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.


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