New iMac is $118 Cheaper Than A Dell

by Chris Seibold Sep 02, 2004

Let us begin with a small SAT type exercise.  No need to rush, the quiz has no time limit.

Dell 4600C is to a Toyota RAV4 as the Apple iMac is to a:

B) Porsche Cayenne
C) Honda CR-V
D) Hummer H1

Well what was your answer? If you answered” C) Honda CR-V” you’re correct, please send the results to the college of your choice for enhanced admission status. Why not the other cars? Truthfully you could probably make an argument for any of the vehicles but this is a contrived question so the reason the iMac and the CR-V are equivalent to the Dell and Toyota is due to the similarities in pricing.

That conclusion cries out for an explanation, one is forthcoming. Let us extricate ourselves from the Apple universe for a moment and talk cars, specifically small sized, low priced SUVs. The Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V are pretty much the same car. I know this because I actually drive a 2002 RAV4 and have spent plenty of time in a Honda CR-V. There are differences but they are minor, generally the cars do pretty much the same stuff with equal aplomb. The only substantial difference is the starting price. When I bought my RAV a few years ago the starting price was around $16,000, pretty cheap for a new car. Naturally no one wanted the base model, you’d want to add the little amenities like nylon instead of piano wire seat belts, a steering wheel, and keys. Of course by leaving all these as options Toyota was able to get the base price down to a rock bottom wallet opening level (Toyota was kind enough to put all the usual options in a “quick order” package). Once you optioned everything that most humans require the price was about $19,000. In perhaps the least shocking twist of all time Honda had a starting price for the CR-V of roughly $19,000. Of course the Honda already came with all the stuff you needed to add to make the RAV4 drivable. Somewhere along the line Honda realized that most everybody was going to want things like gas pedals and windshields and included those items in the base model.  The RAV4 remained wildly customizable while the CR-V was offered in just a few trim levels and they cost about the same. A consumer going only on the base price would easily conclude that the CR-Vs were much more expensive than the RAV4s. With cars, perhaps because they are such a large expenditure, this rarely happens. With computers it is a completely different thought process. Everyone knows that a Dell is much cheaper than the equivalent iMac right?

The best way to sort the matter out is to take the newly unleashed iMac and compare it to the equivalent Dell. In this manner we’ll see what premium Mac users pay for the cool styling and space saving design.  (Styling is subjective and you may actually prefer the look of the Dell but at least we’ll just how much that styling is going to cost.)

iMac specs:
17-inch widescreen LCD
1.8GHz PowerPC G5
512K L2 cache
600MHz frontside bus
NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra
64MB DDR video memory
80GB Serial ATA hard drive
Slot-load SuperDrive

Price $1,499.00

Dell Dimension 4600C
(Chosen because of the form factor)
Base Price $799

Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor (2.80GHz, 533 FSB)
Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition
256MB Dual Channel shared DDR SDRAM at 333MHz (2x128M)
40GB2 Ultra ATA/100 Hard Drive
17 in (16 in viewable,.27dp) E773c CRT Monitor
CD or DVD Drive

The Dell is a cool seven hundred dollars cheaper but it lacks in some areas, to get a meaningful comparison we’ll need to adjust a few things on the 4600C.

The most obvious difference is the monitors. The iMac has a very nice integrated 17” monitor so let’s add the 17” Dell 1704FTP Ultrasharp Digital Flat Panel display. It probably won’t be quite as nice as the iMacs screen but it is as close as we can get.

We also need to address the operating system. The Dell comes with Windows XP home but Dell recommends Windows XP pro. Apple recommends Panther. Let us heed the recommendations.
+ $79

Look at those hard drive specs, twice the drive on the iMac! The ever-malleable Dell allows us to even the score with a 80GB Ultra ATA 100 (Dell recommended):
+ $30

CD Drive. The Mac has a SuperDrive so the Dell gets an 8x CD/DVD burner
+ $129

Rather by design or obscurity it is a fact: Macs are fairly secure, while PCs are fairly insecure. Dell is pushing a Norton Internet Security 15 month subscription. Hey, its Dell recommended!
+ $49

The Dell comes with integrated video. This isn’t something you want. Let’s even up the video card spec by adding 64MB DDR NVIDIA GeForce4 MX™ Graphics Card with TV-Out and DVI. It’s not the same card the iMac features but it is the only alternative offered by Dell.
+ $70

Besides decent styling the iMac also features something the Dell doesn’t have: speakers. The cheapest speakers offered are the Dell A215s.
+ $10

New total for the Dell? $1617
Mac total (no changes): $1499

The iMac is $118 cheaper than the Dell, not an insignificant amount, roughly equal to 15 movie tickets or one ticket if you also stop by the concession stand. What we learn from this exercise is that Macs aren’t as expensive as current wisdom would lead you to believe. The difference in prices between the two premium computer makers is more or less the same difference in Toyota and Honda pricing schemes: One looks substantially cheaper but it is a mirage.  Does that make the iMac a better value, objectively speaking, than the 4600C? The answer is yes if you want the all the integrated coolness and capabilities but what if you already have a flat panel display? What if, like most folks, you’ll never burn a DVD? What if you love viruses roaming like mad over your computers internals? Then the iMac doesn’t look like such a fantastic value; in fact it looks fairly expensive. Still if you’re just looking to switch, the new iMac is hard to beat.


