Choosing the Right MacBook For You

With the new MacBook Air the MacBook line is stable for the next few months, making this a good time to buy a new MacBook. But which one is right for you? The MacBook is the lightest, the MacBook Air is the least expensive and good middle-ground, and the MacBook Pro is the most powerful with several major options. There are several factors that can help you decide. You should always make a trip to a store to compare them for yourself as there is no substitute for hands-on experience.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Choosing the Right MacBook For You.

Hi, this is Gary with So with Apple's new MacBook Air we have a lineup of MacBooks that will be stable for a little while. So a lot of people are thinking that this is the perfect time to buy a MacBook. The question is which one is right for you. So let's take a look at the factors that can help you decide.

First let's look at the real lineup of MacBooks. It's more like they're five machines. Now there are even more than this because Apple is still selling some older machines. You can still get the old MacBook Air, for instance. But basically you've got the MacBook, the MacBook Air, and three MacBook Pros. An thirteen inch without the Touch Bar, one with a Touch Bar, and then a fifteen inch high end model.

So when comparing these, of course you're going to pay more to get more. A lot of that is going to be in the CPU and the GPU. People often forget that when thinking of the power of the machine you have to look at the GPU too. You can't just look at the CPU. With each version here from MacBook all the way to the high end MacBook Pro you get more powerful CPU's and more powerful GPU's. Also a big difference is weight. It's interesting to note that the lightest MacBook isn't the MacBook Air. It's not even close. The MacBook is actually the lightest. It's actually the smallest screen as well which kind of adds to that. The MacBook Pro, the thirteen inch, isn't actually that much heavier than the MacBook Air.

You also get more ports as you go up the scale. So you start with the MacBook that doesn't have a true Thunderbolt 3 port but has a port that can be used for lots of things. It could be used for USB, it could be used for power, of course, and it could be used for, you know, external video and all sorts of things. Then you go to Thunderbolt 3 ports and you only get to four ports when you get to the high end.

You've got Touch Bars on the two lightest end MacBook Pros and on the MacBook Air you don't have a Touch Bar but you do have a Touch ID button which is very useful. It's probably the best part of the Touch Bar is that Touch ID button so you don't have to login each time. So that's the differences between them. Let's try to figure out what these mean to you.

So first screen size. A larger screen size is useful if you have to do certain things. Like, for instance, if you have to work in a situation where there are multiple windows. You could be a researcher and have multiple browser windows, writing windows or things open at the same time and easily available. You could be multi tasking with whatever you have to do. Even if you use your MacBook as a TV. I know some people that don't have televisions but will use, you know, Netflix and the like on their MacBook to watch shows and having a larger screen might mean the difference between having the MacBook on the table in front of you and having is on your lap all the time.

Now if you deal with apps and have lots of complicated controls then you're going to need a larger screen too. So lots of graphics and video apps and tons of little pallets and tools and all this all over the screen, and if you're in a development environment as well, then you're probably going to have lots of little things all over the screen and it's going to be more difficult on a smaller screen.

Now how about power. A lot of people assign too much weight to this. They're thinking what type of power do I need on my machine but they're not actually doing much that uses the power. Things that use a lot of power are video editing if you deal with large graphics. Not just editing photos but doing things like print design and all that. Anything where you're dealing with graphics, illustrations, 3D graphics and modeling. Of course if you're a gamer and you're playing games then the bigger GPU's are going to be better for you. Not many people deal with data processing but if you do use huge sets of data and have to process them with various different apps then CPU will come into play. Probably the biggest thing about CPU and GPU power is future proofing. Thinking of getting a low end machine now and thinking of where that will leave you say five or eight years from now. It's going to be pretty weak. But a higher end machine might be overkill for what you need now but five or eight years from now may still be something that you use all the time rather than already having upgraded.

