mac buying guide

Table of Contents:

  1. MacBook Air
  2. MacBook Pro
  3. MacBook
  4. Mac mini & iMac
  5. Which one is for you
  6. What’s New With Apple

Apple Laptops

MacBook Air

Mac buying guide

Redesigned in 2018, the MacBook Air is Apple’s affordable everyday laptop, with all the power needed for general computing. Despite the new look, it still offers class-leading battery life and portability. Featuring an 8th generation Intel Core i5 CPU, ultra-fast PCIe flash storage and 802.11ac Wi-Fi along with two USB-C Thunderbolt ports, the MacBook Air has what it takes to handle your daily computing needs. Big upgrades to the laptop in 2018 included a new 13.3-inch Retina display and an integrated Touch ID sensor. Weighing just 1.25 kg, the MacBook Air continues to lead the pack for portability among affordable laptops. And it does so while offering all-day battery life of up to 13 hours and a redesigned full-sized, backlit keyboard. The MacBook Air is now offered in three colours: Space Gray, Gold and Silver, all in 100% recycled aluminum.

Ideal For: Anyone who needs a lightweight laptop with all-day battery life, anyone looking for a “green” laptop choice.

MacBook Pro

Apple designed the MacBook Pro to be a portable replacement for a desktop PC, offering all the performance and connectivity in a single, sleek package. The base 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pro models are thin, light and affordable; they are built with premium components to handle computing needs for everyone from students to the business professional. With multiple sizes and configurations available, you can select one that fits your needs.

Mac buying guide

In 2017, all-new MacBook Pros were introduced representing a huge leap forward in Apple’s prosumer laptops.

Following the redesign, in 2018, the MacBook Pro line was updated with new CPUs and True Tone Retina displays. Both sizes are now equipped with 8th generation Intel Core processors; you can even pick a 15-inch MacBook Pro with an Intel Core i7 with six cores of computing power and up to 32GB of RAM. MacBook Pro also comes standard with the latest generation PCIe storage, up to 4TB. The full-sized backlit keyboard has been updated to the 3rd generation of the innovative butterfly mechanism first introduced with the MacBook, and is supplemented by a super-sized Force Touch trackpad. All ports are USB-C with Thunderbolt 3 support. The MacBook Pro is equipped for the future of USB-C accessories, and any of its ports can also be used for power.

The 15” MacBook Pro is equipped with a Radeon Pro graphic card with 4GB of GDDR5 RAM for high powered video performance, while the 13” model has Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics 640 or 655 (depending on CPU chosen). Both the 13” and 15” MacBook Pro laptops are rated for up to 10 hours of use on a single charge.

Mac buying guide

One of the key unique features of the MacBook Pro is the Touch Bar, introduced as part of the 2017 redesign. This is an OLED multi-touch strip that replaces the function keys with programmable, contextually aware controls and a Touch ID sensor. There is a base 13-inch model without the Touch Bar that makes for an affordable option—and it also happens to be nearly as light as the 13-inch MacBook Air.

Ideal For: Mobile professionals, anyone who needs desktop-class performance in a laptop, MacBook Air owners who want to upgrade to increased performance, additional ports and a larger display.

MacBook

The MacBook remains the thinnest and lightest laptop the company has ever offered, at just 1.31 cm at its thickest point and weighing only 920 grams. The MacBook is equipped with 7th generation Intel processors, PCIe flash storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, fanless cooling and a butterfly mechanism keyboard. Clutter is minimized through the use of the latest high-speed, versatile port: USB-C. The MacBook’s single USB-C port handles everything from powering the laptop to connecting accessories and driving an external monitor. The display also impresses with a 12-inch Retina panel with edge-to-edge glass and over 3 million pixels. The stunning looks of this ultra light-weight notebook only get better with the colour choices for the unibody aluminum: Space Grey, Silver, Gold and Rose Gold.

Ideal For: Anyone who wants a an ultra-compact notebook that looks as good as it performs.

Apple Desktops

Mac mini

Mac buying guide

The Mac mini is Apple’s ultra-compact desktop PC, and it got a complete overhaul in 2018 making it more powerful and versatile than ever. The look is the same: machined from a single block of aluminum (in Space Grey) it measures just 20 cm square and under 4 cm tall, including the built-in power supply. 

