Comparison: Which Apple MacBook is right for you?

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2017
Having trouble deciding between the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, MacBook Pro without Touch Bar, Retina MacBook and MacBook Air? Confused about specs? Not sure if upgrades are worth the extra money? AppleInsider explains it all in this breakdown of Apple's current laptop lineup.









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We're also interested in your questions! If you want to know anything about the new MacBook Pro or LG UltraFine lineup, chime in on our forums and we'll address it.

How to get the best deal on a new MacBook
Shoppers can easily save hundreds when purchasing a new MacBook by taking advantage of instant discounts and exclusive coupon savings from Apple authorized resellers. Those opting for a Late 2016 13-inch or 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, for instance, can save $150 to $465 off MSRP on the systems bundled with an AppleCare protection plan. Many resellers do not collect sales tax in a majority of states as well.

Late 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro systems with function keys (but no Touch Bar) are also marked down with total savings of $50 to $200 off MSRP on the laptops alone or $150 to $300 off configs bundled with AppleCare.

The smaller, Early 2016 12-inch MacBook can also be found at up to $150 off, while 13-inch MacBook Air models are now $65 to $200 off.

For the best deals on Apple's entire MacBook lineup, be sure to check out AppleInsider's dedicated deals page. And to compare prices instantly across a variety of resellers, visit AI's Price Guides.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 92
    appexappex Posts: 687member
    Apple should make upgradable computers. No more soldered RAM or SSD. No more proprietary SSD. No more programmed obsolescence. Protect planet Earth!
    nubuspulseimagesdigitolelijahgbaconstangRayz2016pscooter63macplusplusdysamoriaDaekwan
  • Reply 2 of 92
    Which current MacBook is right for me? Let's see, I'm going to medical school soon so I'll need a really long lasting battery for taking notes and studying all day... it would be nice to play a game or two at night to unwind, so it'll have to have a decent GPU... I don't mind a little extra weight as I'm a capable of lifting an additional pound or two... 

    So, which MacBook is right for me?

    NONE OF THEM!!!!
    pulseimageschiasirlance99pentaedigitolelijahgRayz2016pscooter63williamlondonmacplusplus
  • Reply 3 of 92
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,729member
    The top-end 15 inch.  <3
    pulseimagesRayz2016pscooter63Daekwan
  • Reply 4 of 92
    512ke512ke Posts: 756member
    The Mac I already have. MBA i7. 

    The new models don't offer enough of an upgrade over the above to justify the $$$$$. 


    digitolelijahgbaconstangwilliamlondondysamoriaMplsPfarjamedtokyojimuavon b7
  • Reply 5 of 92
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 317member
    I don't need high end graphics but do need a higher resolution display. I need USB A for a security key I use for work. I need good battery life...

    I have to agree with imperial forces - Apple's got nothing for me. Why should I pay $2k for a computer that forces me to make compromises? If I want compromises, I can get a windows laptop for ⅓ the price. 
    digitolimperialforceselijahgwilliamlondonmacplusplusdysamoriaDaekwantokyojimuavon b7
  • Reply 6 of 92
    I'm a developer. I want a machine with:

    1. Quad core i7 for fast code compilation
    2. Tons of (preferably upgradable) memory to run all these virtual machines for test
    3. SSD storage (512GB) that I can upgrade myself or at least have reasonable OEM prices
    4. A decent keyboard to type all day long
    5. USB-A ports to connect to virtually every type of devices out there, including iDevices
    6. HDMI port to connect to projectors and TVs in meeting rooms
    7. SD card slot to import photos from my camera to Lightroom when I go on vacation.

    I don't mind a little of thickness. The touch bar doesn't impress me. For the $500 difference, I could have bought a 9.7" touchscreen also known as iPad.

