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I Love My MacBook But $750 is $750

Acer Extreme
This will, no doubt, get the Mac Nation up in arms but sometimes the difference in price between a MacBook and Windows-based laptops makes you wonder.

Here’s a good example: this week, Best Buy (Canada) has an “exclusive” deal on an Acer Extreme for $399. Here’s what you get:

- 14.1″ screen
- 1GB RAM
- 120 GB hard drive
- Dual layer DVD burner
- ATI Radeon X1250 graphics card
- Vista Home Basic

At first glance, it’s seems like a great deal if you’re looking for a new laptop that easily meets the needs of most people.

In comparison, Best Buy is selling the MacBook for $1149. (Has anyone ever seen a MacBook on sale?). Here’s what you get:

- 13.3″ screen
- 1GB RAM
- 120 GB hard drive
- CD burner and DVD player

I know we’re talking apples and oranges given the differences in processors (AMD Sempron 3600 vs. Intel Duo Core), operating systems and hardware but if you’re looking for a new laptop, the idea of saving $750 at a time of economic uncertainly could resonate with many consumers.

Of course, many people are also willing to pay a premium to buy into the Mac Aura given it’s cooler and hipper to buy a Mac rather than an Acer. After all, how many people have ever exclaimed, “Amazing, you bought an Acer!”?

Speaking of Windows, TechDirt has a good post questioning the wave of negativity that Microsoft has received for its new $300-million advertising campaign, which includes comedian Jerry Seinfeld. While Apple regularly gets praised up and down, Microsoft is often savaged even when it’s undeserved.

By the way, the ad below featuring Seinfeld and Bill Gates is quirky but I like it.

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  • http://bargainista.ca Eden Spodek

    Mark, How much more does it cost to equip the Acer laptop with the same type of software the MacBook has pre-installed?

  • http://www.markevanstech.com Mark Evans

    Eden,

    Excellent question – and one that many consumers probably don’t think about. At the end of the day, I think buying a MacBook is a good investment but you have to be willing to pay upfront.

    Mark

  • http://www.goldblatt.info Scott Goldblatt

    Thanks Mark. I liked the ad too, but then again I was a fan of the Seinfeld show – which was sometimes just as “out there” as this commercial was.

    As for the Mac and software question – I know alot of software comes preinstalled, but wouldn’t you think that most Windows users already have this software (or comparable) by this point making it a moot point? Like you say $750 is $750 – even in Canadian dollars :).

  • http://socialwrite.com Jevon

    There is also resale value to consider. It is a bit of a bet, but I have always gotten excellent prices for my old Macs. That may not continue though, as there are probably so many for sale these days.

  • http://yansarazin.com Yan

    I had that same argument a few weeks ago when I was shopping for a laptop. I’m a Linux guy as well so I figured I’d save some money by buying a Windows laptop and installing Ubuntu on it.

    Best Buy must’ve hated me then because I tried 4 different laptops, by 3 different manufacturers ranging between $600 and $1000 in price, and I just couldn’t get the hardware quality I wanted. It was just another situation where learned “you get what you pay for”

    http://yansarazin.com/technology/apple-not-just-for-their-os

  • E Guy

    Seems to me there is a premium for a Mac. Always has been and likely will continue. That is their pricing strategy and it seems to work for them regardless of the whining done by various blog writers about their approach.

    There may be a cool factor related to a Mac but it has functionality that is simply better than a laptop or a PC. Ease of use and better interfaces are two examples.

  • James

    You’re comparing a MacBook with an Intel Core 2 Duo to an AMD Sempron. In other words, a budget laptop to a mid-to-premium product. Hardly a fair comparison.

    I would doubt the Vista experience on that machine would be acceptable – it ships with Home Basic which gives you some sense of the expected performance.

  • trex

    I think the Mac prices are reasonable and I’m actually going to recommend that my brother, who’s in the market for a laptop, to save and purchase a MacBook. It’s just that much better. I love my MacBook Pro and it’s my primary computer.

    However, that’s where the praise ends. As much as I love my MBP, I’ve decided not to purchase MACs recently. I’m building a media centre and the Mac Mini looks great, but it’s a bit pricey and has limited storage space. I love Front Row though. Went with Ubuntu and MythTV instead.

    And I would never recommend the MacBook Air to anyone. NetBooks beat the MacBook Air hands down. The Asus EEE has 3 USB ports for crying out loud. And it’ll be interesting to watch this battle as I doubt Apple’s going to compete in the netbook market. Although the MBA was never on my radar, I do see myself picking up a netbook in the near future.

    So I guess – MACs as primary computers but beyond that there’s so much flexibility and better pricing on the PC side. Sometimes MAC functionality just doesn’t justify the premium, especially if you’d like to upgrade in the future.

  • steve

    Once I got past all the “Mac Aura” crap:

    “Has anyone ever seen a MacBook on sale?”

