Mac Model Price/Performance Ratios

A recent Verge discussion about the Mac Pro got me thinking again about how different Mac models rank when comparing price to performance. So I took the Geekbench results from their December 2012 benchmarks roundup, looked up the current prices for each model configuration, and charted it. The models are arranged in order of price with Geekbench scores overlaid on top. The larger the gap, the more “bang for your buck”. Here are the results:

(click for full-size)

At first glance

The Mac Mini clearly gives the highest bang-for-buck value, especially the quad-core i7 @ 2.6GHz. The iMacs follow closely behind with the 21.5“ i7 @ 3.1GHz standing out well. The retina display MacBook Pros did not fare as well, especially the 13” models, and neither did some of the Mac Pros with the 12-core 3GHz coming in last. I think that’s pretty well expected. This chart is really just a rough baseline, though. It surely doesn’t tell the whole picture.

Things to note

For one, since the Geekbench results only differentiated similar model types by processor, I only used the baseline or upgraded processor models on the Apple Store website when determining cost. No other upgrades were included in the price. Doing so yourself or from Apple could considerably change the price/performance ratios—both good and bad. Also, these Geekbench scores are a general benchmark. CPU/GPU comparisons aren't broken down.

Another is that some models include displays and some don’t. If you already own a display, the Mac Mini may be a better value than the iMac because you aren’t spending money on something you already have. If you don’t, an iMac model may be better. This brings me to the final, and biggest, qualifier.

Some people have very specific needs. If you need portability, it doesn’t really matter how great a value the iMac is. If you need six-plus cores to crunch large amounts of calculations for 3d animations, HD video ingesting/editing/rendering, etc. or need expansion slots for additional hardware, and are working in a Mac only environment—the Mac Pro may be you’re only option, regardless of price/performance ratios[1]. If you’re a gamer who wants to go Mac, the Mac Mini’s price will look nice but it’s integrated graphics may not, it depends on what you expect out of it.

But for a lot of people…

I think Mac Mini would work great. If you just had to have a beautiful display or wanted a bit better graphics capability, the 21.5“ is still a great value in the line-up. And for mobile users, the non-retina 15” 2.6GHz i7 seems hold a good balance.

This chart certainly isn’t the de facto buying guide, but I was just curious to see how current Macs compared overall. It helped line things up in my head.

  1. Here’s hoping Tim Cook and Co. do something to remedy this in 2013.