Mac buying guideDespite its diminutive size and power efficiency, the Mac mini is a full-featured PC. It’s equipped with 8th generation Intel processors, up to a 6-core Intel Core i7 @ 3.2GHz. DDR4 RAM options range from 8GB to 64GB and the Mac mini is available with up to 2TB of PCIe SSD storage. Intel UHD Graphics 630 combined with fast ports means this little desktop can drive up to three 4K displays simultaneously.

It also offers an incredible number of connectivity options, including Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, a pair of Type-A USB 3.0 ports, four USB-C Thunderbolt ports and even a 3.5 mm headphone jack. There’s also Bluetooth 5.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless connectivity.

Memory can be upgraded after purchase, but make sure to pick the storage you’ll need as that is soldered. Mac mini buyers will also have to supply their own keyboard, mouse and display. 

Ideal For: Casual computer users looking for an affordable Mac, anyone who wants a desktop Mac that doesn’t have a built-in display, space-constrained Mac shoppers and data centres.

iMac

The iMac delivers the ultimate all-in-one desktop PC experience, with a range of configurations that make it ideal for everyone from students to professionals. 

Mac buying guide

The centrepiece of the iMac experience is the brilliant LED-backlit display, available in 21.5-inch and 27-inch sizes and resolutions up to an awe-inspiring 5k. The iMac is machined from aluminum, sports edges just 5 mm thick and is held securely and ergonomically on an adjustable metal stand that also minimizes its footprint. Inside are high performance components including Intel Kirby Lake Core CPUs (up to a quad-core Intel Core i7 at 4.2GHz), up to 64GB of RAM, optional Radeon Pro 570, 575, or 580 graphics cards and Fusion or SSD storage up to 2TB. Apple iMacs offer a full complement of expansion ports including both USB-A 3.0 and USB-C Thunderbolt ports, an SDXC card slot, and Ethernet.  

Wireless connectivity is via Bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Stereo speakers provide immersive audio and there’s an HD FaceTime video camera.

Even Apple’s wireless Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2 are included in the box. 

Mac buying guideFor professional users who need even more power, Apple introduced the iMac Pro in 2017.

Immediately recognizable by its Space Grey aluminum case and keyboard, the iMac Pro is powered by an Intel Xeon processor with up to 18 cores. The standard configuration is 32GB of DDR4 RAM, and it can support up to 128GB. The iMac Pro is equipped with AMD Radeon Pro Vega graphics with up to 16GB of video RAM—making it capable of supporting VR and editing 8K video. 1TB to 4TB of SSD storage means room for even the biggest video projects. The iMac Pro also has a Gigabit Ethernet port for transferring large files in a wired environment.

Ideal For: Anyone who wants a complete all-in-one computing experience in a premium package, everyday and professional computing.

Features to Consider

Desktop Computer vs Laptop

Mac buying guide

When considering an Apple computer, the first key decision is whether to choose a laptop or a desktop.

A laptop is a self-contained portable solution. It uses little desk space, so you can set it up anywhere. Slip it in a case and you can take it with you to use in a cafe, at a meeting, in a class or on the train. All Apple laptops offer excellent battery life, so in most situations you won’t have to worry about searching for a power outlet. If you want to expand your setup at home or the office, you can always plug in a big screen monitor, add a wireless keyboard and mouse and plug in an external drive for extra storage. With a properly equipped MacBook Pro you can drive multiple external displays and even plug in an external GPU for additional graphics processing power.

A desktop PC lacks the portability of a laptop, but is usually more powerful, with desktop-class CPUs. Apple offers a wide range of desktop computers from the ultra-compact Mac mini to the workstation-class iMac Pro, with the sleek all-in-one iMac showing up everywhere from homes to offices and on the desktops of creative professionals. Those iMacs are available with big, bright 27-inch displays at 5K resolution!

Bring your own favourite monitor, keyboard and mouse with the Mac mini, or choose an iMac to get everything you need right out of the box.

Laptop vs. Tablet

Mac buying guide

The distinction between laptop and tablet used to be very clear: a laptop was the best choice for productivity, while a tablet was great for casual use such as web-surfing and watching videos.

That line has blurred with Apple’s latest class of devices. The MacBook is thin and light enough to rival many tablets when it comes to portability, while the iPad Pro brings a new level of productivity to tablets, especially when equipped with a Smart Keyboard Folio. Its A12X Bionic processor makes it more powerful than many laptops, and the Liquid Retina Display is available in sizes up to 12.9-inches. The availability of mobile app versions of popular software like Microsoft Word also makes it more feasible to use an iPad Pro as an ultra-portable laptop. The latest generation iPad Pro’s support for USB-C peripherals has further complicated the choice.

