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Why is the Mac Pro so Expensive?

07.29.10 @ 10:43AM Tags : , , ,

With the announcement of new Mac Pros, I thought back to the last time I used such a machine, during my years at MTV. At one point I found myself picking up the machine to move it; surprised at the heft, I remember wondering to myself, “what do they build these cases out of?!?” Platinum, apparently: that’d be the only way to justify the price. Why do I say this? Because, after yesterday’s announcement, I turned to Apple’s tech specs page and priced out the exact components used in the base-level Mac Pro. The results might surprise you.

The $2,500 Mac Pro includes a $350 CPU, $165 graphics card (unchanged from its PC counterpart), $75 of RAM, and a $70 hard drive. The four most important components of the machine — processor, graphics card, memory, and storage — total up to $660. Where’s the other $1,840 going? Keep in mind this total is from buying one of each, as a regular Joe off the street; Apple surely receives substantial volume discounts on everything, widening the gap even further.

Sure, there are more components in the machine, like the motherboard (I don’t know enough about Apple’s motherboard or motherboards in general, but here’s a dual Xeon mobo for less than $300), and a dual-layer DVD burner similar to Apple’s SuperDrive is $25. There are some other components, like a power supply, networking card, cabling, and of course the fancy case, which must be really expensive, because after accounting for the major components as a single buyer — keep in mind Amazon and Newegg are each getting a cut of what we’re paying — we’ve still got over $1,500 of air in the box.


Yes, Apple will build the machine and ship it, and there are warranty and support costs as well. So let’s compare apples to apples — how does a Mac Pro compare to an iMac, since they also announced new iMacs at the same time? An iMac, after all, has to be assembled and supported the same way (both machines have one year warranties). One analysis has the Mac Pro going for a 75%/$1,500 premium over a comparable iMac. And the iMac includes a 27″ 2560×1440 display! So Apple isn’t just pricing the Mac Pro at a premium over PCs — they’re pricing it at a substantial premium over other Macs.

You could walk into a computer store, buy basically the same components in a Mac Pro, and assemble it yourself. Then, let’s say something goes wrong — e.g., you bought an underpowered power supply and somehow fried the whole machine (this wouldn’t happen, but for example’s sake… ). You’d still have enough money to buy the components all over again and build a new one! That beats any warranty coverage I can think of…

Certainly a reason to consider building a hackintosh.

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  • Yesterday i went to ibuypower.com, and did a fake build. 6-core i7, 12gb ram, 1tb hd, nvidia 470, and usb 3.0 & esata. It was under $2500, and this would run circles around that mac pro. i really don’t get that pricing

  • But they’re so pretty!

  • cameron wheels on 07.29.10 @ 2:58PM

    The problem arises when you use a “hackintosh” for comercial reason to make money from your edit or what ever…. is there any laws that are being infringed… I am very intrigued and have contemplated it for a while now but just worry.

    • >
      How alot of the same software is on the pc and out site the usa apple by LAW can’t use the EULA to lock you out of your own hardware and any ways apples $39 for os X is about the price that dell and others pay for OEM windows.

      But even at $200 FULL OEM of the TOP ver of 7 windows. Apple can make osX $200 if they want.

  • So have you seen this article?

    http://macperformanceguide.com/blog/2010/20100728_iMac–imac-macpro.html

    Lloyd Chambers seem to think just the opposite.

    …interesting…

    • I see where he’s coming from, but they are two different machines. I’m most interested in how the Mac Pro compares to other workstations, but from what I can tell, Core i7 processors compare very favorably to their more expensive Xeon brethren.

      • In reply to Koo’s response from 07.29.10 @ 3:29PM:

        Compare apples to apples (no pun intended). The Mac Pro uses Xeon processors from a few years ago. Current-gen Core i7s are faster than current-gen Xeon E5s, but only in lightly threaded applications (such as video games) or applications that don’t require vast amounts of cache memory. I run dual Xeons in my workstation to crack passwords and having over 20 MB of cache makes a difference.
        Xeons also support ECC memory, which the Core i7 range does not.

