So you’re looking to buy a new Mac – maybe for back to school (yes, we said it), the machine you have maybe getting a bit tired or you just fancy a new shiny computer to play with – the A&T Tech Mac Buyer’s Guide for summer 2015 will help you out.
Now purchasing a Mac is a bit more complicated than looking to buy a iPhone or iPad, with those it’s a matter of the colour and the storage size and you’re set. The new models are now available in gold, space grey or sliver. Also the latest iPad and iPhone models come in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB versions. But with the Macs the choosing process gets a bit more complicated as there are a number of models to choose from.
As of writing, the current lineup for Apple’s Macs are split into two categories; Notebooks and Desktops. In the notebook section there is the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and the brand new MacBook. With the desktops the most iconic is the iMac with the Mac mini and Mac Pro also in the mix. Prices start at £399 going up to around £9,000.
If you know what your budget, great – as for £399 you can get a Mac mini and for £749 you can get a MacBook Air. But next up is a short breakdown of every model, the upgrade options, pricing and the basic purpose and what sort of use case each different Mac has.
Ok, as mentioned previously – the iMac is probably one of the most iconic desktops from Apple, no shadow of a doubt, 2but Apple actually do make other computers besides the iMac. For example the Mac mini and the Mac Pro. All models do have a purpose and a target market, for example the Mac mini is aimed at users looking to spend a similar amount as they would on a PC and get OS X for that price, the iMac is the default desktop for any Mac user with two models: iMac and iMac with 5K Retina Display. The Mac Pro is largely aimed at video professionals, graphic designers and photographers – Tech YouTubers tend to buy it more often than not. So below is the current line up of Apple’s desktops.
The Mac mini usually goes unnoticed in the Mac lineup but it is a very economic computer and an affordable way into the Apple ecosystem, it is a rounded rectangle box which takes up minimal room on a desk and is very quiet, Apple has even said it is one of the quietist desktops around as well as being extremely energy efficient.
Something to bear in mind is that the Mac mini doesn’t have an included mouse, keyboard or a monitor – although if you do have a suitable set from your old Windows computer or Mac they will work just fine.
In terms of ports it has four USB 3 ports (which work with USB 2 ports), one HDMI, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, (The Thunderbolt ports can be used for connecting a monitor, hard drives cameras and more.) SDXC card slot, Gigabit Ethernet port for connecting to wired networks and a IR receiver which is best used when the Mac mini is in a home cinema system or under a TV. Also a 3.5mm headphone jack which can be used with EarPods to control volume and play/pause iTunes – and a dedicated microphone port.
For connecting the Mac mini to other types of monitors, adaptors for VGA, DVI and Dual-link DVI can be purchased.
The Mac mini also has the latest 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0.
In terms of specs, the base line £399 Mac mini comes standard with a 1.4GHz dual-core Intel i5, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive, this configuation isnt the most ideal, but if it is in your budget range the upgrade of 8GB RAM comes highly recommended as it isn’t possible to upgrade the internal components in the 2014 model.
Fully specced out the Mac mini comes with a 3.0GHz dual core Intel Core i7 with Turbo up to 3.5GHz, 2TB Fusion Drive, 16GB RAM and integrated Intel Iris graphics. This configuration comes in at £1,199.
The most ideal configuration for most users is the £569 model – with a 2.6GHz dual core Intel Core i5 with Turbo up to 3.1GHz, 2TB Fusion Drive, 8GB RAM and integrated Intel Iris graphics. This will be capable of day to day computing as well as light photo editing in Photos or casual video editing on iMovie – both of which are free with with every Mac.
The iMac is the poster boy for the Mac desktop line, with the insanely thin design and gorgeous screen. The iMac has always been iconic and desirable. Prices start at £899 for the 21.5-inch screen model and can go up to £3,000 for the 5K version. The iMac is a very slim desktop and hardly takes up andy desk space also it is surprisingly light.
