We like Macs, but there are some er, less desirable models in the line up- so
If you’re buying a new Mac this year, what specs to recommend?
This post was originally written in March 2017, and since then Apple has updated many of the models- I have updated each of the categories with new recommendations as needed. All prices lifted directly from Apple Australia
This article now includes models announced by Apple in March 2019
This 12 inch machine uses a low power processor, has only 1 USB-C port but has surprisingly long battery life. If you need a machine just for presentations it’s fine, otherwise don’t buy. Upgrading this machine to be worthwhile is certainly possible, but not economical. you should get a decent machine for $1899, instead you get a Core m3 and regret.
13 inch models
Entry model is decent value at $1899. But look at what they did to reach that price point- the $1899 machine has only 128Gb of storage! Don’t do it.
The $2199 model is ok but still hampered with only 2 ports and 8GB RAM.
An extra $500 ($2699) get you a faster processor, faster graphics, and 2 extra thunderbolt 3 ports for a total of 4. This model also has the new touch bar, which most journalists think is a gimmick. I quite like the idea.
$2999 buys you the high end 13 inch machine with 512GB of storage. If buying this machine, get the max RAM for an extra $320. It’s a ripoff, but you cannot upgrade later.
15 inch models
Apple have discontinued the 15″ model at only $2999, but it was a bit hobbled.
$3499 model is great (now has a 6 core i7 processor!) but still only has 256GB drive- it’s $320 extra to double the drive space which is then only $300 cheaper than the high end model.
$4099 model has the 512GB drive, and a slightly better graphics processor, and an ever so slightly faster processor. The high end model is really the pick here- but I would say that!
Apple FINALLY upgraded these machines. Only 2 models in this range, the entry level model at $1849 (up from $1499 STILL has the appallingly small 128GB SSD. Do not buy- and if you decide to spring an extra $300 for double the storage, have a look at the high end model. Which is exactly the same machine with a bigger drive, not sure why they claim it is a different model.
21 inch versions
I don’t recommend any of these as they all have an older, spinning 5400rpm disk hard drive. Really- it’s a crime against humanity to still be shipping 5400rpm drives these days. You’ll be paying a start price of $1699-$1999 just to be annoyed at how slow they are. You could upgrade to an SSD but if you do that then you should just buy a 27 inch model.
27 inch models
these all now have a 5K retina display, so that’s good.
Entry level is $2799, but please spend $160 extra to get a 256gb solid state drive- if you need more storage DO NOT order a machine with a 1TB fusion drive- these models only have 32GB of solid state storage vs 128GB on the 2TB and 3TB Fusion drives. But I would prefer you buy only Solid State storage from now on- Fusion drives are not as reliable as they could be……
Mid model is $3099 and gets a slightly better graphics processor and a 1TB fusion drive- again don’t buy this model unless you at least upgrade the fusion drive- $160 to upgrade to a 256GB SSD is decent value.
High end model is $3549 and you can trade the 2TB fusion drive for a 512GB SSD for only $160. You also get a faster processor and better graphics. Recommended.
Come with a Magic Mouse 2 and a Magic Keyboard. For the first time I recommend the wireless mouse- it comes with a lightning cable and has built in batteries so you don’t create huge amounts of waste and frustration when your batteries run out. The charging port for the mouse is located where you can’t use the mouse and charge it at the same time, which is spectacularly dumb, but I guess Apple has reasons….. the keyboard is also quite nice if you really want to ban cables (internal battery, charges with lightning cable) but it is very small, and I still like having home keys and a numeric keypad. PLEASE consider buying the ‘Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad’ you can select this under the Mouse & Trackpad options, the link is under ‘Keyboards and is marked ‘Change’. It has come down in price from $40 to a $30 upgrade- go on, you can afford that.
RAM- if you need more RAM, please do not buy it from the Apple website. You will get ripped off. Buy the standard spec and let us install extra RAM with a lifetime warranty. Please note the 21 inch models cannot have their RAM upgraded after purchase- this applies to 27″ models only.
These machines were announced for purchase in December 2013 so they are now 3.5 years old. That’s like selling a horse and cart in an era of Teslas. Despite this, we still use these machines for specific purposes like servers, and if you want one we will probably need to custom spec it anyway. But maybe we should talk about importing one from the USA due to the incredibly eye watering prices on the Apple Australia website. Massively powerful and useful machines, and could use an update- and possibly a price cut!
*These machines were slightly updated in 2017- the 4 core model has been discontinued in favour of the 6 core model (at the same price as the 4 core model), and in place of the 6 core model is a new config with 8 cores and the dual D700 graphics cards. I’d hate to say it, but $6500 for one of these is actually pretty decent value! Well, that was a while ago now- maybe wait for the new Mac Pro- due by the end of 2019.
I love love love the Mac Mini, and used to have 6 of them in an ESXi cluster. For normal people- that’s very nerdy. Apple really treated us like lepers between 2014-18 when they tried to shove underpowered silly boxes upon us. No more! The new Mini is a pretty cool and powerful device again. In the low end, you get a 4 core i3 which is a bit of a shame, but at $1249 it’s ok as an office machine. Again this machine is lumbered with only 128GB of storage, and again it’s $320 to get 256GB. Again (how many times can I say that?) that extra $320 means you’re looking at the high end model- and what a beauty. For $1699 you get a 6 core i5 processor, upgradeable to a 6 core i7 for $320. Leave the RAM because you CAN add more afterwards! Yay! OK you’re going to get ripped off for internal storage, but it’s only $160 to upgrade to 10 gigabit ethernet. That would make a fantastic compute node, I just don’t want to look at the price fully configured. Brilliant.
Don’t buy a machine with less than 8GB RAM
Don’t buy a machine that does not have an SSD
Don’t buy a 21 inch iMac
Don’t buy the 12 inch MacBook
Do get advice from me if you have any questions!