PC v iMac: let battle commence!

The Feedster

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Jun 26, 2007
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With Apple releasing the new iMac onto shoppers, we decided it was time for some unashamed Mac bashing. Or PC bashing. Which, we’re not currently sure. The progression of Macs to use Intel underpinnings has meant that like-for-like comparision has become easier.
So we’re going to compare some basic specs and pricing to get a picture of which gives better bang for your buck. All hopefully without the sycophantic bias that usually dogs such articles. Since it’s clearly defined in terms of specification, let’s take a look at the iMac first.
For £799 you get the 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo model, with 1GB of memory and 250GB hard drive. It’s also got reasonable ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT graphics. For £949 you can get a 2.66GHz processor instead, 320GB hard drive and a better ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO graphics card. Plus 2GB of memory.
PC vendors have none of the simplicity of Apple, so the choice obviously isn’t clear cut as to what to compare these systems to. So let’s take a look at a couple of different PC styles to see what comes out in the wash.
In terms of design, PCs remain extremely dull. Despite the repeated attempts of Microsoft to encourage better design and concepts trotted out constantly from various manufacturers, they lack the design nous of the offerings from Cupertino. They also remain shockingly overpriced. Let’s look at a couple of iMac-a-like PCs to see how they compare on price and specification to the new Mac.
Even the Dell XPS One doesn’t live up to the iMac. Touted as ‘beautiful’ from system builder Dell – its £899 cost and all-in-one makes it an iMac alternative. With a 2.2GHz processor, 320GB hard drive and 2GB of memory it only just outdoes the iMac on specification, though it costs £100 more. It also has limited integrated graphics, meaning that the more expensive iMac also compares favourably.
And Sony’s Vaio L Series is also slightly more expensive for the money. £999 gets you the 19-inch which is similar in features to the higher-specified iMac. You do also get Nvidia 8400M GT graphics, TV tuner and wireless networking though. £300 more will get you a different model with a 22-inch display – and, more interestingly,
The AMD-powered HP Touchsmart is another slab-type PC. Once again it doesn’t compare to the low-end iMac, but we’d it does compare reasonably favourably to the more expensive model with a sub-£900 price point from some etailers, a 1.9GHz AMD Turion 64 X2, 2GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive. You get a nice touchscreen, too. Like you really need one…
Bog-standard desktops
So far, the iMac looks like an extremely good buy. But what about when compared to standard desktop PCs? As you’d probably expect, this is where the iMac begins to lose ground a little. PC desktops (and laptops for that matter) are now becoming such an inexpensive commodity that you can even pick up a full system including half-decent graphics for £500-£550.
A quick peruse of PC World online shows an HP Pavillion system for £599 that boasts a quad-core processor (the 2.2GHz AMD Phenom 9500), 320GB hard drive and a whopping 3GB of memory. That’s in addition to a 20-inch monitor. Nvidia GeForce 8400 GS graphics are also on board.
Looking at smaller system builders’ sites will yield even better bargains. Looking at PC Next Day, for example, you’ll find a Zoostorm system with a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (same as the better-specified iMac), 320GB hard drive, 512MB nVidia 9600GT graphics and 2GB of DDR2 – plus a 22-inch widescreen monitor.
Even better for £599, Mesh has a PC sporting the same chip but with a crazy 4GB of memory, 500GB hard drive and 256MB Nvdia GeForce 8500 GT plus a 22-inch widescreen display. The cheapest iMac is £200 more than the latter systems and in terms of standard equipment is, quite frankly, beaten with a big stick.
So in terms of cost for specification, Apple is soundly beaten. But as we all know, where Jobs’ crew excels is design and desirability. A commodity that deserts all but a handful of PCs. It just depends on how much you’re prepared to pay for it.