Buy a Mac to save money over time

As a computer geek since a young age, I’ve spent literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of yen over the years on computer equipment. I’ve spent the majority of my life dealing with Windows based Intel-PCs, from brand name pre-built laptops and tablets to custom built servers for myself; and more recently a lot of Apple Mac stuff. Anyone, even non-geeks, will know how quickly computer equipment depreciates over the course of just one year – that Windows computer you bought for ¥200,000 yen last year can’t even be bought new this year it’s so out of date, and if you try to sell it second hand you’ll likely to get less than ¥20,000 for it if you’re lucky – but then that’s the cost of cutting edge computing, we understand that. But the curious thing is, Apple computers don’t depreciate / devalue at the same rate of Windows PCs. Any of your standard windows PCs are going to be worth about 10-15% of the purchase price after 2 years; while Apple computers have historically still been valued at 35-50%, a huge difference in rate of depreciation.

Oh, really?
Yes. I suspect the main reason is a superior design – my Macbook Pro is now 3 years old, but it still runs fast due to less clutter over time than a Windows machine, and frankly it still looks damn nice. I paid ¥220,000 for it at the time, and a quick check on yahoo auctions shows the same model, used, selling for between ¥100,000 – ¥150,000. That’s after 3 years! For comparison, we recently tried to get rid of my fiance’s NEC laptop (built in TV, fantastic speakers, but just a little slow for my tastes and unneeded in our house) – ¥150,000 at the time, again about 3 years ago, but now selling for ¥20,000 on auctions! Shocking! It was probably an ugly computer at the time she bought it too, but can’t blame her for having a lack of style choice I guess. (I do blame her though)

The fact is that Macs depreciate slower than Windows PCs (regardless of the brand), so when the time comes to upgrade you’re going to have lost less of your investment if you purchased a Mac.

There’s also a product cycle guide for Apple products over at Mac Rumors – it gives you advice on whether to buy a Mac based on how into the product cycle it currently is, and how likely it is to be updated soon.

Disclaimer: I guess you could call me a Mac fanboy. I was a bona-fide Apple bashing Windows fan-boy until about 5 years ago, but then Apple released this little thing called OsX and it blew my mind away. Just saying. I’ve played with every OS out there from Irix to Windows Tablet Edition (bet you didn’t know either of those even existed), and Mac OsX is the best.

36 thoughts on “Buy a Mac to save money over time

  1. I started with Windows, thinking every computer in my life will crash every now and then, and the OS’s behaviour was normal. Then I switched to Linux, where I found happiness in the command line — I was a DOS kid — but also wasted countless hours on compiling software for my use. I tried Macs before, with Mac OS 9, but I hated how unstable it was.

    Then I heard about Mac OS X based on BSD. I thought it was the perfect marriage between the functionality of a Unix-style OS and simplicity even Windows didn’t have. It took me years before making the switch to Mac OS X. My first Mac was bought in 2007, a Mac mini with Tiger. I’ve been satisfied since then. You can read the experience I described after I had the Mac mini for a week:

    http://remino.net/en/2007/04/18/one-week-with-my-first-mac

    During my experience with Macs for the past two years and a half, I only had one black screen, and it was because I was messing around with partitions on external hard drives. I do mean “messing around” and do something the Linux kernel would have done a panic attack on hours before the Mac did.

    I’m using a black MacBook with Snow Leopard today.

    And now, cue another typical Mac vs Windows comment thread!

  2. I have a very long history as a Mac user with the most recent one being a Mac Mini that I purchased early this year. (Full history not including the Mini is here: http://monsterflower.blogspot.com/2008/08/my-history-as-mac-user.html), and have actually become less of a Mac advocate since OS X came out.

    I don’t find OS X to be appreciably more stable than versions 7, 8 or 9 of the Mac OS. It just has different types of crashes that are tweaked or repaired differently. I won’t go into how I used to manage the old OS’s, but they froze up the screen and OS X hangs or gives you that annoying spinning beach ball. I can’t say one type of crash is so much better than the other, but I can say that the quality of Apple’s hardware has seriously declined since the early days of Macs (as I have used them long enough to make such a comparison). This is likely unavoidable as they’ve adopted the same cheap standards as most PCs that aren’t build to run the Mac OS in order to lower prices.

    At any rate, I don’t buy the economic claims about Macs over PCs because the comparisons are almost always skewed. Yes, Macs don’t devalue as quickly if you buy top of the line. The top of the line costs a pretty penny though, and the utility of any computer declines steeply after 3 years as increases in speed make it seem pokier by comparison to a replacement machine. For what you spend on a MacBook Pro which you use for 5 years, you could be picking up 3 new Acer laptops every 1.5 years with the last one in the sequence outperforming your MacBook Pro by the end of its useful life cycle. That’s not even factoring in the high cost of Apple Care (which you’ll need if you’re going to keep it for more than a year because the internal and optical drives are going to start to fail at the very least – more components at worst).

    I’m not Apple bashing. I’m a Mac user, too, but I also use PCs and I just don’t buy the idea that Macs are cheaper. Yes, I like my Mac and will always use Macs, but the economic argument is, at best, that Macs are no more expensive than PCs. They aren’t a good investment financially, but may be so in terms of quality of experience for some people.
    .-= Orchid64´s last blog ..Won’t Miss #55 – hanko =-.

  3. I think it’s important to make the distinction here between hardware and software.

    Windows tends to get slow over time, but if you’re wise about reinstalling Windows on a regular basis (once a year?) then I think a Windows PC can endure just as long as a Mac, barring any major hardware failures.

