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Lies, and the Liars Who Tell Them

So I’m reading a CNET review of the high-end Mac Mini, recently revised to include a 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of RAM and a 120GB hard drive. The unsung hero of the Mac line, CNET found ways to malign it, some accurate and some downright misleading.

Indeed, you have to put this machine into perspective. It’s just an entry-level computer, with no pretense of offering a fat, fast hard drive, or a speedy graphics card for gaming. But both are big deals to CNET’s writers and editors, who seem to believe that such features are would be required by buyers of such a box, and they therefore downgrade the mini as a result.

Another major negative is that CNET feels the competition from Dell and HP offers better pricing for the same features? But do they?

Although Dell has supposedly simplified its pricing and option structure, CNET doesn’t seem to understand how to do a proper comparison. For example, they used Dell Inspiron 530s and 531s in their price-checking attempts, but stuck with models equipped with cheaper AMD processors rather than the versions that include an Intel Core 2 Duo, so as to match the Mac mini. What’s more, the Dells are preloaded with Windows Vista Basic, which is no better than XP, and certainly no match for Mac OS X, so I went with Vista Ultimate.

I thus rechecked and built a 530s and attempted to match it as closely as possible to the $799 version of the Mac mini, which means no display, keyboard or mouse, and I also deleted the modem and, to keep the price as low as possible, speakers.

Of course, this process isn’t always so easy. For example, the Dell comes with Integrated 10/100 Ethernet, and there is no Wi-Fi option in the option list that I consulted. I was, however, able to add FireWire, and the closest equivalent I could locate to Apple’s iLife ’08 software in the Windows arsenal.

The price I arrived at was $797. Now maybe Dell has discount coupons or special rebates that would lower the price, but adding the speedier Internet option and even 802.11g Wi-Fi would, together, add roughly $50 to the purchase price if they were readily available. Of course, they are, if you spend a little more time at Dell’s site or just go into your local consumer electronics outlet and check around.

To be fair, the Dell offers a much larger hard drive: 320GB, compared to 120GB on the Mac mini. You can get a 160GB drive for the latter from Apple, but you’d do better consulting third party options for something more robust.

By the way, I did not add the annual cost of providing malware protection on the Windows box. That would be roughly $50 for every year you own it, unless you opt for freeware applications instead, and that’s something the average user should be really cautious about, without some outside help.

In the end, it’s clear to me that CNET’s claim that the competition offers more features “at a better price” is just not true. But they won’t admit that.

If this happened only on occasion, I wouldn’t object, but they seem to go overboard looking for negatives in their reviews of Apple products. In this case, I cannot believe the writer was unaware of the shortcomings of the price comparison, unless the editors intervened and insisted that it be done that way. Either way, this review, while superficially favorable, once again tells lies about Apple’s prices as compared to other PC makers.

The other flaw is far more serious than whether the Mac mini costs a little more or a little less than a similarly-built PC. You see, CNET — and even Consumer Reports — evaluate the Mac and the PC as if they were the same.

Even Microsoft would admit that Windows and the Mac OS, though superficially similar, reside in different environments. I think even a fan of the former would admit that without hesitation, so putting them in the same sandbox is just not fair to either.

I suppose one could attack CNET on a number of grounds for continuing to perpetuate lies in their Mac coverage. Without actually knowing the current editors, however, I can only suggest they might want to write this drivel to look different and more hard-hitting as compared to other tech outlets that routinely give Apple much higher grades for their products.

Of all the possibilities, that’s the most charitable answer and I’ll stick with it for now. However, in light of CNET’s acquisition of MacFixIt, I do hope that things will soon take a big turn in a positive direction.