Now weight. A lot of people are confused by this because they're so many people that don't care about weight. They don't get why somebody would get a less powerful machine for more money. Right. To them the MacBook Pros are the only ones that are interesting. But a lot of people do care about weight. If you are the type that cares about weight, and I'm one of them, then it can become a top priority. After all if you like fifteen inch MacBook Pro and decide not to take it with you when you're traveling on a trip or even just into the living room while watching TV then it's no good at all. Right. It's worse than the lowest end oldest Mac because you don't even have it with you. So weight can be very important for some people.

Now ports. When thinking of Thunderbolt 3 think of it as an expansion slot. I mean you can really plug in devices that are super fast and add functionality to your Mac. But a lot of people get really hung up on having as many ports as possible. The thing is you can always get a Hub and a Hub can hook up multiple ports to your MacBook. So it's something to consider. If you need to have devices plugged in all the time, constantly, every time you use it then you may need more ports. But if it's only occasionally that you need to sit it on a desk and plug into lots of things then really the number of ports doesn't matter. You're probably going to get a Hub anyway. A lot of things we do today are wireless. iCloud transfers all our photos from the iPhone to our Macs. You know we're using cloud storage. All that stuff. So attaching devices is becoming less and less important thinking in the future.

Now Touch Bar is great for some pro users, you know using pro apps that are making good use of the Touch Bar and adding basically extra keys to your keyboard. But it's not something that we all necessarily need. Note that I think the most useful feature of the Touch Bar is the Touch ID allowing you to login easily and the MacBook Air has this even though it doesn't have the Touch Bar.

Okay, so let's look at some factors. The first factor that I would think of when shopping for a MacBook is is weight important to you. Usually this is the easiest question to answer. There's a lot of people say no it's not important at all. I want the best value for my money, the most powerful machine, I don't care what it weighs. There are other people that are like yes I absolutely care what it weighs. It's very important. I need to carry it with me all day around work, to school, I need to bike with it, I need to have it in my backpack all the time. It's extremely important. So once you decide that, that really pushes you away from the MacBook Pros and towards maybe the MacBook or the MacBook Air.

What do you need it for? Thinking of is this just a machine for you at home. Is this something you use for work and what type of work do you do and how well does each model suit what it is you do. If you're surfing the web and maybe just doing word processing all the time then you probably don't need a very powerful CPU. But if you're doing development work you may need a larger screen. If you're doing video editing you may need a more powerful CPU and GPU.

How long do you need it to last? If you want to buy something that going to last for a long long time you may want to go with a more powerful processor. Now if may not effect which model you buy but you may want to go for some of the upgrades to get something that's a little bit future proofed. How much is your dollar worth? People have different budgets. For some people money is not a factor, right. I mean if you're using your MacBook for work and you make money by using your MacBook then maybe you're not so concerned about a five hundred dollar difference or even a thousand dollar difference between models. But if it's the kind of thing where you're on a tight budget then you may want to think about the price and whether you get upgrades and things like that. But future proofing comes into it as well because a cheaper MacBook may feel very outdated in four or five years whereas a more expensive one may last longer.

So let's look at some of the machines. If you're on a budget what's the best one. Well, the MacBook Air actually has a lot of power in it compared to the lower end MacBook. It's a little bit future proofed but it's really not that much more expensive than the MacBook. So it's something that you may want to look into if you're on a tight budget. If you're a student you're probably carrying this thing around with you all day long and you probably don't do high powered things. I mean, yes if you're in film school or something you may want to have a MacBook Pro for video editing. But a lot of students are doing research or writing. Doing assignments and maybe some light spreadsheets and things like that. Having a really light MacBook that fits into your backpack very easily and doesn't have much weight could be really useful.

Now one big thing to consider is this your main Mac or your second Mac because for me I've got a desktop Mac and that's my main Mac. I don't necessarily need a MacBook Pro even though you would think because I use it for work that I would go with a MacBook Pro. For me I'd rather have a lightweight second Mac to carry with me easily while I travel. Now if it's your primary Mac and you do work on it especially but you don't have a desktop at all then the MacBook Pro may be your best bet. It packs all the power, it will last a little bit longer, you can get the larger fifteen inch screen if you want. So that might make more sense for you.

