Mac Mini vs. Cheapo PCs

Mac mini.Charles Jade at ArsTechnica has written both a Mac mini preview and a MacWorld Expo show walkthrough. The expo is about a lot more than the Stevenote, and Jade does a fine job walking us about the show floor. Also entertaining is an OSViews story on the Mac mini that concludes the mini is far less expensive than home-built PCs. Not that there aren’t a lot of people arguing with that conclusion in the comments.

According to the story, a similarly equipped PC can be had for about $1000, including around $500 each for the software and hardware components of the package. Many commentors argued the software shouldn’t count, but that sounds like an invitation to software piracy. Others argue that the price can be lowered by changing the form-factor, or scoping the cheapest components on pricewatch, but nobody’s argued that they can make a PC in an identical form-factor with an equivalent software package, and get all the parts from reputable, major-name resellers, and get a warranty that matches Apple’s.

And that’s pretty much how every argument about the cost of a Mac goes. Every “cheaper” alternative requires a major compromise. Paul Murphy at LinuxInsider weighed in on this a while ago when he compared performance and price of then-current offerings and found Apple offered more bang for the buck. This quote seems to address the trade-offs PC zealots seem willing to make:

The PC community response is, first, that the multimedia features distinguishing the Mac aren’t necessary…. Personally I think they’re begging the question on stuff like firewire: that they don’t see the value of Apple’s multimedia capabilities only because they’ve never had them….

Ouch. Look the mini is a good machine at a great price. It’s not a gamer’s wonder, but nobody expects to get that in the mini’s price point. Like the cheap PCs it’s competing against, it has too little RAM, but it does have features not found in those clunker PCs, like CD and DVD burning — with software that actually makes it usable — Firewire, DVI video from an ATi video card, and more.