The idea of an Apple Tax is expressed in many ways from the traditional “z0mg!! MacBook costs $300 more than HP!!1!1!!” to cost analyses of the components going into each machine. The Apple Tax is often seen as an arbitrary price increase on hardware bought from Apple. The tax rate has fluctuated over recent years overall and on a product to product basis. Apple’s customers primarily don’t worry about the tax because they’ve either used Macs for all their life or feel that the tax is justifiable. This article will attempt to lay out the present U.S. Apple Tax and outline what this tax pays for. I will attempt to offer arguments from both sides, however, at the end of the day it is your money that you are spending.
I’ve decided to do the tax analysis on two comparable models offered from Apple and Dell. I’ve decided to go with two 13″ notebooks as most people prefer to have them due to space constraints or mobility needs. The two machines are Apple’s mid-range 13″ MacBook Pro and Dell’s 13″ Studio XPS. The MacBook Pro is stock configuration, meaning no changes made. The Dell Studio XPS 13 had its processor upgraded to the 2.53GHz model, memory was upgraded to 4GB, and the screen upgraded to a LED backlit version. It’s also worth noting that the Dell screen is likely a 16:9 version with a 1280×720 resolution instead of 1280×800 (I do expect Apple to shift their notebooks to 16:9 this January.) There is one feature I was not able to fully equalize, that is the hard drive. The Dell ships with a 250GB 7200RPM drive while Apple ships a 250GB 5400RPM drive. This will make a marginal difference in load times of the OS and software.
Here is a full breakdown of the systems:
Apple MacBook Pro 13″
Dell Studio XPS 13
It’s time to reveal what everyone’s been waiting for, the price. Apple’s MacBook Pro 13″ sells for $1,499 while the Dell listed here sells for $1,234. The difference of $265 we will call the Apple Tax on the 13″ MacBook Pro. $265 is not that bad, the only reason I say this is that the tax has been worse in the past.
With the extra $265 it’s only natural that we look at what the MacBook Pro offers over the Dell. First and foremost what has come up in the majority of conversations I’ve had with other mac users is that they chose to buy their computer because of the operating system. Other reasons range from using Macs for a long time in school or not, the user wants an easy to use operating system with a relatively smaller risk of malware, or there is some piece of software that must be used (Final Cut or iLife software.) My reason for sticking with OS X in this era of Windows 7 is that it provides an easy cost effective way to record RSBANDBUpdate! and it is a Unix based operating system which makes various web/software development tasks easier.
When you buy the MacBook Pro you get OS X which as stated is one of the main reasons people I’ve talked to have moved to the platform. You also get the iLife suite which is superb, there is no free alternative on Windows that comes close to iLife. There are also lots of nice features built into OS X that make life easier such as quick look and built in PDF viewing. With this comes the Unix aspect of OS X which makes it appealing to developers as it’s the most user friendly Unix based operating system. With the MacBook Pro you also get the elegance of both OS X and the hardware, while some people care about this, it is secondary to me. This also pays for the build quality of the enclosure. The reason enclosure is mentioned that once all the dust settles a MacBook Pro is made up of ordinary parts which are still subject to failure, specifically the debacle of the 2007 MacBook Pros and their faulty NVIDIA graphics. Finally, it can be argued that you pay for the experience you get at the Apple store when you go to check out one of their products. Overall the Apple Tax pays for the operating system, software, engineering, and user experience. Whether this is something you want to pay for is up to you in the end as the consumer.
Apple’s prices abroad are significantly higher than they are in the U.S.. Most Apple price outside of the U.S. correlate to the exchange rate of your respective country. This means that if your dollar moves closer to that of the U.S. Apple prices will decrease. An extreme case can be seen in New Zealand where the same MacBook Pro profiled above starts at $2599 NZD. Using present day conversions ($1 USD = $1.34 NZD) this equates to $1934.70 USD. This will also weigh into your decision about what to buy if you don’t live in the U.S., the same happens here in Canada except it’s much less noticable.
At the end of the day it comes down to personal preference and your financial situation. If you are interested in having a computer that will require very little maintenance and has a great multimedia suite you should probably go with the MacBook. If you feel confident in your abilities to maintain a Windows computer and you don’t need an easy to use editing suite, the Dell XPS will work nicely. Or if you don’t want to pay the Apple Tax, just go with the Dell XPS. On a final note, both machines are equally powerful and can be tailored to any individual needs that exist. If you have any questions or suggestions for future articles, send me a PM on the forums.