MacBook Family

Apple's 2017 MacBook lineup is a much-needed refresh with a faster processor, but is that enough of a reason for you to upgrade?

If you've been in the market for a new laptop, now is the time to buy. Apple's latest and greatest MacBook family has been refreshed with the long-awaited Kaby Lake processor, up to 50% faster SSD, and a faster graphics standard for the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Apple also dropped the entry-level price of the 13-inch MacBook Pro to be in line with the MacBook at only $1,299. The MacBook family now sports the fastest laptops Apple has ever made. The question is, should you buy one?

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Are you upgrading from a 2013 or earlier MacBook family?

MacBook

Four years may not seem like a very long time, but in the tech world, it's a lot. Tech years are more like dog years. Your 4-year-old Mac laptop is like a 28-year-old. It's outdated, missing some very important technology for taking advantage of the latest macOS features, and at this point, it's probably starting to run a little slow because you've been filling it up with documents, pictures, and movies for the past four years. I know it still runs great and you love it, but it's time for an upgrade.

A friend recently asked me why he can't just keep his phone/tablet/laptop for 10 years without worrying about his purchases becoming obsolete immediately. I said, "Why would you want to keep a 10-year-old device when technology is advancing so fast and new products are being developed so quickly?"

Yes, your years-old MacBook probably runs great, but why would you want to keep using something so outdated when you could be using an incredibly thin, light laptop with wide color display, better speakers, advanced Kaby Lake graphics, and a whole lot more.

That being said, if you're running a newer model MacBook, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air, the reasons to upgrade shrink somewhat. For example, the latest MacBook Pro does not have an SD card slot and all ports are USB-C. Additionally, the keyboard implements the butterfly mechanism instead of the scissor switch version that was used in previous MacBook Pro keyboards. If these changes are a turn-off, and your current Mac laptop is only two years old, you may want to stick it out another year. Things won't revert on the MacBook Pro, but you will have a little more time to get used to the idea of being without the ports and familiar keyboard. Plus, your 2-year-old Mac laptop is not so old it is obsolete. It's just getting older.

Do you need a faster laptop within a year?

MacBook Pro

By the time a person starts thinking about replacing a laptop, it's usually because the current model has started to slow down and show its age. If you need your MacBook to pick up the pace, maybe it's time for an upgrade.

The 2017 MacBook Air received a minor upgrade with just a slightly faster 1.8GHz Broadwell processor (as opposed to 1.6GHz in the 2015 model). About a year ago, it received a RAM upgrade to 8GB, so it's definitely faster than it was two years ago but has not received any other major upgrades in years. That being said, the MacBook Air starts at only $999, so it's the best entry-level Mac laptop in the family for anyone switching from PC.

The 2017 MacBook has a seventh-generation Intel Core m3, i5, or i7 processor with a faster solid state drive and processor with up to 3.6GHz. The processor runs on low energy, which means it generates less heat, and the logic board is on an anisotropic graphite sheet. This is why Apple did not outfit it with a cooling fan. It's much faster without overheating at the same time.

The MacBook Pro received the biggest update of the family, but that actually happened in 2016. If you have the 2016 MacBook Pro, you shouldn't even be reading this. If you're still holding onto an older model, though, the 2017 MacBook Pro is Apple's best laptop ever. It can be outfitted with the seventh-generation Intel Core processor with 3.1 to 4.1GHZ Turbo Boost 2.2 to 3.2GB per second on SSD. The 15-inch model sports the Radeon Pro GPU configuration and up to 4GB of GDDR5 memory. The 13-inch model has 64GB of embedded DRAM with accelerated graphics.

As you can tell, the 2017 MacBook family is fast. It's going to be a while before Apple makes the laptop line faster or more powerful than this. If you need to speed up your workflow soon, now is the time to invest in the MacBook family. Otherwise, you'll likely be waiting at least another year (maybe more) to get something faster.

Do you really need a desktop but think a MacBook might do the trick?

5K Display

Well, you wouldn't be wrong to think that the MacBook Pro could run as a desktop, especially since it supports 5K external displays. If you've got the money (or already have a fancy display), you're not going to be disappointed with the power and productivity you'll get out of the matchup. Even better, your "desktop" setup can be broken down into a mobile computing device without skipping a beat. Just disconnect your MacBook Pro from your display and you're on the road.

