If you’re reading this article, you are probably wondering which Mac model is the best fit for you and you’re looking for a Mac buyers guide. If you like to follow JustGoodBites’ news, articles, and guides, you probably know that we’re quite familiar with Apple’s Macs, which means that you’re in the right place.
Even though it looks like Apple is offering a simple product grid when it comes to the company’s personal computers, things are not that simple. Apple currently makes and sells six different kinds of Macs, where each of those categories come with several variations. This is where our Mac Buyers Guide comes in, to help you make the best possible decision.
Before we dig in any deeper, we would like to point you towards our recently published guide on how to sell your old devices. This is where you can find plenty of information on how to get the best possible price for your old computer, before buying a new one. In addition, we also posted a full guide on how to buy different Apple products. Check it out here.
Mac Buyers Guide: MacBook Air
The MacBook Air is Apple’s most affordable line of laptops, as well as one of the best-selling devices on Apple’s online store. It comes in two screen sizes, 11-inches (2.4 pounds) and 13-inches (3.0 pounds). However, there are four models in total.
Specifications: All of the available MacBook Air models come with the same 1.6GHz dual-core Core i5 processor and Intel’s HD Graphics 6000 as standard. However, the 11-inch models come with 4GB of RAM, while the 13-inch models have 8GB of RAM. There are also several build-to-order options where you can make the smaller MacBook Air more powerful by upgrading it with a faster Intel processor, and up to 8GB of RAM.
When it comes to their differences, the most notable ones are the screen size and storage. The $899 11-inch model and the $999 13-inch model have 128GB of flash storage, while the $1,099 11-inch model and the $1199 12-inch model have 256GB.
There are also some notable differences when it comes to their battery lives. The smaller model offers nine hours of battery life, while the larger one offers up to twelve hours. Those who care about battery life should definitely choose the larger model since it should provide enough power to last a full day’s work.
Connectivity: The MacBook Air doesn’t have a lot of ports, which was influenced by its thinness. You won’t find an Ethernet port ($29 on the Apple Store), which means that you will need an adapter if you need to use a wired Internet connection. However, it offers 802.11ac Wi-Fi port, which should be more than enough in today’s wireless world.
Thunderbolt 2 is the MacBook Air’s fastest connector, even though you will also find a pair of USB 3.0 ports. In case you use a FireWire 800 drive, you will once again need an adapter, priced at $29 on the Apple Store.
Performance: The MacBook Air is not the fastest nor the most capable Apple’s notebook, but it is quite capable when it comes to everyday tasks like browsing the Web, editing Office documents, sending emails, and similar. Furthermore, you can rely on it to edit short videos and images as well.
It is also important to say that thanks to flash memory that is present in the MacBook Air, you can count on faster reading data. This can make a huge difference when it comes to tasks like opening documents and starting programs.
JustGoodBites’ Buying Advice: The MacBook Air is a great affordable notebook with reliable performance and great looks. It is perfect for anyone who frequently needs to carry their laptop, like students or a self-employed person. However, since it’s at the lower and of the company’s lineup in terms of price, you should know that the screen quality is not equal to the Retina display found on some other notebook models. In addition, you can’t easily upgrade the storage after purchase, so it’s advisable to buy the largest amount of storage you can afford.
Mac Buyers Guide: MacBook
The MacBook is the first of the new-style MacBook models that went on sale in April of 2015. In case you didn’t know, MacBooks aren’t entirely new and Apple has been selling different versions over the years. However, this brand fell by the wayside a few years ago, but it now being revived.
As many reviewers agreed, this model is built for style and portability, which means that an average user might not be satisfied with it.
We previously published the full review of the new MacBook, so if you’re interested in reading in-depth about this model you can find that information here.
Specifications: There are only two MacBook models available, where both come with a 12-inch screen. You can choose from four colors: rose gold, space gray, gold, or silver. Aside from that, the key difference between these two models is the amount of storage available.
The entry-level MacBook offers a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core M3 processor and 256GB of flash storage. This model is priced at $1,299. The $1,599 model comes with a dual-core 1.2GHz Intel Core M3 processor and packs 512GB of flash storage. Both of them come with 8GB of RAM and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 515 processor. Note that you can upgrade the processor further using the build-to-order options.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of the new MacBook is its Retina screen. Its ultra-high-resolution is capable of showing crisper images than the display on the MacBook Air. It has a native resolution of 2304 x 1440, with scaled resolutions of 1024 x 640, 1280 x 800, and 1440 x 900.
