Kitchens Sync

iMac Beats Dell XPS One on Price and Features

- 2008.08.06 - Tip Jar

In the past, Apple's mainstream desktop model, the iMac, has been denigrated by the PC community as more expensive than models from companies such as Dell with comparable specs. However, none of these comparisons were really fair, as only Apple offered a model that combined the LCD panel with the computer, a design that Apple has used since the inception of the iMac G5.

Now one of the top desktop vendors worldwide, Dell, offers an all-in-one similar in design and specifications to the iMac. After analyzing the product selection, I have reached an interesting conclusion: Apple offers more value and a more diverse line up than Dell if you compare (no pun intended) apples to apples.

Dude, You're Overpaying for a Dell!

Dell's all-in-one desktop is known as the XPS One. The base model costs $1,299, $100 more than the base iMac, and it lacks in several areas. For instance, Dell, oddly enough, has chosen not to reveal the speed of the processors in this line up. Some people might be fine with this lack of information, but many users are not willing to play Russian roulette with their hardware specs.

A quick search reveals that the E4500 used in the base model runs at 2.2 GHz on an 800 MHz system bus with a 667 MHz memory bus. Since the memory bus speed is the same in all the models, I would conjecture that the E6550 is just a faster version of the E4500. Also, these bus speeds fall short, since they are the same as the previous iMac revision, which was discontinued in April.

The graphics systems also fall short compared to the iMac's. The lower two models come with vampire graphics, the same chipset used on the MacBook. The upper two selections almost match the base iMac's graphics, but they are the slower non-XT model (the iMac's Mobility Radeon HD 2400 XT graphics are equivalent to the desktop HD 2400). The only way to lose the speed-suckers is to pay at least $1,439 (after $300 of instant discounts).

Semi-related to the graphics is the screen size. No matter how much you pay, you get a 20" screen.

I must give the advantage to the XPS One in a few areas though. All selections come with a wireless keyboard and mouse, an integrated analog/digital TV tuner, and 2 GB of RAM. Also, the most expensive model includes a Blu-ray drive, something that no Mac currently offers.

One area that I believe matters almost as much as the specifications of the computer is the purchase process. Dell requires you to click through several pages of "customization", most of which have one choice that can't be changed. The pages that can be changed have large numbers of extra products that you can opt to tack on to your order.

Also, the operating system offerings are chosen quite strangely. The cheapest and the two more expensive models are stuck with Vista Home Premium. The second most expensive model is the only one that comes with Vista Ultimate, a strange omission for the higher-ups. It seems to be related to the fact that it is also the only (PRODUCT) RED branded model.

Simplicity and Selection Beat Confusion

Apple's iMac line not only starts at a lower price, but it offers powerful features that are only found on the more expensive of Dell's offerings.

But the one thing a price and features analysis completely ignores - and that completely tips the scale in the iMac's favor - is Apple itself. By buying a Mac, the user gets a much more secure, stable, and user-friendly operating system. Additionally, when problems crop up, the user can rely on the Genius Bar, Apple's online support database, and telephone support people who speak with an accent you can actually understand. (I once had a Dell support person with a heavy accent try to tell me his name was John Smith. When I expressed my doubt as to the veracity of this statement, he admitted I had caught him in a lie.) Macs also depreciate more slowly due to their longer life span, and when parts do break, it is usually easy to find a replacement. LEM

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