In this article, I’ll be going over the current options available from Apple if you’re looking to purchase a new Mac, or helping someone else make that decision.
When it comes to Macs, you essentially have a choice to make between buying a laptop computer versus buying a desktop computer. Obviously, with a Mac laptop, there is the massive advantage of having a mobile computer that you can carry around with you wherever you like. You can then get work done from wherever you please, whether it’s for work, school or personal use. The trade-off is that you will be probably be working with a smaller screen, and maybe a little bit less powerful machine than with a desktop Mac. The desktop Macs are designed to give you a little better performance, more connections for external hard drives and other devices, and generally speaking, a much bigger screen to work with.
As far as laptops, the MacBook line of computers includes the MacBook Air, the MacBook, and the MacBook Pro. Here’s a summary of what you can expect with each:
– MacBook Air: This is the cheapest laptop offered by Apple. It has a 13.3 inch screen and weighs right around 3 pounds. It’s great for anyone who travels a lot and mainly just needs a computer for web-browsing, email and other light tasks. Ranging between $1000 to $1200 for a new MacBook Air, you’re getting a great little computer for a very reasonable price compared to some other Macs. The downside is that it is a little bit under-powered and there is no way to upgrade the hard drive or RAM later on. So, the computer that you buy initially is what you’re stuck with for the life of the machine.
– MacBook: This is the middle of the road option and the lightest available Mac laptop. It has a 12 inch screen and weighs only 2 pounds. You also get a higher quality Retina display, as well as a very decent processor and more options than the MacBook Air. You can end up spending anywhere between $1300 to $1750 for a new MacBook depending on which configuration you choose. It is very much geared for people who want the very lightest Mac available while still having reasonably good power under the hood. But, it only has one USB-C connection, which can be very limiting. So, if you need to connect to external devices, be prepared to carry adapters with you.
– MacBook Pro: This is the most powerful laptop Mac made by Apple, and the most versatile in terms of all the ways you can configure your machine. As the Pro designation implies, these are capable of handling most anything you’ll throw at it. Such as intricate presentations, photo and movie editing, music production or any other computer intensive tasks you might need to work on. You can choose between 4 different 13 inch screen models, or 2 different 15 inch screen models. And these weigh anywhere between 3 to 4.5 pounds. So, in truth, these are still very light computers and very easy to carry around with you. On top of the ability to get a larger screen, you also get 2 or 4 USB-C ports depending on which model you get. Which means you’ll probably still need some adapters for some external devices. The prices can vary wildly on the MacBook Pro, depending on which configuration you purchase, ranging anywhere from $1300 for the cheapest model, all the way to $4200 if you decide to go all out. The MacBook Pro line are the best portable Macs available, and really don’t have to cost you that much for a great computer. But of course, someone with professional needs can easily end up spending quite a bit of money.
Next, we’ll look at the desktop computers available from Apple.
– Mac mini: The Mac mini is an interesting option for some Mac users. It’s a tiny little computer (weighing just about 2.5 pounds) that easily fits just about anywhere in a home or office. But it does not come with its own display, keyboard or mouse. You need to purchase those separately. You can spend anywhere from $500 to $200o depending on how you choose to configure the Mac mini. You should be aware that the Mac mini currently available are the same one that have been shipping since 2014. So, technologically speaking, these are definitely not the most advanced Macs you’ll find. But, they perform just fine for most tasks. One of the big advantage of the Mac mini, is that they come with plenty of connection and expansion options. Such as an HDMI port, 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports, 4 USB 3 ports, an Ethernet port, and an SDXC card slot. So, you can easily hook up tons of devices to the Mac mini without any need for adapters or hubs. The Mac mini can be a really good option if you don’t need to fastest Mac to do your work, but want something nice and small that can fit pretty much anywhere on a desk.
– iMac: In many ways, the iMac is the flagship computer made by Apple in 2018. It’s an all-in-one computer that is a very well-built and attractive, with fast performance and lots of expansion capabilities. There are 3 flavors of the iMac currently made; Standard, Retina Display and iMac Pro. The iMacs have 2 available screen sizes to choose from, either 21.5-inch or 27-inch screens. You can spend anywhere from $1100 for the entry level iMac, all the way up to $12,000 for the very top of the line iMac Pro loaded with all the most expensive configurations installed. You also get an SDXC card slot, 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports, 4 USB 3 ports, and an Ethernet port. Overall, the iMac range is quite broad in terms of both pricing and capability. But, in all my years of working and servicing Macs for clients over the last 20 years, I have found iMacs to be the most reliable and long-lasting Macs made by Apple. The large screens are a pleasure to work on, and if you’re doing anything that requires quite a bit of horsepower, the iMac is the computer you should be looking at.
– Mac Pro: This is Apple’s workstation computer, but unfortunately, it hasn’t really been updated since 2013. If you need a serious professional Mac, this should be your choice, but sadly, this is not a computer you should be buying. At this point, the iMac Pro is a more powerful computer than this outdated Mac Pro for most tasks. Apple has already announced that they are currently working on a new Mac Pro, and more information should be available in the first half of 2018. But for now, no one should really be buying this computer.
So, personally, I think if you’re looking for a new Mac, the MacBook Pro and the iMac are the two most attractive options currently available. You can get a very reasonably priced MacBook Pro that is clearly a much better machine than what you get with the MacBook Air or MacBook. In my experience, the MacBook Pros are very solidly built and tend to last longer than other MacBooks.
And if you need a powerful computer with a large screen, you have some great options with iMac line. You can get a really nice entry level iMac for as little as $1100 that should satisfy all your needs and last you for years. Or you can spend extra and build to order a very powerful iMac that can handle any professional application requirements with ease. I’m a very big fan of iMacs in general.
If you want to see another breakdown of the current Mac lineup, Macworld has this article describing each model in detail.