It is also worth noting that a new Force Touch trackpad can be found only in this notebook model. It uses built-in force sensors which respond with a haptic feedback. This adds a new dimension to clicking, where reviewers agreed that this is one of the best touchpad systems ever produced. In addition, the keyboard provides keys that are slightly more spaced than previously, which allows pleasurable typing experience.
Perhaps it’s also interesting to note that thanks to the Core M processor, the MacBook doesn’t have any fans. This is why you can’t even hear the notebook working, which is a huge benefit.
Connectivity: Even Apple admitted that the MacBook is designed for today’s wireless world. This notebook comes with only one port, which means that you’ll either have to upgrade your peripherals to support wireless connectivity, or you will have to use different adapters and be careful about when to use them.
The only present USB-C port can be used to connect storage devices, printers, external displays, power displays, and more. Since there’s only one port, this means that you can’t charge this notebook and connect an external hard drive at the same time, for example. There is a wide range of available adapters, priced from $30 up to $80 for display adapters.
Performance: The Intel Core M3 processor is designed to be energy-efficient and cool, which comes at a cost. This means that you shouldn’t expect the best possible performance, where many tests showed that it performs slightly better than the MacBook Air. This means that you can rely on it for everyday tasks, but you should expect great performance when it comes to professional production tasks.
JustGoodBites’ Buying Advice: It is not clear who is the perfect customer for the new MacBook. This is not a particularly powerful computer, so it’s not an alternative for the MacBook Pro. It seems like its direct competition is the MacBook Air, even though you can get much better performance from the Air by slightly upgrading its internals.
If you really about the industrial design, and if you’re really mesmerized by the gorgeous Retina display, the MacBook might be the perfect fit.
Mac Buyers Guide: Non-Retina MacBook Pro
Even though Apple is trying to push MacBook Pros with Retina displays, you can still find non-Retina MacBook Pros. It seems like the company is going towards notebooks without optical drives and with flash storage options, even though there are still people who want a CD/DVD drive and a big traditional hard drive.
It is believed that non-Retina MacBook Pros are for those who want a reliable notebook, without sacrificing a lot. This model is faster than the MacBook Air, but it is no match to any desktop model.
Specifications: You can currently find only one model. It comes with a 13-inch glossy screen that supports resolutions up to 1280×800 at a 16:10 aspect ratio. In comparison, the same-sized MacBook Air brings somewhat higher resolution, at 1440×900 pixel. This means that MacBook Air’s screen is crisper and produces more vivid colors.
Internally, it brings a 2.5GHz dual-core Core i5 processor, with 4GB of RAM, and a large 500GB hard drive. It also packs an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 processor. Still, you can choose to upgrade any of these specs, since Apple allows you to order a faster processor, more memory, a larger hard drive, or even a solid-state drive. The base model is priced at $1,099.
It is worth noting that the base MacBook Pro comes with a built-in SuperDrive. It allows you to read and write CDs and DVDs, making it the perfect option for those who would rather not use an external drive.
Connectivity: As you can expect, the base model comes with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The biggest advantage of this notebook is that offers ports that Apple has already phased out of the MacBook Air and the Retina MacBook Pro.
In case you use a FireWire 800 drive, you will be happy to know that you can continue using it with this notebook. It also packs a Gigabit Ethernet port, as well as two USB 3.0 ports. There is also one Thunderbolt 1 port, which is slightly slower that the newer Thunderbolt 2 port.
The Non-Retina MacBook Pro lacks the HDMI port, which should be important to those who often connect an external display, even though there are different ways to overcome this. Finally, you can also find the SDXC card slot, for your camera’s memory stick.
Performance: Since this MacBook Pro model is older than any existing Apple’s notebook, you shouldn’t expect the lightning fast performance. It is even slower than the MacBook Air since the Air uses flash storage. However, this model has an advantage when it comes to processor-intensive tasks, like video editing.
JustGoodBites’ Buying Advice: The Non-Retina MacBook Pro is for the mobile user who cares about the ports and mobility. If you need a better performance, you should invest in a flash storage. You could also purchase a separate hard drive or add a NAS drive, so all your backups and file transfers can happen over the network.
It all comes down to this model’s price. If you add some money, you can buy a Retina display model, or you can pay less and buy a 13-inch MacBook Air. We are surprised that this model is still available since not many people still need a CD drive.
Mac Buyers Guide: Retina MacBook Pro
As you can assume, the Retina MacBook Pro is a few steps ahead of its more affordable cousin (Non-Retina MacBook Pro). This notebook features a high-density display with so many pixels that make the images and text very crisp and smooth.
