Apple MacBooks, more than any other single brand, populate the rankings of the priciest laptops at Best Buy, affirming Apple's reputation as a purveyor of elite computers.
The fact that Apple dominates the upper-price tier at Best Buy is no great surprise, but the MacBook pricing takes on a new meaning when you look at the numbers. Out of roughly 200 models--Windows and Apple--listed on Best Buy's site, there are 12 MacBooks--used generically here to refer to the MacBook and aluminum-clad MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
Half of those 12 MacBooks are in the highest price category.
Altogether, about a dozen elite Windows and Apple models cost more than $1,699, a cutoff that I'm using. Once again, about half are MacBooks.
Here's a quick look at what you get when you shell out that much money for a laptop:
$1,799 Sony Vaio (13-inch): Model VPCZ12LGX includes a 2.26GHz Core i5 processor, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M graphics chip switchable with Intel HD graphics, a 13.1-inch LED display, 4GB of memory, a 128GB solid-state drive, DVD-RW/CD-RW drive, Webcam, and Windows 7 Home Premium Edition 64-bit OS. This Sony crams a lot of horsepower into a 3-pound design, thus the price. You won't find many 3-pound-class laptops with a Turbo Boost-enabled Core i5, Nvidia graphics, and built-in optical drive.
$1,799 Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch): Model MC371LL/A includes a 2.4GHz Core i5 Processor, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M chip switchable with Intel HD graphics, a 15.4-inch display, 4GB of memory, a 320GB hard disk drive, slot-loading DVD-RW/CD-RW drive, Webcam, and Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Needless to say, this is a solid aluminum design and, like the Sony model above, features switchable Nvidia-Intel graphics, toggling between performance and power efficiency, respectively.
$1,799 HP Envy (13-inch): Model ENVY 13-1030NR includes a 1.86GHz Intel SL9400 Core 2 Duo processor, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 graphics, 13.1-inch LED display (1366 x 768), 250GB hard disk drive, external DL DVD-RW/CD-RW drive, two batteries (4-cell and 6-cell), webcam, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. This 13-inch Envy is HP's attempt at a MacBook Air. It's not MacBook Air thin but close at 0.8 inches and has a brushed aluminum exterior. The Envy 13 packs faster ATI graphics (compared to the aging 9400M Nvidia graphics in the Air), and comes with two batteries. There is a pricing discrepancy, however. HP's own site lists an almost identical configuration for about $1,500.
$1,899 Dell Adamo XPS (13-inch): Model AX3601GSL includes a 1.4GHz power-efficient U series Intel Core 2 Duo processor, an Intel graphics chip, a 13.4-inch LED display, 4GB of memory, a 128GB solid-state drive, Webcam, and Windows 7 Home Premium OS. This Adamo is all about extreme thinness--all 0.4 inches of it--and weight, at about 3 pounds. The Adamo XPS is an offbeat design that puts the core electronics behind the screen instead of under the keyboard: a truly novel laptop. (Update: floor units are on sale at some Best Buy stores for as little as $1,100. And a Best Buy salesperson at a store in southern California told me that the Adamo XPS had been discontinued.)
$1,999 Alienware M15X (15-inch): Model M15X-722CSB includes a 1.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 260M graphics with 1GB video memory, a 15.6-inch display (1600x900 resolution), a 320GB hard disk drive (7200RPM), DVD-RW/CD-RW drive, Webcam, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OS. You're paying for sheer processing power here: a quad-core processor and high end pixel-pushing Nvidia graphics.
And the winner of the priciest laptop is...Apple.
$2,299 Apple MacBook Pro (17-inch): Model MC024LL/A includes a 2.53GHz Core i5 Processor, Nvidia GeForce GT 330M chip switchable with Intel HD graphics, a 17-inch high-resolution (1920x1200) LED display, 4GB of memory, a 500GB hard disk drive, slot-loading DVD-RW/CD-RW drive, Webcam, and Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Even for Apple this is expensive, but it's replete with top-notch hardware such as a gorgeous display and roomy hard disk drive.
Updated at 8:50 a.m. PDT: adding HP Envy 13.
Updated on Saturday, July 10 at 10:20 a.m. PDT: adding update about Dell Adamo XPS.