Apple MacBooks, Windows PCs Worlds Apart On Quality, Price

Consumer Reports' latest survey plays right into each company's latest marketing campaign.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

May 5, 2009

3 Min Read

The historic Mac vs. PC debate has new fodder for each company's marketing campaign.

Apple MacBooks received higher overall scores than Windows laptops in the latest testing by Consumer Reports, but the Apple systems cost from three to four times as much. The results play right into Apple's assertion that it makes high-quality computers as well as Microsoft's latest pitch that PCs are cheaper to buy.

Among its "recommended computers" based on evaluations byConsumer Reports experts, Apple MacBooks topped each of the laptop categories: lightweight, 14 inches to 16 inches, and 17 inches. Most of the computers were purchased at Best Buy.

In the lightweight category, the 13-inch MacBook Air received 60 points out of a possible 100. The Hewlett-Packard Pavilion dv3-1075us came in second with a 55.

But while the overall scores were not far apart, the price tag was. The HP system was priced at $850 compared with the MacBook Air's $2,300.

The same big price differential was found in the 17-inch models, but the comparison in overall score was much greater. The MacBook Pro scored 80, while the runner up Dell Studio S17-162B received a 64. Pricewise, the MacBook Pro sold for $2,800 and the Studio for $750.

Among 14- to 15-inch models, the MacBook Pro topped the list again with a 75. Closest Windows PCs were the Toshiba Satellite M305-S4910 and the Asus X83Vm-x2, which each received a 64. Scores for the remaining six laptops listed in the category ranged from 56 to 62.

However, the price gap remained wide. While the MacBook Pro sold for $2,000, prices for the Windows PCs ranged from as low as $450 to as high as $800.

Consumer Reports' findings are not surprising. Analysts often give Apple high marks for quality, customer support, and innovation, but also say its products cost too much, particularly in the current economic downturn.

Indeed, there are signs that Apple is feeling the effects of being a premium PC vendor at a time when consumers are looking to spend less on just about everything. Overall sales of Mac computers in the first quarter of the year fell 3% from a year ago, the company reported in April. Apple's profits in the quarter were driven by iPhone and iPod sales.

Many analysts agree that consumers who may want a Mac are turning to Windows PCs instead in order to spend hundreds of dollars less. In addition, schools and creative professionals, both major customers, are holding back on replacement Macs until the economy starts to improve.

News reports have said that Apple is ready to lower prices of the 13-inch MacBook and the iMac desktop in the coming months. The company has declined to discuss the reports.

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