Is Apple Still The Expensive Choice?

The mission of this site is to help churches implement tech well, but inexpensively. I’ve had a few people mention that using Apple products seem to contradict that mission. I’d agree for the most part, except that in my particular case, the church isn’t purchasing the computers or mobile devices we’re using. These are our personal devices that we are sharing with the church. Essentially the church gets the use of these devices for free. However, the fact remains – most people see using Apple devices as requiring a premium. But is that “still” the case?

I’m still of the mindset that you can purchase a very capable desktop for very cheap in the PC world. For $500 you can buy a pre-built system that will handle most of your computing needs in a church environment. In fact, our streaming PC costs us about $600 if you include the HDMI capture card that’s in it. If you spend that $500 on parts that you put together yourself, you can significantly increase your system’s performance.

For notebooks, the story is fairly similar. For about $600 you can buy a really capable PC notebook. Prices for Apple gear start at $1000 in this space. So right off the bat, it’s the same ol’ song. Having used an Apple laptop for many months now, I am of the mindset that you get what you pay for. But, that does not erase the fact that spending $1000 for a notebook is not justifiable for any reason in many smaller churches.

But, the tide is changing. I don’t know if Apple will ever be an “affordable” option, but I am seeing two market segments where Apple is not only the cheaper solution, but also the better technical solution.

The first market segment is ultra-portable notebooks. I’m not talking about netbooks, the diminutive molasses-ridden sloths of the computer world. I am talking about the more about capable bigger cousins. There are few real player in this space, but the two (current) ring leaders are the MacBook Air (Apple) and the Series 9 (Samsung).

The Series 9 starts at $1199. For that price you get an 11″ screen, Intel’s i3 processor, Intel’s graphics 3000, 2GB ram, and a 64GB SSD. Not bad, until you consider that for $300 LESS you get the MacBook Air, with the same general specs. The Apple processor is probably a little slower, but the Air’s NVIDIA GeForce 320m graphics are better.

Spend the $300 with Apple and you can either double the ram or double the SSD size. You can do neither at any cost with the Series 9. Apple’s the winner here.

The second market segment is tablet PCs. There are 3 players here, but I’m leaving out Samsung’s Galaxy Tab because it is a lot smaller, and really sits in a class of it’s own, between smart phones and tablets. The other two players then are the XOOM (Motorola) and the iPad 2 (Apple). Let’s just compare the 3G versions.

For $800 ($200 price drop from launch) you can get a very capable XOOM. 10″ screen, dual-core 1GHz processor,  32GB, front and back facing cameras. Oh, and you also get to have Adobe’s Flash Player on your device.

Now, for $730 you get basically the same specs with the iPad. Yes, that’s cheaper, than the XOOM.

There’s been a lot of under-the-hood study between the two devices (google it) and from that we’ve seen the iPad2’s graphics excelling, while the XOOM’s processor having an edge. Adobe’s Flash player is enough for many to choose the XOOM, but then Apple’s App Store swings many towards the iPad. Here the winner isn’t quuite so clear, but it seems the lower price point, the fit and finish, and the app eco-systems, it seems the iPad gets a decent edge here.

Conclusions: Granted, we’ve not dived into the nuts and bolts to great detail here, but there seems to be a new day dawning here, where Apple is not only technically better, but also economically – at least in these two segments.


11 Replies to “Is Apple Still The Expensive Choice?”

  1. Amen brother. It just makes sense to do Apple all the way at Church. Better apps with a solid hardware and software base for them to run on.

    NO need for the BSOD we had a few weeks back hahaha

  2. I was a PC until July 2009 when I bought my MacBook Pro. I think you make a good point here Herb. I would take it a step further and look more deeply at a cost benefit analysis of “regular laptops” (not the Air). As you stated, for most church staff… a $500 PC is going to be all they need to do their job. Most staff just need to access a file storage server and do simple internet browsing and word processing. I am totally down with having PC’s do that job. You hinted at the growing number of people who are using Mac’s in the church staff environment. I have done what you said and provided the services of my personal MacBook Pro to the church for 2 years now. Here’s my thing though… I actually made my church buy me a really sweet iMac for my desk at work. I use it for video editing and a bunch of other stuff. With the pending arrival of my iPad 2 I will no longer be bringing my personal MacBook Pro to work. So I will be relying on the church’s iMac a lot more during my day. There are some church staff that “need” to use Mac’s versus PC’s. Those staff typically fall in the creative positions… less in the administrative positions.

    The thing I’m getting to… in this epically long comment… is that you can spend a little more money and get something that will do the job better. I always go back to my thoughts on car buying. If you’re going to drive a car for 10-15 years… make sure it’s the one you want. Spend the extra money for leather and a sunroof if you want to be comfortable for that long. Like you said… you get what you pay for.

    1. Yeah, I am inclined to agree mostly, except that when looking at the lowest level iMac, at $1200, we can get the comparably equipped Dell all-in-one is $750 dollars – so we are not talking about a “little more” money. Quality of construction aside, the Dell is capable of the same level of computing that the iMac offers. Smaller churches are looking for best-bang-for-the-buck, and the iMac is a hard sell in that environment. The “creative” argument is lost to me too. I’ve been creative (LOL) on both platforms, and for the most part, the software is there for both. Photoshop is pretty much the same on both platforms, etc. I’m not saying that either is better, but there is no doubt that for the PC market, there is still a premium attached to that Apple logo.

      1. True. Software is pretty comparable on both platforms these days. You could argue though that for the staffer that is tasked with putting together a video or something like that… the iLife applications may be quicker and easier to work with than comparable PC software.

        Also… with a Mac you don’t get Internet Explorer… and I think we can all agree that is a WIN! ;)

          1. let me clarify – for me personally, I save up for what I *want* and get it… but I could not justify that extra amount for *my* church’s budget… your church is in a diff context than mine, and obviously can justify it :-D

  3. I would take this even further and bring up viruses and malware.

    If you are a windows power user, (or at least someone who knows how to avoid windows pitfalls) Viruses are not really an issue.

    But for the average user they are a huge issue. Just the simple issue of trying to play a DVD from our streaming computer at church caused one of our tech people (a programmer during the day no less) to install malware while trying to find a free DVD player to install.

    With all the software that comes on a mac, there is little need to go searching around for apps to install. Plus, the app store gives you a (somewhat) safe place to find all kinds of useful apps.

    Plus, there are just no viruses for the mac. If you add the frustration of having to keep a PC clean, with the cost of paying the geek squad $200 to do it for you, the extra costs start to slip away.

    I am not saying that there is no place for PCs in churches, but the cost difference is not really the deciding factor. There is more to consider than just the up front bottom dollar.

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