Unlike the Mac mini this does have an included wireless keyboard and mouse, although on checkout you can choose to have a Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad. The £899 model has the same specs as the baseline MacBook Air but you do get 8GB RAM as apposed to 4GB.
The iMac comes in three different models, the 21.5-inch, 27-inch and the amazing iMac with 5K Retina Display which has a 27-inch monitor. The 21.5-inch has three different standard configurations which can be individually upgraded with a better processor, RAM, graphics chip and storage options. The £899 21.5-inch base model is a capable machine and will be able to handle day to day tasks such as web browsing, iTunes device management, email, light photo editing and light video editing in iMovie and anything else that isn’t overly taxing, but the 8GB RAM will help it perform fairly well.
With the ports, all iMac models come with four USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, SDXC card slot, headphone port which works with EarPods and a Gigabit Ethernet port for connecting to wired networks.
Like the Mac mini the iMac can be connected to to other types of monitors for a dual screen setup – if that is needed, adaptors for VGA, DVI and Dual-link DVI can be purchased. All iMac models also have the latest 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.0, unfortunately the iMac no longer has a receiver for IR (previously this was located in the Apple logo on the front, with the 2012 models this was removed).
With the specs, the base £899 21.5-inch model comes with 1.4GHz dial core Intel Core i5 with a turbo boost up to 2.7GHz, 8GB RAM, 500GB hard drive and integrated Intel HD Graphics 5000. This can be upgraded to a 1TB hard drive for £40 to a 1TB Fusion Drive for £200.
The 21.5-inch range also has two there models like the Mac mini; one at £1,049 and £1,999
The recommended model is the £1,049 if your budget can stretch to that – at just £150 more it may be the most ideal configuration for most users. It comes with a faster 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo up to 3.2GHz, 1TB Fusion Drive, 8GB RAM and integrated Intel Iris Pro graphics. This machine will be a lot more capable at tasks such as Photoshop, iMovie and any of the Adobe Suite – thanks to the quad-core processor. If you’re interested in future proofing it the upgrade to 16GB RAM is recommended.
Fully specced out the 21.5-inch iMac comes with a 3.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo up to 3.9GHz, the option of a 1TB hard drive, 1TB Fusion Drive, 256GB Flash Storage or 512GB Flash Storage and 16GB RAM and dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 1GB DDR5 Graphics. This configuration comes in at £1,679.
The larger 27-inch iMac comes in two configurations; the standard 27-inch and the 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K Display.
The standard 27-inch iMac has just one standard “off the shelf” configuaration with a 3.2GHz quad-core processor, 8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive and a Nvidia GeForce GT 755M graphics chip. It comes in at £1,449 but for a little extra you could get the 5K iMac.
The iMac with 5K Retina Display has an amazing screen – with a 3.3GHz quad-core processor and a new AMD Radeon R9 graphics chip.
The Mac Pro only needs one word to sum it up. Insane.
The Mac Pro is undoubtedly insane and amazing – all of the previous models have been extremely powerful and for the case size it is to be expected, but the latest model fits more power into a tiny size – at just 9 inches. It is a small, cylindrical black device and is one of the most advanced computers around, not only for power but the amount of engineering involved. For example it has only one fan, thanks to a triangular design inside which uses vents on the base of the Mac Pro and one fan up top for drawing the air through the machine.
It comes with a quad-core Intel Xeon E5 but can be upgraded to a six-core or a twelve-core option. The Mac Pro also comes standard with dual graphics cards – the AMD FirePros and flash storage based on PCIe.
In terms of ports, the Mac Pro has four USB 3 ports, six Thunderbolt, 2 Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack and a audio out jack. It also costs a lot, coming in at £2,499 but with a few upgrades such as that twelve-core processor, 64GB RAM and 1TB of flash storage as well as upgraded GPUs it can cost around £9,000. It’s mainly aimed at video and graphics processor – but if you have the cash a good device for checking A&T Tech and Facebook.
