TechSpot: iMac vs. Windows All-in-Ones, Apple Tax or Not?

When Apple updated its notebook lineup earlier this month we were eager to find out how well the new MacBook Air stacked up next to a couple of Ultrabook alternatives. Turns out the so-called “Apple Tax” wasn’t as much of an issue as Apple detractors often claim.

Now we’re taking a look at another area of the PC market that’s experiencing healthy growth in recent times, comparing Apple’s 27-inch iMac to all-in-one alternatives from the likes of Dell, HP and newcomer Vizio. As we’ve said before, we don’t expect this comparison to be representative of the entire Apple Tax argument, but it will help paint a better picture as we contrast it with our previous findings.

Right off the bat you’ll notice that when it comes to all-in-one desktops there are much cheaper alternatives to Apple’s iMac. But in all cases shown here, going with the base model means sacrificing discrete graphics, and sometimes making do with a less powerful processor or less RAM as well. That may be an advantage if you don't need a more powerful system, but for the purpose of this article we’ve configured each option as closely as possible to the iMac so we can make a fair comparison.

Read: Apple Tax Part II: iMac vs. Windows All-in-Ones

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My understanding is "ready made spec" is often price optimized... then upgrading costs more (upgrading costs have historically been horrendous with Apple - not sure on the current situation).

I'd be interested to see a higher set-spec Windows machine with the Mac upgraded to match... i suspect a different story.

I think the reason people pay so much for iMacs is because it's like having a brand. Just like how people wear designer clothing. Same with the Beats headphones.

Why do they still keep comparing spec lists? It doesn't take into account that the panel on the iMac might be superior to what is on the others when it comes to calibration etc. Professional users will also appreciate Firewire (heavily used in audio production) and that they could connect another 2560x1440 display to the iMac whereas the others only support up to 1920x1200 because no display supports higher resolution over HDMI, even if the port on the computer does. Likewise I'd give Apple the edge when it comes to the keyboard and the Magic Trackpad. And there's always OSX too...

That said, it's nice to see some competition but if the price is roughly the same, I'd easily still pick the iMac. In fact I'm using one at work right now and it's a great machine.

LaXu said,
Why do they still keep comparing spec lists? It doesn't take into account that the panel on the iMac might be superior to what is on the others when it comes to calibration etc. Professional users will also appreciate Firewire (heavily used in audio production) and that they could connect another 2560x1440 display to the iMac whereas the others only support up to 1920x1200 because no display supports higher resolution over HDMI, even if the port on the computer does. Likewise I'd give Apple the edge when it comes to the keyboard and the Magic Trackpad. And there's always OSX too...

That said, it's nice to see some competition but if the price is roughly the same, I'd easily still pick the iMac. In fact I'm using one at work right now and it's a great machine.

Whoa... Real professionals RUN from Macs because of the OS X limitations.

There is HDMI that supports up to 4096, which PC users have had available in the PROFESSIONAL world for several years now. There are also 8K displays with dual driven inputs and quad inputs. HDMI has NO correlation to anything.

The 2K display on the iMac is old crap for graphics professionals.

Anyone still using Firewire should be put to sleep for not knowing better. A high bandwidth but 'realtime' streaming technology is INSANE in the year 2012, we can transmit data SO much faster it is laughable that people are still trying to get by with Firewire.

The keyboard and Magic Trackpad? Really? Are you 12?

Professional users would not be caught wasting their time with the Magic Trackpad, and most of them would also replace the keyboard with something they can put out more WPM. (There are people that can hit 200+wpm on specific keyboard designs, Apple makes NONE of them, IBM and Microsoft make them.)

Professional users have been using digitizers and touch displays for up to 20 years now. Just the other day I was reviewing an Adobe Illustrator CS6 video and it presented a graphics professional taking FOREVER on a freaking Mac Trackpad. It became the office laugh of the day. Go look up Wacom - you know technoloy like TabletPCs built to Microsoft specifications had 10 years ago... That is what PROFESSIONALS are using.

Order_66 said,
When windows "8" comes out that will certainly make the imac machines a lot more appealing.

Or less appealing depending if you want get rid of you ipad and mac book air for a surface.

Order_66 said,
When windows "8" comes out that will certainly make the imac machines a lot more appealing.

Windows 8 is pretty awesome on an All-In-One

Only one of those configurations runs OS X, and you can't put a price tag on the best operating system in the world

Sonne said,
Only one of those configurations runs OS X, and you can't put a price tag on the best operating system in the world

Ignoring the obvious best OS or Hackintosh bait aside, sure you can. It's in the Apple store for just under thirty bucks.

