What "Apple Tax"?

xrayspx's picture

Why I gladly pay the Apple "Luxury Tax"

First thing first, on their high end, Apple is very affordable, and at their low end, I consider the few $ more absolutely worth the money. I'll start with the OMG Macs are so damn expensive myth. When I bought my Mac Pro a couple years ago I wasn't out to buy a Mac. I was out to buy an HP workstation and run Linux. Then I went comparison shopping. At that time HP couldn't even approach the $2600 price point for my Dual dual-core 2.66Ghz Mac Pro. I think a lot of people compare against consumer PCs, which is the wrong thing to do. If you want to go part-for-part with Apple, you must compare against HPs workstation class machines. These machines have the added benefit of not being 1000 shades of annoying with a zillion colored LEDs and shiny plastic. When I bought my machine, the Mac came out $1300 less than the HP, let's do the same comparison today

Apple Mac Pro
Dual Quad Core Harpertown 2.8Ghz
2GB of memory (if you pay Apple for memory, you're a moron)
320GB SATA disk
NVidia GeForce 8800 (This was a $150 upgrade from the ATI) 512MB
2x 1Gb/sec NICs

HP xw8600 Workstation
Vista Business 64 (OS makes no difference, they offer free downgrades to XP, but there is no "no OS" option, which I would want in my comparison since I want Unix)
Dual 2.66Ghz Harpertowns
1GB of memory
250GB SATA drive (HP's semi-pre-configured system didn't offer anything bigger)
NVidia Quadro FX570 256MB


If I want to make it match by bumping up the CPUs and memory, it's $4,775 for the HP. The Mac uses 800Mhz FSB memory, the HP uses 667Mhz. HP doesn't tell you what NICs are in the system, I can only hope there are two.

So it's a very easy victory for the Mac Pro there.

Operating System
The OS Choice Issue was my second hurdle. I am a long time Linux-on-the-Desktop guy. Starting with RedHat 6, my primary desktop machine had been Linux. Windows simply isn't an option for me. I very much like the idea of Open Source, but I'm not above paying money for something that saves me time. Windows doesn't work for me, it's a workflow thing. Taking the time to describe why is outside the scope here. It's sufficient to say that "Cygwin is insufficient here".

Getting used to OSX took time, no argument there, but I don't have to ever screw with NDISWrapper WiFi driver bullshit ever again. I don't have to deal with VPN clients that require me to turn off one core before connecting so they don't hang my machine. What I do get is a stable Unix system that runs and runs fast. The Linux software I like can be used through Fink, which admittedly is less than completely ideal, but Amarok, KDE Baskets, and PAN run just fine.

The great things I love about OpenSuSE are things I don't need on the Mac. YAST for example is a fantastic package manager, but I don't need it.


So that brings us to the software comparison. There's honestly not much to compare, but here we go

KDE4 - Is great, compositing shuts off if I drag highlighted text from Firefox (a GTK app) because of the highlighted-text-drag-effect. Compositing also gets shut off when the machine is locked sometimes.
--UPDATE: I fixed this and it's documented here. Basically Firefox makes a picture of the text you're dragging, you can shut that off in about:config -> nglayout.enable_drag_images = False

I think they should fix the issue, rather than just say "turn that off", but that's just me.

Leopard - Doesn't do that shit. Is accelerated. Everything is a PDF, you know the drill.

VMWare - Free on Linux, Fusion for Mac at $79. Fusion has 3D Acceleration, which is good enough for me to play GTA. Also, drag and drop between the VM and host desktop, and rootless mode, which I don't use much, but it's pretty cool some of the time. You can also have Mac document types bound to Windows apps, for instance, if I want to, I could have .doc files on the Mac open in Word on the VM.

So, show me where I'm out hundreds of dollars for buying a Mac here? I don't want to hear "The $1000 consumer HP model is good enough", I want to see "Here is a box with every identical part from the Mac, and it's $X less". I don't want to build PCs anymore, I do want a warranty.

Fixed Tags:


Say it ain't so. I just can't picture you using a system with a cover, nevermind pre-built by HP.

All the "workstation class" pc's are overpriced - including apple. I guess if you need the extra processor you have no choice other than building your own.

How does apple compare when looking at systems most people can afford? I like apple's OS, but on hardware with little margin it will be more expensive.

xrayspx's picture

You're right, either way, this was my first machine with a name on it. I just don't care anymore about keeping current with the latest in consumer hardware. I don't want to scour 10 websites looking for the best price on whatever part, and I want to be able to take it in and say "replace this" if something doesn't work (which I did, with a hard drive).

More on the consumer side, yeah I think things swing the other way. If your choice is between a Mac Mini and a Shuttle or similar, I think the microATX PCs still come out cheaper. And iMacs are probably more expensive than any PC in their capability range.

However, people also overlook OSX. I think it really does add value as a good Unix that doesn't cost a fortune, yet works out of the box. I love my Lenovo laptop with OpenSuSE on it, but taking it between networks is a huge nightmare compared to my Macbook. Also, KDE's accelerated desktop effects, mimicking things like Expose, are really useful and pretty quick (now), but having desktop acceleration enabled has a degrading effect on GTK apps, most notably rdesktop, but over time it also impacts Firefox and Thunderbird with tearing issues when you scroll. This is on good, modern hardware, and it sucks.

"Don't use an NVidia card" isn't such great advice when your company hands you a laptop with an NVidia card in it. I've been tempted to have them buy me a Macbook Pro, but in that case, there really is no justifying the cost, period. I think we pay ~$1,000 for a T61 widescreen Lenovo (now T500's), and the Macbook Pro would be like 2.5x that. I still might do it. They're willing, I'm the hold-up there.

For family and friends who know nothing about computers, I will still try and push them towards Apple. My mom uses a Linux laptop I built, and she does just fine, my in-laws were using a PC I built them, but it came to me to fix about every 4 to 6 months. I almost just bought them an iMac and left it at that. I ended up just giving to someone else and they're using an HP for which I am no longer bound by honor to do tech support. With the viruses and instability in Windows on the consumer desktop, there's no way I'd recommend that any "regular user" use it.