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 everything- I have updated each of the categories with new recommendations as needed. All prices lifted directly from Apple Australia
The big news is Apple’s M1 silicon CPU- These are up to 280-% faster in CPU based tasks
Should you buy one of these?
Yes, sort of. Remember the M1 chip is a ‘low end’ chip – there is much faster ones to come. Also a lot of software does not run natively on these- you may be better off buying an Intel based machine for some tasks. They don’t appear to need as much RAM as the Intel models, but we’d also caution against buying an 8GB RAM machine as the 16GB will help you to extend its life…
13 inch models
Models Updated November 2020- now with M1 chip!
Entry model is decent value at $1999. You can still buy the Intel based models with an 8th Gen quad core processor, but all of the excitement is around the new M1 Apple Silicon based models.
Entry level- M1, 8 core CPU, 8 core GPU, 256GB SSD $1899
Nice machine, but I’d still spend an extra $300 to double the RAM
Better model- M1, 8 core CPU, 8 core GPU, 512GB SSD $2199
This one has the same CPU/ GPU combo, but has 512GB of storage. So basically it’s one model with a bunch of options, thanks Apple. Yes, I’d still get the extra RAM for $300, and this one os the pick because of the extra storage.
– you can still buy Intel based 13″ MacBook Pro models, but er, don’t
16 inch models
*These are all expected to be replaced with M1+++ models this year, so wait unless you need something now. Still terrific machines though…
Entry- 6 core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD $3499
$3499 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.
Better- 8 core CPU, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD $4099
$4099 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 upgraded these machines to the M1 chip too. Only 2 models in this range
Entry – M1, 8 core CPU, 7 core GPU, 256GB SSD $1499.
A $300 upgrade to double the RAM is expensive, but definitely do it.
Better- M1, 8 core CPU, 8 core GPU, 512GB SSD $1849
It costs $350 more, but has 512GB SSD and the upgraded 1 more core in it’s GPU, so you’re paying $50 for that. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, spend $300 on the RAM upgrade.
24 inch models
Apple has introduced M1 Apple Silicon to the entry level iMac. These now have a 24″ 4.5k Retina display instead of the older 21.5″ display and come in a variety of colours. There is one config of the older Intel 21.5″ still available, probably for the education market
Entry- M1, 8 core CPU, 7 core GPU, 256GB SSD $1899
This machine is hampered with only 2x Thunderbolt/ USB 4 ports and NO ethernet. Don’t do it!
Better- M1, 8 core CPU, 8 core GPU, 256GB SSD $2199
This model has 2x combo Thunderbolt/ USB 4 ports AND 2x USB 3 ports as well as ethernet and a keyboard with TouchID.
Broken record- please add $300 for more RAM
Best- M1, 8 core CPU, 8 core GPU, 512GB SSD $2499
This model has the same 2x combo Thunderbolt/ USB 4 ports AND 2x USB 3 ports as well as ethernet and a keyboard with TouchID. But it also has double the storage, which is a $300 option on the model below. So it’s not really a different model, just a different config. Again, please add $300 for more RAM
– These are all available with a VESA mount adaptor so they can be hung on a wall etc. but they have to be ordered in this config, not an after purchase decision.
27 inch models
These 27″ iMac models are all expected to be replaced soon with Apple Silicon models. Don’t buy unless you have to!
Entry- 6 core 3.1GHz i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD $2699
Good option, needs more RAM, but with the 27″ models you CAN add it later. Don’t buy it from Apple- heaps cheaper to buy 3rd party RAM
Better- 6 core 3.3GHz i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD $2999
Very similar to the Entry level machine but gets an ever so slightly faster processor and double the storage. Think about it this way- adding $300 to double the storage gets you this machine and a slightly faster CPU than the entry level computer. Add some 3rd party RAM to this machine
Best – 8 core 5.0GHz i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD is $3449
Now we’re talking, this machine has a better GPU- graphics processor too. This machine can be upgraded to a 10 core 10th gen Intel chip for $600. Not 100% convinced on the value of that but I’d really look at that carefully in the context of the work you do. Can be upgraded to the Radeon Pro 5700 XT which is a similar GPU as the Mac Pro, but $750 needs justification too. Also needs more RAM, but as usual, buy this 3rd party, not from Apple
Come with a Magic Mouse 2 and a Magic Keyboard- except M1 iMacs where some now have a keyboard with a TouchID fingerprint reader. 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.
Not recommended at this time because of the impending switch to Apple Silicon. Except where you have software that requires an Intel chip, don’t buy these machines.
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…
New M1 models available, alongside Intel based models for a presumably short time…
Entry- M1 8 core CPU, 8 core GPU, 256GB Storage $1099
Yes, get the extra RAM…
Better- M1 8 core CPU, 8 core GPU, 512GB Storage $1399
Same machine with double the storage. Er, get the extra RAM, you hearing me?
Intel- 6 core i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD Intel Graphics 630 $1699
This model- what a beauty. For $1699 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, and yes I have one for ESXi testing. Brilliant.
Don’t buy a machine with less than 8GB RAM- always get 16GB+ if you can
Don’t buy an Intel based machine unless forced
Do get advice from Servicemax if you have any questions!