Mac Pro value

A number of places have been doing a Mac Pro vs. Dell comparison. Digg summarizes:

Despite an earlier (and possibly biased) report proving the Mac Pro’s price advantage, both Macworld and The Inquirer have also agreed that the Mac Pro is unquestionably cheaper than a similarly-configured Dell. Jeez, when was the last time this happened?

Well The Inquirer’s review bias depends on who is writing, but people have been making this comparison for years and since Apple outsourced their manufacturing, Mac’s have always compared favorably when you spec a Dell this way. Don’t believe me? bookmark this site then.

The problem with this comparison is that the average user doesn’t see where they are different and, if they are different, which one is better. That’s why if you want to perform this sort of specification masturbation, you should look this table instead of those articles.

IMO, the biggest cause of the cost difference is the wildly overpriced, but underperforming nVidia Quadro NVS 285/Quadro FX 3450. For instance, Apple Store offers an upgrade to the NVidia Quadro FX 4500 for $1650! That’s the problem with workstation cards. (My personal view is to agree with Bare Feats and recommend you configure your Mac Pro with an ATI Radeon X1900 XT 512MB for $350 extra.)

This leads back to my previous blog entry. When you spec a Dell to be like a Mac, the Mac beats it, and has beat it for quite a while. There are no supply chain advantages that Dell has anmore. The problem is nobody buying a Dell (besides companies) would do that. Instead they’d rationalize things like: “screw the precision workstation, I’ll just build a game machine and rip everything out and add some stackable coupons.” Even if they buy a the Precision 690, they’ll probably never include the GigE, DVD+-RW, etc.

An interesting development

One of the most interesting developments is that you can’t get a 2.7TB internal RAID working on the Mac Pro because of strange problems if you go above 2TB.

Normally you’d go an blame Apple, but this time… who knows?

The interesting thing is that the Mac Pro does not have an Apple-designed chipset in it, but the Intel 5000 Chipset needed to drive the FB-DIMMs and the memory bandwidth demands of the Core 2 Xeon (Woodcrest) chips.

(The obscure geek thing to understand here, is that Intel’s competitor, AMD, puts the memory controller on the CPU so the number of memory slots (and memory bandwidth) increases linearly with the number of CPUs but Intel uses a chipset to manage memory so needed a new standard (not DDR) to reach higher bandwidth.)

In any case, there is some major cost savings due to commoditization going on now that Apple is no longer designing their own chipsets.

Their conversion to the dark side is now complete.

4 thoughts on “Mac Pro value

  1. I agree that the “let’s compare a similarly equipped Dell costs the same as a Mac” argument is a complete waste of time. Even if the Mac was significantly cheaper, it doesn’t matter. Nobody would “similarly equip” their Dell. A Mac is like a car with every possible option, and those just don’t sell. What sells better a hybrid Honda Civic with leather, sunroof, 300W sound system, DVD player, and GPS or a base model Accord? Most people would rather get “more” car instead of the “nicer” car. Dell specializes in the base model Accords. Apple only sells the fully loaded models. Their especially guilty of this on laptops, but it’s even true on the only Macs that are designed to be expandable (Mac Pro.)

  2. Ironically the situation is reversed this time.

    If you purchase a dual CPU Core 2 Xeon system, even with a minimal configuration, you’re in Apple territory in price. When you “similarly equip” you end up going way over price on the Dell because of the overpriced Quadro card is the only option they sell.

    Why? Because Dell is the one providing the 300W sound system (the Quadro card in the minimum Xeon configuration) and it is Apple providing the “base model Accord.” Otherwise they’re the same price because their supply chains are identical and Apple has a slight advantage in tooling (because of previous Macs and the iPod).

    Most people would, at this point, go purchase a single CPU Core 2 Duo and trick it out with all the options that a good game machine would have, which is certainly the ricer you mention. They’d save a thousand dollars, but it’s a ricer through and through because it’s not a quad core Xeon with the memory bandwidth to match.

    That shit happens all the time. I’ve priced and purchased Dell rackmount servers and found the same bullshit tweaks that shows a severe amount of profit taking. Apple found this hole (the Precision 690 is the only Dual-CPU Xeon model, there is a similar problem with their rackmounts) and is exploiting this for a well deserved PR payback. How many times have we heard that Apples are overpriced and Dells are a good value? The reality is that they’re either both overpriced or both a good value.

    Apple sells consumer products to the consumer market (iMacs and Mac Minis and Mac Books) and pro products to the pro market (Mac Pros and Mac Book Pros). Dell does both of those, but they also sell ricers (tricked out civics) and camaros (supercharged pieces of shit). It takes someone who is extremely cognoscenti to navigate Dell’s configurations and coupons and deals and find the gems.

