Proprietary Hardware

Yesterday, I came to the realization that buying a new Mac, other than an iMac, isn't such a good idea. Why? The Apple Display Connector. Sure, you get a better picture without the standard analog connector, but you've got to buy Apple's monitors. That's right, unlike the previous G4 models, there is no analog connector on the video card, so you've got to shell out $499 for Apple's new display. Think about that, five hundred dollars for a 17 inch monitor? You can get bargain 17 inch displays for around $200 if you shop around, so imagine how fat the margin is on these monitors for Apple.

Of course you could always opt for the 15 inch LCD display at $999, which still is no bargain.

So what if you're like John or myself, and your primary display is a 21 inch CRT? Sorry, no longer available, if you want serious screen real estate, get ready to pony up four grand for the Cinema Display. Sure it's cool, my boss has one on his desk (we got it for free), but would we have spent four grand on it? No way. And it'd be a pain for those of us who create web pages to try to size things on the widescreen aspect ratio display, 1600x1024 isn't exactly a typical resolution.

After adopting many standards that were shared with the PC, has Apple gone back to the days of proprietary hardware design? It's hard to reccomend buying anything but an iMac when you look at the prices for a fully-equipped G4 or G4 Cube.

For example, the new PC on my desktop is a Dell Pentium III-850, it came with 256MB of RAM, a 20GB 7200 RPM Hard Drive, 250MB Zip Drive, DVD-ROM, 32MB TNT2 Video Card, 17 inch monitor, speakers, Windows 2000, Norton AntiVirus and a Microsoft keyboard and mouse. It's also covered under a three-year warranty. It cost about $2100 for this setup a month ago, and I'd classify it as a mid-to-high end business workstation. Say I'd wanted the same type of system from Apple, what would it cost me?

According to what I just ran through the Apple Store, for a dual-CPU 450 G4, we're looking at $3,427, and the Zip Drive is only a 100MB model.

I'll argue it's not fair to compare a dual-CPU machine to a single CPU machine, so let's knock it back down to the single CPU 400mhz model. That reduces the price $600, to $2,827, but I don't feel that's really an equivalent comparison, as a G4-400mhz doesn't seem as fast as the PIII-850 I'm using.

What if I want one of those nifty cubes? For the 450mhz model, you're looking at $2,997, and that's without a Zip drive. Throw in an external USB 250MB Zip, and you're well over $3,100, that's over a thousand dollars more than my trusty Dell.

Sure, Apple hardware is neat, but the OS isn't. If MacOS X were here, and working well, I'd equate it to Windows 2000, but MacOS 9 is not even close. I don't understand the 64MB base memory configurations on these models. Anyone who has ever tried to do serious work on a Mac knows that it can't be done in OS9 with 64MB of memory.

The bottom line? Don't let the advertised prices of the Cube and the G4 mislead you, the price, when you're locked into an Apple-brand monitor, gets much larger. Is it worth it? I don't know, I'm not a rabid Mac fan, but for a business or educational institution on a budget, the PC has a much more appealing price tag.

The iMac is another story entirely, they're reasonably priced, and good basic household machines. They're not great for gaming, but if you're on the Mac platform, gaming isn't your first priority, or you'd be using a console system or a PC. The only problem I have with the iMacs is the 15 inch monitor. Let's see a 17 inch model, and I'll like them even more. Throw in MacOS X, and I might even buy one...

Update: Okay, so I'm off my rocker. John pointed out that the Mac does have the 15-pin VGA connection, as you can see at this page. The really embarassing thing is that I looked at that page while writing the bit above. Okay, so you can still buy a cheaper monitor, but the Macs are too expensive for my tastes...