Sonne said,
Only one of those configurations runs OS X, and you can't put a price tag on the best operating system in the world

Subjective opinions do not a fact make. I for one wouldn't switch to OSX even if I didn't rely on Windows for gaming purposes.

Sonne said,
Only one of those configurations runs OS X, and you can't put a price tag on the best operating system in the world

Hahahaha good Joke.

Sonne said,
Only one of those configurations runs OS X, and you can't put a price tag on the best operating system in the world

Apple did: $30.

Jeez! Could they stack the deck any more in Apple's favor?

That iMac (with the outdated Sandy Bridge processor) would cost $1949 (!) when configured with 8 GB RAM and a 2TB HD like the lower tiered systems.

Equipping the Dell the same way (8 GB RAM, 2TB HD) would only cost $1799, and would land you an Ivy Bridge i7 instead of last generation's i5.

Please pardon my ignorance, but I don't know graphics cards. Is there a comparison between the AMD Radeon HD 6770M 512 MB, and the Nvidia GeForce GT 640M 2GB?

So, not including any difference in discrete graphics, a similarly equipped iMac costs $150 more than the Dell, yet comes with an inferior processor. How is that NOT a tax???

Hambone72 said,
Jeez! Could they stack the deck any more in Apple's favor?

That iMac (with the outdated Sandy Bridge processor) would cost $1949 (!) when configured with 8 GB RAM and a 2TB HD like the lower tiered systems.

Equipping the Dell the same way (8 GB RAM, 2TB HD) would only cost $1799, and would land you an Ivy Bridge i7 instead of last generation's i5.

Please pardon my ignorance, but I don't know graphics cards. Is there a comparison between the AMD Radeon HD 6770M 512 MB, and the Nvidia GeForce GT 640M 2GB?

So, not including any difference in discrete graphics, a similarly equipped iMac costs $150 more than the Dell, yet comes with an inferior processor. How is that NOT a tax???


Apple updates their devices once a year. Wait for a week to do so.

Hambone72 said,
Jeez! Could they stack the deck any more in Apple's favor?

So, not including any difference in discrete graphics, a similarly equipped iMac costs $150 more than the Dell, yet comes with an inferior processor. How is that NOT a tax???

I.. I'm confused. Did we read the same articles? The one I just read said there IS more of an Apple tax being paid here. (granted, they're due for a refresh anyway)

Second to last paragraph under Closing Remarks.

dead.cell said,

I.. I'm confused. Did we read the same articles? The one I just read said there IS more of an Apple tax being paid here. (granted, they're due for a refresh anyway)

Second to last paragraph under Closing Remarks.

You're right, they do admit to there being an Apple tax... but they did sway it to make it seem smaller than it really is... so you're both right...

Strange the article says "For $100 less" you get a "better processor, the same 1TB of storage, twice as much RAM", when it fact it's $300 less. Why compare via the"As configured" price?

When you compare the imac 3.1 i7 to th Dell XPS 27 i7 and add:

2TB Drive to Both
2GB Video to Both
16GB to both
3 Year Warranty to Both

You get a difference of $440.00 favoring Dell.

$2918 (iMac) vs $2478(XPS 27).

As a business you can get an addiitonal 10-15% off of that system which would then make a the difference a tremendous value towards Dell for AIO systems.

mrmomoman said,
When you compare the imac 3.1 i7 to th Dell XPS 27 i7 and add:

2TB Drive to Both
2GB Video to Both
16GB to both
3 Year Warranty to Both

You get a difference of $440.00 favoring Dell.

$2918 (iMac) vs $2478(XPS 27).

As a business you can get an addiitonal 10-15% off of that system which would then make a the difference a tremendous value towards Dell for AIO systems.


Difference:
iMac has yet to be updated. When it is updated, you can get a far more powerful machine when they start including the 7970m as their video card.

Jose_49 said,

Difference:
iMac has yet to be updated. When it is updated, you can get a far more powerful machine when they start including the 7970m as their video card.

When is the key word. **When** Apple decides to upgrade their computers to use the same hardware as every other computer manufacturer offers today, it could be faster, it could be the same, it could be slower. They could offer a 7970m when other manufacturers could offer the same or faster. You seem to be basing your conclusion on a lot of ifs, that we don't know if, or when it will happen. But what we do know is that there are computers that are faster than Apple's offerings, available today, at a lower price.

I could make a lot of wild guesstimates myself - the next Dell computer with Win8 will have a touch display at a greater resolution than the future Mac resolution, have a Xenon processor, 64GB of memory, and a 8970 (non-mobile), 2TB of SSD drive space, and all at 1/2 of the price of a Mac. Doesn't make it true, and if it is not available today, does not mean much to someone looking to buy today.