However, when choosing between laptop and tablet, there are still some clear advantages to each option. Tablets like an iPad are ideal for casual use, ultra portability and touch control, and they support the Apple Pencil stylus. But when it comes to serious productivity, it’s still tough to beat the full-sized keyboard of a laptop, the option of larger displays, along with a wider range of ports for connecting peripherals and accessories. Mac laptops also run macOS instead of iOS, so they’re not limited in the software that can be used the way an iPad can be.

Processor

Mac buying guide

Apple computers use Intel processors exclusively. Product lines are refreshed at different times and currently range from the dual-core, 7th generation Core m3 and Core m5 used in the MacBook to the 8th generation, hexa-core Intel Core i7 CPU available in the MacBook Pro and the mighty 18-core Xeon that’s an option for the iMac Pro. All Mac computers are equipped with processors that ensure they have the power needed to get the job done and to ensure an extended useful life.

Mac buying guideRAM

RAM is a critical component that greatly influences the overall performance of a computer: the more RAM available, the more applications and windows can be open before the system starts to slow down. All current Macs are equipped with a minimum of 8GB of RAM, including high speed DDR4 RAM in some prosumer models. With desktop Macs, RAM is user upgradeable but with Apple laptops—the MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air—RAM is soldered onto the motherboard, making it very important to pick the right amount.

Storage

Mac buying guide

Apple computers offer a range of storage options. The company pioneered the use of SSDs as standard equipment in its ultra-portables, and all now come with solid state storage. All Apple laptops and the Mac mini are currently equipped with PCIe flash storage, which is much faster than previous generation SSDs. 

For massive storage capacity to handle collections of videos, music and games, the iMac still offers hard drive storage, or Fusion hybrid drives that combine the affordable mass storage of traditional hard drives with the fast system-level performance of SSDs. For extreme speed, SSDs are an extra cost option for iMacs.

Battery Life

Mac buying guide

Mac laptops have a reputation for all-day battery life, and in this case “all-day” will exceed what most people would ever need. For example, the 13-inch MacBook Air is rated at up to 12 hours of wireless web browsing or 13 hours of iTunes movie playback, while the big 15.4-inch MacBook Pro can put in a solid 10 hours of use between charges.

Wi-Fi

Mac buying guide

Wi-Fi is more important than ever, as more services move to the cloud. Apple equips all its new Macs with 802.11ac Wi-Fi to take full advantage of the wireless performance boost when connecting to a Gigabit Wi-Fi router.

All Macs are also equipped with Bluetooth wireless for connecting to peripherals such as wireless keyboards and headphones.

Mac vs. Windows PC

Mac buying guide

Whether you’re a first-time computer buyer or someone thinking of making the switch from Windows, these features make Apple computers stand out from the pack.

macOS

Mac buying guide

Formerly known as OS X, macOS is the operating system that powers Apple’s computers. Offering a refined user experience with the built-in security of its UNIX heritage, Apple upgrades macOS yearly—for free. The company also regularly releases security updates to address any threats that have been discovered. Included with macOS are preloaded applications, including iTunes, Pages, iMovie and Apple’s Safari web browser. 

Owners of other Apple devices will appreciate the consistency between macOS and iOS, and the ability to seamlessly move between apps on an iPhone or iPad and a Mac using Handoff.

Windows on Macs

There are Mac-native versions of most popular applications such as Microsoft Office. However, if you want to run Windows on your Mac, you can! Using Bootcamp, you can directly install Windows and Windows applications, then choose whether you want to boot the computer into Windows or OS X. 

Mac buying guideYou can also run Windows using an emulator, so you can have both environments active at the same time and even share files between them.

The one thing you can’t do is take advantage of Windows 10’s touch and stylus support, since Macs don’t have touchscreen displays.

What’s New in the World of Macs

macOS Mojave

Mac buying guide

Released in the fall of 2018, macOS Mojave is focused on making the Mac experience better than ever. It introduces Dark Mode, to help you stay focused and to reduce eyestrain when spending a lot of time staring at a screen. It also features Dynamic Desktop, which changes the supported themes to reflect the time of day, darkening as night approaches. Stacks helps declutter the desktop by grouping similar files together. With macOS Mojave, Mac users finally get the ability to mark up screenshots, and a new Screenshot utility to make the whole process easier. The App Store was redesigned, and several of Apple’s iOS apps made it to the Mac, the leading wave of Apple’s ongoing work toward eventual compatibility between iOS apps and macOS.

