Today marks the release of Apple’s new i5/i7 MacBooks and the inevitable comments about the exorbitant prices. Here’s the latest in my price comparisons to see how true those price complaints are. I attempted to configure them as closely as possible.

MacBook Pro 15" - $2049

macOS 10.6
i5 2.4GHz
4GB RAM
500GB 7200 RPM
NVIDIA 330m 256MB GPU
Intel HD GPU
1680x1050
Webcam
802.11n
mini-Display port
2 USB + 1 Firewire 800
Gigabit ethernet
MagSafe power port
Fixed battery (8-9 hours)
SD slot
Internal DVD burner
Aluminum one-piece chassis
5.6 lbs
14.35"x9.8"x0.95"
Light-up keyboard
iLife suite
HP ENVY 15 - $1725

Windows 7 Home Premium
i5 2.4GHz
4GB RAM
500GB 7200 RPM
ATI Radeon 5830 1GB GPU
No integrated GPU
1920x1080
Webcam
802.11n
HDMI port
2 USB + 1 USB/eSATA
Gigabit ethernet
No MagSafe power port
6-cell removable battery + 9 cell slice (6 hours)
2-1 media reader
External DVD burner w/2 USB ports (no internal DVD)
Magnesium chassis
5.17 lbs (without additional battery slice)
15"x9.6"x1.04"
No light-up keyboard
Corel Paintshop Pro X2 and Corel VideoStudio Pro X2

The MacBook Pro 15” is $324 more then the equivalent HP ENVY 15. If you qualify for the education discount it’s $125 less ($1924). Here’s the comparison:

  • The HP is 1920x1080 which is significantly higher then the Mac’s 1680x1050. The Mac screens supposedly have better color fidelity and wider range of view but I can’t validate that.
  • The Mac has both a full-power GPU and an integrated one and switches seamlessly between them (using NVIDIA Optimus technology).
  • The HP’s GPU has significantly more video memory (1GB vs. 256MB) but is slower then the Mac’s.
  • The HP has an HDMI slot. This is more convenient for home use then the mini-Display port.
  • The Mac’s DVD drive is internal. You can’t get an internal drive for the HP. But, you can get an external Blu-ray for the HP (an additional $150). There is no Mac Blu-ray option.
  • The Mac’s chassis is one-piece and is stronger then the HP’s.
  • The Mac has a light-up keyboard.
  • The Mac has the iLife suite vs. Corel programs.
  • The Mac is slightly slimmer. Even more so when you add the additional battery slice to the HP, needed to get battery life even close to the Mac.
  • The Mac and HP (with additional battery slice) weigh about the same.
  • The Mac has significantly better battery life even with the added HP battery slice.

At the closest equivalence, the Mac is $324 more then the HP. But there’s still a gap between them (on both sides). If we apply imaginary upgrade numbers to equalize them further, it might look like:

  • Increase Mac’s resolution: $150
  • Add integrated graphics to HP: $100
  • Add HDMI to Mac: $50
  • Use aluminimum chassis on HP: $100
  • Add light-up keyboard to HP: $50
  • Add iLife suite to HP: $75
  • Add more battery to HP: $50

Which would make the “Mac tax” work out to $150. For that $150 you’d be buying into macOS vs. Windows, the convenience of Apple stores, the iLife suite, etc. And if you qualify for the education discount, it makes the Mac $25 more.

This shows yet again that while there definitely is a “Mac tax”, it’s slight. The real price difference comes from the fact that you can get a super-cheap Windows laptop that throws out many features that can’t be removed from a Mac.