Jose_49 said,

Difference:
iMac has yet to be updated. When it is updated, you can get a far more powerful machine when they start including the 7970m as their video card.

Dude, but then dell will make their new XPS 27 in with a 40000x35000 pixel display and a core i10 processor and 2 TB of RAM and a 50 TB SSD and it will be so cheap!!!
Don't argue what specs "could be", you sound like an idiot. The fact is I can buy a faster dell for $400 cheaper TODAY. If I buy a mac today, I'm locked into that until I can afford to buy the "new" one, whenever the hell that comes out.

Well, that's true.

But from all the years that previous companies have done all in ones, none are "good enough", they all do possess crappy hardware. The new dell is a HUGE step on the Windows ecosystem, hell, the only thing I'm complaining is the video card, which is where the "supposed" new iMac should butt in.

But if one is buying for entertainment purposes (I really like the HDMI built in input of the Dell), the Dell will win hands down due to the lower price.

Jose_49 said,

Difference:
iMac has yet to be updated. When it is updated, you can get a far more powerful machine when they start including the 7970m as their video card.

What makes you think they are going to stick with AMD for the GPU? MBPs went back to Nvidia, I'm guessing the iMac will also. None of the AMD GPUs currently offered are worth getting.

A 27' Dell XPS all-in-one is $300 cheaper than an iMac, has a faster processor, better integrated graphics, 100% more RAM capacity, and a better sound card.

AWilliams87 said,
A 27' Dell XPS all-in-one is $300 cheaper than an iMac, has a faster processor, better integrated graphics, 100% more RAM capacity, and a better sound card.

isnt the price of that configuration just $100 cheaper than the imac?

AWilliams87 said,
A 27' Dell XPS all-in-one is $300 cheaper than an iMac, has a faster processor, better integrated graphics, 100% more RAM capacity, and a better sound card.

Who has the space for a 27' screen?? :-P

DKAngel said,

im using a 27" screen, plenty of room on this desk

But do you have room for a 27' screen? That's bigger than the office I work in.

bluej21 said,

But do you have room for a 27' screen? That's bigger than the office I work in.

Yea, 27 feet is way too big!

The big problem with these comparisons is that they are always done immediately after a refresh from apple, when they are at their most competitive. Wait 3 or even 6 months and the Apple gear will be exactly the same price and spec, whereas the competition will be higher specced / cheaper than they are now.

That is when the Apple tax is more substantial.

mog0 said,
The big problem with these comparisons is that they are always done immediately after a refresh from apple, when they are at their most competitive. Wait 3 or even 6 months and the Apple gear will be exactly the same price and spec, whereas the competition will be higher specced / cheaper than they are now.

That is when the Apple tax is more substantial.

The iMac hasn't been upgraded in almost a year

The Dell uses a PLS panel from Samsung. Pretty sure you'll find that PLS is on par or better in some ways than IPS panels

And I think the Vizio uses an IPS panel, though with a lower resolution.

mrmomoman said,

YES IPS.

Quoting a type of screen tech doesn't mean anything. It's not an indication of quality. I'd see the difference pretty quickly I'm sure.

Now stand them next to each other and see the difference in quality of the screen (not resolution ... quality). Brightness, contrast etc. Don't read the spec. Look at them. I guarantee you, I'd not even think of switching over.

The Dell uses a PLS panel from Samsung. Pretty sure you'll find that PLS is on par or better in some ways than IPS panels

And I think the Vizio uses an IPS panel, though with a lower resolution.

-Razorfold said,
The Dell uses a PLS panel from Samsung. Pretty sure you'll find that PLS is on par or better in some ways than IPS panels

And I think the Vizio uses an IPS panel, though with a lower resolution.

Yeah, and Galaxy III users say the screen on their phone is better than the iPhone 4 .... and it's not. Having a certain tech doesn't mean anything. It's the quality of the tech.

Spirit Dave said,

Yeah, and Galaxy III users say the screen on their phone is better than the iPhone 4 .... and it's not. Having a certain tech doesn't mean anything. It's the quality of the tech.

Well not to let technical facts get in the way...

There are many monitors with faster response times, better color, high contrast ratio, and even better viewing angles.

The latest iMac is using a variation of the LG IPS, which is a better screen than the previous IPS displays provided by Apple. However, they can be found in Dell and other MFR systems.

For some reason people see to THINK Apple makes the screens, and they don't. Even the uber dense and pretty iPhone4 screen, is made by LG. These MFRs are NOT exclusive to Apple, and mass produce these products, so that they are available to other companies.

The name 'Retina Display' is a trademark name owned by Apple, and something they can use on any Screen they sell. Apple could buy LCDs with 1995 technology, and slap the name Retina on them and sell them to consumers. It means nothing.