    Sadly, Apple does not make one.
    edited January 2017 digitolimperialforceselijahgwilliamlondonmacplusplusdysamoriasafiavon b7
  • Reply 7 of 92
    StukeyStukey Posts: 12member
    I'm sitting on a 13" Retina display MacBook Pro of 2011 vintage. I've replaced the battery, I've changed it to SSD from spin drive, I've over-RAMed it (at 16 MB), and yesterday I used Aperture to process RAW Christmas photos on MacOS Sierra. So, with less ability to upgrade the machines on the market today, what incentive does the current crop of MacBooks offer me?  Slightly faster processor?  That's it. Therefore, until Apple snaps-back to "user oriented designs" (where upgradability is design principle no. 1), I'm looking at 1/3 to 1/2 the price Windows machines for the work I need from a laptop. Aperture is obsoleted by Apple so the software is not a holding point (Lightroom will do).

    sad when you read this. I loved Apple laptops.  :(
    digitolelijahgwilliamlondondysamoriafrankeedavon b7
  • Reply 8 of 92
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 3,961member
    appex said:
    Apple should make upgradable computers. No more soldered RAM or SSD. No more proprietary SSD. No more programmed obsolescence. Protect planet Earth!
    What nonsense. First, Apple notebooks are serviceable -- just bring it in, like you do your car. Second, when buying a notebook I want as small and fast as is reasonable. If that means not using stock RAM sticks or hard drives and instead using chips, I'm more than cool with that. And evidently as are the legion of MacBook buyers. Third, my MBs get many years of use -- far more than Windows machines, which become crap in short order; I'd bet Windows machines make the landfill sooner than MBs, which means you should be petitioning Dell and HP not to suck instead of posting here.
    pulseimageschiaelijahgpscooter63redgeminipawilliamlondonmacplusplusdysamoriaDaekwan
  • Reply 9 of 92
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 3,961member
    Which current MacBook is right for me? Let's see, I'm going to medical school soon so I'll need a really long lasting battery for taking notes and studying all day... it would be nice to play a game or two at night to unwind, so it'll have to have a decent GPU... I don't mind a little extra weight as I'm a capable of lifting an additional pound or two... 

    So, which MacBook is right for me?

    NONE OF THEM!!!!
    The question of trolling aside, what on earth are you going on about? If you want a student notebook the Air or MB are clear choices. If you want something to play some games on occasionally get a MBP, which aside from the questionable Consumer Reports claim, scored favorably by reviewers for battery. But if you're at home playing games I don't know why you wouldn't plug it in...it's not like you can use it for 8 hours during the day and then expect to game all night on it. 
    pulseimageschiaelijahgbaconstangpscooter63redgeminipawilliamlondonmacplusplusDaekwan
  • Reply 10 of 92
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 3,961member
    512ke said:
    The Mac I already have. MBA i7. 

    The new models don't offer enough of an upgrade over the above to justify the $$$$$. 


    That's not a true statement. It's a tool. Do you need new tools? Then yes, it's worth spending money on your tools. If you don't need new tools, then no, it may not be. But with a range of $1500-2800, I find it hard to take your crit seriously. My last rMBP cost $2500 and had less capacity than these, so I don't really see the beef.
    SolipulseimagesVisualSeed2elijahgwilliamlondonmacplusplusDaekwan
  • Reply 11 of 92
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 3,961member
    MplsP said:
    I don't need high end graphics but do need a higher resolution display. I need USB A for a security key I use for work. I need good battery life...

    I have to agree with imperial forces - Apple's got nothing for me. Why should I pay $2k for a computer that forces me to make compromises? If I want compromises, I can get a windows laptop for ⅓ the price. 
    Then why haven't you? Everything's a compromise. For your use case you can use USBA on a new MBP with a simple adapter. But I don't have your use case so I'm glad I don't have to make compromises that would favor yours alone.
    SoliwilliamlondonDaekwan
  • Reply 12 of 92
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,197member
    MplsP said:
    I don't need high end graphics but do need a higher resolution display. I need USB A for a security key I use for work. I need good battery life...

    I have to agree with imperial forces - Apple's got nothing for me. Why should I pay $2k for a computer that forces me to make compromises? If I want compromises, I can get a windows laptop for ⅓ the price. 
    1) Every choice has compromises. Pipped by StrangeDays.

    2) Why does your security key require USB-A?
    edited January 2017 pulseimages
  • Reply 13 of 92
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 1,344member
    Which current MacBook is right for me? Let's see, I'm going to medical school soon so I'll need a really long lasting battery for taking notes and studying all day... it would be nice to play a game or two at night to unwind, so it'll have to have a decent GPU... I don't mind a little extra weight as I'm a capable of lifting an additional pound or two... 

    So, which MacBook is right for me?

