Mac Buyers Guide

Mac Buyers Guide

At first glance Apple seems to have a simple product grid when it comes to their personal computer line-up, the Mac. You can get a laptop or desktop. If you want a laptop, you can choose between the ultra-portable MacBook, the MacBook Air and the ultra-powerful MacBook Pro. But you can also choose between a couple of different screen sizes each, along with optional increases for RAM, CPU, storage, and more. If you want a desktop, you can choose between the entry-level Mac Mini, the all-in-one iMac, or the workstation-like Mac Pro. But again, the their are options for just about everything. Which one should you get, and which options with it?

iPad Air 2 vs. MacBook Air: Which Apple ultra-portable should you get?

iPad Air 2 vs. MacBook Air: Which Apple ultra-portable should you get?

Apple has two products designated as "Air", the MacBook Air, updated most recently in March 2015 with the latest generation Intel Haswell processors, and the brand new iPad Air 2, introduced in October with a custom Apple A8X chipset. Both are ultra light, super thin, and have insanely great battery life, but one has a keyboard and runs OS X and the other a multitouch and iOS. Both can be absolutely killer on a plane, in an office, or around the house. But which one is better for you?

MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro: Which laptop should you get?

MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro: Which laptop should you get?

You've decided that it's time to replace your aging Mac with one of Apple's new laptops. Or maybe you're jumping onto the Mac platform for the first time. MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, MacBook Pros with Retina displays - there are a lot of options. They run the gamut of prices, too. What do you get for your money? And which model is best suited for you?

MacBook Air 11-inch vs. 13-inch: Which ultralight laptop should you get?

MacBook Air 11-inch vs. 13-inch: Which ultralight laptop should you get?

We've already compared MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros, and you've decided that the svelte MacBook Air is right for you. Now you have to decide which MacBook Air is right for you - the smaller 11-inch model or the larger 13-inch version? Also, what configure to order options make the most sense? Let's have a look.

MacBook Pro with Retina display 13-inch vs. 15-inch: Which powerful Mac laptop should you get?

MacBook Pro with Retina display 13-inch vs. 15-inch: Which powerful Mac laptop is right for you?

You're going to buy a new Mac, and you've narrowed your choice to one of Apple's new sleek, speedy MacBook Pros with Retina display. Seems like an easy choice, doesn't it? Just decide which screen size is right for you: 13-inch or 15-inch, then pull the trigger. Not so fast. There are other considerations you should make, as well. Because screen size isn't the only different between the two machines. This guide should help you iron out some of them.

Mac mini vs. iMac vs. Mac Pro: Which Apple desktop should you get?

Mac mini vs. iMac vs. Mac Pro: Which Apple desktop should you get?

Not everyone needs or wants the portability a Mac laptop has to offer. For everyone else, Apple makes desktop models, ranging in price from Apple's cheapest system to its most expensive. They run a wide gamut of performance and ability, so let's take a look and see what might be best for you.

Retina 5K iMac vs. Mac Pro: Which Mac powerhouse should you get?

Retina iMac vs. Mac Pro: Which Mac powerhouse should you get?

Apple's introduction of the Retina iMac marks the first time that a desktop Macintosh has gotten the "Retina" treatment, and it's nothing short of stunning, capable of displaying 5K resolution. With that many pixels on the screen and with prodigious power under the hood, you may be wondering whether the Retina iMac or a new Mac Pro is a better choice. Let's have a look.

Mac mini: Which entry-level options should you get?

Mac mini: Which entry-level options should you get?

At $599, the Mac mini is the entry-level Mac computer. It's $400 less than the next least expensive system, the MacBook Air. It's also a step behind other Mac models because it hasn't yet been refreshed with the Haswell microprocessors or faster Wi-Fi that other Macs have gotten in 2013. But that low price tag and older processor don't make the Mac mini unworthy of consideration: It's still a powerful little computer that's very flexible for many different uses, from general-purpose desktop machine to media server to full fledged file server. Let's have a look at the different configurations to make sense of what Apple's offering.

21.5-inch iMac vs. 27-inch iMac: Which all-in-one desktop Mac should you get?

21.5-inch iMac vs. 27-inch iMac: Which all-in-one desktop Mac should you get?

iMac is an incredibly elegant flat panel all-in-one design that has gotten progressively thinner over the years as Apple has done everything it can to get the computer itself out of the way of the computing experience. Within the iMac product line, however, there are a lot of options to consider, so let's take a look at what Apple is offering.

The New Mac Pro: What options to Apple's high-end Mac should you get?

The New Mac Pro: What options to Apple's high-end Mac should you get?

