Is an Apple more form than function?

One of the reasons people buy an Apple is aesthetics--and not just because some guy said it in a Microsoft ad.

Updated at 10:45 p.m. PST with additional system specifications.

The aesthete buys an Apple. This dig in the latest Mac-attack Microsoft ad contains a kernel of truth.

Here's the essential choice: A Dell with a pedestrian design but all the fixin's or a gorgeous Apple MacBook that doesn't offer quite as much. (Whether the prospective buyer needs a maxed-out laptop is a pertinent question too.)

The Dell paradigm is how many people define practicality, i.e., you get more box for the money. Hewlett-Packard of course falls into this category too.

I use both a MacBook (an Air) and a Windows machine (HP): a dualism of sorts: one pleases the eye, the other is more utilitarian. Of course, this characterization of the two platforms is greatly oversimplified (dare I not mention the dueling OSes: OS X Leopard versus XP/Vista?), but this is the kind of thinking that drives many purchases.

Without further ado, let's do a side-by-side.

Aluminum 13-inch MacBook
Aluminum 13-inch MacBook Apple

Aluminum 13-inch (LED) MacBook:

  • OS: OS X Leopard
  • Processor: 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 9400M
  • Memory: 2GB DDR3
  • Hard drive: 250GB 5400rpm
  • Camera: built-in camera
  • Connectivity:10/100/1000 Ethernet / 802.11n
  • Optical drive: 8x (DVD±RW)
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Price: $1,599
Dell XPS 13
Dell XPS 13 Dell

Dell XPS 13 (LED):

  • OS: Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Processor: 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 9500M--256MB
  • Memory: 4GB DDR3
  • Hard drive: 500GB 7200rpm
  • Camera: built-in camera
  • Connectivity: 10/100/1000 Ethernet / 802.11n
  • Optical drive: 8x (DVD±RW)
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Price: $1,598

A quick glance at the features shows that the Dell beats the Apple. That said, the Dell isn't an aluminum unibody design, doesn't wow like the MacBook, and doesn't carry the cachet of the Apple brand. The latter two intangibles are important for a lot of buyers.

Perceived performance is also an intangible. The question of which of two comparable systems is faster is often based on one's individual definition of performance.

So, which computer carries the day? I'll let the reader decide.

Additional notes: Some readers say the OS plays a very large role in the buying decision. Particularly the fact that the Apple OS is a Unix derivative and that Apple users can run both OS X and Windows via Boot Camp. Duly noted.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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