Specifications: There are two differently-sized screens: 13 inches and 15 inches. Furthermore, there are three 13-inch models. Let’s explain all of them.
The base $1,299 model comes with a dual-core 2.7GHz Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of flash storage. The $1,499 model brings the same Core i5 processor, 8GB of Ram, but also includes 256GB of flash storage. Finally, the $1,799 comes with a faster, 2.9GHz Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, and 512GB of flash storage. What is in common for all three models is that they bring an Intel Iris integrated graphics processor.
Apple is offering two versions of the 15-inch MacBook Pro models. The $1,999 model comes with a 2.2GHz quad-core Core i7 processor, 16GB of memory, 256GB of flash storage, and Intel Iris Pro graphics. The $2,499 model offers a 2.5GHz Core i7, 16GB of memory, 512GB of flash storage, and Intel Iris Pro graphics. However, it also brings a discrete 2GB AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics processor.
The most interesting aspect of this model is its Retina display. The 13-inch model has a native resolution of 2560×1600, and the larger model has a native resolution of 2880×1800. This display is regarded as one of the best in today’s world of notebooks, with extra crisp and clear images and text.
Connectivity: Aside from built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the MacBook Pro is somewhat limited when it comes to wired connectivity. You can find two Thunderbolt 2 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, and that’s it. In case you use a FireWire 800 drive, you will need to buy an adapter, priced at around $30 on the Apple’s Online Store. The same goes if you need to connect to an Ethernet network.
Performance: MacBook Pros with Retina displays are designed for serious users who care about performance. The 15-inch models can keep up with the stock configuration of the iMac. This also means that you can expect much better performance over any other Apple’s notebook.
The 13-inch model is also around 20 percent faster than the 13-inch MacBook Air. If we add the amazing Retina display on top, it is clear which 13-inch notebook is the best.
JustGoodBites’ Buying Advice: If you care about professional apps like Final Cut and Logic Pro, this notebook should be your choice. However, if you need a computer for everyday tasks like browsing the web, editing Office files, and responding to emails, you might benefit more from buying the MacBook Air.
Furthermore, you should go for MacBook Air if you care about mobility since its battery can last up to 12 hours, which is not the case with MacBook Pro with Retina display.
Mac Buyers Guide: Mac Mini
The Mac Mini is Apple’s entry-level desktop computer that is also the most affordable Mac you can get. First released back in 2005, this computer managed to keep its place in Apple’s product lineup thanks to its user-friendliness.
To get started with the Mac Mini, you need a monitor, as well as keyboard and mouse. One of the best features is its HDMI port, which means that you can connect a high-resolution monitor or even a TV. As you can expect, this Mac can’t match the performance of other Apple’s desktop computers, the iMac, and the Mac Pro. However, it is more than capable for general-purpose use.
It is also worth noting that Apple is targeting first-time Mac users with this model. In addition, this could be the easiest way to transfer from a Windows-powered PC. Still, it all depends on your personal preference, as well as how fast you will be able to switch to OS X.
Specifications: Currently, you get to choose from three Mac Mini models.
The most affordable model, priced at $499, has the same 1.4GHz dual-core processor and integrated graphics chip as the MacBook Air. This is why it’s not surprising that the new Mac Mini’s processor performs as good as the current MacBook Air range. In addition, it brings 4GB of RAM and a 5,400-rpm 500GB hard drive.
The other two models, priced at $699 and $999, are bringing significant improvements over the entry model. You can count on a 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz dual-core Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and Intel Iris graphics. These two models are also different when it comes to their internal storage. The more affordable one brings a 5,400-rpm 1TB hard drive, while the $999 model packs a 1TB Fusion Drive. In case you’re confused about the Fusion Drive, let’s take some time to explain it.
The Fusion Drive was introduced in late 2012 as a new storage option. These are actually two drives working together. It pairs 128GB of flash storage with a traditional hard drive. This means that the operating system will work as fast as it can, while you can store your applications and media on the hard drive.
It is also worth noting that you can upgrade your Mac Mini using Apple’s build-to-order option. Even though this can get pricey, you can upgrade your new desktop with a 3.0GHz Core i7 processor, 16GB of Ram, and up to 2TB Fusion Drive. You can also decide to completely eliminate the Fusion Drive and go with flash storage. However, this could cost you up to $2199.
What also needs to be said is that the Mac Mini doesn’t include a display, keyboard, or mouse. In addition, there is no optical drive.
