Should you wait for Apple Silicon to upgrade to a new Mac?

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited July 2020
Apple is transitioning its line of Macs from Intel-based processors to its own ARM-based processors over the course of the next few years. That begs the question of whether it's smart to upgrade now, or wait for Apple silicon Macs to launch.

Apple's processors versus Intel's
Apple's processors versus Intel's

Why you should wait for Apple Silicon Macs

Apple's transition to its own in-house silicon for the Mac line is a big deal. Big enough that Apple pre-announced the transition at least two years in advance, giving developers time to work on their apps as well as a timeline for consumers who are considering a Mac purchase in the next 12 months or so.

We've already seen a decline in Mac sales as users wait for Apple's new machines rocking some variant of its powerful A-series chips.






Like with any Apple product, there is a huge draw to be an early adopter, hopping on the bandwagon of Apple's "latest and greatest" tech. That draw can't be overstated as reason enough to not buy a new Mac now, but rather to wait for the new line.

These new machines will surely be tempting as Apple attempts to justify its transition talking up its new hardware and the power and efficiency of its own chips over Intel's. These machines will likely be quite powerful, while having exceptional battery life.

As Apple releases these machines, they are likely to come with other new features or optimizations that its Intel Macs don't have. We may not see that now but in future versions of macOS, there will likely be Apple silicon-specific features that won't pertain to Intel machines.

Not to mention refreshed form factors. The most anticipated of which is the rumored redesigned "14-inch MacBook Pro" that seems likely for early 2021.

At the same time, there are many reasons one may want to hold off on buying an Apple-silicon Mac and picking one up right now.

Why you should buy a Mac now

The first reason users may want to hold off is if they need a Mac now, rather than later. Apple just refreshed both the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air -- two of its most popular machines. Apple will continue to release Intel Macs for at least the next year or so as it slowly makes the transition to Apple silicon. Support for those Macs isn't going away anytime soon, so you can buy a machine now and expect it to work for many years as always.

As mentioned, current rumors point to the first Apple silicon Macs to be the 13-inch Pro and MacBook Air, with others following those. If that is truly the case, users will have to wait at least until 2021 at the earliest before they are able to buy an Apple silicon 16-inch MacBook Pro, Mac mini, iMac Pro, Mac Pro, or any other new Mac that is set to debut.

So if you are looking for something else, it may be beneficial to buy now, then sell and upgrade later when a suitable machine becomes available.

There is also the risk of being an early adopter. Anytime a new product is introduced there are bound to be bugs or rough points that get fixed or optimized in second-generation releases. Users typically want to keep their machines for many years, so it may be a safer bet to wait for a second-gen Apple silicon machine before jumping on board for Apple to refine the design.

Not to mention all apps at this point are optimized for Intel processors. Apple gave developers a large heads up to start working on their software for its ARM processors, but the transition won't be instant. Many big apps will be forced to run in emulation using Rosetta 2, not fully taking advantage of Apple's silicon.

If you are reliant on Windows in any way, that is yet another reason to stick to Intel-based Macs that are able to run Boot Camp as that feature is set to be retired with the Apple ARM transition.

Current deals on Macs

If you're in the market for a Mac, there are plenty of aggressive deals going on now, long before new Apple Silicon Macs hit store shelves.

From 16-inch MacBook Pros on sale for $1,999 to blowout prices on iMacs, the best Apple prices are at your fingertips 24/7 in the AI Price Guide.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 63
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,780member
    This annoying topic will keep popping up every where with very similar information. Let it go. My son pretty smart informed engineer bought Macbook Air through Apple's education promo. He said, Intel based MACs will be supported for a long time so bottom line decision is ... "If you need(new or must replace) MAC now/sooner than go buy it otherwise wait and see. So simple but everyone needs to beat the dead horse.
    palegolaslkruppcanukstormkillroy
  • Reply 2 of 63
    I've been pondering replacing my 2015 15in MBP for about 6 months now. Ever since the 16in MBP was released I've been thinking about it. Then along came CV-19 and everything stopped dead. There is some sense for me to wait for the ARM MBP in 2021/22 but my backup Macbook won't run Big Sur (AFAIK as it is a 2012 15in MBP) I run Lightroom and Photoshop but these days my main apps are Scrivenor and Libre Office. I've written two novels this year (250K word) so a great keyboard is very important to me. The big unknown is what keyboard will Apple put on the next generation Mac's? We simply don't know. (where is my crystal ball) The jury is out and a decision is not imminent. I suspect that I'm not alone in that.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 63
    "Should you wait?" Yes, of course. Never buy the version 1.0 of anything Apple. Version 2.0 will be so much better. See, e.g., OSX 10 vs 10.1, the first ipod touch vs the 2nd generation ipod touch, the first iphone vs iphone 3g, first apple watch ("what is this?") vs 2nd gen, 1st ipad vs 2nd gen (people still use these for certain purposes)... the list goes on. It's going to be 2-3 more WWDCs before the Apple-Silicon version of MacOS starts doing things that x86 doesn't; the transition will be that long and support for x86 will be 3-4 years after that. So anything new that you buy now will be ~6-7 years old before Apple stops supporting it.

