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New iMac Keeps Apple Way Ahead of Dell in Price/Features

Published October 13th, 2005

Following up on my gushing article about the new iMacs and iPods from yesterday, I sat down to do the math on price/features between Dell and Apple. I once again revisited the “High End Consumer Desktop” specs and pricing to see what impact Apple’s new line has on that shootout. You can read the details, but very briefly, the gap has widened dramatically in Apple’s favor, both in price and in features.

Last time around, the price gap was about about $250, but now it’s roughly $300. That doesn’t count the now-free built-in video camera you get with the iMac, which is worth at least $100. And for $300 (or $400) less, you not only get Mac OS X 10.4 (”Tiger”) and all of its benefits over the aging Windows XP, you also get a worry-free computing existence with no viruses, worms, or spyware to disrupt your life and, as you’ll see, quite a bit more besides. As before, I’m working from Apple’s 17-inch model offering and its Dell equivalent, which today appears to be the Dell Dimension E510.

Here are the upgrades in the new iMac line, which has been simplified from 3 models to 2. The high-end model is $100 less, while the low-end model stays at $1,299. All models now have the following standard specs:

  • 512MB RAM, same as before, but now using the beefier DDR2 standard.
  • The ATI Radeon x600 Pro video card with 128MB of memory and PCI Express support, an upgrade from the Radeon 9600 used previously.
  • The built-in Bluetooth receiver now supports the faster 2.0 standard
  • Processor upgraded to 1.9 or 2.1 GHz G5, though eliminating the middle model means the faster processor is only available with a 20-inch display
  • Built-in iSight camera, previously a $149 add-on
  • Magnet-attachable remote control, used to operate the new Front Row “home theater” interface
  • In addition to Front Row, Apple adds a new package called “Photo Booth” to turn the built-in iSight into a cool still camera.
  • Somehow, Apple managed to shave 3 pounds off the weight of each machine, which is a huge difference.

In addition, Apple now offers a faster frontside bus and a standard 8X dual-layer Superdrive on both models.

The Dell model was more or less unchanged, except in name. Today, Dell was offering a free upgrade to 1 GB of RAM, though you get there by using all 4 slots. A 160GB hard drive was now standard, as was a 16X dual-layer DVD burner. Pretty much everything else had to be added on, so the “bait and switch” price of $951 didn’t last long. No free printer this time around either, but Dell’s interface for choosing options is a bit snazzier than 6 months ago. Still way too complicated for my taste, though. And why change the model’s name all the time? I hate that in TV’s, stereos, and pretty much everything else. Apple’s simple product lineup is a model for how it should be done… Now if only they could get others to follow!

So when you get to the bottom line in the detailed shootout page, you’ll see that the iMac costs $1,299 (I didn’t need to add anything to the base this time), and the Dell costs $1,592 after wading through three pages of options, each of which was delightfully complicated. Yet if you buy the iMac–even though it costs less than the Dell– you’ll still wind out ahead on these cool capabilities, which aren’t priced into the Dell:

  • Built-in video camera
  • Built-in Bluetooth 2.0 wireless (not even an option with the Dell)
  • Incredible software for creating, revising, and managing digital content.
  • The world’s most advanced–and easiest to use–operating system, “Tiger”.
  • Zero viruses or worms, and no adware or spyware either. A complete lack of Windows-style “ghosts in the machine.”
  • A tiny footprint in a case that’s not only beautiful and functional, but light. The Apple model in this comparison weighs only 15.5 pounds, whereas the basic Dell Dimension 510 weighs 31 pounds–not including the separate monitor! It’s hard to price such a benefit, but I don’t think anyone would doubt that 15 pounds lighter is worth something. Especially if you’re intending to use the machine as a second TV. With the new iMac, this is an obvious use. With the Dell, it’ll always be a PC even if you hook a TV tuner to it.
  • An all-in-one design that’s just one step up from notebook status. With one of these iMacs, if you need to move your computer to another room, it doesn’t take a dolly and a bunch of guys to help. With everything built in, setup is as simple as can be. This is an intangible benefit that’s impossible to price.

This is precisely the move Apple needed to make to keep retail momentum going toward the Mac as a result of the iPod’s “halo effect.” And I predict it’s also the tonic to keep Mac desktop sales rising even as Apple plans a huge transition from PowerPC chips to Intel ones.

Next up, Apple’s laptops and PowerMacs! I’ll be back to look at those soon, I’m sure.

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