Which MacBook Should I Buy?

August 23, 2018

12:41 pm

The Apple MacBook range has long since established itself as the perfect mix of style and power. With MacBook prices starting at $999, Apples laptops aren’t the cheapest, but they’re an investment that can last you for many happy years. But, which MacBook is best for you?

Despite there only being three model lines in the MacBook range (with their own sub-variants), picking the right model for your needs isn’t always obvious. Do you go for power? Portability? Or both?

We look at the Apple MacBook lineup and help you pick out the best Mac for your own needs and budget.

Which MacBook is the Best for You?

The three lineups in the MacBook range available today are the MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

Each has its strengths, but rest-assured that not one is a dud. Apple has built a solid reputation for its excellent hardware, and there’s a reason why its customers are so evangelical about the brand.

  • MacBook (12-inch) – Re-introduced to Apple’s line-up in 2015 after a long absence, ‘the MacBook’ beats even the famously light MacBook Air when it comes to portability. It’s lighter, smaller, and has a more modern processor. This one is perfect for writing and browsing (or showing off down the coffee shop), but it’s not powerful enough for design work.
  • MacBook Air – Somewhat neglected these days by Apple in favour of the MacBook, the older Air model is still running on a 5th generation Intel processor. Most laptops are currently on the 8th generation, and the 9th is just around the corner. That said, the MacBook Air is still powerful enough for the average user, and a great value way of joining the Mac family.
  • MacBook Pro – The Pro lineup is the premium offering from Apple. It’s pitched at those who need to really push their laptop with high-end work such as design or video-editing. It’s the model of choice for trendy graphic designers. And why not? There’s plenty of power under the hood, plus a gorgeous screen.
MacBook MacBook Air MacBook Pro
Processor Intel Core m3/i5 Intel Core i5/i7 Intel Core i5/i7
Ram 8GB 8GB 8GB to 16GB
Storage 256GB to 512GB 128GB to 256GB 128GB to 512GB
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 615 Intel HD Graphics 6000 Intel Graphics 640/Radeon Pro
Screen size 12-inches 13-inches 13 or 15-inches
Price Starts $1299 Starts $999 Starts $1299

 

MacBook vs MacBook Air

If you’re after the slimmest, most portable MacBook, your choice comes down to the 12-inch MacBook or 13-inch MacBook Air. The 12-inch MacBook (simply called ‘the MacBook’ by Apple) is the more modern, and slimmer, of the two, but it’s much more expensive. The older 11-inch Air model is no longer available.

Both the MacBook and the MacBook Air are great choices for daily users who want to work, browse, catch up on social media and stream video or music. What they aren’t good at is heavy graphics work. Yes, you could get away with some image editing, but heavy duty video work or serious gaming is out.

The MacBook has surpassed the Air in almost every regard, and that’s reflected in the price. The Air starts at $999, and the MacBook at $1299.

In terms of size, there’s not much between the two. The MacBook is a pinch smaller and lighter than the Air, but both would comfortably fit in a bag without issue, and the excellent battery life means you could take either out for the day without running out of power.

When it comes to specs, the MacBook has a faster processor. On paper, the Air might seem to beat it, starting with a 1.8 GHz Intel Core i5 compared to the Intel Core 1.2 GHz Intel Core m3 of the MacBook. But, as the latter is a newer chip, it’s capable of faster speeds.

Verdict: If you want the slimmest model possible and don’t mind paying more, go for the 12-inch MacBook. But you can make a saving and still enjoy a stylish laptop with the older MacBook Air.

  • MacBook
  • 12-inch screen
  • Intel m3, i5 or i7 processor
  • Up to 10 hours battery life
  • 256GB or 512GB SSD
  • 2.03 pounds
  • From $1299

  • MacBook Air
  • 13-inch screen
  • Intel i5 or i7 processor
  • Up to 12 hours battery life
  • 128GB to 512GB SSD
  • 2.96 pounds
  • From $999

MacBook vs MacBook Pro

If you’re debating between the 12-inch MacBook and the MacBook Pro, then you’re serious about your laptops and have set aside a healthy budget. The decision needs to come down to portability vs power.

