Are Macs more expensive than comparable PCs?

The Hardware

One big difference between a Mac and a PC is the hardware on a PC is designed to be upgraded.
One big difference between a Mac and a PC is the hardware on a PC is designed to be upgraded.
Image courtesy of Dell

A big difference between Apple and most PC makers is that Apple carries a relatively limited product line. At any given point, Apple offers only around five computer models. If you walked into a store that sells PCs, on the other hand, you'd have a much wider selection. And Apple's cheapest computer is still several hundred dollars more than the least expensive PC you can find.

For example, if you are in the market for a new laptop, the lowest-priced Mac starts at around $1,000, but you can get a small, base-model PC laptop for less than $500 or a desktop for around $300. But the two computers aren't the same: The $1,000 Apple is a higher quality computer with more bells and whistles than the least-expensive PC on the market. In other words, Mac doesn't really offer an economy-priced option.

With its smaller selection of computers, Apple also offers very few mid-range models, so the price jump between models can seem substantial [source: Finnie]. With PCs, however, you can customize your computer with as many or as few options as you want, which allows you to adjust the features to meet your price point. Plus, there are simply more PC manufacturers and only one Apple, meaning the PC market is more competitive, which leads to both cost savings and a wider selection for the consumer.

Another difference between the two computers' hardware is PCs are designed to be upgraded. If you buy a base model PC today, you can add more memory, a better graphics card and a whole host of hardware options at a later date. Macs, on the other hand, aren't meant to be modified, although you can add RAM when necessary. For most people, the need to expand and modify their computer isn't a concern, but for serious gamers and techies, not being able to tweak their computer can be a big drawback.

There are some advantages to Apple's limited product line. The fact that there is only one maker of Macs and that they're designed so they can't be modified in any major way ensures a high-quality, efficient operating system. As a result, the Mac operating system is typically more stable than Windows; it runs faster and crashes less often [source: Stein]. Computer repairs are typically easier, as well, since Apple has to work on just a handful of models.