Are Macs Really Cheaper Than PCs?

They are, if you hold on to them

Key Takeaways

  • A new (Apple-commissioned) study claims that Macs are cheaper than PCs in the workplace.
  • Independent business owners confirm this.
  • Macs still seem more expensive because Apple doesn’t make low-end, cheap models.
A laptop computer sitting on a window-side table in an office.

Alesia Kazatceva / Unsplash

Surprise: Apple computers are cheaper to buy and use in the workplace than PCs. 

According to a new study by Forrester (PDF), Macs work out cheaper over their lifetime. The purchase price may (or may not—see below) be higher than buying PCs, but after you pay for support, security, and software, Apple gear starts to look like a bargain. And then it's just a lot less hassle. 

The problem? Apple commissioned this study. Still, the claim has a ring of truth, so we asked a few business owners about their experience with Apple vs PCs. Spoiler alert: the findings of the Apple-funded study are correct.

"Apple hardware looks expensive. If I buy a PC-based laptop, pound for pound, on paper, I get a lot more for my money," Paul Walker, founder of UK video production business FnX Media, told Lifewire via email.

"However, I run a small business, and the reality is when I take into account the whole package, for a small business owner in the video business, Apple products cost way less than the competition. And for my business, this total cost of ownership is absolutely critical in my choice of Apple products."

Not Cheap

The first part of buying a computer is the purchase price. Like-for-like, Macs are no more expensive than equivalent PCs. It’s just that Apple doesn’t go near the low end. So, while—for example—Dell might knock out a cheap laptop for a few hundred bucks, Apple doesn’t do that.

"...for my business, this total cost of ownership is absolutely critical in my choice of Apple products."

MacBooks start at $999. This makes MacBooks appear expensive, but if you compare them to $999 Dells, they come out on top—especially now that they run speedy, power-sipping Apple Silicon chips. 

Thanks to those M1 chips, and pretty healthy specs for the entry-level models, organizations can deploy those $999 MacBook Airs instead of springing for equivalent but more expensive PCs. 

Macs last longer, too. I have an old iMac from 2010 that’s still going strong. Many folks hand down their old MacBooks to friends and family when they upgrade. 

Support

Next up is support. The Apple/Forrester study says that every Mac saves $635 due to lower deployment and support costs. This is down to the fact that Macs require less work to support, and therefore require fewer IT staff. 

You may have heard those friend-of-a-friend stories, where IT staff tried to prevent Macs in the workplace because it might put them out of a job. And that turns out to be true—in some cases at least. 

Someone using an iPhone and a MacBook in a cafe.

Christina @ wocintechchat.com / Unsplash

"We switched to Apple computers in 2012 or 2013 for my digital marketing agency," Jay Berkowitz, founder of the Ten Golden Rules agency, told Lifewire via email.

"The Apple computers have been extremely reliable. Several models from 2015 and 2016 are still in use and work perfectly. We have not had an IT resource for many years and we have saved thousands of dollars on hardware, IT consultants time, and most importantly lost work efficiency." 

Software

In the end, your choice of computer, whether personal or for a business, comes down to the software. If you can’t run an app you need, you don’t buy the machine. 

Years ago, businesses needed PCs because their business software ran on PCs. That’s still the case for some proprietary software, but as more and more productivity apps and services move online or are delivered as cross-platform Elektron apps, this is less of a concern. 

And in the creative sector, it’s the other way around. For musicians, Apple’s Logic is one of the cheapest ways to get a music production suite. And in the movies, Final Cut Pro might be a requirement for your job.

A powered-off MacBook Pro sitting on a desk in an office environment with an office phone and mouse nearby.

Julian Hochgesang / Unsplash

In those cases, you can’t buy a PC. Logic costs $200, including a massive library of sounds, instruments, and samples. Its biggest rival, Ableton Live Suite, runs to $600.

The Apple Silicon era has one downside. Unlike Intel Macs, you can’t install Windows on M1 Macs. Otherwise, it really does seem like Macs might be the best choice for many workplaces—just like Apple claims.

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