updated 11:45 am EDT, Mon August 9, 2010
Dell tries to scare users away from MacBooks
Dell has stirred controversy by quietly posting an inaccurate Dell versus Apple comparison section for its notebooks. The Texas PC builder tries to show that its desktops and notebooks are better values than Apple's lineup and pits the Zino HD against the Mac mini, the Inspiron 560 against the 21-inch iMac, and the Studio 15 and 17 against similarly sized MacBook Pros. For the portables, it claims Apple is charging more than twice as much for "similar" specs.
Despite the "Apples to Apples" claim, a closer inspection reveals that Dell has cherry-picked models while glossing over what its systems omit. In notebooks, the Studio notebooks are using 1.73GHz quad Core i7s versus the Macbook Pro's 2.66GHz dual Core i7. The latter is potentially faster in most cases and also gives Apple a much longer nine hours of peak battery life versus Dell's 5.5 and eight hours maximum at the quoted prices.
Dell also selectively omits display quality, backlit keyboards, Bluetooth, size, weight and the quality of support. It likewise choose temporary sales prices rather than the permanent, full price.
The desktop comparison fares worse for Dell, as it uses significantly weaker specs without contextualizing them. The Zino HD is cheaper than a Mac mini at $580 at regular price but, in return for boosting the storage to 750GB, uses a far slower Athlon Neo X2; it also omits the performance differences between graphics and that the Mac has both 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
For unknown reasons, Dell has also chosen to compare the Inspiron tower against the previous-generation iMac and again masks serious performance differences to make the 560 appear a better value. It has a Core 2 Quad but, at a fixed 2.33GHz, is significantly slower than Apple's current dual 3.2GHz Core i3. Its Radeon HD 5450 is much slower than the 5670 in the modern $1,499 iMac, and the sheet implies that the iMac lacks 802.11n Wi-Fi when it not only has this but Bluetooth as well as a matching wireless keyboard and mouse set. The Inspiron uses a budget LCD where the iMac is using a color-accurate IPS panel.
None of the listed Apple prices include educational discounts, which until the end of the summer also include a free iPod.
Exaggeration is a frequent strategy in computer comparisons and has been used by Apple in the past, but it's unclear why Dell has chosen to suddenly attack the company and not HP or Acer. The most likely answer is the relative share of the educational market, as Apple has a disproportionately high amount of American college and university computer sales.