Connectivity: Aside from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the Mac Mini comes with four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, and an SDXC memory card slot. It even packs a gigabit Ethernet connection, which is a good thing if you use a wired network.
In order to connect a display, you can use the HDMI port or the Thunderbolt 2 port. In case your display doesn’t support these kinds of connection, you can buy an adapter. For displays that come with VGA or DVI output, you will need to use the Mini DisplayPort-to-VGA adapter or the Mini DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter. These are priced at $29.
Performance: The Mac Mini is not of the fastest Macs out there, but it can still provide a reliable performance. Even the base model is more than enough for everyday tasks. If you plan on using it to browse the Web, write emails, edit photos and short videos, the Mac Mini should be more than enough.
JustGoodBites’ Buying Advice: As said before, the Mac Mini is perfect for home or office use, in case you don’t plan on using a demanding professional-grade software. It is even powerful enough to do a good job with photo and home video editing.
In addition, this Mac is a popular choice for a living room, since it can be easily connected to a TV screen using the HDMI port. This is why there are a bit of outcry in 2011 when this Mac stopped featuring an optical drive. In case you really care about CDs and DVDs, you can purchase a Super Drive, which is an external optical drive. However, you still won’t be able to play Blu-ray movies, for example.
Mac Buyers Guide: Non-Retina iMac
Apple’s iMac is probably the best-known Mac there is. First introduced in 1998, it revolutionized the way we look at personal computers. Over the years, the iMac lost its old CRT monitor and become unbelievably light and thin. However, one thing hasn’t changed. The whole computer is still hidden behind its screen, which means that there is no tower to hide under your desk.
Apple is currently selling numerous different iMac models, but we can group them into two main categories: Non-Retina and Retina-equipped iMacs. No matter which one you pick, the iMac is great both for novice and experienced users. It can handle everyday tasks, as well as above that. It is also a great choice if you’re looking to buy a complete computer setup.
Specifications: If you’re looking to buy a non-Retina iMac, you can only choose from two 21.5-inch models. Apple no longer makes a 27-inch iMac with a standard display.
The entry-level 21.5-inch iMac is priced at $1,099 and is the most affordable iMac. It packs a dual-core 1.6GHz Core i5 processor, along with Intel HD Graphics 6000. The $1299 iMac upgrades these specs, and packs a 2.8GHz quad-core Core i5 processor and Intel Iris Pro graphics. Both of these models pack the same 5,400-rpm hard drives, along with 8GB or RAM.
Note that you can’t upgrade these iMacs after you buy them, so it’s wise to pay extra for upgraded components. You can upgrade its memory and internal storage, which could easily go up to $2899 for the high-end specs of the base model.
Connectivity: Aside from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Non-Retina iMacs come with a variety of ports available. All iMacs have four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, as well as an SDXC memory card slot.
As you can see, there is no FireWire port usually used to connect the external hard drive. In case you use one, you will have to use a Thunderbolt-to-Fire adapter. In addition, all USB 2.0 devices are compatible with USB 3.0 ports, even though they are slower at data transfer speeds.
Performance: The iMacs are among Apple’s fastest computers, which means that you can use them for everyday tasks as well as with professional-grade software that is usually more demanding. Their biggest setback is their hard drives, which are a performance bottleneck. When you care about performance and getting the most out of your new iMac, we recommend upgrading to a Fusion Drive or flash storage, which will provide a significant performance boost. If you are a gamer, you should know that the $1299 iMac is good enough for games, even with its stock specs. However, you should expect to run the latest games at max settings. The $1099 iMac has an attractive price, but you will make big sacrifices in performance.
JustGoodBites’ Buying Advice: If you don’t really care about having the biggest resolution display, the $1299 iMac is an excellent option. You will be investing your money wisely, and you can expect to use this model for a long time. As said before, if you really care about performance, consider upgrading to a Fusion Drive. In addition, even though 8GB of RAM should be more than enough, professional-grade applications and software could benefit more from 16GB of RAM. This could help you avoid some hassle in the future.
Mac Buyers Guide: Retina iMacs
The iMac with Retina displays are like Apple’s standard iMacs, but with an ultra-high resolution display.
It is worth noting that Retina displays are not a subtle upgrade over Apple’s standard display since you will be able to clearly notice its benefits. The goal of this display is to make the display of text and images extremely crisp and sharp, where pixels are not visible to the naked eye. Apple has been slowly introducing Retina displays to a number of its devices, so you can find it today in devices like Apple Watch, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and some notebooks. However, these displays are a bit different because the company is using Retina HD display for the iPhone 6 series, and Retina 4K/5K displays for iMacs.
