How much woud it really cost to build a PC Mac Pro?

By Mike on 6:42 pm

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A lot of people think Apple overcharges for their Mac computers. For today's post, I'm going to lay the costs out bare by building my own PC based Mac Pro clone to see how much it really would cost and how much the "Apple Tax" really is. One report I read claimed that Apple overcharges over $1600 for this system. Let's look at just the facts miss. We'll build a Mac Pro with the cheapest comparable parts, not the cheapest outright as that can skew results. Prices all from, unless otherwise stated. Prices in US dollars.

We'll look at the base model Mac Pro that comes with a single 2.66ghz "Nahalem" quad core Xeon processor, 3gb DDR3 1066, a 640gb 7200rpm SATA hard drive, a Radeon HD 4870 512mb, 18x DVD drive, Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, no Wifi, and OS X Snow Leopard 64-bit. The Mac Pro costs $2,719 with this setup.

The Mac Pro PC

Motherboard: $299.99
Apple uses an ATX style server motherboard for their Pros based on Intel's X58 chipset. The Pro has a board with four PCIe slots and requires Firewire connectivity. I found just one that fit this requirement. The Asus P6T WS Pro. It only has two PCIe 16x slots but has five expansion slots total, and supports Firewire.

Processor: $999.99
The Mac Pro base model uses a single Intel Xeon X5550 clocked at 2.66ghz. This CPU has four cores based on the "Nahalem" architecture, similar to the prosumer i7 processors.

RAM: $101.97 ($33.99 per stick)
The base Mac Pro uses three 1gb sticks of server DDR3 1066 in a triple channel configuration, which must support ECC. I went with three Crucial 1gb sticks since there are no 3gb triple channel server kits available.

Graphics: $179.99
The base model comes with an nVidia Geforce GT120. These cards aren't available to consumers so I upgraded it to an ATI Radeon HD 4870 512mb. The additional cost is included with the price of the Mac Pro I listed above. VisionTek still makes these cards with 512mb.

Hard Drive: $59.99
The Pro comes with a surprisingly small HDD, at only 640mb. It's a standard SATAII 7200rpm desktop drive. I went with Western Digital's Caviar Green drive, to make Al Gore happy.

DVD drive: $29.99
The Mac Pro comes with an 18x DVD multi burner, presumably with a SATA interface. No 18x drives were listed on Newegg so I went with a 20x drive from MSI. The difference is fairly negligible.

Case: $259.99
Finding a case to match the Mac Pro is hard. The closest I could find to that Mac Pro look is the Lian Li V1000Z. It's a full tower ATX case that has the same number of hard drive slots, etc. Full anodized aluminum. It's black but close enough. There used to be a silver version available. From FrozenCPU as Newegg no longer sells it.

Power Supply: $99.99
The Mac Pro is rumoured to have a 1kw power supply. It looks to be modular (removable cables) too based on pictures. I went with the ePower EP1000-SC 1000w PSU.

Keyboard and Mouse: $149.99
The Mac pro comes with a wireless mouse stock but I added a wireless keyboard as well for good measure. Both run on Bluetooth. The only one that seemed to fit the bill was Logitech's pricey MX 5550 Revolution gaming keyboard and mouse. A little more robust than Apple's but this is plastic and conventional instead of brushed aluminum and multi-touch mouse, so it evens out.

Operating System: $174.99
Apple really offers a bargain with OS X is seems. To get it's drive encryption features and other pro functions, we had to go with Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit single license OEM. Windows of course now comes with programs similar to iLife, so those don't need to be added separately.

Total: $2,362.88

So the price difference between a Mac Pro and a similarly configured PC is $356.12. I'll add $150 in to cover warranty, shipping, and assembly costs, bringing the Apple tax down to about $206.12.

So there definitely is an Apple Tax, but it's not as much as some people are claiming.

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