Which Mac To Buy

Apple has three choices when it comes to MacBooks:

Apple discontinued its 12-inch laptop in July 2019. You may be able to buy one in Apple’s Refurbished and Clearance Store, but supplies won’t last long. 13-inch models. Jun 17, 2013.

  • MacBook Air 13-inch
  • MacBook Pro 13-inch
  • MacBook Pro 16-inch

But when I consider a variety of options for CPU, RAM, and disk storage, the number of choices increases exponentially.

  1. Explore the world of Mac. Check out MacBook Pro, iMac Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, and more. Visit the Apple site to learn, buy, and get support.
  2. Jul 28, 2020.

So, how do you choose?

How do you make sure that you will not regret your decision in a month or two?

Today I will help you to make the best decision you can do based on your unique needs and resources. In case if you don’t want to read all this stuff, feel free to scroll all the way down to the quiz section.

We will consider three approaches to MacBook selection:

  • Functional
  • Budget driven
  • Want based

But let’s first familiarize ourselves with the differences between Apple laptops.

If you prefer video check out my YouTube channel on the same topic:

MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro 13-inch

Here is a table of differences between all MacBooks:

CharacteristicMacBook AirMacBook Pro 13-inchMacBook Pro 16-inch
Starting Price$999$1299$2399
Display13.3 in13.3in16in
CPU choice343
Weight, lb2.83.14.3
Size, inches11.97 x 8.36 x 0.16-0.6311.97 x 8.36 x 0.6114.09 x 9.68 x 0.64
Battery time12 hours10 hours11 hours
Touch IDYesYesYes
Touch BarNoYesYes

As you can see from the table, the main differences between MacBook Air (MBA) and MacBook Pro (MBP) are:

  • Choice of processors. MBA has only three CPU options, while MBP offers four to choose from.
  • Starting Price. Entry-level MBA is $300 less than entry-level MBP.
  • Storage options. With MBP, you can get up to 4TB.
  • Battery time. MBA lasts for 2 hours longer under the same load as MBP.
  • Touch Bar. MBA does not have a Touch Bar, only Touch ID.
  • Weight. MBA is slightly lighter than MBP.

MBP 13-inch vs. MBP 16-inch

MacBook Pro 16-inch is bigger than 13-inch cousin in all regards: weight, size, storage, RAM, CPU, and of course, price.

There is no point in comparing them. The question is rather – do you need such a best or not? In some cases, you do.

Functional Approach

With this approach you need to answer the following questions:

  • Why do you need a MacBook?
  • Will you use MacBook for work, school, or home?
  • Why MacBook and not a PC laptop, such as Surface?

To help you answer these questions, let’s consider several use cases.

MacBook for data science student

Yap X. reached out to me with the following question:

“Hi, I’m a data scientist and freelance web developer. For data science stuff i can use google colab in a browser. For develop a web, i just need a text editor. Currently, I’m considering picking a MBA or MBP.”

First, I steered him to my article on choosing a MacBook for a college student, which covers this topic in-depth.

Then, the question was whether he needs more space or RAM. I know that data science projects need a lot of memory, but web developers benefit from more storage (for code, assets).

In the end, he went with MBP, 128GB with 2TB external drive.

MacBook for a law student

Hassan H. asked me “I am a law student in UK. I have come across your article of macbook storage size. I want to buy macbook (latest) but i am not sure which one would be better for me..! Either macbook air or macbook pro.”

Hassan didn’t need a lot of power. He needed a light laptop that can hold as much battery as possible. So, he chose the MacBook Air.

MacBook for a programmer

I had the same approach for the last two MacBooks I ordered at work. They both 15-inch (now it would be 16-inch) MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM and at least 512GB storage.

I opted for the least powerful processor available because, for coding, it is more important to have more on-board storage and RAM than CPU. Besides, even the least powerful CPU in the big MBP is way better than the one in 13-inch Pro.

Also, I wanted to have a bigger display so I could work at home without an external monitor.

So, what does it mean for you?

If you know exactly how are you planning to use the laptop, then the decision is simple.

Go for MacBook Pro 16-inch if you need a bigger display and for more CPU, RAM, and disk.

Go for MacBook Air if you value battery time, and you travel a lot. Also, the MBA makes sense if you don’t expect to do anything other than working with documents, send emails, and browse the internet.

When in doubt, go for MacBook 13-inch. It’s a perfect balance of power and usability.

Budget Driven Approach

In the perfect world, we would just buy the biggest, the baddest and not worry. However, all of us have budgets. And often, our budgets don’t align with our needs and wants.

If you are short on money, here are my observations and/or suggestions.

MacBook Air is a good laptop

In most cases, the MBA would be enough for most people. Even for web developers. If you are just starting studying web design or software development, it will take a while until you outgrow MBA resources.

When you become a professional, you most likely be able to afford a more powerful machine.

Consider used or refurbished

If you really need a 15″ or 16″ inch MBP, but can’t afford it, then consider used or refurbished options.

I wrote a whole article on how to choose a used MacBook and which Apple laptop is the best in terms of price to performance ratio.

Don’t pay retail

I never buy Apple products in the Apple store. I always shop online, and I always save at least $100. You can do it too with some tips from me.

Also, don’t forget that you can get credit to pay for the device, which makes it easier.

