Today At AppleSource: Apple

Back-to-school time is in the air when many families and students decide to purchase a new MacBook. Before making a purchase, there are a few things to keep in mind and consider.

Happy shopping for a MacBook for students.

Decide on a screen size first and portability

Apple learningSource: Apple

Apple has two laptop lines, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Each product line is somewhat distinct for offering different screen sizes. Your first decision should be to decide on the screen size you want. If you want a 13.3-inch model, you'll have to decide whether to get a MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro based on other specifications. Otherwise, there's the 16-inch MacBook Pro. All models are on our list of the best MacBooks.

Along with screen size, be aware of the machine's weight and how that could affect portability. All of today's MacBook models are lighter than past models. However, some remain heavier than others. Especially for those on a large campus, there's a big difference between carrying a 2.8 pound MacBook Air and a 4.3 pound 16-inch MacBook Pro.

MacBook Air MacBook Pro
Release date November 2020 November 2020, November 2019
Display sizes 13.3 inches 13.3 inches and 16 inches
Processors Apple M1 M1 or Intel Core i5/i7/i9
RAM 8GB/16GB 8GB/16GB/32GB or 16GB/32GB/64GB
Storage 256GB to 2TB 256GB to 8TB
Weight 2.8 pounds 3.1 pounds and 4.3 pounds
Color choices 3 2
Starting price $999 $1299

Buy as much processor speed as you can afford

Apple doesn't allow you to swap out parts on any of the current MacBook models. With this in mind, zero in on what you can afford and go with it -- starting with the processor speed. Expect to pay around $200 more as you move up to a better processor. However, don't go overboard.

If you're only purchasing a new laptop to take notes and write reports, save yourself some money and purchase less. Conversely, if you're planning on doing creative work using an Adobe product or something like Final Cut Pro, go with a bigger processor.

What about Apple silicon?

Cupertino is in the process of transitioning its entire Mac lineup from Intel-based processors to an Apple silicon system on a chip (SoC). Currently, both the MacBook Air and entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro offer an Apple M1 SoC. However, older MacBook Pro models, including the entire 16-inch lineup, still offers Intel processors inside.

Unless you really indeed the 16-inch MacBook Pro, you should select a MacBook with Apple silicon. It's the company's future.

Same goes for RAM

Apple educationSource: Apple

Deciding how much computer memory to buy is also crucial. Random-access memory, or RAM, is your system's short-term data storage. The larger the RAM, the quicker your computer can access data. Additionally, the more programs your system is running, the more memory you'll need.

Again, Apple doesn't let you change RAM on MacBooks after purchase, so you'll want to choose wisely.

How about storage?

With the advent of cloud-based computing, the amount of onboard storage on computers isn't nearly as significant as it was just a few years ago. With this in mind, I recommend not purchasing the minimum storage available on any given MacBook. That number, which currently stands at 256GB, probably isn't enough for most people over the long term. Conversely, having over 1TB of storage on a laptop is perhaps too much for most folks.

Consider a portable hard drive

It would be best if you backed up your MacBook regularly using the built-in Time Machine feature. For this, you should invest in a portal hard drive. These come in various sizes and price points, with many often being on sale.

Get a case

MacBooks are beautiful devices. Unfortunately, they are also fragile. To protect your investment, be sure to purchase a case or bag. There are plenty of options out there, with great cases for your MacBook Air or for your MacBook Pro.

Do buy AppleCare+

Buying a MacBook isn't cheap; replacing parts without a warranty is also expensive. Each Apple laptop comes with one year of hardware repair coverage. I recommend purchasing AppleCare+ to extend that coverage to three years. You can buy your coverage at the time of purchase or at any time during the first year.

AppleCare+ Logo


AppleCare+ offers some nice additional protection for your MacBook in case of accidental damage and extends your coverage for hardware repair to three years.

Yes, education pricing is available

Apple EducationSource: Apple

When considering a MacBook for students, consider that year-round Apple provides discounts to qualifying higher-education students, parents purchasing on behalf of higher-education students, and faculty and staff at higher-education and K-12 institutions. In the lead-up to new school years worldwide, Cupertino typically adds extra incentives to convince you to buy through them.

For 2021, Apple is offering a mix of goodies, including free AirPods with some purchases, 20% off on AppleCare+, and more.

Promotions are available through Apple's online store, retail stores, and authorized campus stores, as well as through Apple's education site.

But check Amazon, too

After years of bickering, Amazon and Apple began playing nice with one another at the end of 2018. Since then, Amazon has fast become one of the most popular places to purchase Apple products online, including a full line-up of current and past MacBook models.

Amazon has been aggressive when it comes to discounting Apple products. However, don't expect to see huge discounts on current models. Instead, the largest deals can be found on new past models, always marked as Previous Model.

A word of caution: Be on the lookout for Apple products on Amazon marked Renewed. These products are not new.

According to Amazon:

Renewed products work and look like new. These pre-owned products are not Apple certified but have been inspected and tested by Amazon-qualified suppliers. Box and accessories may be generic. All Renewed products come with the 90-day Amazon Renewed Guarantee.

Finally, look at our cheat sheet

Apple MacBooksSource: Apple

Here's a breakdown of what's different with each current MacBook model:

Macbook Air 2020 M1 Silver

13-inch MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Apple's least expensive MacBook is also the most popular. It even has Touch ID and is the only current MacBook model to come in gold.

13 Inch Macbook Pro M1

13-inch MacBook Pro (2020, M1, 2020)

The smaller of the two Pro models is excellent for those looking for a smaller laptop but still want premium parts inside.
Available with/without Apple silicon.

16-inch MacBook Pro

16-inch MacBook Pro (2019)

Here's the one for designers and anyone else who wants a large display. It's also the most expensive model, even at its entry level.


Do you have anything to add to this guide? Let us know in the comments below.

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