The 12-inch MacBook range starts at $1299, going up to $1,599, while the Pro range starts at $1,299 and goes up to $2,799 for the premium 15-inch model.

If you’re looking to do heavy graphic design, image-editing and video work, then don’t bother looking at the 12-inch MacBook. Go for the Pro. The specs are designed with this type of work in mind and it will handle your asks with ease. That’s why we’ve picked out the MacBook Pro as one of the Best Laptops for Designers in 2018.

For graphic design, image-editing and video work, then don’t bother looking at the 12-inch MacBook. Go for the Pro.

If that’s not your field, then consider what you need. The entry-level MacBook and Pro both start at $1,299. The entry-level Pro is more powerful and has a larger screen, so it could seem like a no brainer. However, it’s also larger and heavier, and if you travel a lot, may not be the ideal companion compared to the ultra compact and light MacBook.

The further you extend your budget, the bigger the gulf between the MacBook and the Pro becomes. Go all the way to the top-end MacBook Pro, and you’ve got a massively powerful laptop that will do everything you want, and more, with the Touch Bar (not essential, but more than a gimmick) thrown in. You’ll also get a deliciously detailed 15-inch screen. Go for the top-end 12-inch MacBook, and you’ll get…a slightly better MacBook.

Verdict: For any kind of design work, you’ll need the MacBook Pro. The 12-inch MacBook may be slimmer, but it won’t be powerful enough to keep up.

Macbook 12 - tech.co
  • MacBook
  • 12-inch screen
  • Intel m3,i5 or i7 processor
  • Up to 10 hours battery life
  • 256GB or 512GB SSD
  • 2.03 pounds
  • From $1299

macbook pro - tech.co
  • MacBook Pro
  • 13 or 15-inch screen
  • Intel i5 or i7 processor
  • Up to 10 hours battery life
  • 128GB to 1TB SSD
  • 3.02 pounds
  • From $1299

Best MacBook Pro to Choose

The MacBook Pro range starts with a decent-spec laptop that will suit most users, to a power-packed head turner for those with a seriously generous budget. Realistically, you don’t need to plump for the top-end model unless you’re really looking to do some serious graphics work.

The Touch Bar is an added feature on the top-end 13-inch model and both 15-inch Pros. It’s essentially a slim touchscreen that is “context sensitive”, and can be used for scrolling through photos or scrubbing through a video. Is it essential? No. Is it cool? Yeah, it is.

Touch Bar models also enable Touch ID as a way to log into sites or pay for items. Again, its a nicety, not a necessity.

Average users will get away with the entry-level MacBook Pro, which may not have the 8th gen processor of the pricier models, but they won’t miss that if they’re simply surfing, streaming and working.

Opt for a 15-inch model and you’ll get a beautiful 2880 x 1800 Retina screen and a Radeon graphics card. Both are perfect for designers. Although, with storage purely solid state drive (SSD) based, you might want to look into a decent external hard drive for all those large image files.

Verdict: There’s no ‘bad’ MacBook Pro to choose, but only opt for the 15-inch Touch Bar models if the kind of work you do means you can really justify the expense. Otherwise, it’s power you may not need.

macbook pro no touch bar - tech.co
  • MacBook Pro 13-inch
  • 13-inch screen
  • 2.3GHz Intel i5 or 2.5GHz i7 processor
  • Up to 10 hours battery life
  • 128GB to 1TB SSD
  • No Touch Bar
  • 3.02 pounds
  • From $1299

macbook pro - tech.co
  • MacBook Pro w/Touch
  • 13-inch screen
  • 2.3GHz Intel i5 or 2.7GHz i7 processor
  • Up to 10 hours battery life
  • 128GB to 2TB SSD
  • Touch Bar
  • 3.02 pounds
  • From $1799

macbook pro - tech.co
  • MacBook Pro 15-inch
  • 15-inch screen
  • 2.2GHz Intel i7 or 2.9 GHz i9 processor
  • Up to 10 hours battery life
  • 128GB to 4TB SSD
  • Touch Bar
  • 4.02 pounds
  • From $2399

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Jack is a senior writer at Tech.co with over a decade's experience researching and writing about consumer technology, from security and privacy to product reviews and tech news.

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