Confused columnist on Apple’s 17” MacBook Pro: ‘you can get a couple of decent Dells’ for that price

“Apple has rolled out a slick new 17-inch version of its MacBook Pro, the Intel-powered replacement for the Powerbook. It’s cool, lovely and fast (up to four times faster than the old one) and can run Windows thanks to Boot Camp software. The downside? Price. Expect to fork over $2,800 for one with a gig of RAM. I love Apple hardware but that price makes me think more than twice when you can get a couple of decent Dells and change back for the same coin,” James Derk () writes for for Scripps Howard News Service. “At $1,999 the thing is worth a look; at $1,599 it’s a category killer. It just needs to get a thousand bucks cheaper somehow. Does Moore’s Law apply to Apples?”

[James Derk is co-owner of CyberDads, a computer repair firm, and computer columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.]

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Well, now. We hereby publicly challenge Mr. Derk to find a Dell laptop that meets the following specifications that costs less than half the price of Apple’s new 17-inch MacBook Pro. And look up “Moore’s Law” while you’re at it.

Apple 17-inch MacBook Pro specs for US$2,799 configuration:
• 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo
• 1GB (single SODIMM) of PC2-5300 (667MHz) DDR2 memory
• 667MHz frontside bus
• OS: Mac OS X
• 120GB 5400-rpm Serial ATA hard drive or 100GB 7200-rpm drive
• One FireWire 400
• One FireWire 800
• Three USB 2.0 ports
• 17-inch display
• 6.8 pounds
• 1.0 inch thin
• 8x SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
• ExpressCard/34 slot
• Built-in 54-Mbps AirPort Extreme wireless networking (802.11g standard)
• Built-in Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate)
• Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet
• ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics processor, dual link DVI support, 256MB of GDDR3
• DVI output port
• Built-in iSight camera
• MagSafe Power Adapter port
• Apple Remote

Now, of course, the Dell is hobbled from the outset as it is OS-limited and cannot run the world’s most advanced operating system, Mac OS X. Apple’s MacBook Pro can run Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, and basically any other OS you care to run. So for our challenge, we’ll be extremely generous and pretend that major differentiator doesn’t exist. We’ll go even further and also pretend that the MacBook Pro’s included iLife ’06 and Front Row software are meaningless, too. So, can Mr. Derk or anybody find a Dell laptop that meets the following specifications that costs less than half the price of Apple’s new 17-inch MacBook Pro?

Oh, wait! Before you try it, Mr. Derk, we see your ruse. You wrote “you can get a couple of decent Dells and change back for the same coin,” so you allow yourself copious wiggle room to choose any two pieces of crap from Dell’s bargain bin, label them “decent,” and prance around CyberDads jingling your extra change? Hey, co-owners of computer repair firms wouldn’t like it too much if everyone’s computer just worked, now would they? What is the going rate for a Windows wipe and reinstall due to unrecoverable spyware/malware infestations these days, anyway? But, we digress.

So, back to the fun, two can play at that game. Our generosity, however, has now been rescinded. The ability to run Mac OS X and iLife, etc. plus Windows matters. It matters a lot. So, let’s first visit Dell’s website and find something that’s as close to Apple’s flagship MacBook Pro 17-inch as possible:

Dell XPS M1710 (catchy) specs:
• 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo
• 1GB (single SODIMM) of PC2-5300 (667MHz) DDR2 memory
• 667MHz frontside bus
• OS: Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005
• 100GB 7200rpm SATA Hard Drive
• One 4-pin IEEE 1394 (FireWire 400)
• Six USB 2.0 ports
• 17-inch display
• 8.8 pounds
• 1.67 inch thick
• Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 802.11a/g Mini Card (54Mbps)
• Dell Wireless 350 Bluetooth Internal (2.0 + Enhanced Data Rate)
• Integrated 10/100 Network Card and Modem
• 512MB NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GTX
• DVI output port
• Remote Control for Windows XP Media Center Edition

Total cost = US$4,008. (Not a typo, not Canadian dollars or Singapore Dollars; and for the world’s ugliest, heaviest, colored light glowing, OS-limited, bathroom-scale-looking POS, no less. By the way, it’s a good thing we’re fairly advanced Web surfers; navigating Dell’s bait and switch Web morass and actually getting a list of specs together to compare with Apple’s product is nearly impossible.)

