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High-End Consumer Desktop: Dell Dimension 8400 vs. Apple G5 iMac

Updated 5/3/05 with release of updated G5 iMacs. Equivalent Dell was also re-priced.  
Features Apple Dell Inequalities (any worth noting)
Processor 2.0 GHz G5 Pentium 4 3.2 GHz  
Operating System Mac OS X 10.4 Windows XP Professional  
RAM 512MB 400Mhz (1 DIMM) 1 GB 400Mhz (2 DIMMS) At, you can buy 512MB RAM for the iMac for about $50, but you don't really need 1GB. The Dell had a free upgrade to 1GB as a special today.
Monitor Built-in 17" Digital Flat Panel Dell 17" Ultrasharp Digital Flat Panel Note: The Dell came by default with a noticeably inferior analog flat panel monitor. We upgraded to ensure accurate comparison.
Speakers Built-in stereo speakers Dell A215 stereo speakers  
Graphics ATI Radeon 9600 128MB ATI Radeon X300 128MB  
Hard Drive 160GB Serial ATA, 7200 RPM 160GB Serial ATA, 7200 RPM Note: 160GB is the standard amount for new iMacs. At Dell, the upgrade from 80GB was one of the day's "specials."
Mouse USB Optical Mouse USB Optical Mouse  
Printer None Dell 720 Color This is Dell's bottom-of-the-line printer and costs $44 separately. But you have to spend $20 on a USB cable if you want to be able to connect it to your new computer.
Optical Drive 8X Superdrive (DVD-R/CD-RW) 16X Superdrive (DVD-R/CD-RW) Dell doesn't use the term "Superdrive." This was the only "Superdrive" in a 1-drive configuration offered by Dell.
Networking 802.11 b/g card Bluetooth 2.0+EDR Gigabit Ethernet 802.11 b/g USB adapter Gigabit Ethernet Note: Dell doesn't offer Bluetooth as an option for short-range wireless, and to get 802.11 wireless, you need to use one of your USB ports. A Bluetooth USB adapter costs about $50 at Dell, plus it takes up another of your USB ports.
Ports Optical audio in/out, 2 Firewire 400 ports 3 USB 2.0 ports 2 USB 1.1 ports VGA video out S-video and composite video Soundblaster Audigy 2 ZS 1 Firewire 400 port 8 USB 2.0 ports DVI/VGA/S-video out The Dell has a few more ports, though to match the built-in wireless networking options on the G5, you have to use two of them.
Expansion options No internal expansion. However, with this model, customers can easily upgrade the following internal components themselves: 
  • Wireless card
  • RAM
  • Hard drive
  • Optical drive
  • LCD display
  • Mid-plane assembly (which includes the G5 processor among other items)
2 internal hard drive bays 2 optical drive bays 3 100 MHz PCI-X slots Dell customers can add more hardware items to the inside of their computer than Apple customers can. However, except for the video card, Apple users can achieve the same upgrades by adding on external devices.
Support option 1-year limited warranty 1-year limited warranty  
Software options The iMac comes with the following free software that doesn't have equivalents in Windows XP: 
  • iLife ‚Äô05 (includes iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie HD, iDVD and GarageBand)
  • AppleWorks,
  • Quicken 2004 for Mac,
  • World Book 2004 Edition,
  • Nanosaur 2,
  • Marble Blast Gold,
  • Setup Assistant--Transfer data and settings,
  • Dashboard, Spotlight, Sherlock, iSync, iCal, Mail
The following software options Dell provided during checkout were selected to achieve rough parity in software: 
  • McAfee Security Center 15-month subscription
  • WordPerfect Office 12
  • PaintShop Pro Studio
  • Microsoft Money Deluxe (Note: Quicken was not offered as an option)
  • Microsoft Encarta Deluxe (free with MS Money)
  • Dell Family Games
  • Detto IntelliMover
  • Adobe Acrobat Elements*
  • Microsoft Plus! Digital Media Edition*
Even with these add-ons, the Dell as configured still lacks the following software functionality that comes with the Apple system. The retail cost of this software is not huge, but it's probably $200 or so. Also, note that the software cost of the Dell increases because of the need to purchase antivirus subscription services. 
  • DVD creation
  • Music creation and editing
  • Desktop web services (like Dashboard (!) and Sherlock)
Total Cost $1,499** $1,762**  
*Added this software to the Dell, since they were reasonably priced and covered more of the iMac's built-in functionality. **In the original shootout, the IMac was $1,653, and the Dell $1,780. The May 3 iMac revision added to the previous model: Standard 512MB RAM, standard built-in wireles and bluetooth, standard gigabit ethernet, standard 160GB hard drive, and increase in processor to 2.0GHz G5... not to mention the upgrade to Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger). The Dell model was more or less unchanged, with the addition of a free cheapo color printer this time around.
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