Total Cost of Ownership: Apple iMac vs. Windows business-class all-in-one PC

“Apple’s entry-level desktop is the 21.5-inch iMac. The $1,299 (USD) computer includes a 2.7 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 CPU, 8 GB RAM, a 1 TB hard disk, and Intel Iris Pro-powered graphics supporting 1920×1080 resolution,” Erik Eckel reports for TechRepublic.An HD camera is included within the all-in-one’s frame. Peripheral connectivity is supported via four USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, and a gigabit Ethernet port.”

“Finding an apples-to-apples comparison can prove to be difficult. Few Windows all-in-one business-grade computers measure up to the Apple in terms of display size or specifications. Dell, however, offers the OptiPlex 3011 all-in-one for $1,212.86, with promotional pricing lowering the cost to $849,” Eckel reports. ” It includes Windows 7 Professional and an Intel Core i5 CPU. However, only 4 GB RAM and a 500 GB hard drive are included for that price. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, Dell’s configuration tools didn’t offer the ability to upgrade the machine to match the Apple iMac’s build. Sourcing a 1 TB drive and an additional 4 GB of RAM could add $99 for the drive (at Newegg) and $44 for RAM (at Crucial). The Dell’s equivalent hardware cost, then, becomes $992.”

“The price differential between the Dell and the Apple is $307, but unfortunately, there are still significant differences between the two systems. The Apple boasts a larger 21.5-inch display, integrated Bluetooth, and exponentially faster Thunderbolt connectivity,” Eckel reports. “Obviously, the cost to upgrade the Windows system to match the Apple iMac will result in the Windows system’s price exceeding that of the iMac. On top of that, Windows users are left with a machine that is likely out of warranty, possesses a smaller screen, has slower peripheral connectivity… and runs an OS that’s growing less popular by the day.”

Eckel reports, “Here’s hoping that, should you still not be convinced Apple computers’ total cost of ownership is much more competitive than Windows systems, the all-in-one Windows computer you buy is still on sale. Otherwise, you may find your firm paying hundreds of dollars more per unit for an inferior computer.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “GetMeOnTop” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Enterprise Desktop Alliance: Apple Macs cost a lot less than Windows PCs to manage – March 9, 2010
Apple’s Mac clearly fits the enterprise, whether Apple wants it or not – November 20, 2009
Enterprise should take a long hard look at Apple’s Mac OS X Snow Leopard – November 12, 2009
How Apple’s Mac once again became red hot in the enterprise; 80% of businesses now have Macs in use – October 22, 2009
Survey: 73% of businesses more likely to allow employees to use Macs within next 12 months – October 12, 2009
eWeek: Apple’s Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard offers enhancements for Mac business user – September 02, 2009
Longtime Windows sufferer tries Mac, dumps Windows, switches business to Mac, sees productivity soar – April 22, 2009
Mike Huckabee praises Apple; dumps Windows PCs after 22-years, switches to Apple Mac (with video) – January 12, 2009
Boom! Largest automobile processing company in North America dumps Windows PCs for Apple Macs – July 16, 2007
Japan’s Aozora Bank dumps 2,300 Windows PCs for Apple Macs – April 03, 2006
Pfeiffer Consulting: Mac vs Windows: Total Cost of Ownership, Productivity and Return on Investment – March 30, 2006
Windows to Mac switchers: recommendations and Total Cost of Ownership analysis – September 29, 2005
Security expert sums up first month with Mac: ‘much safer, more secure, more productive than Wintel’ – June 02, 2005


  1. OMG, I’m going to puke. That Windows PC sounds like a total piece of shit. I pity the poor fools who’ll put down their hard earned money on one if those limp machines. Plus the author didn’t mention the software that comes with a Mac, iLife, and now iWork as well. You don’t see PC’s shipping with MS Office for free, and if you need Outlook, they’ll need to get the Business version which sells for $240. Then, there’s still no iPhoto, iMovie, Garage Band, etc. poor pathetic fools who don’t buy Apple.

  2. They never include your time in the equation. Time to back-up is lengthy for my friends with windows. When I tell them I back up daily…they think I am nuts. Time machine is a great time and money saver.

    1. Time Machine is amazing, and it comes free with every Mac. There are also nice backup solutions for PC, but because they’re third-party solutions, they’re not as tightly-integrated, and they cost $100 or more. I call it the “Windows tax”.

