If you’re buying a new Mac this year, what specs to recommend?
I have updated each of the categories with new recommendations as needed. All prices lifted directly from Apple Australia
13 inch models
Models Updated November 2020- now with M1 chip!
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.
14 inch models
These new 14″ models were introduced at the same time as the 16″ versions, in October 2021- with similar specs and upgrades all the way to match the 16″, so you basically have a choice of screen size- go configure them the same and find out the extra screen real estate doesn’t cost much! These are very powerful machines. But you may not want to carry a big beast around so…
Entry level- M1, 8 core CPU, 14 core GPU, 16GB RAM 512GB SSD $2999
Nice machine, but extra $600 to double the RAM to 32GB
Better model- M1, 10 core CPU, 16 core GPU, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD $3749
This one has the M1 Pro processor, and can be upgraded to the M1 Max (for >$1k) but has 512GB of storage. So basically it’s one model with a bunch of options, thanks Apple. Extra 16GB RAM for $600, and you can go all the way to 64GB RAM for $1200 if you also spend $600 upgrading to the Mi Max chip.
16 inch models
Did someone say MOAR POWARRRRR?
Entry- 10 core M1 Pro CPU, 16 core GPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD $3749
Pretty beastly for a starting model, pay $300 extra if you do a lot of image work to get the 24 core GPU, or $600 to go all out with a 32 core GPU. On this model $600 will upgrade you to 32GB RAM, and $300 to go to a 1TB SSD. Best Buy? If I’m buying this model, it means I’m trying to save money- this means I’d probably buy the base model and be happy- or pay $600 for the extra RAM and make the computer last a bit longer…
Better- 10 core M1 Pro CPU, 16 core GPU, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD $4049
This model has a 1TB drive, for exactly the upgrade price on the lower model. So if you need 1TB just buy this model- it’s likely to come into stock earlier than a CTO version of the lower model. But if you need upgrades, boy do we have loads of upgrades- but nothing much worth having except upgrading to 32GB RAM for $600.
Best- 10 core M1 Max CPU, 32 core GPU, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD $5249
Hear that? That was the sound of millions of nerds across the world gasping as Apple unveiled this machine. Oh my!
This one upgrades from the M1 Pro chip to the M1 Max, with extra phwoar… It already has 1TB storage, already has 32GB RAM, already has a 32 core GPU. But- here comes the upgrade train- you can go to 64GB RAM for $600, and if you’re still looking in Mum’s purse for a few extra hundies, you can go to a 2TB SSD for <only> $600 more. Then Apple will blow you a kiss and say ‘nice work kid’ just like Indiana Jones would, but while running away with all of your cash.
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!