In general, the Retina iMac is designed for professionals who work with high-resolution videos and photos. However, this is a great choice for the demanding user who wants to the best image quality for everyday use.
Specifications: Apple currently offers only one 21.5-inch model with a resolution of 4096×2304. This iMac comes with a quad-core 3.1GHz Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and Intel Iris Graphics 6200.
When it comes to Apple’s 27-inch iMacs, you have more choice available. The Macs are available with a resolution of 5120×2880, which means that they feature 5K Macs. Still, you have a choice of three models available. The $1799 model features a quad-core 3.2GHz Core i5 processor, a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive, as all as a 2GB AMD Radeon R9 M380 graphics processor.
The $1999 model also brings a quad-core 3.2GHz Core i5 processor, however, it also packs a 1TB Fusion Drive and a 2GB AMD Radeon R9 M390 graphics processor. The more expensive $2299 model is the most powerful. It packs a quad-core 3.3GHz Core i5 processor, a 2TB Fusion Drive, and a 2GB AMD Radeon R9 M395 graphics processor. All 27-inch iMacs feature 8GB of RAM, upgradeable to 32GB.
Connectivity: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built-in. Aside from that, you get to use four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, as well as an SDXC memory card slot.
Just like with the Non-retina iMacs, there is no FireWire port available. You will have to use a Thunderbolt-to-FireWire adapter, priced at $29 on the Apple Online Store.
Performance: The Retina iMac provides a reliable and fast performance. Thanks to their processors with four cores, you can run even the most demanding applications.
What is interesting to note is that you can upgrade the multi-core performance by upgrading to a 4.0GHz Core i7 processor in the $1999 and $2299 models. When it comes to the smaller screen iMac (21.5-inch), you can upgrade to a 3.3GHz Core i7 processor. In addition to more RAM memory, these Macs can be ultra-powerful machines that even games will be proud to have.
JustGoodBites’ Buying Advice: The biggest selling point here is the Retina display. Once you see how it looks and what kind of colors it produces, you won’t be able to go back to using a traditional screen. Even though these models aren’t the most affordable, they will pay off in the long term.
If you really care about having the best possible display, you can also buy the Mac Mini and pair it with a 4K or 5K display.
Mac Buyers Guide: Mac Pro
The Mac Pro is the ultimate Mac with a price tag to match. Starting at $2999, this is Apple’s workstation that is designed for professionals who need a powerful performance.
Back in December 2013, this Mac received a whole new revolutionary design that allows users to easily upgrade its internals. It also brings a very interesting design and certainly looks premium-level.
Specifications: The $2999 Mac Pro brings a fast-performing 3.7GHz quad-core Xeon E5 processor, along with 12GB of RAM, and dual AMD FirePro D300 graphics processor with 2GB of memory. The more expensive Mac Pro is starting at $3999. It brings a 2.5GHz six-core Xeon E5 processor, 16GB of RAM, and dual AMD FirePro D500 graphics with 3GB of memory. There is one thing in common for both of these models and that’s their internal storage. You will find 256GB of fast-performing flash storage.
It is also worth mentioning that you can upgrade the Mac Pro. You can add up to 64GB of RAM, as well as 512GB or 1GB of flash storage. The graphics are upgradeable, as well as the processor that can feature up to 12 cores.
Connectivity: The Mac Pro is one of the most powerful machines when it comes to its connectivity. Unlike the previous Mac Pro, you won’t find internal options for connecting PCI expansion cards or internal storage drives. Now you will have to use one of six Thunderbolt 2 ports for add-ons. In addition, the machine has four USB 3.0 ports, dual gigabit Ethernet jacks, and HDMI. Interestingly, the Mac Pro comes with a combined optical audio input and analog output jack, designed for audio professionals.
Once again, you won’t find FireWire connection, so you will have to rely on adapters.
Performance: As you can expect, the Mac Pro is the most capable OS X computer. It is capable of handling 4K video editing, as well as working with high-demanding 3D applications. It is clear that this computer is designed for professionals who require powerful machines.
If you don’t intend to use high-demanding apps, then you are not going to see a big jump in performance. This is where the iMac comes in, which is the perfect machine for this type of user.
JustGoodBites’ Buying Advice: If you’re are using professional applications and need the most capable computer out there, your choice should be the Mac Pro. This computer is designed to meet your every need.