  • Not really.  The problem is being forced to buy a new monitor when we already have plenty of good ones.  We’ve been a principly Mac shop since 1985 but am probably going to be switching to windows for our new low end purchases, this irritates me so. It feels like pure rip-off.  The Imacs also make too strong a design statement. I want visitors to think about our work, not our computer choice. They also make us appear un businesslike, as if we would sacrifice functionality for compactness & fashion.  We need an Imac with no screen in a commodious plain box.

    wrb had this to say on Sep 02, 2004 Posts: 3
  • An Imac with no screen? *ponder, ponder* .. a G5?

    Martijn had this to say on Sep 02, 2004 Posts: 10
  • The only thing Apple may be faulted for is offering less choice.  Well at least it’s a good choice.
    By the way, an 80 GB SATA drive is worth at least $10 more than an 80 GB ATA/100 drive.
    For business, the iMac is more ergonomic and comes in less boxes.  But lets remember this is a home computer designed to run iLife.
    Now, someone tell me why the comparison was not with an all-in-one Sony VAIO V or W?

    Threndor had this to say on Sep 03, 2004 Posts: 3
  • That probably would have been a good idea Threndor. The reason I chose the Dell was because of Dell’s rep as making substantially cheaper computers than Apple. Sony does not share that reputation, plus they don’t seem to e as easily customizable (on sony’s web site).

    chrisseibold had this to say on Sep 03, 2004 Posts: 48
  • Apple needs to offer a blade server, they also need to offer a Tablet, a lcd remote, a phone, a TV, a car!

    I really think it is unbelievable that you can say “less choice” is a fault of Apple. Take note of how their hardware design has evolved over the last 5 years. Don’t you think that the philosphy of refinement, less is more, simple, extends everywhere within the company?

    Look at their iPod ads, look at their website, collateral, package design. Its all basic, simple, minimal. Why would their product lines be complicated? Loaded with options?

    Because it is not Apple’s philosophy!!!! They are not a swiss-army knife computer maker.

    Nathan had this to say on Sep 03, 2004 Posts: 219
  • >Apple needs to offer a blade server, they also need to offer a Tablet, a lcd remote, a phone, a TV, a car!<

    No they don’t. But they do need to offer a complete set of computers that a buisness may prudently adopt.  They don’t.  They offer great workstations, great laptops, have interesting things happening with x-grid, but don’t have anthing for secretaries or lawyers desktop except for those silly enough, and fiscally & environmentally irresponsible enough (fashion sick consumers) to buy and throw out a screen with each cpu. So we who would like to go all apple, end up having to create a mixed environment—which is a huge and expensive hassle to keep on top of and are forced to windows.

    wrb had this to say on Sep 03, 2004 Posts: 3
  • Since you’re not going to find a machine that is exactly the same form factor as the iMac, and you’ve already gone to a separate cpu, you might as well just get the Dell 3000 2.8 ghz P4 which is $379 (after $100 rebate) and choose the 17” flat panel add on, which right now is $270. Now you start out $559 lower than your original Dell machine/monitor combo, and have 512 mb memory to boot. Your total Dell price is now $1058, or $441 cheaper than the iMac, even after you add on all the extras.

    I love my Macs, but PC’s still have the market on getting powerful, flexible, inexpensive gear into the hands of consumers. Sure, if you just walk into the front page of Dell and order whatever is there, you might end up with a full price machine, but Dell (and everyone else) offers too many deals and specials to ever buy a stock retail price machine.

    Thing is, iMac still is targeting the home user. Most home users I know want to upgrade their machines, and already have a monitor..and in many cases a flat panel. It’s pretty hard to convince them to pay $1000 for any kind of mac (more like $1200-1500) that doesn’t have a monitor attached, when they can get something pretty decent out of the box for $379.

    nwduffer had this to say on Sep 04, 2004 Posts: 1
  • Business will never switch to Apple, screen or not, because most of the business software is Windows only.

    And I’m not talking Office here, but things like Business Objects and Cognos (and yes, they have webinterfaces and no, those interfaces do not play nice with anything else but Internet Explorer on Windows) and probably a zillion other applications used in management and logistic environments.

    Martijn had this to say on Sep 04, 2004 Posts: 10
  • When I ran through the same exercise with the Dell 3000 I ended up with a price of $1451 and you’re stuck with integrated video of course I did go with the ultrasharp monitor without that it would have been $1251. I also have to say the dell falls short of the iMac in other areas as well.

    Though that is a very good point, most people aren’t starting out from scratch anymore, they don’t want to upgrade everything all at once.

    chrisseibold had this to say on Sep 04, 2004 Posts: 48
  • >Business will never switch to Apple, screen or not, because most of the business software is Windows only.<

    There are many types of businesses. Ours, for example, is very graphics and presentation heavy and the high-end macs are the best solution. Unfortunately Apple doesn’t offer anything we can prudently use for the vital people who don’t need workstations.

    wrb had this to say on Sep 04, 2004 Posts: 3
  • check out this price comparison of the iMac G5 configured closely to the 1.8 Dual PowerMac:

    That extra processor, faster bus and extra drive bay sure is expensive! (about $1500 more expensive)

    Nathan had this to say on Sep 08, 2004 Posts: 219
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