Look at the difference in prices between Macs. What do you see? A range from $599 to about $14,000. That’s a bare Mac mini to a loaded MacPro.
Then the Mac mini is the Mac Value Champ, right? Not so fast. Apple’s pricing methodology is a steady spread of features and dollars, all designed to get your money.
Frankly, the Mac mini is a lot of value for the money. It’s a full-fledged Mac. It’s got Mac OS X and iLife. Add iWork, a nice display, keyboard and mouse, and you have a formidable machine for most people. It’s fast, and has plenty of options fo more RAM, bigger hard drive, and a faster CPU.
Each of the add-on components cost just a little more, a method called “migration.” Apple wants buyers to migrate from a low price to a higher price product. The same methodology drives iPod prices. $50 more gets you more iPod.
At $599, even the base Mac mini, though a good value, needs a display, keyboard, and mouse. Add less than $200, and your Mac mini becomes the Mac Value Champ. Buy an Apple Cinema display instead of a far less expensive display at CompUSA or wherever, and the Apple aluminum keyboard, and the Apple Mighty Mouse, and the value has all but disappeared from the Mac mini. The price tag zoomed to almost $1,300.
Why? Because an iMac is less expensive. The Mac mini price tag zoomed to almost $1,300. The iMac starts at $1,100 and comes with a bigger hard drive, faster CPU, better graphics card, more ports. The iMac is the Mac Value Champ if you stick with all Apple components.
How about at the other end of the scale? iMac vs MacPro? The base high-end iMac is $2,299 for the 24-inch model with SuperDrive, a gig of RAM, and a 500 gig hard drive. That’s not a shabby machine. Inside is an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU which makes the iMac a very fast desktop with a screen to die for.
How does the iMac compare with a base, but comparably equipped, MacPro? Very well. The MacPro with similar hard drive, similar Apple Cinema Display, same RAM, but with dual Core 2 Duo CPUs is over $3,700; nearly $1,500 difference. For that much difference you could get the iMac and another iMac, and still have money left over.
Apple peripherals tend to be more expensive, so you could deduct $500 off the MacPro price tag and use a less expensive display. Otherwise, all the machines in the Mac lineup come with OS X Tiger, and iLife ‘08.
What about performance? For general use, a Mac mini may perform about 15 to 25-percent slower than the high end iMac, coming up short in graphics capability, hard drive access, video rendering, MP3 ripping, and other processor intensive situations. That extra gain costs twice as much.
Likewise, the MacPro will be even faster in processor intensive situations; two dual-core CPUs make a difference. But, twice as fast to cover nearly double the cost (or, triple the cost of a loaded Mac mini)? Probably not.
Keep with a stock Mac mini and add your own display, keyboard, and mouse, and you’ve got the Mac Value Champ. Stick with Apple peripherals, and the iMac becomes the Champ. Obviously, these solutions are based upon general requirements. The MacPro has a different capability, therefore appeals to different buyers with a vastly different set of needs.
For example, how do you store and backup huge amounts of data or gazillions of files? The iMac requires another external drive, as does the Mac mini. The MacPro can handle up to four internal SATA drives of 750 gigabytes. Use one for startup, one for cloning, and set up a high performance RAID arrangement on the other two. More power. More speed. Relatively low cost when compared to a similar requirement attached to the Mac mini or iMac (in other words, don’t go there).
A few times each year I’ll head to the Apple Store online and try out different Mac configurations. It’s a fun exercise with only one downside. I usually buy something.
What’s your dream Mac Value Champ? What’s on your Mac Dream List? A MacPro? A MacBookPro? Share your lust and desire in the Comments section below.