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.