Ok next are the laptops and notebooks in Apple’s product line up – starting at £749 going up to around £3,000 there are a few models and with a lot of upgrade options. The new MacBook is aimed at users who love the latest technology and using Cloud based solutions and being wireless, the MacBook Air is basically the MacBook for everyone and the MacBook Pro is a desktop replacement capable of video editing and graphical work.
So below is the current line up of Apple’s laptops.
The recently announced MacBook is a relaunch of the product line which was discounted in 2009. This new device is super thin, but it isn’t for everyone (hence why the MacBook Air is the MacBook for everyone) as it is thin and light as well as having just one port. Gone are the days of having USB, Thunderbolt, MagSafe and more – this has one – USB-C, it handles charging, video and data.
If you’re thinking “Whoa, I need more ports!” – this laptop just isn’t for you.
The new MacBook comes in Silver, Space Grey and Gold – just like the iPhone.
The reason this device has one port is that it is targeted at a certain user group. Want to transfer a file? – use AirDrop. Want to connect to the internet? – Use WiFi. Want to listen to music with headphones? – use Bluetooth (although there is a 3.5mm headphone jack snuck in there.
Apple has made a lot of innovations with the new MacBook – each key on the keybaord is thinner and uses a new mechanism for pressing down. The trackpad also doesn’t physically click, instead it borrows technology from the Apple Watch called Force Touch.
The new keyboard uses a new system called the butterfly mechanism which basically has less travel for the keys – it means the laptop is thinner, but fairly different to use.
In terms of specs, the MacBook doesn’t have have the power of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro but then it is for different tasks. It has a 1.1GHz Intel Core M processor as standard and the option of a 1.2GHz or 1.3GHz variation is available. It comes with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD – no moving parts in this laptop.
The MacBook is certainly capable of running iMovie (just not 4K) and similar programs very well.
The next notebook in the Apple lineup is the MacBook Air. Before the new MacBook was launched this was the thinnest device that the company makes, but it is the main face for the MacBook brand as it currently stands. But the MacBook Air looks a bit awkward as it is no longer the thinnest MacBook around but the MacBook Air is a brilliant machine, this is actually being written from one.
The MacBook Air still has a place, for users who still need a few ports and enough power to do light video editing and Photoshop. It also has a stellar battery with the 13-inch model lasting up to 12 hours and the 11-inch holding up for 9 hours. The ports aren’t as sparked as the new MacBook and includes two USB 3 ports, one Thunderbolt port and a SDXC card slot on the bigger model.
For £749 you get the 11-inch model and a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 4GB RAM and 128GB of flash storage. For £60 more the upgrade to 8GB RAM is highly recommended.
Fully specced out the 11-inch MacBook Air costs £1,349 – for that you get 2.2GHz dual core Intel Core i7 with turbo boost up to 3.2GHz, 8GB RAM and 512GB of flash storage. The most recommend model for most users is £899 model with upgraded RAM – coming in at £979. The 13-inch model has the same specs, just costs slightly more.
The MacBook Pro, when fully upgraded is a true desktop replacement. It comes in three different models but the cheapest model really isn’t the one to get it’s sort of the iPod Classic of the MacBook lineup. The other two are worth bothering with the 13-inch and the 15-inch, both come with retina displays and powerful internals.
The cheapest MacBook Pro comes in at £899 and comes with a 13-inch screen (which is non retina), 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM and a mechanical hard drive.
The 13-inch model with a retina display has a 2.7GHz dual core Intel Core i5 8GB RAM, 128GB flash storage, Intel Iris graphics 6100 and a 10 hour battery life. Also included is the new Force Touch trackpad.
The bigger model is really the mother of all MacBooks with a 2.2GHz processor, 8GB RAM and flash storage.
Fully upgraded this model has 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 1TB of flash storge, 16GB RAM and dual graphics of Intel Iris Pro and AMD Radeon R9 M370X with 2GB GDDR5 memory. This model comes in at £2,549. This can also power a 5K Retina display, if it needs to.