This matches what I’ve seen. I recently tried spec’ing out a Dell, HP, and Lenova Thinkpad comparable to a MacBook. Dell was nearly $200 cheaper, or about %15. But I’ve had such bad experiences with Dells I wouldn’t have bought if it were 30% cheaper. The HP and Lenova were within $100 – I won’t bother linking as the price has probably changed.
Now you can certainly find $700 laptops. But they usually lack on a key set of features – particularly the CPU. You can’t just look at the Ghz anymore – you have to look at the cache. Small cache means poor performance and every sub $1000 laptop I looked at skimped on the cache on the CPU. Once you got a decent CPU you were in the ballpark of a MacBook.
Am I being elitist? Maybe those small caches are fine for machines just doing web surfing? Maybe – but if I just wanted to web surf I’d got real cheap and get an EePc or something. I want a machine to edit photos, listen to music, make music, make movies. And the hardware to do it well just isn’t uner $1000 yet and is very comparable to Mac costs.
In short, yes I agree you can find a Windows PC for much less than a Mac. But I don’t believe such a PC is a good PC – I think it runs Vista awefully (part of Vista’s image problem I’m sure) and won’t do well what many people try to use a PC for these days. And by the time you upgrade it to a decent machine you could have bought a Mac. For truly comparable machines, there isn’t a significant price gap. Apple just doesn’t make such low end machines – probably because they don’t want their name associated with such cheap hardware. Guess what – neither do I. For my relatives unwilling to switch to a Mac I recommend comparable hardware – which everytime I’ve priced it out has meant comparable prices.