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The new Mac mini’s pricing: Is Apple on crack?

The new Mac mini offers more for the same amount of money (unless you’re in the UK, that is, but we’ll get to that later). So why are so many of the online comments like this one, from Cult of Mac?

best_commentBut if the Mac mini is offering more for the same price, how can it be overpriced? The simple answer is that the PC market has moved on far more rapidly in terms of price/performance than Apple has reflected with its upgrade. When it was initially released, the mini offered comparible value to a Windows PC in its price range. This is no longer true, unless you deliberately go for a “boutique” design like the Dell Studio Hybrid.

In the UK, the situation is even worse. Thanks to changes in the currency rates between pound sterling and the US dollar, Apple has put its prices up – and £499 for the entry-level Mac mini with just 1Gb of RAM and a measly 120GB hard drive looks very unattractive compared with low-end PCs in the same price range.

Here’s a simple comparison. For £499, I could buy the Dell Studio desktop without a monitor. It comes with a 2.33GHz Core 2 processor, the Q2800 – and yes, the “Q” stands for quad core. It has a 1333MHz FSB, too. Memory is courtesy of 3GB of RAM, and there’s a 500GB hard drive, 256MB ATI Radeon HD 3650 graphics card – and a keyboard and mouse.

Unless they are already hooked on Macs or REALLY hate Microsoft, no one in their right mind would buy the mini over that machine. And if you are already hooked on Macs, you’re probably not looking for a mini at all – a MacBook will probably be your favoured option.

This leaves me wondering why Apple bothered with the mini update at all. It’s not a decent proposition for switchers. It’s not good value for budget Mac buyers –  if I was in the market for a low end Mac, I’d just wait until I could buy a second-hand iMac for the same price. It’s horrible value as a media server – a niche which the old Mac mini filled very nicely.

So what is it for? Who is actually going to buy one? Either someone at Apple hasn’t bothered to look at the competition, or they genuinely believe that Mac OS X is so compelling people will pay a massive premium for it – which, in this price range, sounds like a massive mistake.

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