    NONE OF THEM!!!!
    sounds like you'd be better off with the 12.9" iPad Pro w / Apple Pencil
    pulseimageschiaMikeymikeelijahgwilliamlondondysamoria
  • Reply 14 of 92
    appex said:
    Apple should make upgradable computers. No more soldered RAM or SSD. No more proprietary SSD. No more programmed obsolescence. Protect planet Earth!
    What nonsense. First, Apple notebooks are serviceable -- just bring it in, like you do your car. Second, when buying a notebook I want as small and fast as is reasonable. If that means not using stock RAM sticks or hard drives and instead using chips, I'm more than cool with that. And evidently as are the legion of MacBook buyers. Third, my MBs get many years of use -- far more than Windows machines, which become crap in short order; I'd bet Windows machines make the landfill sooner than MBs, which means you should be petitioning Dell and HP not to suck instead of posting here.
    "First, Apple notebooks are serviceable -- just bring it in, like you do your car." and like the car industry let's get overcharged and making it impossible to even change a light bulb (and get towed for broken bulbs). "I'd bet Windows machines make the landfill sooner than MBs", my research lab still use a PowerBook G4 because the drives could be replaced when they broke. My main machine is still a 17" 2010 MacBookPro because it could be updated (RAM and storage updated to SSD). The new MBP will go the landfill earlier because of the lack of upgradability and anti-repair design. apex is right: Apple recent moves are not environment-friendly. Neither my family or research lab will buy any.
    edited January 2017 elijahgwilliamlondonGeorgeBMacdysamoriafrankeedavon b7
  • Reply 15 of 92
    scottw2 said:
    I'm a developer. I want a machine with:

    1. Quad core i7 for fast code compilation
    2. Tons of (preferably upgradable) memory to run all these virtual machines for test
    3. SSD storage (512GB) that I can upgrade myself or at least have reasonable OEM prices
    4. A decent keyboard to type all day long
    5. USB-A ports to connect to virtually every type of devices out there, including iDevices
    6. HDMI port to connect to projectors and TVs in meeting rooms
    7. SD card slot to import photos from my camera to Lightroom when I go on vacation.

    I don't mind a little of thickness. The touch bar doesn't impress me. For the $500 difference, I could have bought a 9.7" touchscreen also known as iPad.

    Sadly, Apple does not make one.

    I'm a developer too. Full-time enterprise work.

    - I want lots of RAM* which I will max out on Day 1 and never worry about again

    - I want SSD storage that I'll never upgrade myself

    - I don't need USBA since I work via wifi, git repositories, etc. In the rare event I need somebody else's drive I have no problem using a small, simple adapter 

    - I have never, ever used a SD slot, probably because consumer cameras aren't part of my work. My prosumer gear uses CF, and even that I use on my desktop and not my portable.

    - I loathe thickness and want it as thin and light as possible. 

    Happily, Apple makes great options of me.


    * I currently work on a 2014 rMBP and 2011 iMac, maxed out. They work pretty well for me and run VMs, IDEs, etc, so I can't see how the latest MBP could struggle for dev work. In fact this guy's real-world testing put that nonsense to rest:

    https://www.zdziarski.com/blog/?p=6355

    Here’s a list of everything I ran at once:

    • VMwarei Fusion: Two running virtual machines (Windows 10, macOS Sierra)
    • Adobe Photoshop CC: Four 1+gb 36 MP professional, multi-layer photos
    • Adobe InDesign CC: A 22 page photography-intensive project
    • Xcode: Four production Objective-C projects, all cleaned and rebuilt
    • Microsoft PowerPoint: A slide deck presentation
    • Microsoft Word: A 20+ page document with graphics
    • MachOView: Analyzing a daemon binary
    • Mozilla FireFox: Viewing a website
    • Safari: viewing a different website
    • Preview: Three PDF books
    • Hopper Disassembler: Performing an analysis on a binary
    • WireShark: Performing a live network capture as I do all of this
    • IDA Pro 64-bit: Analyzing a 64-bit intel binary
    • Apple Mail: Viewing four mailboxes
    • Tweetbot: Reading all the flames and trolls in my mentions
    • iBooks: Currently viewing an ebook I paid for
    • Skype: Logged in and idling
    • Terminal: A few sessions idling
    • iTunes
    • Little Flocker
    • Little Snitch
    • OverSight
    • Finder
    • Messages
    • Veracrypt
    • Activity Monitor
    • Path Finder
    • Console
    • Probably a lot I’ve missed

    The result? I ran out of things to do before I ever ran out of RAM. I only ever made it to 14.5GB before the system decided to start paging out, so I didn’t even have the change to burn up all that delicious RAM.