    No, but you can buy them “refurbished” for $900. I’ve bought refurbished products from Apple before, and you can’t tell they’ve ever been used; if not for the color of the box, I wouldn’t have been able to tell at all.

    As you say, money is money. Why would I pay a few hundred dollars just to get something nobody else has used before?

  • Gene T

    Macbooks on sale: OK, They’re never actually on sale. There’s refurbs, and you could maybe sneak an academic discount if you know students/faculty, but the price is firm.

    Counter-argument: the mac laptop, any one, will hold its resale value quite well, and sell quickly. This is only true of one manufacturer’s laptops. Look at the price of G4 powerbooks on smalldog.com or pwoermax.com, one of those places.

    And: macbooks have one feature that alone is worth a delta of a few hundred dollars: The DVI out. I can almost guarantee without ever having seen it that the Acer, if you plug in a 24″ monitor and worka few hours a day, will give you blurred vision, headaches, irritability, symptoms liek that.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/ Josh Catone

    @James: Perhaps that’s the point. Apple doesn’t make a budget laptop, and most people don’t need a mid-to-premium laptop.

  • http://www.reemer.com kareem

    what’s the value you ascribe to enjoying using your laptop everyday? on not needing to reformat every 6-9 months? on being able to live life without viruses? i.e. how much is your time worth over the course of owning your laptop?

  • http://devver.net/blog Dan Mayer

    I got a macbook, but I only buy macs refurbed. Even as a refurb it was $750, bu tthat helps cut the costs significantly. It has also been the best computer I have ever had, but I am thinking about going entirely Ubuntu for my next system.

  • Hank

    Mark, you insult yourself by revealing that you think the main difference with Macs is some kind of cool factor. It’s not.

    In reality, the difference is more like this: once you have a Mac, you get a lot more stuff done.

    If you don’t have a Mac, you spend a lot of time maintaining your crap OS and its crap drivers and crap software, and you lose productivity, and lose opportunities in life because of that.

  • Hank

    If money is all you’re worried about, why get a computer at all? You don’t need a computer to flip burgers.

  • Thomas

    Man, I’d love to get a cheap laptop like that and run Linux on it, but as I’ve said many times before, Photoshop (and, to some degree, Illustrator) is holding me back. Come on Adobe, you’re missing out on sales! But all of my other needs are met nicely:

    iTunes: Amarok

    TextMate/MacVim: GEdit/GVim

    Transmit: FireFTP, NCFTP, etc.

    NeoOffice/MS Word: OpenOffice/AbiWord/Gnumeric (I actually choose the latter two over Office ’03 on my Windows box at the office)

    NetNewsWire: (Recommendations?)

    Parallels: VMWare, etc.

    Zend Studio: Zend Studio

    Firefox/Thunderbird: Firefox/Thunderbird

    On The Job (timetracking): (Recommendations?)

  • http://www.sarahintampa.com Sarah

    Good point, Mark. Stumbled! Glad to see there is one other person in the universe who liked the ad, too. LOL. I also thought it was quirky and funny.

    Btw, found this via Hacker News!

  • anonymous

    [quote]
    The DVI out. I can almost guarantee without ever having seen it that the Acer, if you plug in a 24? monitor and worka few hours a day, will give you blurred vision, headaches, irritability, symptoms liek that.
    [/quote]

    My 3 year old Acer TravelMate has both dvi and vga out. It cost less at that time than a MacBook Pro costs now.

    The only difference is less memory (i only have 1 gb as opposed to 2gb standard now) and processor (i have a Pentium M 2ghz) as opposed to the standard dual core now.

    [quote]
    You’re comparing a MacBook with an Intel Core 2 Duo to an AMD Sempron. In other words, a budget laptop to a mid-to-premium product. Hardly a fair comparison.
    [/quote]

    Fair comment, but show one user who needs (and uses) the extra horsepower and buys a macbook as opposed to a bigger laptop.

  • Ted

    @Eden: lots of free software out there mate. MacBook doesn’t come with iWork/iLife pre-installed (even if they do, aren’t the software on trial version or something?)

    OpenOffice seems more complete and better than iWork.

  • http://www.workpost.com Workpost Foreman

    Wow. That MS ad was really strange but good. Not sure why it would convince people to use Vista but… it was amusing.

    DVI out.. yes, more lower-end non-apple laptops need to have this as a standard feature.

  • http://montrealtechwatch.com heri

    but the acer is f*cking ugly …

  • http://www.getpeek.com amol

    Paying triple for “the best” is interesting…but clearly only a choice that 5-6% of the market is making. No suprise that the Wintel world is 10X the Mac world — even though Macs are great in many, many ways and I have several in my house (cheapo Mac Minis…)

  • http://www.zeljkoprsa.com Zeljko Prsa

    …”I know we’re talking apples and oranges”… and indeed you do.

