provides Apple with entry to computer market's low end
by Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business in Vancouver
1-8 2005 High Tech Office column
With attacks by hackers, viruses and spyware showing no signs of
letting up, Windows users are increasingly coming under fire. You could
slip under the radar of these virtual terrorists by switching to Linux,
but that operating system has the reputation of having a higher geek
factor than most of us are prepared to deal with. (More on that next week
Or move to Mac. That means jettisoning your current computer and buying
a new one from Apple. But Macs are too expensive, right? Apple fans
(and remember, the word "fan" is short for "fanatic") point out that if
you compare a Mac with a name-brand PC that's decked out with a
comparable set of hardware, there's little or no price difference. But
regardless, PC vendors like Dell advertise desktops starting at $499,
while (until recently) Apple's lowest price model, the eMac, starts at
Last month, Apple announced a new Mac model at a new-for-Apple lower
price point. The Mac Mini starts at $629. (Just for comparison, Apple's
top of the line iPod Photo music player costs $649.) Immediately, a
debate broke out over whether this was a good deal.
As with many media-fuelled debates, the right answer is "it depends."
Like lots of other advertised specials, you're probably not going to
want to settle for the $629 model. As with most other Macs (and many
computers from other vendors), you really need more memory than the
base 256 MB. Apple charges an extra $97 for a more realistic 512 MB.
You might be able to do it yourself and save a few bucks.
You may want the optional larger hard drive (80 GB instead of 40 GB),
faster processor (1.4 GHz instead of 1.2 GHz), DVD-burner (instead of
CD-RW/DVD combo drive), or WiFi (which Apple calls Airport) or
Bluetooth wireless modules, but many can get along fine without them.
As well, the $629 Mini doesn't include keyboard, mouse or monitor.
Again, that may or may not be an issue for you. The Mini will work fine
with a standard PC monitor and with any USB keyboard and mouse. If
you're replacing an older PC, you may already have ones you can use.
In the end, it'll cost you anywhere from $700 and change (just
upgrading the RAM) to somewhere around $1,000. So yes, while it's the
most affordable Mac, you can still buy a PC for less. And that will
probably include a monitor, mouse and keyboard. But that may not be
comparing Apples to oranges (groan!).
The $499 Dell Dimension 3000 is a typical desktop tower. The Mac Mini
is, well, mini: about the size of a stack of five CD jewel cases. You
can get so-called small form-factor PCs (though most are still several
times larger than the Mac Mini); local retailers CompuSmart and Office
Depot advertise some. But prices seem to be pretty much in line with
the Mac Mini or even higher. I priced small form-factor PCs online from
Logisysus.com; their LG-SX5 model starts at US$429. But that's without
CPU, RAM or other must-haves. More or less matching the Mac Mini's $629
package, the price jumped to $1,165 (also minus keyboard, mouse or
So if the idea of a tiny desktop computer appeals to you, the Mac Mini
is priced at least as low as comparably equipped small PCs. Maybe
that's affordable enough that you should get one to test whether you
can migrate your business or home use to Apple's platform.
Unlike purchasing yet another Windows system, you won't be getting a
virus and spyware target.
But you may have to get in line: Apple is reporting a three-week wait
for online orders.