  • My suspicion is that el Jobso isn’t very interested in furthering the PC market. The majority of Apple’s money comes from the consumer products, whereas the desktop systems are for the professionals who can often justify/write off the expense. The iPad, iPhone, macbook and such are for ‘everyone’. I wouldn’t be surprised if the mac pro got more expensive over time.

  • Yeah, whatever happened to Moores Law? These new Mac Pro’s aren’t much more of a bump spec wise from last go round.

  • I agree completely, save the last sentence: “Certainly a reason to consider building a hackintosh.”

    Been there, done that. It’s not worth it – buy or build a PC.

    I have a Macbook. I really wanted to try to use MacOS also on a Desktop Computer. So badly (mostly for styles sake, for curiosity and also for Things and PasswordPro, these 2 Mac Applications I really like). IMacs were out – only mirrors instead of displays and not easy to enhance, if at all. I really played with the new 27″ iMacs several times in apple stores or media markets… but no. MacPros… no way, underpowered even to the then new iMacs and way overpriced.

    I already had a Core i7 PC. So I tried and succeeded in building a Hackintosh on a 3rd Harddrive.

    Well, I was disappointed, to say the least. It worked flawlessly but couldn’t operate with the same flawless “feel” I get from Windows 7 on the same machine. That ranged from the Mouse-Cursor feel and precision (acceleration and speed) to the overcome concept of the toplevel menu bar on the top of the screen instead on the windows of the respective applications. Way cumbersome on state of the art Dual Screen Workstations.

    Nah, my aluminium MacBook with it’s compact screen and the touchpad is a very nice machine – but I realized: Mac is for fancy Macbooks and Apple is for mobile Devices. Real work is done with PCs. And nowadays that includes all sorts of media design.

  • Yes the Mac Pro is expensive, but there are a couple missed points here.

    Consumers are buying Mac Pros because they want the most powerful Mac; yes building a Hackintosh is cheaper, but from a professional standpoint, you risk unscheduled downtime and possible licensing violations. The target market of the Mac Pro are people who are suppose to be making money off their machines. The iMac is the for the mainstream user.

    The point of the Hackintosh is to save money. Here you can get OS X for $30, but don’t forget that’s actually the upgrade pricing from Leopard; full installers are suppose to pay the $160 for the whole package with iLife and iWork. Add the fact that you’re paying a couple grand for software like Photoshop and Final Cut for work. But how many people actually pay that when they’re running a Hackintosh? I’m willing to saying almost none.

    So overall, you’re looking at the Mac Pro that’s expensive, yes, but because the market commands it, Apple can sell it for as much. Similar configured systems from Dell and HP are just as pricey.

    Finally the pricing of the parts is a bit off; most of the prices we pay on retail parts is very close to prices OEMs pay, And not to get into specifics, but the parts the Mac Pro are at least $400 more than your estimate.

    • I realize I’m a few dollars off (this is why I say “major components” — this is not all-inclusive). Of course, I think you also need to consider that a lot of shooters/editors already have the software. I have a CS4 license that cost $800 to upgrade to CS5 — a far cry from the $2,500 commanded by the master collection. I agree that anyone who’s going to be spending $3,500 (if you include Final Cut Studio) on software should just get a Mac Pro… but there are a lot of people who already have the software, but need a faster machine, and that’s why I’m building an alternative (also, just out of a sense of curiosity).

  • It’s onerous to find educated folks on this matter, but you sound like you realize what you’re talking about! Thanks Consider a visit to my page . thanks!!

  • Its like why would anybody get a Bentley, when an Audi or even a saturn gets you to work just as fine? Its the want factor, design and prestige.

  • Hiya! I’m bored, googled for “Why is the Mac Pro so expensive?” and arrived at this article.

    I would respectfully like to point out that the author should probably do research before writing an uneducated article like this, or stay away from writing about computers altogether. Comp Sci grad student with an emphasis on computer graphics speaking. There are so many things wrong with this article that it is hard to decide where to start my ill-constructed rant. I’ll make a half-hearted attempt.

