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Apple notebook not for bargain hunters, part II

A lot of people wrote in to ask how we got the numbers in a . (P.S. Thanks for the notes, even the surly ones. A great debate.)

Basically, I took the configuration of the MacBook Pro (1.67GHz dual-core Intel Core Duo chip, 80GB hard drive, 512MB of memory at 667MHz, 1400 x 900 15.4-inch screen, a DVD burner and an ATI graphics chip) and replicated it on Gateway's configurator.

The base configuration of the Gateway notebook starts at $1,149. Then I upgraded the memory from 512MB at 533MHz to 512MB at 667MHz ($20), upped the drive to 80GB ($100), shifted from an integrated chipset to an ATI graphics chip ($100), upgraded from a CD burner to a DVD burner ($75) and upped the 15.4-inch screen resolution from 1280 x 800 to 1440 x 990 ($100).

That brings the total price of the Gateway to $1,544, a difference of $455. I got $1,524 yesterday, with a difference of $475 with the same configuration yesterday. The prices on these configurators often change daily. I also may have mis-clicked something.

If you add a Webcam, integrated in the Apple notebook, that adds $25 to $50 to the price. I forgot that one yesterday--my mistake. Sorry about that. That's still $430 to $405 less.

If you add a Bluetooth module, that's $50 more. That drops the difference to $380 to $355 all in. Generally, I leave Bluetooth out of these comparisons because few consumers actually ever use it. (In this case I didn't think of it until later.) For most people, it's the equivalent of gill slits or a tail nub--sort of like the old IR ports. But for comparative purposes, there you go.

Historically, Apple has generally maintained a $300 price premium. By any measure, the delta has moved up a bit and the price difference is still a few hundred bucks. Apple does put different software on its computers, but it's a personal choice. As a consumer, what do you want? Functionally, the two machines will do the same thing.

But the exercise brought up an interesting nuance. With Gateway, you can tweak the configuration a lot of ways. By knocking back the features a bit--lowering the resolution on the screen, sticking with an integrated graphics chip, rolling back a bit on the hard drive--you can drop the price to $1,149. That's $850 less, enough to buy a second budget notebook as a companion, or a desktop with a flat panel. And some of these differences--such as integrated versus standalone graphics--you may never notice.

The Apple notebook weighs 5.6 pounds, while Gateway's weighs 6.1 pounds. An Apple exec also noted that Apple's notebook is only an inch thick, as opposed to 1.3 inches.

And let's not forget style. Apple's stores are located in downtown urban hubs. The extinct Gateway country stores were typically in malls that also featured a Shoe Pavilion.