Which Mac do you want? Which Mac do you need? Wants and needs are not the same. Which Mac can you afford? With multiple models, colors, and BTO– build-to-order– configurations, the choices are not always easy and Apple does not help the buy do anything except spend more money.
Apple says Mac sales are 80-percent notebooks. That means 20-percent of Mac owners these days are iMac, Mac mini, and Mac Pro, probably in that order, and with very few of the latter since it’s been declared end-of-life thanks to a modular Mac Pro due next year or soon after. How can you choose a Mac?
Apple’s marketing executives are an experienced group of people who know the value of a dollar. Or, rather, a few hundred dollars. So, each Mac is priced so you’re just a couple of hundred dollars from the next upgrade that gets more features, faster CPU, better graphics, more storage.
Here’s my perfect example. What do you want? Small and light? Or, not so small, but more power? That’s the price differential between the entry level MacBook at $1,299 and the entry level MacBook Pro at $1,299. That’s right. They’re the same. But different.
They both come with a Retina display and SSD storage, so they’re fast and furious. MacBook comes with more colors, an anemic entry level CPU– Intel’s Core m3–, 256GB of SSD storage, and a single USB-C port. It weighs about two pounds.
Meanwhile, the entry level MacBook Pro weighs a pound more, has twice as many USB-C ports, a Retina display, and a faster CPU with the Intel Core i5 but half the storage with 128GB of SSD storage.
Other features are comparable, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 8GB RAM, but the MacBook Pro’s FaceTime camera is 720p vs. 480p. Here’s how the pricing game begins to work with both models.
If you want an entry level MacBook but with faster CPU, say a Core i7, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD storage, the price is now $1,949. A similarly equipped MacBook Pro is $1,899.
Uh huh. Cheaper.
But if you want the Touch Bar model, similarly equipped with a Core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD storage, the price is $2,299.
At the very low end of Apple’s Mac product line lies the diminutive Mac mini, still with spinning hard drives but a $499 price tag gets you an older Core i5 CPU, 4GB RAM, and a 500GB spinning hard disk drive. Equip the Mac mini the same as the above models and a Core i7 (old) with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD storage comes to $1,599. For a Mac mini.
Apple makes two basic iMac models; the 21.5-inch display and a 27-inch Retina display. Doing an Apple to apples comparison is easier than you think.
A 21.5-inch iMac with 4k Retina display, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, a Core i7 CPU (new) gets up to $2,199; about the same as a MacBook or MacBook Pro similarly equipped. The $600 difference between iMac and Mac mini could buy a 4k Retina display, keyboard, and mouse.
Like it or don’t nearly every Mac configuration between models works out to about the same price.
Here’s an example, but at the high end pitting the MacBook Pro against an iMac. Both have Retina displays, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD storage, and Core i7 CPU (new), and both are priced at $2,799.
That’s not by accident.
With the exception of the Mac mini and Mac Pro, Apple wants you to experience a singular migration up the price ladder. A few hundred dollars more– regardless of the Mac you want– gets you more desirable features. Even at a lower price, the Mac mini is no bargain because it’s old technology, but comparable features can easily triple the price tag. Likewise, at the other end of the scale, the Mac Pro provides exceptional power at $3,199 for 15GB RAM, 512GB SSD storage, new 6 Core Intel Xeon CPUs, and plenty of graphics power, but no display, keyboard, or mouse.
A fully tricked out iMac with quad-core i7 CPU, 64GB RAM, 2TB SSD storage, and that lovely 27-inch 5k Retina display hits $5,099. What’s the starting price on a Spay Gray iMac Pro? $4,999, for a 5k Retina display, 8-Core Xeon CPU, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD storage, 1080p FaceTime camera, and a new Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics card.
If price and configuration are important criteria for your Mac choice, just remember that almost every comparable configuration between devices will cost about the same.