    "Will you wait?" No. Of course not. And neither will I. It's Apple! Take my money.

    lkruppmuthuk_vanalingamMacProcornchipwatto_cobrarundhvidsigil
  • Reply 4 of 63
    palegolaspalegolas Posts: 1,350member
    The current top model MacBook Pro looks to be performing amazing. They'll be great for years. I think the bottom line is whether the software and hardware compatibility you need works or not.

    When Apple is releasing a new operating system it's often creating a half year long void and wait for the developers in the music, synth and audio industry (which I'm in) to catch up with stable drivers, because of Apple changing around a lot of stuff. Also a cat-and-mouse game where developers are waiting for Apple to acknowledge new bugs, or creating drivers that work around them. Now with a completely new hardware, I would very much assume there to be similar challenges… Just more.
    For what I'm doing, I would probably need to wait and see… perhaps one, or even two years down the line unfortunately?
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 63
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,390member
    I think the next round of intel macs is the last.  I'll stick with my 2013 iMac in the meantime and skip AppleMac series 1 until 2022.

    My guess is someone will hack Big Sur to support my machine in the meantime long enough for me to make it.  Then it becomes a low-rez display for whatever comes next.

    Thanks, Apple.  Keep that stock price up!
    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 63
    GG1GG1 Posts: 483member
    I was ready to get the Mac Mini at the end of the year plus an eGPU (for gaming). Now I want to wait to see the performance of the Apple Silicon MacBook Pro. Barring an xMac (I know, wishful thinking), I'd really like an updated Trash Can with beefy video card (also wishful thinking) to avoid the eGPU. But if the inbuilt video performance is good, I'll wait for an updated Mini.

    I know I'm in the minority, but an updated Trash Can fits my use case (bring your own monitors but don't need an eGPU).
  • Reply 7 of 63
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,807moderator
    I've been pondering replacing my 2015 15in MBP for about 6 months now. Ever since the 16in MBP was released I've been thinking about it. Then along came CV-19 and everything stopped dead. There is some sense for me to wait for the ARM MBP in 2021/22 but my backup Macbook won't run Big Sur (AFAIK as it is a 2012 15in MBP) I run Lightroom and Photoshop but these days my main apps are Scrivenor and Libre Office. I've written two novels this year (250K word) so a great keyboard is very important to me. The big unknown is what keyboard will Apple put on the next generation Mac's? We simply don't know. (where is my crystal ball) The jury is out and a decision is not imminent. I suspect that I'm not alone in that.
    After the transition to Intel, it was still possible to buy PPC machines and the prices dropped when people realized they were obsolete machines. Intel machines have more residual value than PPC but it depends on what Apple brings out. If they bring out a 16" machine that has the same or faster CPU and GPU than the top-end ~$3400 MBP priced at $2000-2500, the price of that model will surely drop quickly too, especially if it does on Apple's refurb site. That's what happened to the Vega 20 model when the new 5300M/5500M GPUs came out, it lost about $600-800 in value because the new GPUs were much cheaper.

    It's usually possible to buy full warranty Macs at least up to 12 months after a new model arrives. Apple refurbs go back 3 years. There is a rare chance that the Intel models would gain a higher asking price but I think the volume of people wanting to clear effectively obsolete inventory will counter it.

    I think waiting until after the first Apple Silicon Macs arrive would be the safest bet at this point, even if it's just the Macbook Air first. Reviewers will put it through its paces and it will be clearer what is going to be gained and lost in the transition. If the improvements in performance-per-watt are too good to pass up, then it's the best time to buy. If there's too much compatibility lost in the short-term, it's a good time to get a deal on an Intel model. Should only be another 8-12 weeks before we find out.

