The Mac vs PC Wars Are Over

It’s VP day! Farhad Manjoo at the Machinist Blog has the definitive Mac vs PC article which finally gives the only answer you’ll ever need: buy a Mac:

The present article is an attempt to prove to you that, on price alone, the Mac is not the BMW of computers. It is the Ford of computers. I am not arguing that the Mac is cheaper only if you consider the psychic benefits conferred by its quality. Rather I’m going to illustrate something more straightforward: Even though you may pay a slight premium at the cash register for a Mac over a comparable Windows PC (a premium that gets slighter all the time), it will cost you less money — real, honest-to-goodness American dollars — to own that Mac than to own that PC.

Why this should be has to do with an economic truth that has not recently mattered much in the computer industry, but that, in an age of eBay and unyielding obsolescence, is now crucial. It is resale value. Macs fetch far more on the aftermarket than do PCs — and after years of use, you can offset that cash-register premium by selling your Mac for a better price than you could your PC.

Consider this example: Last Thanksgiving, you could have purchased a fairly well-outfitted Windows desktop — the HP Pavilion Media Center A1640n — on sale from some retail outlets for $699. The machine came with 2 gigabytes of memory, a 250 GB hard disk, and it ran on a quick 1.86 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor.

Around the same time, you might instead have picked up Apple’s top-of-the-line Mac Mini, which came equipped with a processor slightly less powerful than the HP’s (a 1.83 GHz Intel Core Duo), a far smaller hard disk (80 GB), and less memory (512 MB). The Mac Mini would have set you back $799, or $100 more than the HP.

A good way to gauge the current market value of a computer is to check how much buyers have been willing to pay for similar models in auctions recently completed on eBay. Doing so for the HP shows prices ranging from $236 to $257 — let’s say a rough average of $250. Sales of the Mac Mini, meanwhile, go from about $445 to $550. Let’s assume you can unload yours for $500.

If you used your HP for a year and then sold it, you would have spent $449 to own it — that is, your purchase price of $699 minus your sale price of $250. The Mac Mini, for the same year, would have set you back far less: $799 minus $500, or just $299.

I ran such comparisons on many Windows and Mac systems sold during the past four years, and in nearly every one — whether the machines were laptops or desktops — the Macs sold by enough of a premium over comparable Windows machines to make up for the greater amount you would have paid when buying them.

I have a 4 year old G4 Powerbook 12″ with 40 Gigs of memory and 256 Megs of RAM. I used it to build this blog, write a novel and it got me through grad school– and it’s still kicking ass. The only repairs it’s ever needed were a few freeware patches, a replacement battery ($80) and a replacement AC adapter ($20) and those needed replacing only because they wore out.  I upgraded twice, first to Panther, then to Tiger with zero problems or bugs. A quick perusal of eBay tells me I could sell this thing for between $400 and $600. I purchased it for around $2000. Now sure, with wear and tear, maybe that would knock a hundred bucks off the price. But could you imagine a Dell or HP laptop selling for 40% it’s cost after 4 years? Hell no. Most PCs don’t even last that long because, as Farhad points out, they get eaten alive by spyware and viruses long before they ever have a chance to be resold.

So. Buy a Mac. It’s not only pretty and (mostly) virus free, but if you have a need to resell it, you’ll get your money’s worth. Not that you’ll need to resell it; Elvira and I have three Macs at home, all between 3 and 5 years old and they all work brilliantly. We’ll be using them for years to come.

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