Since I first used my buddy's Mac Mini back in 2007 in order to record some music with Garage Band, I have been impressed with the quality of engineering put into such a small tool.
For this reason I went out to reach several Apple/Mac professionals in order to learn more about Apple desktops, laptops and servers in general, and how they could be used to replace Windows PCs in both personal/home and work/office environments.
I consistently encountered this situation: when challenged with technical performance questions, Apple/Mac representatives and consultants became quite defensive, impatient and were not able to produce consistent statistics/details for the performance of Mac Minis, iMacs and MacBook Pros.. They suggested I just go ahead and purchase the equipment and then figure it out on my own whether they would work for me.
The explanation I was able to obtain from them was that Macs work very well with whatever they were designed to work with in the first place, and using other applications/hardware was basically a hit or miss, depending on the third-party software or hardware vendor. I only found one gentleman - whom I understand used to work as a programmer for Apple and now has his own consulting business - who had the patience and was willing to answer all my questions and demonstrate the tool's capabilities and limitations.
What I got from these experiences is that Macs in general are affordable, great quality low to mid-level "workstations", with some built-in flexibility, are somewhat expandable, and seem to be low-maintenance.
After going through the aforementioned experience and because I have been involved with Windows PCs for many years, non-computer-professional people do come to me asking for recommendations on what to buy new or upgrade their existing computers to.
When they ask me "what about a Mac?", I tell them: "first I would like to ask you what are you planning on using your new computer for," and most of the time I get: "I want something fast for going online, chatting, web-browsing, watching online videos, keeping track of my pictures and videos, word processing and some basic games." I tell them that they cannot go wrong by purchasing a MacBook, a Mac Mini, or an iMac - with some minimum specs - according to their budget and ambition.
These people go running to check prices online or to the Apple Store, Micro Center or Best Buy, and some call me all excited from the store and tell me they found the Mac's I suggested, and they make the purchase right there and then, if they can afford it. Others tell me over the phone that the rep at the store showed them a "nicer looking"/"faster"/"bigger screen" Windows-based computer for about the same price they would pay for the Mac, which would accomplish at least the same as the Mac.
In the end, brand name tax or not, in my experience, most people I have come across just get the tool they can afford, can at least perform the minimum tasks they expect, and accomplish it in the most comfortable manner available within their budget.
Now, regarding my own ambition, I have my sights set on the first 17" MacBook Pro with Nehalem processor that becomes available. I will likely run Windows 7 as my primary OS in order to use all the pro software I already own for PC, which has been working fine for me these past couple of years on my not-so-solid Dell Latitude running Windows Vista. I like the expected quality and performance of the MacBook Pro's components, design, size, weight, features and feel. I only wish they had the option of a graphite case instead of the metal.
I just wanted to share this with everyone because the impression I get is that most posts generalize the situation in favor or against one or the other. I know it is human nature that each one of us wants to deliver the definitive opinion/answer to a problem/situation, but maybe we should each strive to stick to specific first-hand personal experience instances, which, to my thinking, can benefit those readers who need it most, so they can make up their own mind.
I believe we will all benefit positively from all of these marketing wars.
Not a sermon, just an idea.