no extra charge (assumes WMP 10 is included). However, Dell doesn’t include comparable software to iMovie, iPhoto, or iDVD, or GarageBand.
Let’s assume that Microsoft’s Movie Maker is included and comparable to iMovie (it’s a stretch, I know… work with me).
Guess what? Apple includes a neat little Mac OS X application called Setup Assistant. It’s an easy way to transfer applications and settings from an old Mac to a new Mac. It’s free. Dell charges $50 for the Detto IntelliMover to do the same thing.
There’s other software bundles, games, etc. that make it difficult to compare exactly between the two machines. Apple includes World Book encyclopedia. Dell makes the Encyclopedia Britannica 2005 available. For a price.
Check my math. It looks like this to me:
Apple eMac basic model: $799.
Dell Dimension 3000: $837.
Surprised? Now, which of the two machines, comparably equipped, would you prefer to have? Wait. The Dell still doesn’t have anything to compare with GarageBand. Or iCal, or iSync, or Address Book, or iChat AV (yes, AOL’s AIM is free—try it and tell me what you think), or just the lickable goodness of Mac OS X or the wonderful pinnings under of Unix.
Or, security. Did I mention security? I know. I’m not playing fair now. Excuse me.
What did I miss? $38 is not much difference, especially since it’s the eMac that’s at the low end of the dollar comparison. Oh, did I fail to mention that iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, and iDVD (need a SuperDrive) all are integrated and play well together?
Hmmm. That means I must have forgotten the integration of Mail, iCal, Address Book, and Safari—with iSync.
Did I forget anything else? Is that a decent comparison of the two machines? Granted, Apple doesn’t even sell a plain old vanilla Mac box in the $500 range. But when you start to compare what you get at the so-called “low end” it’s an unexpected and favorable Mac surprise.
For a business that needs to get a networked PC in the hands of a lowly employee to do email, web browse, word process, and spread sheets, the Dell is often the “box” of choice. Of course, for real, uninterrupted work, the eMac can be a productivity haven for any business. Comfortable at home and less filling, too.
If you don’t need all that software, well, go ahead—knock off a few bucks. Every cent you save on the Dell up front can be spent on virus protection software, security software, spyware protection software, and the service technician.
Comments? Am I off base or spot on? Share your thoughts and experience with other readers. Click the Comments link below.
Click Here to read Tera’s reasoning on why Apple has abandoned the low end market. In reality, “low end” is in the eye of the beholder. An eMac isn’t a cheap Windows PC box. It’s not supposed to be, it doesn’t have to be.
Still, even the lowly eMac compares favorably.