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The Apple Tax Dare

So yesterday, October 31, I experienced the ultimate Halloween horror: My 5-year-old 24″ iMac died. It was my primary machine, and, while occasionally a little sluggish, worked quite well. Five years lifetime is acceptable these days, but now I need to get a replacement. I like the form factor of the all-in-one machine, and shudder at the memories of giant tower cases and space-eating desktop “screen stands”, screaming their existence into the world through oh-too-many fans.

So my first instinct took me to the Apple Store web page for the 27″ iMac – I got used to large screen estate, and this seems to be the only one comparing to the previous 24″ 4:3-ratio screen. This sells, in its basic configuration, for ~£1,600. But wait, I thought, what about the “Apple tax”? The persisting rumor that Apple hardware cost much more than it should, just because of the logo and ooooh, shiny! Also, as a U.S. company, who knows who’ll have a peek into my machine from, say, Cupertino or Maryland? I am quite comfortable with Linux, so why shouldn’t I get a similar, cheaper, and more secure machine instead? (Don’t even mention Windows. Just don’t.) So, lets the contestants enter the arena!

First, I remembered reading about the Sable Complete from System76, a dedicated Linux-friendly all-in-one machine (the PC lingo for “iMac”, apparently). But, as nice as it looks, it comes only in 21″. Sorry.

Next, I found the Dell XPS 27. Yes, it’s plastic all the way, but it has touch screen (not required, but hey!), i7 instead of i5 processor, 16GB instead of 8GB RAM, 2TB instead of 1TB hard disk, and all for the same price as the iMac! Done deal! Except for some small details, such that Dell won’t sell it to me, or that some minor hardware won’t work under Linux, such as the graphics card.

But fret not, for HP offers the HP Z1, with a special emphasis on “works with Linux”! NOW we’re talking! I’ll just configure it to match the basic 27″ iMac and … end up with a machine that costs ~£1,900. Thus, I did not bother to check if it’s actually sold in the UK, or if the Linux claims are actually true. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if neither is the case.

So here is my challenge to the hardware manufacturers, Linux community and Apple haters alike (just to clarify, I am not a fanboy either; proud owner of both an Android phone and a tablet): I dare you to find me a machine that

  • is hardware-equivalent (no need identical components, but similar screen, processor, RAM, graphics card, disk, form factor; does not have to be pretty) to the basic 27″ iMac 2013 model
  • runs Linux without major hoop-jumping, and supports all build-in hardware (all the way up to the web cam!)
  • is significantly (say, £200) cheaper
  • can be bought in the UK and delivered within a week

I don’t have much hope for this. Therefore, tomorrow (November 2), I shall walk into the local Apple shop and have a really close look at the iMac. I’ll check the comment here before entering the shop, just in case. But so far, it doesn’t look like 2013 is Linux year of the desktop for me.