Which Mac should you buy?

One of our most common questions –pdated for 2019.

Predictably, the answer depends on your needs, but this guide is written for the general user looking for a laptop, and thus should be a useful starting point for most people.

Photo credit: Markus Spiske / Unsplash

UPDATE: We recommend the new MacBook Air over the MacBook. In years past, the Air was a premium product for its thinness and weight, while the MacBook was the "basic" model. As of this writing, most users would be better served with the 13" MacBook Air.

Should you even buy a new Mac?

If you look at your local online classifieds, you'll doubtless see many used Macs. Macs hold their value like a good used car. If they're not too old and you do a little homework, you can save yourself hundreds. The key thing is that they need to be current enough to still be getting security updates and a modern, supported OS (we recommend Sierra, 10.13).

This is not an exhaustive list, but are some criteria you should look for in a used Mac:

  • For casual use: 2011 and newer
  • For professional use: 2014 and newer
  • A solid state drive. All iMacs, and MacBook Pros that are roughly an inch thick can be upgraded, as well as some of the thinner laptops. Disclaimer: we offer this service.
  • 8 GB of RAM (memory)
  • 128 GB of storage space is common, since that's the base storage for Macs with SSDs, but it can be a considerable drawback if you're upgrading from something with a typical hard disk of 512 GB or 1 TB. Still, you may be able to get by with 128 GB by using supplemental or cloud storage.

Is the cost still worth it?

The $1199 price is still prohibitive for many, with only the non-Retina 13" Air as Apple's "sub–$1000" offering (at $999 before tax). In our view, it's too much to spend, given the specs, if you don't care about owning a Mac. In other words, a fine computer can be found for much less. However, if you are accustomed to Macs, you won't go wrong by buying a new one, so long as it's in your budget.

If you're looking to squeeze a few more years out of your current Mac, you may want to consider a SSD (solid state drive) upgrade. We've revitalized many an older Mac with this game-changing technology that's only recently become cost-effective as an upgrade option. Contact us for advice on your specific upgrade options.

We're Macs, but like most people we know, we don't have limitless cash. So we're ho-hum about the value of Apple's current offerings. The basic 12" MacBook is lightweight and powerful for most people, but Apple's keyboard (for all its laptops, we might add) has been derided as overly susceptible to breakage; the subject of at least three class-action lawsuits. Oh, and did we mention this “low-end” model starts at $1299 before tax?

Apple has announced a repair program and extended (but finite) warranty for its laptops with keyboard issue, but it doesn't appear the design flaw has actually been fixed, and a repair may take a minimum of five days to complete.

Size and Budget

It's worth mentioning that its crisp display is only 12" (measured diagonally). We suggest spending some time with one to help determine if it's easy on your eyes when being used for longer stretches of time.

The best option for many is to purchase an inexpensive (non-Apple) monitor for your desk and connect it to your laptop when productivity demands a larger screen. 

The MacBook Pro is fairly pricy to recommend, especially if you don't need the extra power. The 13" starts at $1299 and the 15" is a whopping $2399. We hate to say it, but if you are on a budget and need a larger screen laptop, you might be better of with a PC.

Past research has suggested that it may be worth overcoming the sticker shock of a Mac because the maintenance costs of a PC might mean more over the life of the machine, but it's not clear if those findings are still relevant today.

If you are eligible for academic pricing, it can make the cost of a Mac more palatable.

The Clearance Option

There are plenty of places in life to avoid the bargain section, but the Apple's online store is not one of them (nor is it really a bargain, if we're being honest). But very smart alternatives to the Macs with top billing can be found in the Refurbished & Clearance section.  Inventory changes frequently. They are guaranteed to look and perform identically to a new Mac and come with the same 1-year warranty.

Speaking of warranties, you can extend your one year warranty to three by purchasing AppleCare, but a good middle ground is to pay for your computer with an Amex, Amazon or other credit card that will add a year of warranty protection for free.

Keyboard Insurance

There is no laptop accident more common than a liquid spill, and it takes very little to bring about a $500 repair or more. For this reason, a high quality keyboard protector is mandatory. We recommend the Moshi ClearGuard.

Got additional questions to help make your tech decision the right one? Schedule a consultation with us to ensure a good fit between you and your future computer.

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