iMac? $1601.37 reasons I will not switch anytime soon!

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m not the biggest fan of Macs. I’ve had the pleasure of using an Apple iMac quite consistently during my time working in the Marketing & Communications department at Rice University IT and thoroughly enjoyed using it for web-design and graphics development, two of my responsibilities that were made easy by iMacs. I always knew Macs were a bit pricey, but only when I actually began setting about building my own computer did I get an idea of how much.

As many of you may know, Apple released their new line of Mac computers today. They released MacBook Pros, the good old iMac and a Mac Mini or two. Among their new offerings were two iMacs built on the latest Intel quad-core chipset–the Nehalem architecture’s LGA 1156 offerings (the Core i5 and i7). These babies start at a price of, wait for it, $1999! This is daylight robbery, in my opinion, and I’ll take it upon myself to prove exactly that.

First, to gain even ground, let’s look at a spec-down of the two computers at hand. I’m going to compare the price of the components of the computer I build with an equally spec’d out iMac. Here we go:

iSohummm Edition

Processor: Core i7-860 2.8 GHz
Motherboard: ASRock P55D Pro
RAM: Corsair XMS3 2x2GB 1600 MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics Card: Gigabyte GV-R467ZL ATI Radeon HD4670 1GB
Hard Drive: 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black (7200RPM)
Optical Drive: 22x Samsung DVD+R 8x DVD+RW 16x DVD-ROM 48x CD-ROM
PSU: Corsair TX650W
Case: Antec Three Hundred Illusion
Keyboard-Mouse: Microsoft Wireless Desktop 6000 v2

Apple iMac 27-inch

Processor: Intel Core i7-860 2.8 GHz
Motherboard: UNKNOWN
Graphics Card: UNKNOWN ATI Radeon HD4850 512MB
Hard Drive: 1TB UNKNOWN (7200RPM)
Optical Drive: 8x DVD±R 8x DVD+RW 6x DVD-RW 8x DVD-ROM 24x CD-ROM SuperDrive
PSU: UNKNOWN (but apparently >365W)
Case: Apple 27″ IPS-enabled Monitor
Keyboard Mouse: Apple Magic Mouse + Wireless Keyboard Bundle

A total difference of $2380.42 – $779.05 = $1601.37. Hence the title of this post. “But what about your display!” you scream. Well, I’m going to be using my HDTV as my primary output for a while (until a decent LCD offer comes around). That cost me ~$854 after taxes and a 3-year warranty from Fry’s. And it has S-IPS (that’s Super IPS, for those who’re wondering) technology, supposedly. And it’s about $15 inches bigger (only diagonally, though) than the iMac computer. So the question is… is the all-in-one functionality+magic mouse+a slightly better gfx card worth a whopping $800? Or is Apple taking its dedicated user community on a ride (again)?

To better answer this question, I want to highlight a few details I picked up on while customizing my cart:

  1. Upgrading from the Core i5-750 (2.66 GHz) to the Core i7-860 (2.8 GHz) costs $200 on the Apple store, before taxes. The retail price of an i5-750 on Newegg is $199 and that of the i7-860 is $289. The difference is $90. Apple is charging its customers $110 extra to make this upgrade (remember, the mobo+everything else does NOT need to change to enable this since both are on the LGA 1156 socket), over the retail cost, before taxes.
  2. Upgrading from one 2x2GB memory kit to a 2 (in essence, buying another 2x2GB memory kit) costs $200 on the Apple store, before taxes. The retail price of the most expensive 2x2GB DDR3 SDRAM kit at the 1066 MHz clock speed on Newegg costs $87.49. The price difference is a whopping $112.51 extra that Apple is making from its consumers. Unless their original mobo only has 2 memory slots (which is kinda scary to begin with) and they need to do a mobo upgrade to support the second kit (did not appear true for any of the P55 boards on Newegg).
  3. And here’s the kicker–Apple charges an upgrade price of $250 for a 2TB hard-drive from a 1TB offering. That’s $70 more than the most expensive 2TB 7200RPM SATA drive on Newegg! And that is to upgrade from a 1TB, which usually retails for around $90. So, Apple is charging consumers an extra $160 approximately, to upgrade their HDD from 1TB to 2TB than it should cost.

What does this mean? It means that Apple is not only charging a ludicrous premium on their i7 offering, but they are at the same time charging HUGE premiums on upgrades. I’m going to be in the market for another TB and another 2x2GB kit of RAM come Black Friday, and I don’t expect to spend more than a total of $150 on that (did I mention that my mobo also has onboard RAID support?). That’s more than Apple is charging than market to upgrade from a 1TB to 2TB.

