Ultrabooks vs. 13" MacBook Air: Is the Apple Tax Real?

By on June 14, 2012, 9:58 PM

Earlier this week Apple announced updates to its entire notebook lineup, bringing it up to date with Ivy Bridge processors and a few other goodies. Like them, many other computer manufacturers have been showcasing new and updated laptops over the past few days and weeks at trade events like Computex as key partners including Intel, AMD and Nvidia roll out their latest and greatest products.

Ultrabooks in particular received quite a bit of attention, and we’re not surprised. Intel is putting a lot of weight behind the concept and expects it to be the main driver of PC market growth in the short term. Apple has already experienced some of this with the MacBook Air, which has rapidly become one of the best sellers in the Mac lineup. Arguably it's the laptop to beat if you are looking into buying an ultrabook-styled portable.

With all that in mind, we’re taking a couple of Wintel alternatives to check how well they stack up next to the new 13-inch MacBook Air and perhaps settle the old debate about the so-called “Apple Tax” — at least in this category, since there's no way a single comparison can be representative of the entire Apple Tax argument.

Read the complete article.




User Comments: 35

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Guest said:

If you're really looking at costs, you should look at total costs which should include OS upgrades too. MS windows 7 was $199, $399, $429 (depending on version) as an upgrade - I guess win 8 & 9 etc will be similar. OSX mountain lion is $21. Break this down over three years and windows notebooks are really expensive.

Probably should be called Microsoft tax these days...

Guest said:

True, but Windows is offering upgrade to Win 8 for $14.99. It's more than OS X, yes, but it's only $15.... And really you should be buying for the now, worry about updates, etc. later.

Guest said:

OS X upgrades are cheaper than Windows by far, but factoring that in the comparison as suggested by the first commenter would be ridiculous.

The current Ultrabook offerings are finally on par with the Air, most of last year's offerings were rushed but now you can get comparatively great machines or better for the same amount of money. That said, Macs are not really that much expensive than PCs at stock configs...

Guest said:

So what exactly are you going to do without an operating system then?? With Apple it's a complete package, not just hardware. And a much better user experience. I use both but prefer a Mac anyday.

Guest said:

What I like about the AIR is that I can have both operating systems. (I think, I know you can on a MacBook Pro) which means I don't have to decide between the two.

Guest said:

I think they are not quite on the level of the MBA. Still with multi touch drivers, screen quality etc I think the MBA wins. The un-released asus ux31a is the closest contender, although with such a slow SSD and max 4gb ram it still falls behind. I really wish there were some really good ultrabooks out there already.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Oh, guest, you think you're paying $21 for an OS? Lay on Macduff....

Both companies charge for the OS, its just that Apple hides the cost, and as evidenced above, the sheep are happay!

Guest said:

I happen to disagree with the conclusions. There is Apple tax and you can see it in every single retail price form the ethernet adapter to mac pro. MBA is actually the best bet to make a point about Apple tax non existence, but if you do a direct hardware comparison Apple falls every single time and it is the only way we can compare. Why? Simply because its too much variables like when you buy mac you have to add antivirus solution to the price (Microsoft gives one for free), you have to consider compatibility with other devices and surrender your freedom to purchase whenever you want and without Apples store 30% tax on every single app, song etc. If you don't know what I'm talking about you will see very soon.

On the other hand Microsoft shoves Windows 8 with every other solution, rendering computers unusable due to it's stupid gui. So while every single company wants you just to consume content the winner between two should be a flat screen tv. It's not very easy to take it with you to Starbucks to impress people and boost your avesomeness, but "content consumption" is at it's best ;)

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I think the Air is one of the pieces of Apple hardware which can actually be considered good value compared to its competitors. The keyboard and trackpad are vastly superior and that's something you have to experience and not just view the spec sheet.

Guest said:

Air wins hands down, each time. Why?

Touchpad.

it's the only touchpad that can replace a mouse for most desktop app usage; no windows touchpad even comes close; I have to use an external mouse with each and every windows laptop I've used these last several years..

I bought an Air to try it out, and really loved the touchpad; that is what differentiates it.

Guest said:

Actually plenty of new Ultrabooks have better quality screens than Macbooks AIR does. Also...your system comes with Windows 7 pre-installed and unlike Apple Microsoft supports their oses for 15 years, you won't be forced to upgrade. With after three years you will need to buy new computer just to get on the newewst OS version.