There are also the MFRs that don't provide screens to Apple, and several of them like Toshiba have even HIGHER quality screen technologies. Last time I looked this up, Toshiba was the leader by FAR in LED and LCD technologies.

There are higher resolution displays than anything Apple sells, but because you don't see an Ego based company trotting them out on stage like a false idol, you probably haven't taken the minute out of your life to actually look them up or notice them.

We have 4096 and one 8128 displays here that have far more colors, and provide contrast that makes our new test iMac look like it was made in the 90s because it appears grey and flat in comparison. (And some of these displays we have had for 3 or 4 years....)

There is the other 'untalked' about aspect of displays that Apple keeps people from noticing.

Apple displays cannot do more than 16million colors, and most of the time the 16million is not a true 24bit pixel anyway, as it is approximated.

Even if an Apple product like a Mac were hooked up to a higher color display capable of 30,36,40,48bit OS X and iOS cannot output anymore more than 24bit color to the display (16million colors) *(Yes it is called 32bit in the options, but that is 24bit color and an 8bit mask)

There is also the missing 3D aspect to Apple displays and Apple products in general. With movies like Avatars in stunning 3D and even better looking new 3D movies and games that support 3D that have been around for a LONG time. OS X has no inherent support for 3D and neither does iOS.

OS X's composer is already lagging when dealing with 2048 resolution displays, as it is pushing its understood texture size to the limits. Which is why people are turning off portions of the composer to get good scrolling speed back again and disabling the sync draw of OS X called Beam Sync. So dealing with 4095 or 8128 pixel displays does not work well in OS X unless the GPU has drivers that bypass the OS X renderer at these resolutions.


The last items are important, as they are OS limitations that no change in hardware will fix or allow the user to bypass. Windows 7 and Windows 8 do NOT have these limitations that OS X does.

I think other companies have realized they can rip customers off and put their own OEM premiums on these devices, they are copying apple's service idea.

I feel sorry for the uninformed consumer

But but...the Apple tax!!!!!

I like how they selectively pick high end models that are in a similar price then conclude that the "Apple tax" is a lie.
Lame.

What the fudge is with this commenting system? Ugh... Can't even reply without it cutting what I'm trying to write... -- Sorry, won't let me post my reply for whatever reason.

dead.cell said,
What the fudge is with this commenting system? Ugh... Can't even reply without it cutting what I'm trying to write... -- Sorry, won't let me post my reply for whatever reason.

and when you did reply, it was about the replying system and not an actual reply

Lachlan said,

and when you did reply, it was about the replying system and not an actual reply

Wouldn't let me quote the article. Basically though: the article says differently to what ahhell was saying, by suggesting there is in fact an Apple tax with the iMacs compared to the other AIO computers.

Not sure if I'm misunderstanding what he's saying or if he just misread the article though.

Hmm, I only paid $800 for my HP TouchSmart All-In-One... and it has a 25 inch multitouch screen... It was refurbished, but I don't think the retail price was that much more.

In any case, I only bought it for the multitouch screen, which you can't get from Apple. And now with Windows 8, that investment makes even more sense

rfirth said,
Hmm, I only paid $800 for my HP TouchSmart All-In-One... and it has a 25 inch multitouch screen... It was refurbished, but I don't think the retail price was that much more.

In any case, I only bought it for the multitouch screen, which you can't get from Apple. And now with Windows 8, that investment makes even more sense

The problem is that the touch smart pc's are not fully compatible with windows 8. Those pc's are optical touch screens and only at most do 3 fingers. To be fully windows 8 compatible the screen has to have recognize 10 fingers at once.

majortom1981 said,

The problem is that the touch smart pc's are not fully compatible with windows 8. Those pc's are optical touch screens and only at most do 3 fingers. To be fully windows 8 compatible the screen has to have recognize 10 fingers at once.

You're right, but it still recognizes more fingers than an iMac

rfirth said,

You're right, but it still recognizes more fingers than an iMac

Psht, the iMac understands any amount of fingers on the screen - it gets translated to fingerprints on the screen

majortom1981

The problem is that the touch smart pc's are not fully compatible with windows 8. Those pc's are optical touch screens and only at most do 3 fingers. To be fully windows 8 compatible the screen has to have recognize 10 fingers at once.

Windows 8 logo-compliance requires only 5 multi-touch points.

Besides, how many applications will use more than 3 touchpoints anyway? You might not be able to play a Metro piano app very well, but you should be able to run 99% of Metro applications just fine.

TomJones said,

Besides, how many applications will use more than 3 touchpoints anyway? You might not be able to play a Metro piano app very well, but you should be able to run 99% of Metro applications just fine.

I suggest that would be Multi-player games or multiple people drawing on one device.