These are all some things to consider. But the right answer, I really think, is to get to an Apple store. I would never buy one of these MacBooks without first trying each one in an Apple store. So find an opportunity to do that or get to any local computer store that's going to have each model and try it out. You maybe surprised when you actually get your hands on them how much more or less weight is important to you or how fast the lower end models seem to you for what you need to do. Things like that. So I highly recommend never buying a MacBook unless you actually set aside some time and take a trip to the Apple store and see what they're really like.

Comments: 11 Responses to “Choosing the Right MacBook For You”

    Dave Hall
    5 months ago

    RAW photo editing- you did not mention this. My 2015 iMac with 8GB of RAM struggles with my 12 MP RAW photo files, especially if I am playing with HDR images. These days not many cameras have much less than 20MP files sizes, so some advice on the best devices would be helpful.

    5 months ago

    Dave: Well, I do say that pro graphics work will benefit from a good GPU, even mentioning images. And processing RAW photos certainly falls under that. It sounds like a good reason to choose a MacBook Pro if working with RAW images is what you do. Most users would not be working with RAW images so it wouldn’t be a good reason to spend more money/carry more weight.

    Mac Carter
    5 months ago

    Good review, Gary. One aspect that I think is important to consider that you did not mention is the new keyboard and trackpad on new Macbook Air and Macbook Pro. The keyboard in particular is quite controversial — it has different key spacing and feels quite different to use. Some people like it and some hate it.

    mark zborowski
    5 months ago

    Hi Gary- Great video as usual. I have been going back and forth between a MBP15 and the new Mac-Mini. I do photography (raw) and web design. Hoping you can weigh in as the MBP15 has a good GPU and the Mac-Mini does not. Looking at plug-in GPUs for the Mini, they are in the $1k range, so negates the price differential.

    Thanks Mark z

    5 months ago

    Mark: The difference between a Mac mini and a MacBook Pro is very fundamental: One sits on your desk and the other can come with you (travel, meetings, coffee, living room, etc). That’s a huge deal. But if you NEVER need to take it with you, then I guess you can compare it to the Mac mini. But add the price of a good UHD display that matches the 15-inch MBP too. I would go into the Apple store with a few of your raw photos (maybe on your iPhone to AirDrop) and try working with them on each.

    5 months ago

    Hi Gary, I have a 2017 13″ MacBook Pro with two thunderbolt ports. These are not enough for me. I bought a Char Jen Pro hub to add more ports. But this hub hangs down from one of the MB thunderbolt ports and occasionally loses contact with the MBt. It is a hassle when it disconnects external hard drives, for instance. Wonder if you can recommend a better hub. Thanks for this useful video.

    5 months ago

    Daniel: Sorry, I don’t have a recommendation since I don’t use one. I rarely plug anything into my MacBook Pro other than power. Just read reviews and take a chance with another one.

    5 months ago

    I’m replacing a MacBook Pro 13 from 2011 because it won’t take Mojave. How long can I expect a new MacBook to last before it can no longer upgrade the OS?

    5 months ago

    Lee: Well, there’s no way to tell for sure, of course. But if you look at the requirements for Mojave, they are all 2012 machines. So that’s 6 years. But High Sierra worked on 2009 and 2010 machines, so that was 7-8 years. So using that to guess, it would be between 6-8 years. Of course you can still use a Mac well beyond that, and Apple still provides security updates for one or two versions back of macOS. A 2008 iMac and MacBook Pro still get regular use in my house.

    5 months ago

    Can the MacBook Pro With the GPU of 640 be upgraded to the 655 and what is the difference?

    5 months ago

    Signe: If you look on Apple’s site, you can see the configurations of the MacBook Pro. One model comes with the 655.

Comments Closed.