Mac vs PC: A Price Comparison

By Sareesh Sudhakaran

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I’ve always heard an Apple computer (Mac) is more expensive than a PC. I needed a general computer for my new office and decided to test this ‘fact’ for myself. The options I had were:

  • Custom-built (semi-DIY) PC with a 27″ monitor
  • iMac 27″
  • HP All-in-one Workstation Z1
    What did I want to run? Here are the more important apps:

  • MS Office
  • Adobe CC (as a backup to my main system build, which I’ve detailed in Computer for Video Editing)
  • Resolve Lite (backup)
  • FCP-X and Compresser
    This article is a Mac vs PC vs HP Z1 price comparison. I’ll look at a few major features along the way, but will not go in-depth. I’ve left out high-end workstations because I’ve covered that in Computer for Video Editing.

    I’ll be comparing both the i5 and i7 versions. Let the games begin.

    Apple iMac

    Comparing the 27″ i5 iMac vs an i5 PC

    Unfortunately, in India, where I live, you can’t get an iMac greater than the following specs:

  • i5 Quad Core
  • 8 GB RAM (Upgradable)
  • Nvidia GTX 675MX
  • 1 TB 7,200 rpm platter drive
    This isn’t a huge deal (the i5, that is). I already have an HTPC at home with similar specs. A nice comparison is in order.

    Note regarding pricing: Pricing might be inaccurate. Please check your local prices. I’ve used Newegg and Apple for prices in USD. In this comparison, I’ve also listed the actual price as it cost me in India.

    The following chart shows a basic price vs feature comparison for a 27″ iMac vs a ‘similar’ PC:

    Mac vs Pc i5 comparison

    *The iMac is an extremely power-efficient machine, which runs idle with display on at less than 100W. I got this figure from Googling around – Apple doesn’t list maximum power draw as far as I know.

    The price difference is about $380, which isn’t much if you want to spend $2,000 on a machine. Some of it comes from the Apple Protection Plan (APP), and this isn’t with any discounts, to be fair to Apple. E.g., you can get it for a better price at Amazon. Also, I haven’t factored in the cost of a dedicated anti-virus program for the PC.

    The question really boils down to: What is your time worth? If I had to build a custom PC I might have to spend time on the following:

  • Researching what parts work with each other
  • Finding the ‘best’ deals
  • Ordering and waiting for delivery
  • Downloading free apps for basic tasks
  • Assembling the PC together
  • Troubleshooting
  • Installation of OS and apps
  • Dealing with separate warranties, etc.
  • Installing drivers on my own
  • Buy a friend lunch or pay an integrator
    The fastest gun in the world can maybe put together a machine in a day. For the other 99% of the human race, it takes a few days (or even weeks). How much is your time worth?

    As a side note, my HTPC (a slightly lower spec’d i5 with an HD 7770 GPU) also would cost me about the same. As you can see, I had to pay a lot more than what it costs in the US, but it still was worth it. Those who don’t need a 27″ monitor, bluetooth or Wi-Fi, etc., need not consider the iMac in the first place.

    As far as the i5 versions are concerned, the ‘fact’ that Apple computers or Macs cost more than PCs is BS. Even if you leave out some stuff in your PC build to save money, the time and stress it takes to do it makes the effort equal to a Mac. Therefore, both offer an equal value proposition, budget-wise.

    Comparing the i7 top-of-the-line iMac vs a similar PC vs the HP Z1 Workstation

    I’ve heard great things about the capabilities of a fully-spec’d 27″ iMac, and it was only fitting that I compare it to a PC-equivalent and the HP Z1 workstation.

    Note regarding pricing: Pricing might be inaccurate. Please check your local prices. I’ve used Newegg, HP and Apple for prices in USD. 

    The following chart shows a price comparison between a ‘maxed out’ iMac vs a similar HP Z1 vs a custom PC:

    Mac vs PC vs HP Z1 Comparison

    The HP Z1 is way too expensive, and only supports an i5 or Xeon E3 processor. It gives you CUDA and a 10-bit display, but at the cost of GPU CUDA ability. If you remove the price of the Quadro K3000M, you still end up with $3,000. I didn’t factor in more than 8 GB of RAM since that is customizable on all three machines.