Want Based Approach

Three months ago, Daniel S. sent me the email:

“I can’t decide what to buy for my girlfriend as a gift. MBP 128 gb or MBA 256 gb. They come at the same price. MBP wins on all parameters except memory. Although my girlfriend needs nothing but a browser, easy photo editing, office work and movie watching. I want my computer to last longer and given the trends in application development, it may be more profitable to take on more power, as the power consumption of applications increases every year.”

After some back and forth, we finally figured that his girlfriend already made up her mind. She liked the TouchBar option, and she was Ok with smaller disk as she didn’t plan to store a lot of photos, documents, or videos.

Bottom line: if you can’t choose between the two, go with what you like. Whether it’s a look, a color, or TouchBar.

New MacBook Pro 13″

If you already decided to go with a MacBook Pro 13″ check my post about selecting right options for a new laptop:

It’s a super detailed post where I tried to go over all options, including CPU, RAM and storage.

Final Tips

Now, when you decide on a type of MacBook, the next step is to know whether it is worth to spend on additional storage and memory, or faster CPU. Over time, I’ve built a bunch of resources to help you with upgrade questions.

Is extra storage worth it? My post “Is 128GB Enough for MacBook Pro/Air? Storage Guide” will help you to understand your options when it comes to disk space.

Similarly, this link will guide you through RAM questions.

This post will help to decide which CPU do you need for MacBook Pro. If you remember, Apple has 8 CPUs to choose from for MBPs.

Since Apple introduced 3 CPU choices (i3, i5, i7 ) choosing the right one got tougher. I touched on this topic here.

And finally, you will have to make a decision on the warranty. My post about AppleCare+ for Mac lists the pros and cons of AppleCare.


As promised, here is a short quiz which can help you decide which MacBook should you buy.

Our rigorous tests find the facts, and our impartial reviews tell you the truth about how products perform. First month £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel anytime.
Which MacBook is right for you? What's the difference between a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro? Our expert Apple laptop guide can help.

Apple laptops aren't cheap, so it's important that you consider your MacBook options carefully before parting with your cash.

We take a look at the key differences between the MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro ranges, so you can be confident that you're buying the right Mac for you.

See also:See all of our best laptopsAnswer three questions to find the best laptop for youBest Windows 10 laptopsBest laptops for students

Which macbook should i buy 2019

Which MacBook should I buy?

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020)

If you've got a big budget, you might have your eyes on a MacBook Pro. These are the most expensive Apple laptops around, and the latest model has a unique Touch Bar. This feature lives right above the keyboard, and it's a mini touchscreen that will display changing information, depending on what you're doing. If you're editing home videos in Final Cut, for example, the Touch Bar will turn into a mini timeline that lets you quickly navigate through your clips. If you're interested in the top-of-the-range model, see our review of the Apple MacBook Pro 2018 with Touch Bar.

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Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro

This Apple is at the very top of the tree in terms of power, size and price. Putting the Pro moniker to good use, this six-core laptop is designed for the most power-hungry tasks such as video editing and computer-aided design. It will surely be overkill for anybody who doesn't do those tasks on a daily basis, though. This model has now been superseded by the 16-inch model, which we have not yet tested.

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Apple Macbook Air 2020

Which Macbook Is The Best

This is the latest version of Apple's popular 13-inch laptop, which starts at under £1,000 for a model with an Intel Core i3 processor. We've testded the mid-range Core i5 model. It has a high resolution screen and a very attractive design, although keep in mind that the processor is a slower form of Core i5 than the one you'll find in the MacBook Pro.

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Last updated: July 2020

See our full collection of MacBook reviews to see how else these models differ.

Mac vs Windows vs Chromebooks

MacOS, Windows 10 and ChromeOS all have their own strengths and weaknesses. MacOS is buttery smooth and is the go-to operating system for many creative industries, but it also requires you to shell out a huge amount of money on a premium Apple device.

MacBooks run smoothly and can keep viruses at bay, but they aren't cheap.

Windows, meanwhile is available on a huge range of devices from ultra-budget to super-premium and, for many, is still the operating system they know best. But it's not without its downsides: Windows 10 updates are still a major sticking point for many people, and the fact that Windows 10 doesn't run particularly smoothly on very cheap laptops.

That's where ChromeOS comes in. This operating system is little more than a fancy web browser, with web apps that work best when connected to the internet. There's a range of budget devices available, and a few premium options as well. There's no faffing with huge updates and since everything is in a browser, there shouldn't be any problems with programs crashing either.

See how MacOS stacks up against its rivals in ourMac vs Windows and Chromebookadvice guide.

What do I need to know about MacOS?

MacOS (formerly known as Mac OSX) is extra useful for people who own iPads and iPhones, with a host of clever features that lets you share and work on files seamlessly on all your devices. You can also make and receive calls on your computer; no need to reach for the phone any more. There's also the Siri voice assistant that'll let you ask questions, set reminders and issue other commands with just your voice.

The latest version of MacOS is called Catalina, which launched in Autumn 2019. This update added a host of new features, including the ability to run iPad apps on your MacBook, which will be handy for when you start a task on your tablet and then move over to your laptop. It also heavily redesigned several key Mac apps including iTunes, which has been split up into three separate programs for music, films and TV, and podcasts. Reminders, Notes and Photos have been overhauled, and you can now also use your iPad as a second screen for your MacBook. And, as ever, MacOS is arguably the best operating system to choose if you already own an iPhone; things sync and work together more seamlessly than other combinations of phones and laptops.

Need more help picking thebest laptopfor you? See our full range oflaptop reviews.

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