Every time I hear the same argument about Macs costing so much more than a Windows PC, part of me wants to break out the calculator and explain exactly why there is a price difference. Believe it or not, you’re not paying for a “brand” as much as you are paying for actual differences in hardware and software.

First, let’s talk bloatware. Bloatware is this generally software installed in a new computer that is intended to advertise something. These are usually shareware and trial programs that offer anti-virus protection, office programs, etc. What happens here, is the computer manufacturer gets paid a significant amount of money to include these programs on their computers. This then offsets the cost and allows the company to pass on the savings to the customer. That $700 laptop is really a $900 laptop with a couple hundred dollars worth of sponsored software pre-installed.

Another difference between the two systems is included software. It can be argued that OS X and Windows are roughly the same in terms of cost and overall functionality. One does things differently than the other, but they’re both operating systems. Where the big differences lie is in Apple’s decision to include the iLife Suite with each new Mac. This suite includes a basic photo manager, audio, music, and video editors, and a DVD creation program. If you searched for programs with the same basic functionality on the PC, they would come with a significant price tag. Microsoft has made significant improvements in Windows Movie Maker and other programs offered with their Windows Live suite, giving Apple some added competition in this area recently.

Build quality is usually brought up in the Mac vs. PC debates to a roll of the eyes. The fact of the matter is that unibody designs, polycarbonate and aluminum built materials with actual glass over the trackpad and screen, and other little touches make Macs a strong competitor to even the highest priced PCs in terms of build quality. If you wanted to buy an all-in-one PC with the same screen resolution as an iMac, you’ll easily find yourself spending the same amount for either machine. You may also trade off build material quality for a touch screen, which may work out better for you depending on your actual needs.

Hardware specs are one area where PC users feel they have the best value. Macs usually come with lackluster video card choices, so-so CPU options at lower price points, and have a reputation for being behind the times. What PC users don’t take in to account is the higher demands of a Windows-based PC. Just sitting on idle, the Windows machine eats clock cycles and RAM at often double the amount of the Mac. OS X also addresses kernel requests differently than Windows. If you were to watch a movie in 1080p on a Windows machine and a Mac with the same exact hardware specs, you might find the Windows machine takes longer to load the video and may have more jerks during playback. This is because of a few fundamental differences in how the operating system communicates with the processor. There is a reason the majority of the movie industry does their edits on Mac machines, and have for quite some time.

While this article may appear to be strongly supportive of OS X and bashing of Windows, it’s important to remember that each system has its own areas where it absolutely excels. If you’re a gamer, for example, you probably want to go with a PC since they not only get the first crack at most games, but they also have targeted hardware for that very purpose. Apple has recently started to push their systems as a gaming platform, but frankly the PC is leaps and bounds ahead of the Mac in this area. There are many advantages to going with Windows over OS X in this regard. What matters most is what you intend to do with the computer.

The cost difference between the two isn’t as high as one might think. You get a strong value in included software, no bloatware, better build materials on average, and in many cases more punch per clock cycle. If you wanted to achieve all of this on a Windows machine, you’d likely be spending the same, if not more.