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. Most of the time with businesses, it comes down to cash flow. Sure the TCO is less on a Mac. But with most businesses, they don’t need all of that computing power. They need decently-spec’ed models at the lowest price, so they can have the most cash remaining in the bank as needed for other expenditures or for EOM or EOQ profits. However, if the user is in need of a more powerful unit, then a Mac May be in the running. I worked for a business where this was exactly the case. All units in the general office were Mac, as the CEO recognized the ease of use and the cost balanced for the power needed for the required tasks. However, he wouldn’t foot the bill to replace the workstations in all of the retail stores as they didn’t have the need for the added power, so the added expense wasn’t logical.

  2. I think an interesting way to compare how the real world views total cost of ownership is to reivew the experiences of users that have started out as Windows users and changed to Mac and vice versa. It would be interesting to see how many of the switchers switched back and why.

    I have owned and operated a few different small businesses over the past 20 years that used between 15 and 50 computers and all of these were windows based. I am not a tech guy but I try to at least keep up with the concepts. With my latest business I decided to try a total Mac approach. I was able to buy incredibly functional 2 year old iMacs (three years ago) that are still running strong, for under $700 each. We now have about 80 apples devices company wide including 15 mac minis, 7 iMacs, 20 iPads and about 40 iPhones. After doing this all I can say is “I want the multitudes of hours of my life back that I spent fighting with viruses and reboots on my Windows systems”.

    I have related my experience to several other business owners and have gotten similar feedback. I wonder if anyone out there has had the reverse experience. I have not met anyone like that.

    One difference that probably helps to explain the disparity of opinions here is that maybe if you have an IT guy available and your system is truly enterprise size, the apple solutions don’t scale as well. In my example this is not a consideration. All I can say though is that it seems if apple put just a little more effort into competing for the enterprise, I think they would be able to do something much better than what currently exists in the Windows world.

    Last thought, Mac Minis that use your existing peripherals would be the way to go when converting from a windows shop. They are inexpensive (relatively) and seem to handle the monitors and hard drives and they always can run windows too if that is still important.

    Just food for discussion, let the flames fly 🙂

  3. This is my story of purchasing an Apple Store refurbished iMac 24″ 3.06 GHz model about three and a half years ago.

    I bought it with three years AppleCare for a total cost of about $1600. I upgraded the memory to 8 GB and it has been running nonstop 24/7 for that whole time serving torrents and running PLEX server for my Roku boxes. I only reboot to upgrade the OS when necessary. It now runs Snow Leopard. It’s my workhorse machine and is growing a bit long in the tooth because it struggled to run Mountain Lion when I tested it on an external drive. However, it currently runs exactly the same as it did when I bought it and seems like it could easily run another three years. If this iMac isn’t a trouble-free machine then nothing is.

  4. I told my doctor, who was contemplating a Mac vs. PC purchase that time is money. Time dicking around with PCs (drivers, software, viruses, etc) is worth a lot of money. I told her that you don’t get the time waste on a Mac. Not to mention that everything is so much more beautiful on a mac, especially a retina mbp!

  5. this must be targeted towards small or medium sized companies.

    I’ve never been in a large company with Enterprise contracts who bought iMacs. We buy mac pros and macbook pros at my work when we need a mac.

    I’ve got the best of both worlds. A building full of windows machines to keep me employed and trouble free computing on my macbook pro when I get home in the evenings.

    Uncle Ballmer took real good care of me!

  6. A strange comparison. While a larger screen can boost productivity, most of the items making up the price differential listed aren’t items that matter to your average business.
    Also, there is no mention of the cost to administer the machines. The larger the organization, the bigger the issue.
    Yes, there are tools out there, but the business tools that are most prevalent and effective reside on the Windows side of the scorecard.
    I deal with both, and there aren’t many challenges on the Windows side these days. Mac Enterprise support is still too small of a corporate footprint.

  7. In general, I agree with most of the posters here. But I do have to voice some reason to the echo chamber:

    The only cost comparison that matters is the one that an individual buyer does to assess his needs. Most of us would agree that Apple comes out further ahead in lifetime value for the products it does offer, but there are definitely some products that Apple doesn’t offer, and there are some products that really can compete quite well against Apple FOR SPECIFIC USERS in lifetime value — and often are similar in capability, quality, or price.

    Making blanket statements that Dell or MS or whatever is “always bad” and Apple is always a better value simply cannot be universally true.

    Want proof? Jump into a discussion like this one and you’ll be laughed out of the room if you were to suggest an iMac:

    1. From the Article:
      “Furthermore, few business desktops are used without office productivity apps. Apple’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote are natural choices for Apple businesses. Windows organizations naturally gravitate toward Microsoft Office. The Home and Business 2013 edition adds $219.99 (USD) for Windows companies, whereas Apple businesses…”

      The article isn’t about value based on specific needs for specific users. It’s written in the scope of comparing $1300 general purpose Mac/PC business workstations, for general purpose business work.

      Your point about comparing an iMac to a $7000 multicore Physics lab (GPU not needed) workstation doesn’t make sense to me. Nobody said an iMac would offer better value in that scenario, nor would a $1300 PC for that matter.

      Explain to me why the comparison is relevant to the discussion at hand. Perhaps I’m missing something.

  8. Most Mac users were, or are still, PC users in one way or the other. I switched to Mac personally in 2005 after my PC Toshiba laptop power supply died. I was ready for a new PC and I said to myself, “I’ve heard a lot of things about the Mac. Let’s give that a try!”. I did and I love it. I still use Mac at home, but they use PC at work still because of custom-designed software compatibility issues. I love the Mac at home. It’s easy to use. It just works. It’s elegant. No viruses or scanning software needed. The OS is UNIX-based. I don’t need to fiddle with extra settings (I never use Terminal). You truly get what you pay for.

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