The true advantage of AIR is touchpad. On the other hand though... you can't get Macbook Air with trackpoint and all those nifty touch gestures can't change the fact that if you're doing a lot of writting on notebook trackpoint is absolutely unrivaled. I would never get a notebook without one. Also..there are no touchscreen options for any of the Macbooks. SO while touchpad is advantage, lack of ability to get trackpoint and touchscreen is disadvantage

aspleme said:

I think there is something getting missed here. When you buy a Mac, you are buying a computer console. The software is made for the hardware. You can't make the hardware a separate issue from the software because they are intrinsically linked. If you are going to make that distinction, I want to see a MacBook Air completely wiped with Windows on it, and see if it still has the same performance.

We know this with game systems. A far less powerful game system is able to almost compare to a significantly more powerful PC. Look at Mac the same way.

And don't use one Apple product to try and argue that there is no such thing as Apple Tax. You can see it in MP3 Players, adapters, etc.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I think there is something getting missed here. When you buy a Mac, you are buying a computer console. The software is made for the hardware. You can't make the hardware a separate issue from the software because they are intrinsically linked. If you are going to make that distinction, I want to see a MacBook Air completely wiped with Windows on it, and see if it still has the same performance.

That's actually a great way to call it, "computer console". Pretty much all of the comparisons in terms of optimized experience, lack of upgradability, same arguments between users, apply.

k9182000 said:

What I like about the AIR is that I can have both operating systems. (I think, I know you can on a MacBook Pro) which means I don't have to decide between the two.

This is because windows will install on almost any hardware, while IOS doesn't. A lot of people will have a heart attack when they do lol.

Amon2106 said:

What people seem to be forgetting is that the macbook air and pro prevent upgrading... you can buy a Windows PC / Laptop and easily upgrade it with additional ram, storage, CPU without having to worry about it being soldered to the motherboard.

Staff
Jos Jos said:

What people seem to be forgetting is that the mac book air and pro prevents upgrading.........you can buy a windows PC / Laptop and easily upgrade it with additional ram, storage, CPU without having to worry about it being soldered to the motherboard.

Not true. You can upgrade the RAM and storage on the MacBook Pro (not sure about the new Retina model, though). As for the MacBook Air, you could upgrade the SSD on the 2010 and 2011 editions, I imagine it's the same with the 2012 model.

What you can't upgrade is the RAM, but that's also not possible with the Zenbook Prime UX31A or Samsung Series 5 in this comparison. Remember we're comparing MacBook Air vs. Ultrabooks -- not any laptop. You can upgrade RAM on some other Ultrabooks but many manufacturers are going this route to make their laptops thinner.

Guest said:

I still dont understand the awesomeness thing.... I have both Windows 7 and Mac OS laptops, plus a Win 7 Desktop.

I prefer my Macbook Pro as a laptop due to it's better design, longer battery life and simple and efficient OS, something that Microsoft is hoping to change with Win 8...

Yes there probably are some Apple douchebags that want to rub it in your face, but there also are PC douchebags as well that want to do the same and pretend to be much more tech savvy although they dont know much more than how to turn the PC on...

So stop with the stupid remarks. Buy what you want, it's your money, and enjoy your Laptop/Macbook

Teko03 said:

If you're really looking at costs, you should look at total costs which should include OS upgrades too. MS windows 7 was $199, $399, $429 (depending on version) as an upgrade - I guess win 8 & 9 etc will be similar. OSX mountain lion is $21. Break this down over three years and windows notebooks are really expensive.

Those are full retail prices, MS offers lower priced "upgrade" installations --- usually around $100. Plus who really has a computer for longer than 2 generation's of an MS OS's (average of 6 years). And if they do, its a average user who wouldn't bother upgrading.

AlanCasseb said:

There was an overlook on the Thunderbolt. Big plus, in my opinion.

Ranger1st Ranger1st said:

It's apple, they are ethically and morally corrupt, why on earth would anyone with even a base line of ethics and morals want to support them. Their pricing has been stupid High since the IIc..

TechSpot has simply decided to be epically obtuse in asking this question, I guess they wanted to stoke the fires for some reason.

davimous said:

It still costs 45 dollars for an ipod charger at the apple store. I'm pretty sure there is an apple tax.

slh28 slh28, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Not true. You can upgrade the RAM and storage on the MacBook Pro (not sure about the new Retina model, though).

[link]

Upgradeability is a very overrated feature when it comes to laptops, the only big gain you would see from upgrading an old laptop is replacing a HDD with an SSD but ultrabooks all ship with SSDs anyway. I would take a thin, light and beautiful laptop over a thick and upgradeable one anytime.

Guest said:

Yes, but I was able to skip Vista and go directly to Windows 7. Can you do that on OS X? BTW, MS gives free service packs, does not charge for that. Some of OSX's so called upgrades are nothing more than a service pack.