    That said, I do own a Mac, not because I think Apple is the best thing since sliced bread, but primarily because I hate the security measures that are necessary for XP (security updates and installing virus protection) and Vista is just bloated.

    I’d be ok with a Linux machine as well. And maybe I’ll go that route on my next machine.

    But if we’re on the topic of saving money, then it’s pretty clear that Linux trumps both Mac and Windows.
    .-= Rick Martin´s last blog ..Making the Shift to Online Journalism =-.

  4. Awesome, thanks for the comments guys.

    Personally Orchid, I’d have to say you’re a madman for touching macs before they went intel and osx-ified. But maybe you’re a masochistic kind of guy who likes incompatible computers! I guess we just have a different history with them though.

    As for a computer being an financial investment – it is of course absolutely the opposite, but I’d say a Mac is a far better investment in terms of time and productive output. In fact, a computer isnt even an option anymore – it’s like buying a microwave, just another household appliance.

    And Rick, you’re right, a fresh windows re-install will get windows back to its original speed, but you shouldn’t really have to do that! And the average user doesn’t, which is why the user experience sucks with PCs. We have an entire generation of people now hating these essential tools in their life because they’re so slow, bloated, hard to use…

    However, I maintain that Macs depreciate significantly slower than other PCs. I didnt purchase applecare and nothing has broken yet for me, though I suspect this would obviously close the gap.

    We could, you know, bring hackintoshes into the whole debate… 😉

  5. The thing that gets me is that people who don’t know what an OS is or what the difference between them is will say “I hate computers” or “why do computers do X, it’s so unintuitive”, not realising that almost everything they hate about “computers” is actually things they hate about Windows. So many of the horrible interface issues are things that end up on “aren’t computers stupid” lists, but they’re almost always bad Windows design. Example – “why do you have to click on Start to stop the computer”, etc.

    It’s as if they think that if you put the parts in the case, attach a hard drive and switch it on, computers will boot to the Windows desktop by default.

  6. hmm, good question.

    i started on a mac mini just to see what it was all about, and i already had a spare monitor/keyboard/mouse etc.

    if you want to go the cheap route and dont mind getting your hands dirty and maybe following some tutorials, you could get a hackintosh netbook like the MSI Wind U100 for around 20,000 yen on auctions. Only problem being, there isnt an official hackintosh disk for snow leopard yet, only leopard 10.5…

    what does everyone else recommend?

  7. I never used to like Macs until I happened across one in a store somewhere around 2002, started playing around with it and discovered, to my surprise, a fully functional UNIX-style shell. Unfortunately the price put me off, but around the time I was in the market for a UNIX-capable laptop a couple of years later prices had come down (and the value of my time gone up) enough that it made more sense to buy one rather than mess around trying to install Linux or similar on laptop hardware (possible, but often a time-consuming pain when it comes to getting specialised laptop functions like power saving working properly). In that respect they proved very good value for money. OS X also has very good multilingual support, which is also very important for me.

    Unfortunately I’m not sure whether I would buy another Apple laptop when the current one needs replacing, the MacBook-style keyboards aren’t to my taste at all. Also, at over 2kg they’re a bit heavy to carry round all the time, something I often need to do at the moment. Which is why I’m typing this on an HP Mini netbook, which is not only light and small enough not to be really noticeable as an item of luggage, but has a nice keyboard. Also, Linux has improved enough that it only took me a few hours (rather than a few days) to get the damn thing running properly. (Apple, if you’re reading this, I’d happily pay 8~9 man yen for a netbook-sized MacBook with a keyboard like on the old PowerBooks. And a decent battery life, of course).
    .-= ThePenguin´s last blog ..Passing-out ceremony =-.

  8. I don’t advise getting a hackintosh as yoru first Mac, especially now with Snow Leopard making the task a lot less n00b friendly.

    If you really don’t need portability, the iMac offers amazing value and performance. Otherwise the lowest end MacBook will only run around $1k. Mac Minis offer terrible performance compared to the other 2 options, and if you then want to add a decent monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, etc you’ll be way over their prices with a puny machine.

    I love hackintoshes when they work nice, and have been hackintoshing since 10.4 to mixed results.

    I will be moving back to a real Mac laptop next big purchase and pop in the same Intel X25-M SSD which is blazing away in my Aspire One A150 Hackbook now…

    oh yeah, and the Mac will definitely save you money and time as you can focus on being productive, not learning how to deal with antivirus software and everything inherently wrong with Windows and which has stayed the same since 95 through to Win 7.

  9. Jamie,

    Nice article, and I really like the spirit of the site.

    If you want uber cheap computing, buy a three year old PC laptop and stick Ubuntu on it. Linux certainly is not for everyone, but if as you say you are a computer geek, then the learning curve should not be intimidating. And at the end of it you will have a reliable and modern OS.

    If you grab something that is four, five years old, you might get it even for free. No worries though, just use one of the lightweight window managers, or use one of the repackaged versions of Ubuntu like Linux Mint. I have two machines I got for free, one i use as a NAS, web server and LAN services box, and the other, an old Tosh Laptop is used for www, email, IM/Skype, etc. The only cost is a small amount of my time (no more than maintaining XP or Vista takes) and some electricity. I will keep the OS’s updated, which means an upgrade cycle about every three years and replace them when they stop working, which won’t be any time soon. Obsolescence in OS comes much faster than hardware failure.

    That said, I spend money where it has impact. I have a fairly high-horsepower machine for dicking around with games but this as far as I am concerned is a luxury not a necessity.

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