It’s crazy. I’ve not been making many friends with Mac fans over the last couple of days (especially on a certain CNET article) but the fact remains that these prices are heavily, heavily inflated. The iMac, I understand, is targeted towards home and home business users, compared to the Mac Pro, which is targeted towards business users and professionals. I shudder to think how much one of those will cost, after being loaded by one of the higher end i7 chips. Probably well into the $4000’s as a base price.

I’ll admit it here and once. If that Mac was available for around $1500, I’d seriously consider getting it. The cost would be just about $700 more than what I’ve spent currently to get into a seriously hard-to-upgrade, all-in-one machine with a sexy display. The best part would be I could use bootcamp and run Windows 7 off of it. But at this price, it would make more sense for me to upgrade all my components to their max (getting a 58xx video card, getting the $999 i7 chip) and I reckon I’d still just about break even.


16 Replies to “iMac? $1601.37 reasons I will not switch anytime soon!”

  1. Psh. Only reason I care about Macs is for OS X and CoreAudio. OS X so I literally don’t have to think about anything, ever. If that’s a lame excuse, so be it. And CoreAudio because I don’t want to grapple with drivers for audio cards, or worry about ASIO4All, or need to restart my computer when swapping audio interfaces. If they packaged that into a cardboard box then I’d be a happy camper.

    I think that the older white Macbook that I have, which has a firewire port and came with a free iPod touch on top of an educational discount, was a pretty darn good deal. And remember that was when all PCs were offering Vista, not exactly the shining beacon of reliability and/or efficiency. Windows 7 might bring me around, but I can’t say I have any regrets about dropping some extra cash for a little bit of a “ludicrous premium” on a quality notebook that rarely gives me trouble…

    Having said that, I agree that the new iMac’s price point is absurdly high. I wouldn’t buy one. But I probably wouldn’t buy a PC either. Why not grab a Mac Mini, or a refurbished Mac Pro, and then buy a fancy monitor? That way you’d get the stability of OS X and the ability to boot to Windows. Are you really going to be using all that processing power?

  2. I’ve never had to grapple with audio drivers, so I suppose that may be an isolated problem considering you use your machine more for music production/DJing. However, the new Macbooks have gotten rid of separate ports for audio in/out which would probably be somewhat of an issue with the DJ community.

    I guess its time to buy DJ Hero. Muahahahahaha!

  3. Unfortunately i cannot upload the screenshot of the PC i tried to build on one of the cheapest websites in UK wit similar specs. The CPU is slower, but the Graphics card has 1 GB. The speakers are less powerful and the sreen 27 inch but lower resolution. everything else is pretty much the same(I used midrange components). total price with Windows 7 and 3 year extended warranty- £2061.76
    new imac is £1,894.99 if you are UK student as I am- it’s under 1600.
    Which is more expensive?

  4. I’d say you’re getting ripped off by “one of the cheapest websites in UK” if a comparable PC costs that much. If you buy all your parts yourself, you won’t need a 3 year extended warranty because buying your hardware from manufacturers gives you between a 5-year to lifetime warranty in most cases. You’re basically being taken for a ride, as my custom PC shows how much it should actually cost.

  5. Well i understand that CPU or memory upgrade is bit overpriced but there is one important thing to mention- it is not fair to compare the basic unit with cheapest case and PSU and cheap periferials. To make a fair comparison a similar items have to be chosen. There might be arguments about the price but there is no doubt, that apple use good quality hardware. So i chose quality Logitech bluetooth keybord, good mouse, good speakers (imacs have 3*17W RMS)bluetooth, good alluminium case and so on. When you add all those things plus you have to remember the Windows (it doesn’t come free)the price inflates. I do believe, that dual core models are a bit outdated and too expensive, but quad core models seem to be good value. Plus the monitor of this quality does not come cheap as well.
    True, the extended warranty may not be needed so yoou can remove £130 from that price.
    I am not a Mac fan, I have a PC, but this time i believe Mac is far more better value for money than it used to be, especially with i7 and no other extras added.
    its still a bit more exensive, but not that much considering the support, and other advantages it has…

  6. I definitely did not go with the cheapest PSU and cheap peripherals. I waited until the deals came out and then I purchased them. My case retails at $75… if I had waited a little longer I could have gotten it for $60. There are always deals if you are willing to wait. Your argument about “good quality hardware” has no basis whatsoever. After moving to Intel, it’s the same hardware inside the Apple and the conventional Windows PC. If you are building your own machine, you can actually guarantee that your hardware will actually be better. I guarantee you’ll still come out on top with regards to price.

    I would really like to see a breakdown of your price since that seems way overpriced to me. This is proven by the fact that you can customize an OEM PC (from Dell, HP, etc.) and get it for less than a Mac with the same specs. Even the all-in-one editions.

