Please explain MacBook Pro pricing anomaly to me
March 11, 2015 11:58 AM   Subscribe

In the current MacBook Pro lineup, there's a $100 dollar price jump between the 2.9Ghz i5 processors and 3.1 Ghz i7 processors on the 128GB and 256GB models, but a $200 difference for the same upgrade on the 512GB model, all other specs remaining the same. Is there any reason for this, aside from Apple deciding that people willing to spend that much simply won't mind paying another $100?
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It may be a typo, since the 512GB version comes already with an upgraded CPU over the others. They may be inadvertently reusing the pricing option for the lower specced models.

I would try calling Apple.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:06 PM on March 11, 2015

Does the i7 need a faster (and pricier) type of SDRAM to run compared to the i5?
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:13 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think it may have been a typo? When I go to the configure page on the 2.9ghz version, the ram upgrade is showing as $200 whether I upgrade the cpu or not.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 12:22 PM on March 11, 2015

Response by poster: Yeah, the RAM upgrade is consistent on all three models, as is the type of RAM (unless there's some strange reason that the 512MB hard drive would require different RAM). For clarity, here's what I'm confused about:

Hard Drive | Processor | Price
128 GB | 2.9Ghz | $x
128 GB | 3.1Ghz | $x+100
256 GB | 2.9Ghz | $y
256 GB | 3.1Ghz | $y+100
512 GB | 2.9Ghz | $z
512 GB | 3.1Ghz | $z+200

With all other components being identical.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 12:46 PM on March 11, 2015

Perhaps SSD costs do not scale linearly as storage increases. The largest capacities (currently 512 GB) seem to be the most expensive of available options per GB, e.g.:

• 128 GB, M.2 factor, Transcend, $65 (cite)
• 256 GB, M.2 factor, Crucial, $129 (cite)
• 512 GB, M.2 factor, Crucial, $389 (cite)

I have noticed the same non-linear trend in prices for flash storage for cameras, where the largest storage size category can be 3-4x the price of the next largest chip.

I admit that it is hard to justify a trend from one sample of prices from one vendor, but it might suggest further research, if you're interested.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:58 PM on March 11, 2015

Response by poster: Ok, one last clarification and I'll stop threadsitting:

SSD costs definitely aren't linear, but the price difference I'm curious about is purely about the upgrade from the 2.9Ghz processor to the 3.1Ghz. The only way I can see this making sense is to assume that the real price jump that Apple needs between the two processors is somewhere between $100 and $200, and that they're using the 3.1Ghz/512GB customers to subsidize the others, since the former are already showing that they're willing to spend. This seems like an odd thing to do when you can compare otherwise identical specs, but it's the only thing I can come up with.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 1:08 PM on March 11, 2015

Call it the "oh, you want the biggest and baddest config?" tax. (Instead of the "Apple tax".)
posted by Brian Puccio at 1:08 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

From a supply chain perspective, it might perhaps make sense for Apple to price the largest capacities to optimize the number of laptops they can sell, based on the parts they can source. They are the largest buyer of flash storage in the world, so when their customers buy a 512 GB SSD, that "takes away" supply of chips for making 256 GB SSDs. Making the 512 GB pricier might help ease supply constraints for the 256 GB drive capacity that is in the price point that the bulk of their customers will end up buying.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:10 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Because, at this point, you can't upgrade the SSD in a current-gen macbook pro retina. If you want the fastest CPU with the bigger drive, you're going to pay extra.
posted by Oktober at 1:17 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

There is an uptick because The 3.1 Ghz processor is more expensive because of the lower yield during production. It is trickier to make faster chips. However this does not explain the extra hundo.
posted by Gungho at 1:45 PM on March 11, 2015

Did they just change the website? When I look at them the 128 and 256 MB SSDs have 2.7 GHz as the base model and 2.9 costs $100 more and 3.1 costs $200. The 512 MB SSD base version for some reason is 2.9 GHz and the 3.1 upgrade also costs $200. (There's no 2.7 GHz option for the 512 MB SSD.)

It looks like the upgrade cost is the same for all three 13" models.
posted by sevenless at 2:06 PM on March 11, 2015

When I look at them the 128 and 256 MB SSDs have 2.7 GHz as the base model and 2.9 costs $100 more and 3.1 costs $200.

The 3.1 costs $200 over the 2.7. So it's $100 over the 2.9 on that machine. But it's $200 over the 2.9 in the top model. You'll see this if you click the radio button for the 2.9 on the 128GB machine - the 3.1 upgrade will change to say "Add $100."
posted by primethyme at 2:12 PM on March 11, 2015

Just call an Apple store and ask them.
posted by jeffamaphone at 2:14 PM on March 11, 2015

There's no technical reason I can think of, just as there's no technical reason why the SSD size isn't a BTO option on the lower models: it's a commercial decision. I'd agree with Brian Puccio that it's a "max everything" tax for people who require the 512GB model, and with the OP that it's probably done to allow nice round figures for upgrades on lower specs. I vaguely recall something similar with the "max everything" BTO options for the top-end Mac Pro.
posted by holgate at 2:31 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is likely an error in their website. I swear it's happened before. Support chat or call them.

It took me a minute to figure out what you were describing, but yea, there's no way that's correct.
posted by emptythought at 4:31 PM on March 11, 2015

Because they can.
posted by devnull at 1:54 AM on March 12, 2015

It is probably a typo, the UK site shows the same £170 increase from 2.9 to 3.1GHz on all models.

N.B. $100 = £66.81 at present exchange rates, thus the increase is about 2.5x more on this side of the pond, our prices include tax at 20% but still...
posted by epo at 2:36 AM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for that info, epo; I hadn't even thought of comparing rates with non-US apple stores. UK pricing is internally consistent, but not at all consistent with the US pricing (for example, the processors upgrades are the same price premium on each tier, but they're all [mid-level=entry-level+£80, high-end=mid-level+£170], compared to the $100 increase for each upgrade level in the US, aside from the 512GB tier that inspired this question).

I suspect the "because they can" answers are correct (with a side of "nice round numbers"), but I'll send Apple an email and see if I get an official response before marking a best answer.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 10:04 AM on March 12, 2015

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