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 pretty much everything- I have updated each of the categories with new recommendations as needed. All prices lifted directly from Apple Australia
13 inch models
Models Updated May 2020
Entry model is decent value at $1999. All models now have an 8th Gen quad core processor, a Touch Bar and Touch ID, and the cheapest now has 256GB of storage. That’s the minimum we’d think is acceptable for a laptop. Upgrade to an i7 processor is $450, no thanks, but upgrade to 16GB RAM? Yes please!
The $2299 model is ok but still hampered with only 2 ports and 8GB RAM, and the same 1.4GHz 8th Gen processor. It does however come with a 512GB SSD which is the exact difference in price from the cheap model… but you should still buy the RAM upgrade for $150
An extra $700 ($2999) get you a faster 10th generation Intel i5 processor, faster graphics, and 2 extra thunderbolt 3 ports for a total of 4. This 10th Gen machine starts with 16GB RAM and 512GB of storage which is great, you’d maybe consider spending $300 to go to 1TB of SSD storage, but probably not $600 to double the RAM.
$3299 buys you the high end 13 inch machine with 1TB of storage and 16GB RAM- the storage seems to be the only difference, so it looks like Apple is just adding these extra SKUs so they have popular upgrades available at all times. If buying this machine, should you get the $600 upgrade to 32GB RAM? For people in graphics and certain other industries, yes. For everyone else its really just posturing.
16 inch models
Huzzah! Apple have discontinued the 15″ model and replaced it with luscious new models at roughly the same prices…
$3799 model is great (now has a 6 core 9th Gen Intel i7 processor!) and now has a 512GB drive- Apple bumped the price by $300 to double the drive space, nice! If you’re considering paying $450 for the processor upgrade just buy the more expensive model.
$4399 model has a 1TB drive, and a slightly better graphics processor, and now packs an 8 core 9th Gen i9 processor- phwoar. The high end model is really the pick here- but I would say that!
RAM, video card and storage upgrades are insanely expensive, but can’t be done later, so be careful when buying!
Time to sell a kidney, sadly I only had one to start with…
Apple FINALLY upgraded these machines. Only 2 models in this range, the entry level model at $1599 now has a bigger 256GB SSD, but the kind of anaemic dual core 10th Gen Intel 1.1GHz i3 processor. Upgrade to a quad core seems to be good value at $100, or $250 for a slightly faster i7 processor- is that hyper threaded? A $300 upgrade to double the RAM is expensive, but this may extend the life of the machine by a year or more so if that’s true it could be good value.
If you decide to spring an extra $300 for double the storage on the entry level machine, have a look at the high end $1999 model. It costs $400 more, but has 512GB SSD and the upgraded 1.1GHz i5 processor. A $300 upgrade to double the RAM on this one seems more reasonable, as does $150 to upgrade to the i7 processor
21 inch models
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. Seriously, don’t go there, girlfriend.
27 inch models
These all now have a 5K retina display, so that’s good.
Entry level is $2799, but please spend $150 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 to 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- $150 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.
Honestly, we find it hard to really get excited about these machines. Yes, it’s a lot of power in a little package, but it just seems like such a compromise. Great processors, excellent configurability, nice package. But now that the Mac Pro has been released, a bit of an edge case. Tell us why you really want one, because we can’t see the point!
Starting at $7,299
Drum roll please- we have new Mac Pros!
The ‘entry level’ model is an 8-core Xeon powered device at $9,999 however we can save you real money in upgrades for these beasts…
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 $1299 it’s ok as an office machine. Apple has upgraded this version to 256GB of storage and it only costs $50 more than the last one! Winning!
The high end model- what a beauty. For $1749 you get a 6 core i5 processor, upgradeable to a 6 core i7 for $300. 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 $150 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- always get 16GB if you can
Don’t buy a machine that does not have an SSD
Don’t buy a 21 inch iMac
Do get advice from Servicemax if you have any questions!