    The DIY build is cheaper by $300 or so when compared to the iMac, with all the disadvantages listed above. I’ve priced the expensive Apple Optical Drive over the Buffalo.

    Do I need to spell it out? No matter which machine you choose for your work, the fallacy that an iMac costs more than a PC is just that: A fallacy.

    What I ended up doing

    I bought an i5 iMac, though I would have gladly paid to upgrade to the i7 if it were available in India. Sadly, it is not. I’m not very pissed (only slightly pissed). The machine thankfully runs Adobe CC, Resolve and MS Office fairly well. I also bought the Buffalo DVD drive I listed in the first chart, and the Apple Protection Plan.

    Why did I buy a Mac? I did so for the following reasons:

  • It impresses the clients and visitors
  • It has better resale value, should I want to sell it a couple years from now
  • All I had to do was switch it on, and it works
    The purpose of this article was not to compare features, though even considering that I think both Macs and Windows PCs are fairly even. There is simply no justification to saying Macs cost more than PCs when it comes to the iMac. The Macbook Pro, Mac Pro and the Mac Mini might be exceptions, but not the iMac.

    Do you have a different experience? If I’ve missed out on any critical feature or pricing please let me know. Why do people think Macs are more expensive than PCs, when they are not?

    Share this article and help others: 

    May 13, 2013


    I have a few comments in regards to this because I build PCs regularly. It isn't conclusive that: " Even if you leave out some stuff in your PC build to save money, the time and stress it takes to do it makes the effort equal to a Mac. Therefore, both offer an equal value proposition, budget-wise." This is obviously up to the person. 

    In regards to this comment: "
    The fastest gun in the world can maybe put together a machine in a day." I built my very first PC in a few hours. It took longer as I built more, in fact, because I pursued more complicated endeavors such as water cooling, post-build over clocking, etc. which is a feature you don't mention in favor of DIY builds. It isn't to exclusively save money, but to also offer way more hardware features than a build from apple from overclocking, to adding new parts (more local storage), variety of parts (win7 supports more hardware than OSX does), etc.  

    You mention this: "
    All I had to do was switch it on, and it works" for a reason you bought a mac PC. Is that not what your DIY builds do? Maybe you're referring to the simplicity of OSX as compared to Win7, but when comparing strictly hardware, all my builds turn on and just work. I've never had issues with the integrity of hardware which is the best part about building PCs: you're in control of the quality and construction of your device.

    Finally, you mention the apple price w/o any discounts. You can also find PC parts at a discount via bundle deals or from the numerous sales on newegg, tigerdirect, or NCIX, etc. So, this point when comparing value is moot. 

    It isn't enough to compare parts. Just because something has the same model name doesn't mean it will operate to the same performance as something inside of a mac. Try benchmarking an iMac PC and its' DIY counterpart at stock settings and check your results. Apple takes special preparation to design the product to be a certain form factor and because of this, certain hardware must be a size other than how it's created at the manufacturer causing apple to ask manufacturers to refab parts to meet their size constraints. 

    Building a PC is like rigging a camera. You take special preparation to create a PC that meets all of your specifications for the price you can afford while maximizing quality. Does it require work? Sure does! But we spend so much time researching gear for cameras and making sure we get the highest quality picture and sound, why not spend that time on the machine that produces these images? I'm not going to touch on Win7 v.s. OSX, but from a purely hardware POV (just simple performance and features), apple over charges for their equipment and the only logical reason to buy apple gear is what you mentioned: It impresses clients, and also apple is fairly rigorous in their manufacturing so they often construct highly reliable products, albeit it at a higher price (NOTE: the quality of the individual parts is the same. This only refers to construction). However, it is not a fallacy that iMacs cost more than PCs. 

    Sareesh Sudhakaran
    Sareesh Sudhakaran moderator

    @SDub Good points, though I disagree with most of them! Let the readers decide.