    pulseimageschiaRayz2016pscooter63redgeminipawilliamlondonfarjamedNameo_
  • Reply 16 of 92
    Stukey said:
    I'm sitting on a 13" Retina display MacBook Pro of 2011 vintage. I've replaced the battery, I've changed it to SSD from spin drive, I've over-RAMed it (at 16 MB), and yesterday I used Aperture to process RAW Christmas photos on MacOS Sierra. So, with less ability to upgrade the machines on the market today, what incentive does the current crop of MacBooks offer me?  Slightly faster processor?  That's it. Therefore, until Apple snaps-back to "user oriented designs" (where upgradability is design principle no. 1), I'm looking at 1/3 to 1/2 the price Windows machines for the work I need from a laptop. Aperture is obsoleted by Apple so the software is not a holding point (Lightroom will do).

    Post-Woz Apple has never placed much value on user-upgradability, going back to the original Mac. If you're waiting for them to go back to this in their notebooks, you'll wait an eternity because it will never happen. Appliance computing is here to stay.
    pulseimageswilliamlondonspheric
  • Reply 17 of 92
    Which current MacBook is right for me? Let's see, I'm going to medical school soon so I'll need a really long lasting battery for taking notes and studying all day... it would be nice to play a game or two at night to unwind, so it'll have to have a decent GPU... I don't mind a little extra weight as I'm a capable of lifting an additional pound or two... 

    So, which MacBook is right for me?

    NONE OF THEM!!!!
    That depends on your gaming needs. Pretty much all of them can run simple little games to unwind. If you're looking to get into something epic, I bet a pro could run it alright. Or you can invest $250 into an XBOX or PlayStation or something and have a proper gaming system.

    Stukey said:
    I'm sitting on a 13" Retina display MacBook Pro of 2011 vintage. I've replaced the battery, I've changed it to SSD from spin drive, I've over-RAMed it (at 16 MB), and yesterday I used Aperture to process RAW Christmas photos on MacOS Sierra. So, with less ability to upgrade the machines on the market today, what incentive does the current crop of MacBooks offer me?  Slightly faster processor?  That's it. Therefore, until Apple snaps-back to "user oriented designs" (where upgradability is design principle no. 1), I'm looking at 1/3 to 1/2 the price Windows machines for the work I need from a laptop. Aperture is obsoleted by Apple so the software is not a holding point (Lightroom will do).

    sad when you read this. I loved Apple laptops.  :(
    First, the MacBook Pro 13 inch with retina came out in 2012 (end of 2012 to be specific) not 2011, and it came with an SSD and non-user upgradable RAM. You must have a regular non-retina MacBook.

    Second, probably 95% of consumers never once upgrade any components in any of their computers. So making upgradability "design priority #1" is a foolish priority, especially if it comes at the expense of what does drive sales which is user experience and aesthetics. 

    Third, if you get a pro today it will serve you just as long as a Windows laptop and just as well if not better. Plus, it'll have more resale value at the end so you can get at least something back for it. 

    Fourth, a PC laptop you get now is probably not going to be much upgradable either - you can't replace video cards, motherboards, etc. anyway. Once you max out the RAM (which you can do at the time of purchase), the only thing you can really upgrade is the hard drive. So basically, your argument is that Apple should go back to thicker less appealing designs so you can some day have the option of changing your hard drive.
    pulseimageschiazimmermannredgeminipawilliamlondonfallenjt
  • Reply 18 of 92
    OK so I have one of the new MacBook Pro's, love it except for the touch bar. I accidentally touch that stupid thing every time I type. Great concept, but should have added a force touch option.
    Currently looking for a way to disable it altogether.

    I don't care about USB C, before you know it every peripheral will adopt the new connector, until then I'll use the converter, not a big deal.



    edited January 2017
  • Reply 19 of 92
    I use a MacBook Pro for graphic design. Then I use the new MacBook for more casual stuff, bringing places, and writing. They work well together. 


    williamlondon
  • Reply 20 of 92
    appex said:
    Apple should make upgradable computers. No more soldered RAM or SSD. No more proprietary SSD. No more programmed obsolescence. Protect planet Earth!
    Since most people don't upgrade, even when it was possible, all the extra material used to make every computer upgradable would negate the resources saved by those few that extended the life of the computers by upgrading.
    chiaMikeymikeelijahgbaconstangpscooter63redgeminipalinkmanfarjamed
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