Mac Vs PC: It’s About The User, Stupid

With all of the recent stink Microsoft has raised over its Laptop Hunter commercials, I figured I’d go to one of my old blogs and pull up some old research I did on my own. This research was done back in 2006. Some evidence of this is Dell’s CRT, DDR2 RAM costing $100 in the 1GB-and-lower range, and Dell’s PATA drive. In the end, it was still a toss-up that depended on what you wanted out of your computer. If you just wanted to browse the Internet and read email, or wanted a bare-bones computer, Dell won. If you wanted a bit more, The Mac Mini won.

This highlights something both Apple and Microsoft need to come to terms with.

Don’t need a lot of power? The PC’s cheaper components will work just fine.
Looking for something more but don’t want to deal with the intricacies of computers? Get a Mac.
Looking for the ultimate in choice and power? The PC delivers.

Instead, we get Microsoft and Apple trying to convince us of their tech godliness. Their solutions fit everyone’s needs every time! Honest! That’s why we have Microsoft fanboys getting scorned for trying to suggest that PCs are so easy to use while Apple fanboys get scorned for trying to add a bunch of stuff to the price of a PC that some users just don’t need for and suggesting their systems are more powerful than the PC equivalent.

For this comparison, I started with the cheapest models available from Apple and Dell. However, I had to make a few adjustments to the Dell PC to make the comparison, well, more apple-to-apple.

  • I opted for the Genuine Windows® XP Home Edition re-installation CD as the Mac Mini comes with a full version of Mac OS X Tiger. This adds $10 to the base price.
  • I upgraded the memory from 256MB to 512MB as the Intel Mac Mini comes with a minimum of 512MB. Add $50.
  • I took away the monitor and added speakers, because the Mac Mini comes with no monitor and has an internal speaker, albeit tinny. This is an even trade-off at $20 each.
  • I added a keyboard and mouse to the Mac Mini package as I could not un-bundle a keyboard and mouse from the Dell package. However, I chose to go with the cheapest components from Apple instead of their package offerings with the Mac Mini, because (1) the mighty mouse sucks and (2) instead of adding $78, it only adds $50 to the price.
Base Price $649* $359* Dell by a $190 land slide.
Processor Intel Core Solo
2MB Cache
667MHz FSB
12-stage pipeline
Intel Celeron D
256KB Cache
533MHz FSB
32-stage pipleline
Dell. Even with it’s larger cache and shorter pipeline, there’s no way the Core Solo can make up a 1GHz difference.
Memory 512MB DDR2-667MHz
max 1x1GB
512MB DDR2-400MHz
max 2x512MB
Out of the box, the Mac Mini wins. However, while the Dell has slower memory, you can splurge on a dual-channel configuration for $100 with the money you save.
Hard Drive 60GB 5400RPM SATA-150 80GB 7200RPM UATA/100 Out of the box, Dell wins. However, Parellel ATA is going away while Serial ATA is on the rise, and the SATA-150 spec leaves more head room that UATA/100 or even UATA/133.
Optical Drive 24x CD ROM/R/RW, 8x DVD-ROM 48x CD ROM, ? CD R/RW, ?x DVD Dell, by a hair. Neither manufacturer gave too many details online about their drives. The Dell is slightly faster only because the Mac Mini’s focus is on quiet and small. Upgrading to a combo drive that can burn dual-layer discs is only $10 more expensive for the Mac Mini than it is for the Dell, which is surprising when you consider the Mac Mini’s optical drive is slot-fed.
Input Devices Wired keyboard and optical mouse Wired keyboard and ball mouse Apple, only because they don’t offer a ball mouse.
Networking Gigabit Ethernet
AirPort Extreme 802.11g
100Mbit Ethernet, 56K Modem Apple, with faster Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth out of the box. However, if you’re STILL stuck with dial-up, you’ll need a USB modem for the Mac Mini, which costs $50. Ouch.
Video Intel GMA 950
64MB shared
DirectX 9
OpenGL 1.4
Pixel Shader 2.0
Intel Extreme Graphics 2
32MB – 64MB shared
DirectX 8
OpenGL 1.1
Mac Mini.
Software Bundle Mail, Address Book, iCal
Outlook Express
Internet Explorer
MSN Messenger
Windows Media Player
Windows Movie Maker
Mac Mini. It’s Mail/Address Book/iCal combo beats Outlook Express and it’s browser won’t open your OS to a slew of security holes (and hey, it’s based on KHTML, which comes from Konqueror for Linux). Both computers’ OSes come bundled with software to handle music playback and video creation/playback, but only Apple give you a music creation app. Dashboard is nice, but Yahoo Widgets can stay visible on the dektop and is vailable for free. As for the bundled IM clients, I could care less for them. MSN Messenger handles only is it’s own network and IChat only handles AIM. Try Audium for Mac or GAIM for Windows.

*Price of nearest-matching configuration between the two computers. Manufacturer base prices are lower.