Dell's Rotten Apples-to-Apples Comparison

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When Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) compares apples to apples, the results make me wonder whether the company shouldn't hire a new botanist.

As part of this year's back-to-school promotions, Dell offers up a series of comparison charts to show why Dell systems are a better buy than equivalent Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) computers. The "Apples to Apples" moniker makes you think it's a fair and balanced rundown, but a closer reading shows that it's just the usual spin-heavy marketing.

For example, Dell points out that one high-performance notebook comes with a quad-core Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) processor, while Apple's matching laptop only has two processor cores. This makes you think that the Dell solution could be about twice as fast, until you look the systems up individually, and find out that Apple's processors are clocked at a much higher operating speed. In real-world use, these two systems are probably quite comparable, with the Apple computer winning more than a few benchmark comparisons where raw speed counts for more than the number of cores. But Dell wants you to think, "Bonus! Double the cores, double the fun!"

In other shenanigans, Dell forgets to tell us about …

  • The graphics subsystems -- Apple's are generally based on faster chips from Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) .
  • The materials used -- Dell's cheap-looking plastic versus Apple's omnipresent aluminum.
  • The screen quality -- Dell: pretty basic; Apple: high-end.

…  and more. Oh, and the price comparison is based on full-price Apple systems. Apple does have educational pricing programs, but those are conveniently left out of Dell's charts.

Running across the comparison page out of context, consumers and investors alike might be led to the conclusion that Dell is killing Apple on price, quality, and performance all at once. Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman would have a mythbustin' good time with that notion, I tell you.

Sure, Apple's systems are more expensive than Dell's, but hasn't that always been true? Build better gadgets, then charge an arm and a leg for the privilege of using them -- that's how you build a luxury-brand image. Dell is all mass-market these days, with few such high-end aspirations.

Should we expect a counterattack from Cupertino, spinning Apple's side of the story? Or is this just perfectly standard business as usual? Discuss in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of and has written puts on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletters services free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (15)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 09, 2010, at 4:59 PM, kevisrs wrote:

    Harkens right back to the old, "DUDE! You're gettin' a DULL!"

  • Report this Comment On August 09, 2010, at 5:29 PM, ScooterX01 wrote:

    Wow, speaking of "spin-heavy", this article sounds like Anders forgot to mention that he owns a lot of Apple stock. Sure you can pick the marketing apart - piece by piece, but you never mention the price advantage mentioned in the Back to School advertisement... Let's completely forget that you can't even _upgrade_ an Apple. You bought it and that's what you have.

    Also, how many folks that need a computer for their kids are going to drop the coins for an Apple Lappy for their kids to tote around an look cool with??

    Please read this with a salt shaker handy, as you will need a couple of grains of salt with it.


    -This was written using a Dell Laptop :)

  • Report this Comment On August 09, 2010, at 5:46 PM, TMFZahrim wrote:

    Scooter, I don't own any Apple stock, don't own an iPod, and am rocking an Android phone. Moreover, consider this:

    In other words, I'm hardly an Apple fanboy. I just like to see companies -- including Dell AND Apple -- putting a little less spin on their marketing.


  • Report this Comment On August 09, 2010, at 8:44 PM, shaunieok wrote:

    First-I do own Apple Stock. I bought it shortly after the release and my first apple purchase of the first Mac Mini. I feel sorry for Dell and other PC Owners. I used to be a PC technician and touted the ways of the PC, until I couldn't finish a Home movie to save my soul on my PC. We tried the mini and never looked back. They just work. I have recommended them to all of my neighbors and relatives who bemoan the PC with cries for help. Everyone loves them. In fact an old neighbor bought a 24" iMac for his family, his 12 year old son loved it so much that at 13 rs old he was making money as a professional videographer.

    Upgrades-I have upgraded my Mac Pro with Ram/Blu-ray and more HDD's, and it couldn't have been simpler. I've fixed two iPhones with cracked screens...piece of cake. I even upgraded my laptop with a bigger HDD---easy. Both daughters have had emacs and imacs and now my 10 yr old has a Macbook that she used everyday at school for the past 2 yrs. Love the iPad. Apple stuff just works. My wife has a new Dell that she got with her new job, has crapped out 2x already in 5 months. There's a reason why Michael Dell is on Jim Cramers wall of shame and Steve Jobs isn't.

  • Report this Comment On August 10, 2010, at 3:00 PM, whatsupfinance wrote:
  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2010, at 12:12 PM, demodave wrote:

    Anders, just for fun, let's look back to January 21:

    Apple close 1/21/2010: $208.07.

    Apple close 8/13/2010: $249.10.

    I'm a happy Apple investor and I wish the rest of the market were doing as badly as Apple. ;)

    Scooter, as much as I have disagreed with Anders (with fanboi fervor, no less), the Motley Fool is pretty in your face about its disclosure policies.

  • Report this Comment On August 15, 2010, at 3:18 PM, only1ferret wrote:

    Dang Anders, you really don't get marketing do you?

    You want companies to put less spin in their marketing? How about this for a new Coke slogan:

    "Coke its the real sugar water"

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