      1. Greg’s tech tip for the day, search the web for Time Machine Editor. It allows you to perform TM backups beyond the one hour Apple allows through the control panel. I usually set mine to 8 hours, which gives me three backups a day.

  3. Total cost of ownership is the concept that most winblows people just do not get. They are just fixated on getting the $399 PC, not realizing that after getting Office, AV and other programs, they have spent more than a Mac costs. And throw in the extra $300 when they get a virus that needs to be cleaned by the idiots at worst buy, a Mac seems downright cheap in comparison. The funny thing is if you get them to convert, they are always astonished and wonder why it took them so long. Go figure.

    1. You are correct sir. Most people don’t run the numbers to determine TCO or the equivalent. I did it 2 years ago when I bought my first iMac and haven’t looked back. I did wonder why I didn’t convert sooner. (This reminds me of a conversation I just had with a friend who was looking at the new healthcare plans. While a bronze plan looks great due to the cheap initial outlay, the real value of the more expensive plans is realized once a minor healthcare event occurs and you’re stuck with the large deductible on the cheap plans).

    1. After installing an SSD from OWC into a clients MacBook Pro, boot time went down to about 8 seconds. Cool to see Photoshop boot in 2 seconds. And with 16 GB RAM with the SSD, the spinning beach ball has become an old memory.

  4. I’m a former PC guy, current Apple guy, and I was a little skeptical about this article. I went to Dell’s website and used their filters on the left to narrow down the closest system to the base iMac. I was able to configure a “NEW Inspiron 23″ with the 4th Gen Core i5 processor, 1TB HD, 8GB Ram, 23” touch screen, MS Office Home & Business, and Windows 8 for $1319. If you configure the lower models and add in features that come standard on higher models, the price will be higher many times, it makes more sense to just get a higher model. The same thing goes for configuring Apple systems. Now I can’t vouch for the reliability or support of that Dell system, but if we’re looking at it strictly from a technical specs point of view, I think it’s pretty comparable in price. I personally would still never buy one.

    1. will the machine you speak of drive 3 1080p monitors out of the box? does it support 2 10Gbps concurrent data streams? can you upgrade the Operating System for $20.00 instead of $200.00? can you surf the web on it fearlessly?

      1. Probably not, but the vast majority of consumers probably don’t even use a 2nd display regularly.

        no, but the people who would be interested in that are likely not looking to buy this system.

        no, but the models for upgrades have changed for both companies. Apple has a major OS every year now, whereas MS has one every few years. The amount of new features for the prices may be acceptable for those who care to upgrade on either platform. Let’s not forget that Apple is also quicker to bump your ability to run the latest OS faster than a PC. Original Mac Pros can’t run 10.8. If you have a Core Duo Mac you can’t run 10.7, so no iCloud and hopefully you have at least 10.6 or else no new iTunes so your new iOS product won’t work. iTunes 11 for Windows still runs on XP from 2001.

        Maybe not surf web fearlessly, but let’s be honest, no one can surf web fearlessly (thanks to the NSA). I still keep Firefox and Chrome handy on my Mac because not every site plays nicely with Safari all of the time.

        I wasn’t looking to start a Mac vs PC argument. I just wanted to point out that the author of the article was a bit misleading. The total “cost” is not as big as he made it out to be. Also, if you’re talking about a computer for “Business” use. If that happens to be corporate Business, then chances are they’re going to want full blown MS Office with Outlook, not just Apple’s iWork on a Mac. Is iWork suffice for a large segment of the consumer? yes. But in the real world, just because it technically and open and export to MS Office formats, doesn’t mean that it does so nicely all of the time.

  5. That other factor in cost of ownership (beyond the INITIAL cost of ownership) is long-term cost. I still use an iMac released in late 2006, which I bought in early 2008 as an Apple-certified refurb for $849, as my primary Mac in 2013. It can only run up to Lion (it originally came with Tiger!), but that currently works fine with all the apps I need to use. And performance is still generally fine.

    My next iMac may be the 2011 21.5-inch model, that I’ve seen on Apple’s refurb web page for $799. Unfortunately, they are usually sold out almost as soon they are listed.

    Macs last as usable computers for a LONG time.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.