Deagol

How many Macs did Apple sell last quarter?

April 20, 2012: 6:30 AM ET

Estimates range from 4.3 to 4.85 million. The best analysts' consensus: 4.64 million

Click to enlarge. Source: Company reports; Apple 2.0FORTUNE -- Compared with Apple's (AAPL) iOS devices -- the iPhone and the iPad -- the Mac is a turtle. Slow and steady has characterized its growth rate since the launch of the iPhone -- an average of 26% year over year for the past five years.

This time, with no new Mac introductions to boost sales in the quarter that just ended, analysts across the board are expecting growth rates closer to 20%.

In fact, in this category it's hard to tell the Wall Street analysts from the amateurs.

The average estimate among the 51 analysts we polled for this report was 4.54 million, 20.7% higher than the 3.76 million sold in the same quarter last year.

One the low end, nine of them -- six professionals and three independents -- submitted estimates of 4.3 million, a growth rate of 14.4%

The top estimate of 4.85 million, submitted by a pair of independent analysts, Navin Nagrani and Daniel ("Deagol") Tello, corresponds to a growth rate of 29%.

The consensus among the six best analysts with the best track record over the past five quarters was that Mac sales grew 23.3% year over year to reach 4.64 million.

We'll find out who was closest to the mark when Apple reports its earnings after the markets close next Tuesday, April 24.

Below the fold: The analysts' individual estimates, with the pros in blue and the amateurs in green.

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