    As for me, I make my living on my computer so you won’t see me whine about having to pay a little more for an all-in-one notebook with firewire 800 and a dvd burner that just works (and is the only 17″ notebook on the market that fits in my photography bag), or a desktop system that has performed reliably for three years now and still is valuable (not throwaway like my two Shuttles purchased that same time, albeit at a cheaper price than the 2x2Ghz G5).

    Other people will want to save a buck. I can understand where they come from. They’re not me so they have their reasons. Many of them end up working procurement for their IT departments and end up buying worthless Dell boxes because that’s all they know that’s “safe” and that their company can write off.

    Don’t believe me that a corporate purchase of Dell is a bad idea? Trek down to your IT department sometime and see how many stripped down Precisions and OptiPlexes there are that are dead simply because Dell flipped the parts on an identically configured model not allowing them to cannibalize from one system to restore the computer when a part failed. What’s the advantage in buying desktops from a single source if you can’t interchange parts? What’s the advantage in buying a notebook when the blue channel fails because the cable gets frayed at the hinge?

    That’s why all your buddies are buying Mac Books. Heck, they were buying them when they were Powerbooks and had a JVM that ran like dogshit.

    While others just say they can’t use a Mac Book because it only has one mouse button and it’s “overpriced.” *shrug* Back in the day, nobody said you need a great pen or typewriter to write a great novel or play, but it sure did help. Some people value their tools more than others. Everyone is right in their own way.

  3. There are actually those that need to run real world programs like AutoCAD and 3DS MAX, various non-FCP video apps and cannot do so effectively on a mac. This has been the issue for a lot of people for years. And YES, it is still the issue, as the video boards (except one) needed to run these apps properly are non existent for the Mac Pro. And there are many in pro video who feel FCP is far inferior to editors like Pinnacle, Vegas, Avid. Honestly there is also a more recent distrust of Apple among serious pros due to its attention to aesthetics-centric design, glitz, iPods and ever shifting hardware/OS configuration in recent years. Yes, it’s true — there are pros who don’t think Apple is all that “cool”, and some of us are pretty savvy Industrial Designers ourselves. A lot of serious pros also do not consider it to be serious kit when it changes every 6 months and is NOT backward compatible (software and hardware) about 50 percent of that time. Minor Jaguar/Panther/Tiger releases break software and companies are left to fix their software to match it every time. It took almost the entire period from OSX first release up until the Intels were announced for it to be stable, “finished” and for legacy apps to catch up. Now we are at it again, everyone scrambling to keep up with Apple’s “fresh new ideas”. This time let’s hope their assimilation is almost done so we can just use the damn thing and stop worrying about adapting to their new plans. Seriously, just let the myths die, you either are convinced aesthetics are king or it just doesn’t mean that much to you that it all be “branded” so well. Hardware on both sides is nearly identical in performance, I’ve been using both platforms for years and this has been particularly true for about 6 years now.

  4. harry,

    Hmm, read the original article and explain to me where anything I said was wrong? Heck, I wasn’t that complimentary of Apple—I bitched about the poor support of >2TB and I explained why the Dell configuration ended up being overpriced).

    Your first beef (AutoCAD/3DSMAX) has been why I recommended a tricked out Opteron Linux/Windows dual boot desktop configuration for scientific and statistical applications. In fact, apparently this (non Apple) configuration I spec’d out for my brother ended up being the desktop computer that is used by the entire economics department at Berkeley.

    As for the FCP/Pinnacle/Vegas/Avid whine, the point is taken. But you are talking about an industry that single-handedly keeps the price of the PowerMac 9600 through the roof because of all the old Avid hardware/software systems that run reliably on that. For those people, I’d say, “Stay with your Avid/PowerMac 9600 system if that works for you.” Last I checked, nobody is holding a gun to their head saying they have to upgrade to Intel Mac Pro/Final Cut Pro/Quadro FX.

    If you are pissed that a new, younger generation are buying Macintoshes and using Final Cut Pro/Shake/etc. to run circles around you… *shrug*

    What the hell do either of these examples have to do with what Michael and I were talking about: web development on either a LAMP or J2EE stack?

    Heck, I’ve held off on a purchase of a Intel Macintosh for almost a year now because Photoshop isn’t universal yet and won’t be until next year.

    But don’t let these obvious fact keep you from saying that I’m “either convinced aesthetics are king or it just doesn’t mean that much to you that is all be ‘branded’ so well.”

    BTW, If we are going to compare penis sizes, I’ve “been using both platforms” for 21 years now. What the fuck does that have to do with anything?

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