    Finally, I did not put any consideration of “value” into price because that is highly subjective. You may value Apple support as being worth $500 but as someone who has never called Tech Support for computer issues in his life, I would not be willing to part with that kind of money. Especially for a computer that is supposed to be bulletproof, if its media propaganda is to be believed. I am looking at pure, hard numbers and specifications. All my purchases have been made from reliable manufacturer’s–I have not made a punt on a component just because it was cheap.

  7. the certainly aren’t booletproof. OK just did another build on £1540 quite similar system with no too fancy parts and no speakers(included windows pro and £300 monitor. imac for students with i7 Cost the same.

  8. Sorry to tell you, but that site is ripping you off.

    Core i7-860: £228.85 = $380; retail price is $285
    Gigabyte P55 UD5: £154.10 = $255; retail price is $210
    Corsair Memory 4GB (2X2GB KIT) DDR3 1333MHZ 240PIN DIMM: £80.83 = $134; retail price is $102
    Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EADS: £57.87 = $96; retail price is $85

    Just on these four components you are already spending $183 more. That alone is the cost of picking up a copy of Windows 7 Pro Upgrade. If you take some time to look for deals, you can get them for even cheaper. For example, I got my WD Caviar Black 1TB hard-drive for $75 shipped–this is the “big brother” of the Caviar Green and runs at 7200rpm instead of variable. I’m sure their margins on graphics cards and the like are even higher.

    It may just be that the market for computer components in the UK is not competitive. Keep in mind my blog was targeting the American market, where the computer components market is extremely competitive and miles cheaper than if you buy them from Apple.

  9. well you are lucky enough to pay american prices. Stuff is more expensive in Europe. Sometimes it seems that it would work out cheaper to go to USA and buy stuff if its something serious and you would get a free holiday.
    couple years ago when the pound was stronger everything in USA seemed to be allmost half the British price….that’s a bitter reality here 🙂

  10. That’s interesting that Apple seemingly subsidizes the European market. Of course, it may just be to capitalize on the bad rep that MS has got with Windows 7 and the EU, leading to the release of the “N” edition that allows users to select which browser they want to install.

    It varies by place, though. For example, buying an iMac in India is extremely expensive, as is buying a branded PC (but that’s still going to cost less). Furthermore, buying an Apple in India is going to mean poor product support since there are so few service centers there. So it wouldn’t really be a good investment unless you really have the needs for that platform.

  11. Probably youre right. The same thing as India was in the country i originaly am from- Lithuania, some years ago. The apple computers used to be mystified because they were so much more expensive than PC (most people would buy custom build than branden ones) due to low demand and the demand was obviously low due to the price. Some sort of vicious circle. Now all prices in European Union are more or less the same.

  12. 1. The video card used in the iMacs is the mobility version and NOT the desktop version, so that’s bound to cost more, albeit while offering less performance than it’s desktop counterpart.
    2. The LED backlit IPS display of the iMac is now among the best money can buy in the market. No Dell/Samsung/Viewsonic display even come near it’s contrast ratio, response time and viewing angles.
    3. The aluminium unibody backplate that makes the iMac so beautiful and durable does not come cheap!
    4. Apple support and warranty
    5. The magic mouse is also one-of-it’s kind sporting a smooth capacitive surface for easy and intuitive gestures.

    I agree any every product of Apple is grossly overpriced except for the Unibody plastic macbook, the iMac and the iPod Touch.

  13. 1. What’s the point? Why would you want to put a portable version video card into a desktop? Just so you can charge more?
    2. I can’t bother to do the calculations now but the pixel density of the iMac is only a few pixels per inch better than a top-of-the-line SIPS display. You can dig around in the PCWorld forums if you want specifics. Also, Apple released a 27-inch model, which is the only one of its kind in the market, which suggests that it teamed up with the actual hardware manufacturer to get a custom display made. Once that manufacturer begins to (and is allowed to) sell that display to other monitor vendors, you will see the price drop significantly. Furthermore, the Apple iMac traditionally never has a price change through out its product lifecycle. That means towards the end of its life, Apple’s margins surprisingly grow even larger!
    3. Are you beginning to nitpick on the costs of aesthetic details now? The statement “iMac so beautiful” is subjective and as such cannot be used in any sort of objective computation.
    4. All my hardware purchases have limited lifetime warranty. You also forgot to mention that AppleCare protection costs another $169 before taxes to acquire. As for tech support, that is something I have never paid for and will never pay for.
    5. I haven’t used it so I cannot comment. At the same time, if I bought 30″ IPS monitor (around $1000) that leaves me with a cap of around $600 to spend on the Magic Mouse and the “aluminium unibody backplate”. Again, I cannot justify spending that much money on a pointing device and an aesthetic piece that I will never see because its at the back of the computer.

  14. Yep. Of course it’s overpriced. You pay the brand as usual which means it’s overpriced. Apple’s products are (almost) all overpriced.

    (I own a 27″ imac)


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