    The Mac Pro, as outdated as it is today, has a build quality that surpasses that of most workstations. The processor and hard drive are the only parts that are correctly listed in the article. The video card comes with custom firmware that makes it considerably more stable (and expensive – guess where half the development cost of a video card comes from: right, software) than the run-of-the-mill XFX video card the author so lazily linked to.
    The RAM is actually ECC RAM (it self-correct any errors in memory) which is considerably more expensive than non-ECC memory (which the author yet again so lazily linked to). What’s more, the memory and processors are mounted on a custom plug-in board that makes swapping RAM in and out and performing repairs easier than in any consumer PC. The processor(s) are mounted on the same board.

    The case itself is designed for usability and good looks, and it is the measure against which other PC cases are compared to this day. The case is quiet, cool, easy to open and incredibly sturdy. The fans are quieter than most any consumer PC fans because they’re made of metal, not plastic. The power supply is of higher quality than your run-of-the-mill consumer PC power supply and is entirely silent. Cable management is perfect, it is literally impossible to hide cables better (which means the case will run cooler, it is easier to plug cables in and out and there’s less chance of damaging the cables).

    The biggest laugh is the motherboard the author mentions. The motherboard in the Mac Pro is custom-designed and pretty much flawless if you need a computer with 4 expansion slots and at most 4 hard drives. Think at least $550 for such a motherboard, more back in 2010, and for Pete’s sake don’t link to some motherboard you found on Amazon that happens to be heavily outdated and say that ‘comparable’ motherboards may be found much cheaper online.

    If someone thinks they might be just as well off building their own PC for less money because cheaper components could deliver the same performance, then they are either (1) too ignorant to realize performance exists along more dimensions than just how many hours it takes to run a simulation. Downtime and a buggy OS costs money, too, and both play a decidedly bigger factor with self-built PCs. (2) he/she cannot discern faster from slower parts or (3) he/she does not have the money to buy a Mac Pro and decided to rant about the high price out of sheer spite. Anyone who claims the Mac Pro is a mere prestige object is decidedly part of all three of the above groups.

    ~Faye (<- uses a $5500 UNIX workstation she built herself for serious school work and a $1900 MacBook Pro for email, Office and Windows).

    • @Faye
      I disagree with every single thing you just said.

      “The video card comes with custom firmware…”
      Well, sure, they all do! Every single video card ever made comes with “custom” firmware, you should know this. Otherwise they could write the code once then use it with every video card that has ever been released. Unbelievable as a cs major you would use this as an argument.

      ECC ram has to check everything for errors, which slows it down. Again you use the “custom” phrase for this. And again I will point out that every board whether pc or mac is “custom.”

      The case is simply for vanity reasons. The mac I used at work for video editing and motion graphics was very pretty, but it was constantly breaking down. It was still under warranty and they sent a tech out to replace the ram on the first trip. A week later it stopped working again and they sent another tech out to replace the motherboard. I’m sorry, he was so cocky and full of himself that they call it a, “Logic” board. And it was ridiculously overpriced had it not been under warranty. $800! Unbelievable.

      If it was so great why were we having to call them, wait on hold, get someone to come out acting all high and mighty, then repeating the process the next week? While we were waiting to have the mac fixed I went back to work on the, ahem, “Custom” built pc to finish the job.

      You like to throw the “custom” word around quite a bit thinking it is exclusive to mac? Please, all mobo’s, gpu’s, etc. are custom. They all are! Or they would all look and act exactly the same!

      Speaking of the downtime, we were down way too often with the mac and finally sold it and built a similar spec’d pc for half the cost. Oh, and everything including the case was “custom” built by our IT guy at the time.

      The reason why mac’s are priced much higher than pc’s is because of hype and marketing. They are not better or worse in functionality, because they are all made of silicon, metal, and plastic. One isn’t “better” than the other, and All computers break eventually or computer repair shops would not exist. (Even mac repair).

      The only differences are perception of value and price. If someone, (apple) jacks up the price and tells you how great it is, it’s up to the people purchasing to decide if it’s BS or not.

      Mac fanboys and girls buy into the hype and pay way more than is necessary for the actual cost of the components. The processor isn’t made by apple, it’s an Intel chip. Oh, I mean a “custom” chip…

      The rest of us laugh at how gullible mac buyers happen to be. It’s all hype and marketing, nothing more. Why else would society fall into the trap of purchasing highly pressurized carbon atoms (Diamonds) for thousands of dollars? You already know the answer to this… Marketing and hype. “Look how pretty…”

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