8th Generation Intel Processors

Apple laptops use Intel processors for power, efficiency and graphics capabilities. Mac OS X takes full advantage of Intel’s multi-core architecture for maximum performance. Apple’s newest laptops and the Mac mini use Intel’s latest 8th generation CPUs for even greater speed, with the some even offering a hexa-core option.

Mac buying guideT2 Security 

Featured in the latest 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar laptops, Apple’s new T2 security chip is a coprocessor that offers ultra-secure system booting and encrypted storage.

Thunderbolt 3 USB-C Ports

Apple was a pioneer in offering USB-C ports, and the latest generation of Macs (the new MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini) are equipped with ultra high-speed USB-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3. Besides 40Gbps data transfer speed, this lets them output video at full resolution to an external 5K display, with some models able to simultaneously drive multiple 4K or 5K external displays.

Accessories

Mac buying guide

Keyboard

If you choose a Mac Mini or Mac Pro, a Bluetooth keyboard is a must. It’s also a handy addition if you want to use your Mac laptop as a “desktop” PC. Apple’s Magic Keyboard is a great option, offering full-sized layout in a compact and wireless form factor that complements your Apple Computer’s aluminum look. It even has a built-in rechargeable battery! If you’re a number cruncher, consider a wireless keyboard with a numeric keypad for greater efficiency.

Wireless Mouse

Apple’s Magic Mouse 2 offers all the advantages of the original—wireless operation, Multi-Touch support for macOS gestures, laser tracking and an ergonomic design—but adds a built-in rechargeable battery. For the ultimate in touch navigation without having to move your hand, the glass-surfaced Magic Trackpad 2 even includes support for Apple’s Force Touch feature. You can also use many third party Bluetooth mice with Apple computers.

USB-C Hub

With the MacBook laptop, Apple introduced the new USB-C standard to the mainstream. USB-C offers many advantages, including speed, fuss-free connectors (there is no “right” or “wrong” way to plug them in) and the ability to carry enough power to run a laptop. An increasing number of accessories and peripherals are switching to USB-C. However, the MacBook has a single USB-C port and that does double duty as its power supply. So consider investing in a USB-C hub, so you can expand its connectivity. Apple’s other laptops are also equipped exclusively with USB-C and you may want a hub for these as well, in order to gain a few USB Type-A ports for plugging in order accessories.

802.11ac Wireless Router

Apple buying guide

To ensure your Apple laptop or computer is able to download, web browse and stream at full speed, make sure your home is outfitted with an 802.11ac Wi-Fi router. For ease of use and maximum coverage, you may want to consider a mesh Wi-Fi system instead of a traditional, single-point Wi-Fi router.

Mac buying guideLaptop Case

If you buy an Apple laptop and plan to take it anywhere with you, a case or sleeve is an essential accessory. Both will protect your MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro from scratches and the elements, while a case adds storage so you can conveniently bring along accessories like a power adapter, Bluetooth mouse or thumb drive. If you want to go as light as possible, consider a laptop skin for protection from minor bumps and scratches without the bulk of a sleeve or case.

Take the Next Step and Find The Right Apple Computer

Apple buying guide

With the knowledge you’ve gained about Apple computers, you have everything you need to make make an informed decision about which one is right for you. Best Buy carries a large selection of MacBooks, MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, iMacs, and Mac minis so there’s guaranteed to be a Mac model that fits your lifestyle and needs. Best Buy also offers a specialized range of iMacs and Apple laptops that have unique specifications outside of the standard retail models, so you can get the exact Mac you want, right away.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Diane,
    I sent an email to you for more information so that we can provide the assistance you need.
    Martin

  2. We are researching MAC choices to move from a Windows 10 PC environment to a computer (probably a desktop) that would satisfy our requirements as researchers and writers. Do you have any advice on how, if possible, we might be able to use a word processing application and have Internet access with the ability to move smoothly from one to the other without needless publicity interruptions, uncalled for displays of other applications and messages. We also need an email account or two. We are not opposed to design and graphics apps, but would like to stay away from games. All the extras (other applications and programs outside of Word, email and Internet) should remain in the backdground and be easily accessible BUT unimposed and non problematic. We live in Gatineau (Quebec) CANADA and are also interested in security aspects and Website construction . Diane

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