    I'm pretty sure the new models will use the Magic Keyboard (scissor). They are still lower profile than the 2012 keyboard but have similar comfort level. It'll be easier to make the decision after the new models arrive.
    raoulduke42GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 63
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,573member
    I’ve been waiting a loooong time to finally replace my 2009 iMac i7 and was actually planning on doing that (was hoping this summer), but now I’m just going to order an i7 mini, which will get me by until the ASi iMacs are released.
    edited July 2020 jony0cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 63
    aderutteraderutter Posts: 534member
    The timing seems fortuitous for me.

    I find Macs tend to last me 6 or 7 years before I need to upgrade and I typically get the mid-range machines. My 2014 i7 27” iMac with maximum RAM and an SSD is still a great useable machine for 3D and app development. I’ll soon be upgrading it to Catalina to investigate Reality Composer. That may be it’s last OS update as I’m sure to get an AS Mac sooner rather than later.

    My current laptop is still the maxed out MBP retina I bought in Jan 2014 ( the best spec Apple sold at the time so more of a stretch for me than usual) and that too is still a solid workhorse getting used everyday. Prior to that laptop I dived into the Intel MBP fist generation and that machine never had a problem (software or hardware) so I had no regrets going 1st gen and will be happy to do so again.



    raoulduke42Detnatorwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 63
    marc gmarc g Posts: 47member
    I’ve got a 2007 iMac core2duo extreme. At this point the only extreme things about it are extreme slowness and extreme random crashing. Fortunately, it hasn’t been my main machine in 4 or 5 years. I’d love to get a new one before the move to Apple silicon. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 63
    stevenozstevenoz Posts: 288member
    I'm not sure how many of us use our MBPs as dual-boot OS machines (Windows), but I do.

    If you do too, I would buy a new (Intel-chip) MBP sooner rather than later.

  • Reply 12 of 63
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,042member
    stevenoz said:
    I'm not sure how many of us use our MBPs as dual-boot OS machines (Windows), but I do.

    If you do too, I would buy a new (Intel-chip) MBP sooner rather than later.

    I guess you didn't read the part where Apple said Windows would run under virtual machines like Parallels. I guess you don't know that Microsoft already has Windows running on ARM. 
  • Reply 13 of 63
    Everyone keeps saying that MacBook Pro 13” and MacBook Air will be first machines with Apple Silicon but I’m skeptical as both models just got a refresh. 

    Seems to me iMac has always been first to show off new core technology like this. iMac is overdue for a redesign and been in short supply. Why wouldN’t Apple bring the WOW factor with a sexy new iMac design and Apple Silicon all at once?! If we are getting an Apple Silicon mac this year the timing makes more sense to me than the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. 
    aderutterwatto_cobrasigil
  • Reply 14 of 63
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,146member
    lkrupp said:
    stevenoz said:
    I'm not sure how many of us use our MBPs as dual-boot OS machines (Windows), but I do.

    If you do too, I would buy a new (Intel-chip) MBP sooner rather than later.

    I guess you didn't read the part where Apple said Windows would run under virtual machines like Parallels. I guess you don't know that Microsoft already has Windows running on ARM. 
    Apple didn't say that, and we don't know that Win/ARM will be available as it's an OEM-only product. That, and barely anything has been ported to Win/ARM including much of Microsoft's own software.
    canukstormmuthuk_vanalingamednlchiawatto_cobrasigil
  • Reply 15 of 63
    jdb8167jdb8167 Posts: 624member
    lkrupp said:
    stevenoz said:
    I'm not sure how many of us use our MBPs as dual-boot OS machines (Windows), but I do.

    If you do too, I would buy a new (Intel-chip) MBP sooner rather than later.

    I guess you didn't read the part where Apple said Windows would run under virtual machines like Parallels. I guess you don't know that Microsoft already has Windows running on ARM. 
    Apple made no statements on running Windows in a VM. Go watch the videos again. Microsoft was also noncommittal when asked. They said they don’t license Windows ARM except to OEMs. I don’t think you can assume that Windows will run on Apple Silicon Macs.
    fastasleepednlwatto_cobrasigil
  • Reply 16 of 63
    Gotta take a position and stick to it.

    Intel is trash and Apple Silicon Macs are going to be better in every way.

    But ... go ahead and buy Intel Macs anyway because we don't want to see Mac sales nosedive.

    Yeah ... sorry, no.

    I have had my Chromebook since 2016 and my Samsung Galaxy S8+ since 2017. (Don't sneer. I have a MacBook Pro and a Mac Mini too.) Even though I badly want to replace both, I won't buy a new Samsung Galaxy (a Note this time) until Qualcomm gets down to 5nm and integrates the 5G modem (which will happen in 2021 with the Galaxy S30/Note 30). And I won't buy a new Chromebook until they get out of Linux Beta and have either the Qualcomm 8CX (their 5G ARM configuration for laptops) or (preferably) an Exynos 995 (Samsung's 5 nm CPU with integrated 5G) for a CPU (again, almost certainly in 2021). 

