Summer pricing for consumer laptops demonstrates why Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer, and Toshiba continue to beat Apple in shipment numbers--ergo, popularity.
Apple has stuck to its pricing guns, refusing to go lower than $999 on laptops. And that may indeed be a solid business strategy, but it also means that inexpensive PCs remain extremely popular with consumers.
As a yardstick, we'll use the Apple $999 MacBook--what Apple calls "the notebook for everyone." At $999, that's not quite everyone, especially when you put it up against the PC competition. The 13-inch MacBook specs include a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics processor, a 250GB hard disk drive, 8x DVD-R DL/DVD-RW drive, Webcam, and Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard.
So, what can you get for less than $999? A lot. Here's the evidence.
Exhibit No. 1: $299 Toshiba Satellite: Model C655-S5049 includes a 2.2GHz Intel Celeron 900 processor (single core), 15.6-inch display, 2GB of memory, 250GB hard disk drive (HDD), DVD-RW/CD-RW drive, and Windows 7 Home Premium. Granted, you only get a single-core processor (like the Apple A4 chip in the pricier iPad, by the way) but you can't bicker too much when it's priced at $299 at Best Buy.
Exhibit No. 2: $399 Dell Inspiron: Model I1545-3232OBK (Best Buy) includes a 2.3GHz Intel Pentium processor T4500 (dual-core), 15.6-inch display, 2GB memory, a 250GB HDD, DVD-RW/CD-RW drive, and Windows 7 Home Premium. Essentially, a hundred bucks more than the Toshiba, which gets you a faster dual-core chip and better Intel integrated 4500MHD graphics.
Exhibit No. 3: $479 MSI X-Series ultrathin X600: Model: X600-096US (Best Buy) includes a 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Solo processor, 15.6-inch LED display, 4GB memory, 320GB HDD, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 graphics chip, external DVD-RW/CD-RW, webcam, and Windows 7 Home Premium. This laptop is truly thin at under 1 inch and weighs in at less than 5 pounds, very light for a 15.6-inch design. Though it uses a single-core processor, it packs decent ATI graphics.
Exhibit No. 4: $614 HP Pavilion : Model: dv4-2165dx (Best Buy) includes a 2.13GHz Core i3 processor, 14-inch display, 4GB DDR3 memory, 500GB HDD (7200 rpm), DVD+R DL or DVD-R DL drive, Intel Core i series HD graphics, webcam, and Windows 7 Home Premium. This model gives the MacBook a good run for its money. It packs a more advanced Core i3 processor compared to the MacBook's Core 2 Duo and its graphics chip--though a bit pokier than the MacBook's Nvidia chip--is Intel's best integrated graphics solution to date.
Exhibit No. 5: $799 Toshiba Portege : Model: R705-P25 (Best Buy) includes a 2.26GHz Intel Core i3-350M processor, 13.3-inch LED display, 4GB memory, 500GB HDD, a DVD-RW/CD-RW drive, webcam, and 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium. This 1-inch thick, 3.2-pound MacBook rival also integrates Intel Wireless Display technology, which allows wireless transmitting of streamed content, such as a movie, to a TV.
Exhibit No. 6: $899 Alienware (Dell) : Model AM11X-2719CSB (Best Buy) includes a power-efficient 1.3GHz Intel SU7300 Core 2 Duo processor, an Nvidia GeForce GT 335M graphics chip with 1GB GDDR3 memory, a 250GB HDD (7200RPM), 4GB DDR3 memory, webcam, and Windows 7 Home Premium. It weighs only 3.8 pounds but does not include an optical drive because of its small size.
And what can you get for a MacBook price-matching $999? A fairly feature-packed Dell Studio laptop.
Exhibit No. 7: $999 Dell Studio : Model: S15Z-3598CPO (Best Buy) includes a 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 Processor, ATI Radeon HD 5470 graphics with 1GB dedicated video memory, a 15.6-inch LED display (1366 x 768), 4GB Memory, 500GB HDD (7200RPM), DVD-RW/CD-RW drive, webcam, and Windows 7 Home Premium Edition 64-bit.