Round 2: 21.5" iMac vs. all-in-one Windows 7 PC
|21.5" Apple iMac - $1199
||21.5" MSI AE2280 - $1,049
This is a slightly more cut-and-dry look at the reality or misconception of the so-called Apple Tax. When you're strictly comparing hardware specifications -- which isn't a perfect science by a long shot -- the MSI machine bests Apple's iMac in essentially every regard. And it does so for $150 less. We will say that Apple's LCD panels are typically best-in-class, but with the MSI machine, you do get the added functionality of a touch screen. We have stated numerous times in all-in-one reviews that a touch panel makes little sense to us, particularly on a desktop, with the current state of Windows 7's touch interface, unless there is a robust touch interface overlay as can be seen in HP's TouchSmart line of products. Regardless, it's there if you decide you want it.
21.5" Apple iMac
From top to bottom, the MSI AIO PC is just more capable. A faster CPU, a superior GPU, more hard drive space, support for more memory card formats, more USB ports, etc. In this case, you're paying $150 more for the iMac in order to get less impressive hardware and an arguably superior software suite. Again, if you place a high value on Mac OS X over Windows 7, and you'll actually use iLife '11, it's possible that the software value more evenly aligns these two.
Looking briefly at a few other Windows-based all-in-one machines, Lenovo's IdeaCenter (A and B series) both offer beautiful designs with prices starting as low as $699 (with high-end machines only reaching $999), and that even includes a TV tuner and remote with the B series. Dell's Studio One also has a gorgeous design and starts as low as $589, but of course that only ships with a 19" display suitable, so it's definitely not a perfect spec-for-spec comparison with the 21.5" iMac.
21.5" MSI AE2280
It's crystal clear to us that Apple themselves place a high value on their software and design aspects. The question is: do you?