  • someMerican

    FYI, a similar model Acer and Compaq notebook were available through Best Buy down here in the States and sold very briskly. They had 2GB of RAM compared to the one you mentioned for the same price (I’m unsure of the rest of the specs, HD size and DVD drive type e.g.) Thing is, a friend of mine went to pick one up and found out that the reason they’re priced so low is they’ve been outright discontinued by Acer and Compaq. The MacBook, as far as I know, is still the current model. Something to consider.

  • Cleay

    “but clearly only a choice that 5-6% of the market is making”
    According to this: http://www.macworld.com/article/59616/2007/08/appleshare.html it’s over 17% for all notebooks – and I read recently the market share of notebooks over $1000 is 80%. With numbers like that why would you go on sale?

  • gene

    here’s the repercussions:

    http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=296760

    http://lucasrockwell.blogspot.com/2008/09/debate-is-over.html

    http://fishbowl.pastiche.org/2008/09/06/hi_im_a_mac_beep_beep/

    linux laptop for software devs: I’d say that the leading distros (Ubuntu./debian, centOS/fedora) work great, now that the biggest speed bumps are more or less fixed (wifi, dual-head /monitors, apt-get’s breaking up ruby and python installs into lots of little packages, …)

  • http://randalljhoward.com Randall Howard

    Mark,
    That’s exactly why the MSFT $300M ad campaign is so way off the mark. Apple is certainly stealing the high end and the buzz is around UMPCs (smaller Mobile Internet Devices) that cost $299-$400 and tend to run Ubuntu. Between those and the iPhone, it’s not clear that there’s a market position left for Microsoft to dominate.

    Randall

  • http://bargainista.ca Eden Spodek

    Also, students buying macs now can also get a free printer and an ipod. Seems like a pretty sweet deal to me if it’s within your budget.

  • Bill Sagert

    Kareem wrote:
    …what’s the value you ascribe to enjoying using your laptop everyday? on not needing to reformat every 6-9 months? on being able to live life without viruses?

    My two Toshiba laptops are over five years old. I have *never* done a reformat. I have *never had a virus*. Never a *blue screen of death* since xp sp2. No malware since sp3 and before that malware was easily taken care of by *system restore*.

    You Apple guys blow smoke. I used to install adsl for a big Telco. I saw my share of Macs crashing. “I thought Macs never crashed” was my reaction. “Don’t believe it” was the answer from the Mac owners.

  • Steve

    According to this sort of theory, when comparing two cars, the cheaper one must be better, right? They’re both cars.

    Forget that the more expensive one gets better mileage, has more standard equipment and a more comfortable ride. They’re both cars. You should always buy the cheaper one.

  • http://thehappymoron.com/blog scott

    One word: Acer.

    I would never buy an acer – any acer.
    Even in an apples to apples comparison with other pc notebooks, acers are less expensive.

    The simple answer is that they are cheaper. It has nothing to do with Windows and everything to do with manufacturing quality and overhead. Acers are the bargain basement of Windows laptops.

    Compare with an HP, Lenovo, Compaq, Toshiba, Sony or even Dell laptop and you’ll get a better picture of the value difference.

  • PJ

    Just buy a used macbook.

    I’ve bought two laptops from the MacNN forums and had pleasant experiences. The most recent was a 2ghz 2gig MacBook for $800 almost a year ago.

    There’s always the fear you can get burned buying used equipment, but buying from well-known members can decrease the likelihood of that happening substantially.

    I even got the original owner’s AppleCare transfered to my name, so even had there been issues, I could’ve had it repaired.

  • bux

    The specs for the cheap windows laptop may be more impressive on paper but I hear it takes every bit of that ram and HD space to operate Vista. In fact I hear that even with those specs Vista will bog down the PC. Don’t forget what you will spend on Anti Virus Apps, spyware programs etc… I love my Macbook and was worth every penny. Right now Macbook on bestbuy.com 849.00!!! Great Deal!!!

  • http://WWW.AMRE.US J. WINTER

    LOOK! I KNOW MANY WILL NOT AGREE WITH ME, BUT I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO HAVE OWNED AND USED APPLE COMPUTERS SINCE THEY BEGAN SELLING THEM MANY YEARS AGO. THERE IS NO QUESTION IN MY MIND THAT APPLE HAS MADE AND STILL MAKES ONE OF THE FINEST COMPUTERS IN THE WORLD. SURE I HAVE HAD THE OCCASIONAL PROBLEM… BUT AS I HAVE LISTENED AND WATCHED MY FRIENDS WHO HAVE BOUGHT AND USED OTHER BRANDS OVER THE YEARS, THERE IS JUST NO COMPARISON IN THE NUMBER OF PROBLEMS THAT CROP UP OVER THE LIFETIME OF THE COMPUTER. IN AN AGE WHERE JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING IS BUILT BY MACHINES IT SEEMS TO ME THAT APPLE HAS FIGURED OUT HOW TO COMBINE THE HUMAN TOUCH WITH THE ROBOTIC HAND….. NO SMALL TASK IF YOU ASK ME.

    REMEMBER….. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

    JONATHAN WINTER
    AMRE