I have $600 to spend on a new computer. PC or Mac?

Although that kind of money won't buy you much on the Apple side, you can get a refurbished Mac Mini. Is it really the better choice?

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read
A refurbished Mac Mini for $600 is about the best deal you can get on a Mac.
A refurbished Mac Mini for $600 is about the best deal you can get on a Mac. Apple

For the past couple weeks I've been asking myself a question that I know many of you have asked as well: should I switch to Mac? Allow me to explain.

Not long ago, my beloved media-center PC croaked. Motherboard failure. Just two weeks later, my primary desktop suffered the same failure. (Coincidence? Dunno, but they were both HP systems. Just saying.)

Many of my Facebook friends have seized the opportunity to cry, "Get a Mac!" And for the first time ever, I'm starting to seriously consider it. Not because I believe Macs are trouble-free--they're not--but because I've had enough Windows-inflicted grief to last a lifetime.

(The motherboard failures obviously weren't Windows' fault, but it felt like they were. Know what I mean?)

Anyway, today my cheapskate radar honed in one two interesting deals. First up, TigerDirect has a Gateway DX4850-45u Core i5 desktop for $599.99, plus around $14 for shipping. More on that in a minute.

This loaded Gateway tower is a pretty sweet deal at $599.99.
This loaded Gateway tower is a pretty sweet deal at $599.99. TigerDirect

Second, Apple has a refurbished Mac Mini 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo system for $599 shipped. (Even though it's refurbished, it carries the same one-year warranty as a new Mini--and the new Gateway. So that's a wash.)

Spec-wise, it's no contest. The Gateway is loaded: state-of-the-art processor, 6GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and even a Blu-ray drive (though I've had so much trouble getting Blu-ray movies to play properly in Windows, that's hardly a bonus).

As for the Mac Mini, it comes with 2GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, a SuperDrive (i.e. DVD burner), and an older-but-still-good Core 2 Duo processor. Not included: a mouse or keyboard. But it scores bonus points for being cute as hell.

Every fiber of my being says pick the Gateway. On the other hand, its 300-watt power supply won't run the video card I want to drop in there. And it's guaranteed to saddle me with all kinds of Windows weirdness, glitches, slowdowns, and the like. Maybe not right away, but eventually. Been there, done that, ad nauseum. 

On the other other hand, the last couple weeks of working on my pokey old laptop has proven to me that, hey, I have pretty minimal needs. I can get by with less horsepower. And who needs a big fat tower taking up all that space?

But am I really ready to start paying the "Apple tax"? I don't own any Mac software, so I'd have to spend even more on the tools I need. And if I run into problems, I won't know how to solve them. Most Windows problems, I can solve.

Tough call, right? Let me hear from you, fellow cheapskates. PC or Mac? (I'm also trying to decide if a replacement motherboard is worth the trouble.) For the first time, I honestly can't decide.

Bonus deal: Today only, and while supplies last, Newegg has an A-DATA 16GB flash drive for $18.99 shipped. That's already a killer price, but it gets better: When your $7 rebate check (PDF) comes in the mail, it'll knock your total purchase price down to $11.99--the best deal I've ever seen on a 16GB drive.