PCs beat Apple in summer price wars

HP, Dell, Toshiba, and others still sell more laptops than Apple. Price has something to do with it.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
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.
Brooke Crothers
3 min read

Summer pricing for consumer laptops demonstrates why Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer, and Toshiba continue to beat Apple in shipment numbers--ergo, popularity.

Toshiba Portege packs a lot into a slim 13.3-inch form factor for $799. Best Buy

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.

Apple ranked No. 5 in first-quarter 2010 computer shipments.
Apple ranked No. 5 in first-quarter 2010 computer shipments. IDC

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.