Guest said:

Apple doesn't always allow you to upgrade to the next version of the OS - I have an G3 iBook and G4 desktop that I was able to upgrade only as far as OS 10.4 (Tiger) - OS versions after that no longer supported non-Intel based systems (or slower processors). Plus each of the updates cost $129 - Apple didn't go to low cost upgrades until they introduced Snow Leopard as an update to OS 10.5. My Beige G3 Macs were only supported thru Mac OS 10.2. So it's not a sure thing that future versions of the Mac OS will support your machine 3 years from now.

And since Apple limits your ability to upgrade many of their machines (especially their laptops) it's not like you can replace the motherboard, processor, graphics card or even install additional memory in many of their products. Apple is a hardware company and they will likely require you to purchase a new machine (as first generation iPad users will discover when they try to upgrade to the upcoming iOS 6).

Apple makes terrific products and have introduced a number of innovations to the consumer marketplace - but they have always focused on being a premium brand. Ultrabooks are premium priced laptops that mimic the capabilities of the MacBook Air. For those who would like a comparable product to the Air, but would prefer to stick with the Windows operating system I think a ultrabook isn't a bad choice.

Guest said:

Load of crap. You forgot to mention the issue of versatility. Though, I guess if you're going strictly on physical value, you may be right. The simple fact is there are more software titles available for Windows computer than there are for all of Apple's platforms combined. The reason being that Microsoft doesn't charge or collect percentages from developers. I remember back when we still had a Compuserve in NYC the Windows software section was a block long, the Apple software section was about 20 square feet.

Guest said:

Buy any Windows PC today, get a $14.99 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro when it's released.

Guest said:

according to other tech blogs, windows 8 will be available as an upgrade for win 7 users for around 15 dollars. Unless you are upgrading from vista or xp (not sure about the upgrade fee for these two), the "upgrade tax" is still lower than that of apple. my 2 cents.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

Ultrabooks are to Macbook Air as Android was to iPhone. Apple is the only innovator on the field at the moment. Windows 8 will change that, hopefully.

Guest said:

Nice linkbait Tech Spot, this proves nothing. Cherry-picking only 3 comparisons out of potentially hundreds, at the low end at that, and then not even drawing a solid conclusion.. yeah sorry. Linkbait.

Guest said:

I'd pay the price of an ultrabook to not have to use Apple OSanything.

Guest said:

There is definitely an Apple tax, but it is not so much on the hardware as it is in the peripherals. Try and buy a laptop charger... 80 bux. I can goto radio shack and get a generic plug for a windows machine for 1/2 that price. As someone mentioned before, usb cables and wall plugs that are white with an apple on them... insanely priced. Goto the Apple accessory isle in any store and see the $20 price hike on anything made for an iPad, iPod, or Macbook and that is from third party companies cashing in on the Apple tax.

Guest said:

I love reading some of the stupid posts here. You people are so blinded by your ignorance. I used to be a PC nut. I build my own pc's and have used every OS Microsoft has ever put out. About two years ago my brother got a macbook pro and I tried it. Almost immediately I loved it. Now we have a MBpro, a macbook air, and several PC's in the house, and I can say Mac is better than Microsoft. Windows just fails far too ofter, MAC OS never does.

OSX updates are free (as are windows updates) and easy to apply. New OSX versions are $20-$30. OSX is much faster and less cluttered than windows. I have also installed and tested Win8, and imo Microsoft is admitting defeat to OSX, by trying to make windows look more like OSX's app driven GUI. It may work on a tablet or phone, but it's just retarded on a PC. I won't be using it.

OH, and by the way, with bootcamp (free with OSX) I installed windows 7 on my Macbook and it runs better than it does on a PC. Conversely, I have also built a 'hackintosh' (google it); that is, installing OSX on a PC as it's only OS. Runs awesome, and I used OSX Lion which I had already purchased for $29.

Mac wins.

Guest said:

Who said something about these machines not coming with an OS? The Zenbook Prime comes with Windows 7 and can be upgraded to Windows 8 (which, by they way, will be a much more significant upgrade from Windows 7 compared to Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion) for only 14.99 as soon as it is available.

Guest said:

worry about updates, etc. later.

Later? Really.... Wow.

Worry about saving money later too? That is why people are reading this article isn't it? To save money that is..? Later.???

Guest said:

OSX fails plenty. I'm not saying that because I'm a Windows fanboy, but because I've had as many OSX crashes as Windows crashes. I push my computers hard, and both operating systems have their breaking points and bugs.

I just had a 3 year old iMac die. The cost of repairs would have been as high as buying a new iMac. Doing it myself would cost $400. The Apple tax isn't just from purchases, it also applies to repairs by authorized repair centres.

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