Okay, so with the Dell, we get a screen with a bit higher res (Windows’ inferior UI needs the extra room), 3 more USB ports, a better video card, but no FireWire 800 port, no built-in camera, no MagSafe power port, and no built-in ambient light sensing keyboard and display. We do get (thankfully) Anti-Virus/Security Suite Pre-installed PC-cillin Internet Security: AntiVirus, Firewall, and 15-months of Spyware removal (sounds fun, see what you’re missing Macheads?), but no ability to run Mac OS X or any of the best-in-class Apple Mac-only apps like GarageBand, iMovie, iDVD, iWeb, iPhoto, etc. – plus the Dell is much thicker, two pounds heavier, and immeasurably uglier.

So, who’s getting ripped off here, exactly? Which company’s flagship portable laptop is really the better deal? The one that will win design awards around the world or the one that, when closed, people will mistakenly try to step on to see how much they weigh? To paraphrase Derk, the Dell just needs to get a $1,209 cheaper somehow, learn how to run Mac OS X, grow a FireWire 800 port, a built-in camera, gain a first-class industrial designer, and shed two pounds and nearly half its thickness before it would warrant even a cursory look.

By the way, you can get two 15.4-inch MacBook Pros and $10 change for the same coin as the $4,008 Dell XPS M1710.

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Related article:
Dude, you got a Dell? What are you, stupid? Only Apple Macs run both Mac OS X and Windows! – April 05, 2006


  1. “By the way, you can get two 15.4-inch MacBook Pros and $10 change for the same coin as the $4,008 Dell XPS M1710.”

    Perfectly put, MDN.

    I actually just picked up a refurbished MacBook Pro for $1699 and added another 512MB RAM for $49 from newegg. Such an awesome computer.

  2. Gosh – have you seen the Dell XPS M1710?
    It really does like my bathroom scales!

    – That and a sort of flattened red Xbox. Which is no coincident, methinks, as this is clearly a top of the range gaming laptop.
    Glad I don’t play games.

    And maybe he should stick around and compare the soon to be released new iBooks with his “decent Dells” before knocking the MacBook Pro for price. The MBP is clearly top of the range, not bargain basement.

  3. To be fair, the Dell that MDN configured kicks the crap out of the MacBook Pro in terms of gaming performance – which is the target market of the M1710.

    Configure a Dell E1710 to match the PowerBook Pro 17″, and I’m seeing $2370. (2.16Ghz, 1GB 667mhz RAM, 120GB drive, x1400 graphics – probably matches the underclocked x1600 in the MacBook Pro, bluetooth, 802.11g, upgraded battery, dual-layer DVD burner, Windows Media Center 2005)

    So the actual fair challenge is the $2370 Dell vs the $2799 MacBook Pro. The extra $429 is easily worth the superior design, the smaller size and lower weight, the FireWire 800, lightup keyboard, magsafe connector and so on.

  4. Funny.

    I love how these PC hacks always love to claim that you can save soooo much money from Dell when in reality Dell usually costs the same or more than the competition once you actually add things you need in a computer like a processor and RAM.

  5. … so basically this idiot that MDN is talking about is full of BS, but MDN is full of BS too. I’d say that MDN is slightly less full of BS than the dude is though. Good job MDN, for sucking less than the competition.

  6. Whoops, I just realized I was wrong. The stupid dude was claiming, in effect, that you can buy a similar Dell for $1350 or so (a bit less than half the price of the MacBook Pro). MDN countered that a similar Dell costs $4000.

    stupid dude: underestimated price of similar Dell by $1000

    MDN: overestimated price of similar Dell by $1200

    …so I guess MDN actually was more full of BS in this particular case. Nice work guys. Way to stick it to ’em.

  7. Nick:

    Yeah, and then use your $750 coupon for that Inspiron E1710, and suddenly your $2,370 becomes $1,620.

    MDN “conveniently” forgets to mention this. Dell builds boxy laptops, to be sure, but that $1,000 sure is compelling.

    “But coupons aren’t fair!” people whine. Ah, but they’re there to be used now, aren’t they?

  8. Even if you configure an Inspiron 17″ as close as possible to the base-config MBP, it still comes to $2600ish. Pretty steep, when you consider that the Inspiron line is Dell’s equivalent to the iBook line.

    This guy is barely suited to breathe, let alone comment on things like this.

    MW: account; there’s no accounting for the stupidity of M$ fanbois.

  9. Nick: if you spec out an XPS laptop, it comes out at $3500-3600 without the video upgrade that MDN applied. Yes, you can spec out a cheaper Inspiron, but comparing an Inspiron to an XPS is like comparing an iBook to a MBP. The high-end line is always going to cost more than the consumer line.

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