The thing is, the latest and greatest MacBook family, though powerful enough for practically everything you could ever need, is still a MacBook. Other than a headphone jack, the entire family comes with USB-C ports and nothing else. No SD card reader, no USB-A ports. Not even an ethernet cable for directly connecting to your router. If you've got a lot of accessories, like external hard drives, microphones, cameras, or iPhone chargers that you want to connect to your desktop, you're not going to be able to plug them into your MacBook without an adapter. I should point out that most external displays do include a number of different types of ports, so you won't be totally lost.

If you think your daily driver needs to be a beast of a computer, and you don't think you'll need to take it on the go with you, you might as well take a look at the newly refreshed 2017 iMac, which is also available right now.

Or if you have some time before your computer completely burns to the ground, you should check out the iMac Pro, coming December 2017. It's a pretty amazing machine.

Do you have legacy USB peripherals?

MacBook Air

As I noted above, the entire MacBook family is only outfitted with USB-C ports (other than the 3.5mm headphone jack), so many of your accessories and gadgets, like external microphones, cameras, hard drives, and iPhone (yes, I see the irony) won't connect directly to the 2017 MacBook family. Instead, you'll need one or more USB-A to USB-C adapters. You can get a multiport hub for connecting multiple peripherals at the same time, thus requiring fewer dongles. At least for a while, however, you're probably going to need to dongle up to connect your favorite accessories to your MacBook. The good news is that USB-C is pretty future-proof and over the next couple of years, we'll be seeing more and more peripherals supporting the superior cable system.

So should you upgrade to the 2017 MacBook family or not?

MacBook Family

Of course, the price is a major factor in why someone may or may not buy a new MacBook this year. But if we're not taking anyone's financial situation into account (which is impossible to do because everyone is different), the short answer is: if you've got a MacBook less than a year old, no. If you're replacing a 4-year-old or older MacBook, yes. The in-betweeners ... read my suggestions below.

Who should get a MacBook Air?

If you're switching from PC and buying a Mac for the first time, you don't have a lot of spare cash lying around, or don't need a laptop for too much heavy computer lifting, the MacBook Air is the perfect low-cost (relatively), entry level laptop.

If you're currently using a MacBook Air from 2015 or 2016, you will not even notice the minor spec upgrade, and therefore should not get the 2017 MacBook Air. Instead, you might consider the new MacBook or MacBook Pro.

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Who should get a MacBook?

The standard 12-inch MacBook launched two years ago and has received a minor update of major proportions. That is, it's much faster than its predecessor. It's outfitted with the Intel Kaby Lake m3, i5, and i7 processor and faster SSD storage. Even from just two years ago, it's a big improvement. But should you upgrade if your MacBook is less than two years old? Not really. Not unless something is faulty in your current MacBook (in which case you should probably get that fixed through AppleCare). It's faster but not enough to justify buying a new MacBook this soon. The mid-level Mac laptop didn't get any other upgrades than the processor and faster SSD. If your current MacBook is less than two years old and it's running like a bullet train, I recommend holding out until next year. It's possible Apple will update this model with some big features (like a larger trackpad or even Touch ID).

However, if your MacBook is more than four years old, or if you're looking for a Mac laptop that can be used on a daily basis for a lot of mobile-based work (but nothing too graphics heavy), then yes, you should consider the MacBook. It is a tried and true workhorse and will never let you down — almost to a fault at times. A lot of people I know with a MacBook aren't willing to trade up, no matter how old their current model is. It's the Goldilocks of laptops ... not too big, not too small. It's just right.

12-inch MacBook 2017 Review

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Who should get a MacBook Pro?

Short answer here: If you bought the late 2016 MacBook Pro, then you don't need to switch to the 2017 model. The one caveat: If you just bought your MacBook Pro less than two weeks ago, exchange that grandpa for the 2017 model! This happened to me with the 5K iMac. I had bought the 4K model just a few days before Apple dropped the price of the 5K model and retired my model. I was able to exchange one for the other, no questions asked. It's painless and easy.

If your MacBook Pro is older than late 2016, I highly recommend considering an upgrade. I've had my MacBook Pro with Touch Bar since it launched and it's the best Mac I've ever owned. I sound biased for saying this, but I don't know why anyone would even want the MacBook or MacBook Air when the MacBook Pro is everything you need from a laptop computer and then some. The spec and feature upgrade from the 2015 model to the late 2016 model is significant. It's much faster, much lighter, and much more efficient. True, it only has USB-C ports, but this will be a moot point in a few years.

If you've been looking for a new work computer that you can take with you on the go and connect to a 5K display for optimum desktop usage, the 2017 MacBook Pro is unquestionably the choice for you.

2017 MacBook Pro review

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