    So yeah, if I were a Mac guy I would definitely wait. Yes, the Intel MacBooks may be cheaper because of people waiting, but lesser expensive tech with an uncertain support future is what Windows and Android people buy, right?
    edited July 2020
  • Reply 17 of 63
    jony0jony0 Posts: 368member
    mjtomlin said:
    I’ve been waiting a loooong time to finally replace my 2009 iMac i7 and was actually planning on doing that (was hoping this summer), but now I’m just going to order an i7 mini, which will get me by until the ASi iMacs are released.
    Same here, my iMac 2009's GPU fried 2 years ago and I've been waiting for what was rumoured at the time to be an imminent design refresh. Had I known it would take this long I would've bought a new one then. I was waiting mostly to have a T2 equipped iMac yet was not tempted with the iMac Pro, more power than I really need or justify. I do remote work so it's mostly a terminal for the time being. The T2 Mac mini was tempting but I still prefer another AIO. I've waited this long I'll probably wait just a bit more for what will be much more than a redesign. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 63
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,146member

    Intel is trash and Apple Silicon Macs are going to be better in every way.

    But ... go ahead and buy Intel Macs anyway because we don't want to see Mac sales nosedive.

    Yeah ... sorry, no.

    [ blah blah ]

    So yeah, if I were a Mac guy I would definitely wait. Yes, the Intel MacBooks may be cheaper because of people waiting, but lesser expensive tech with an uncertain support future is what Windows and Android people buy, right?
    You seem to have some fairly serious reading comprehension problems.

    The ways in which Apple Silicon Macs' will have advantages for Apple over Intel Macs has been pretty clearly spelled out at WWDC. It's silly to assume this is not going to be the case without any evidence to the contrary. It's increasingly clear you haven't spent any time watching any of the videos that explain all of this. They're freely available, you know.

    The arguments for buying an Intel Mac right now were pretty clearly not anything to do with preventing sales from nosediving. 

    Gotta take a position and stick to it.
    Yes, you seemingly do.
    Rayz2016tmaywatto_cobrasigil
  • Reply 19 of 63
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member

    Intel is trash and Apple Silicon Macs are going to be better in every way.

    But ... go ahead and buy Intel Macs anyway because we don't want to see Mac sales nosedive.

    Yeah ... sorry, no.

    [ blah blah ]

    So yeah, if I were a Mac guy I would definitely wait. Yes, the Intel MacBooks may be cheaper because of people waiting, but lesser expensive tech with an uncertain support future is what Windows and Android people buy, right?
    You seem to have some fairly serious reading comprehension problems.

    I dunno. “Reading comprehension” implies he’s actually done any reading to comprehend or otherwise. 

    Months ago, he nailed his flag to the “Look guys, Apple is never going to make  its own processors” mast.  Apple made him look stupid (well, he made himself look stupid), so everything we’re seeing here is residual butthurt. To save his own ego, he desperately needs this whole switch thing to fail. 

    To be honest, this article is fairly pointless because the answer to this question is always the same: buy the machine you need when you need it. If you keep delaying just to get the latest this or the better spec that, then you’ll never buy a machine. 

    Mrs Rayz2016 is getting her first Mac laptop in the next few days, after years on Windows. What made her change her mind was the pandemic. It started with her putting together school assemblies using iMovie, then presentations with Keynote, budget scenarios on Numbers … trying one thing led to trying another thing, and in the end she thought if she could do all this on an old iPhone then a Mactop was definitely worth a look. 

    Now, ASi was announced before she’d placed the order, and she saw no reason to change it because her Intel Mac isn’t going to self-destruct as soon as the new models are released. 

    Like most buyers, she won’t be able to tell the difference between the two. 
    edited July 2020 muthuk_vanalingamchiatmayjony0fastasleepwatto_cobrasigil
  • Reply 20 of 63
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    Gotta take a position and stick to it.

    No, you stick to your position until research and new knowledge means that your position changes. 

    That’s why Apple dumped the trashcan Mac. 
    That’s why Apple is dumping Intel. 
    That’s the difference between being an adult and being the person who spews easily-refutable bullshit on forums. 
    Detnatormuthuk_vanalingamchiatmayjony0cornchipfastasleepwatto_cobrasigil
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