First previewed in June at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), the new Mac Pro is a game changer. It's a complete reimagination of what a high-end workstation Mac looks like - no longer a giant monolithic tower system with gobs of internal expandability, the new Mac Pro takes up one-eighth the desktop space of its predecessor. It does so by working with a unified thermal core: looking at the Mac Pro without its cover on, you'll see three circuit boards assembled into a triangular wedge, ribbed internally with a shared heat sink; a fan draws in air to cool the components, and heat rises out through the top.

As impressive a piece of industrial design as the Mac Pro is, it's what's running inside that's truly amazing, though, so let's take a look and figure out how you can best configure your new Mac Pro.

CPU vs. RAM vs. SSD: Which Mac upgrades should you get?

CPU vs. RAM vs. SSD: Which Mac upgrades make the most sense?

You've decided what Mac to get, but firing up the Apple online store web site presents you with myriad customization options. You can often have a faster or more capable CPU installed, have more RAM put in, or upgrade storage capacity. Which upgrades make the most sense?

Need more help?

There's a lot to consider, and if you still have questions, if there are still details you want to work out, we have fantastic information pages that are always kept up-to-the-minute, and amazing community forums filled with experts for you to talk with. Bookmark them and check back often! And once you've decided, let us know in the comments - which Mac did you get and why?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Mac Buyers Guide


What is it with all the buyers guides? This site reads more and more like an elaborate advertisement for Apple. Is this the price to pay for your tickets to the big product announcement events?

Can we have some objective, balanced articles containing valid criticism as well please. Eg. Macbook air - poor screen, macbook pro 13 underpowered, imac - limited upgrades, mac pro - expensive, accessories - shockingly expensive etc etc etc

What's wrong with this post? There are people looking for a clarity about the kind of Mac to buy. Articles like these may not appeal to regular Mac users, but for those thinking about switching to a Mac, this is really helpful.

We publish our buyers guides once a year, every year, and have been doing so for three or four years, long before anyone here was ever invited to any event.

They remain our objective assessments of the pros and cons of each product and each SKU, and they're meant to help people choose the right one for them.

Maybe the Mac Pro is over powered for someone who just wants to do email and surf the web; maybe the MacBook Air doesn't need upgrades for someone who doesn't want to have to maintain their own hardware.

If they don't appeal to you, by all means skip them and enjoy something else.

Otherwise, I'll just offer you a sincere unicode high five and hope you feel less conspiratorial and ranty next time...

I apologise for my conspiratorial rantiness and return your unicode high five.

As a recent convert to the Mac I'm just feeling a little uncomfortable reading site after site of gushing praise and repeated use of Apple's magical and revolutionary adjectives instead of objective criticism where it is deserved. (I'm trying to decide whether I can justify buying a macbook pro btw)

Mac things that have disgruntled me so far:
Why is smb broken?
Why is the clock on my mac refusing to keep time due to some weird apple ntpd modification?
Why does my ssd not support trim?

Bought a MacBook Pro for $1799 at best buy around April 2010. Did buy the geek squad black tie for $500 for two years. Then paid another $379 for the third year. Must say Mac is sure not worth it. Twice had it serviced as they sent it away for two weeks. This thing with the blue screen is absurd. The power adapter end frails within a year. Went through three. This April time to renew warranty I decided not to. Blue screen came back with a vengeance. By the end of June MacBook is shot. No Mac store within 45 minutes from where I live I said the heck with it. Got a HP and doing fine with windows. Not perfect by far, but for $500 dollars I'll live with it. You'd think Apple would make a better machine. If you don't spend BIG money on extended warranty on Apple you're a fool. I just don't have that kind of money to spend. Never a Mac for this user again.

I can't believe you threw away $879 to Best buy when you could have had 3 years of AppleCare for around $200. You know you can get AppleCare even if you buy from a re-seller. Shame on you for not educating yourself.

The last time I got a computer from BB was an Asus laptop whose screen failed within a month. BB would not accept a return or fix it or help in any way. Had to send it away to Asus. I have never has a Windows PC with their cheap plastic cases last more than a few years. The cheap cases crack, and the screens flex so bad they fail quickly.

Don't even get me going on the huge power supply bricks that come with Windows PCs. At least I can get them off ebay for $20 because they never last more than a year.

The only computers that have lasted are my MacBook Airs - still going strong after 3 years. The one time I had a problem, Apple fixed it at their store within a few minutes - never see that happen with a Windows PC.

True I made a bad decision. BB did have accidental insurance in the policy. That being said MacBook Pro has a major problem with that blue screen. Also the power supply adapters all frail under a year. BB plan did include one in the plan. They even replaced it twice on the 2yr plan. Battery was also included but didn't have battery problems. If MacBook Pro 15 inch was $700 I'd buy another with the AppleCare plan.

I hook a super drive to my MacBook Pro bottom stock configuration and it takes a while when I wake the the DVD player and skips some frames. What do I probably need?

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