MacBook Buyers Guide – 2018

Welcome to the MacBook Buyers Guide for 2018.

The MacBook Air
My MacBook Air

The MacBook Line-up has been a bit confusing for a while now.  In 2015, Apple introduced the new MacBook as the modern slim laptop, replacing the MacBook Air.  For years, the Air had been the best selling laptop for Apple.

The MacBook launched with a modern processor which was a little slow for most advanced users and a new keyboard (more on that in a minute).  Soon, the MacBook Pros came out and bifurcated the line in two.  

For years, everyone hoped that Apple would simplify the line-up while bringing down the cost.  That hasn’t happened yet.  Instead, Apple complicated the line-up a little more by introducing a new MacBook Air.  This version of the Air is still more expensive than most were hoping, and didn’t bring with it the power many thought it might.  

So where does that leave the Apple user shopping for a MacBook? 

Keyboards

Before getting too far into which laptop to purchase, we need to talk about keyboards.  

As mentioned, when Apple announced the MacBook it also announced the new butterfly style keyboard.  They spun the keyboard as a way to get a slimmer design while also getting a more stable key.

The keys on the butterfly keyboard also don’t travel as far when you push them.  It’s almost as if Apple is trying to drag us into the future where keys won’t even move when you push them.

The butteryfly keyboard has been riddled with issues such as stuck keys, phantom key presses, and ignored key presses.  That keyboard invaded all of Apple’s laptops, so unless you pick the one laptop that hasn’t been updated, you’ll be stuck with butterfly keyboard.

Apple has continued to refine and improve the keyboard though.  They have changed things underneath to avoid the problems that have plagued it twice now.  The most up-to-date is version 3 with a protective layer under the seems have fixed most of the problems, but it has only been around since July, so things might change.  

Ports and Power

All modern MacBooks have gone to war on ports that aren’t Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C.  These modern ports are the same shape.  The idea is that there will only be one port going forward to power and connect devices.  If you have a USB-C or Thunderbolt monitor, you can plug in the one cable and it will send the picture to the monitor while charging the laptop.

This would be great in theory, but really it depends on the device and the cable.  The charging cable that Apple ships doesn’t reach the max speeds of some of the devices.  It was made for charging and won’t send data as fast.  

Also, Thunderbolt 3 ports can use USB-C devices, but USB-C devices can’t connect to Thunderbolt devices.  Which honestly shouldn’t be a huge problem, but could cause issues.  

MacBook Air

The MacBook Air

With Apple’s current line-up I think most people should start with the MacBook Air.  It might not be the fastest or as cheap as everyone had hoped it would be, but it is a great system.  It is compact, light, has a great screen, and TouchID. You can read my review of the Air here for more details.

The new Air goes from .61 inches down to .16 inches and only weighs 2.75 pounds.  It’s not as light as the 12-inch MacBook, but it isn’t too heavy either.  

The MacBook Air is currently the cheapest MacBook out there as well.  It starts at $1199.  For that price, you get a skimpy 128GB and 8GB of ram. I would look at how much space is taken up on your current laptop and see if 128GB is enough for you.  I think upgrading the hard drive to the larger size will do many people well, but it does increase the base price $200.

The Air is a very light and compact laptop.  While the clock speed is low, it really is just a number.  The machine will run smooth for those looking to do some e-mail, web browsing, and maybe some light photo editing.  

If you are planning to use the laptop for video editing or coding, this machine will work fine, but you might look to the MacBook Pro for a speedier system.  

The MacBook Air is also the first Apple laptop to get the TouchID sensor without the touch bar.  So if you have used an iPhone with TouchID, you know what you’re getting.  If not, a simple push of the button and you can be logged into the system or authenticate an app.

Also, this MacBook has 2 thunderbolts 3 ports on its left side.  You can charge using either port and while it would have been nice to have them on opposite sides, they are right next to each other.   

It also has the best-reported battery of any MacBook, reportedly lasting all day.  In practice, I got great battery life out of the Air.  

The MacBook Air comes in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold.  

Who Should Get the MacBook Air.

Get the Air if you are:

  • Looking for the cheapest modern MacBook.
  • Want a light travel computer.
  • Don’t need too much power to get things done.  
  • Want a larger screen.
  • would like TouchID but not the Touch Bar.
  • Looking for the best battery life. 

Avoid the MacBook Air if you:

  • Want the most powerful computer.
  • Edit lots of video or audio.
  • Want the smallest laptop
  • Hate the butterfly keyboard.

MacBook Pro without Touch Bar

MacBook Pro escape
MacBook Pro without Touch Bar

If you are looking for a little more power than the MacBook Air and you still want to save money, you can go with the MacBook Pro without Touch Bar.  

This MacBook Pro starts at just $100 more than the MacBook Air and has a much more powerful chip.  It is just a little bit heavier at 3lbs.  It is also thinner than the thickest part of the MacBook Air at .59-inches tall.  Unlike Air, it doesn’t have the wedge shape, it stays consistent throughout.  

This laptop has some trade-offs though that the MacBook Air doesn’t have.  While it has a faster processor than the MacBook Air, it doesn’t have the newest keyboard revision.  This could leave it open to damage and stuck keys.

But this laptop is the fastest you can get for the money.  It’s faster and more power hungry chip inside than the Air, but the machine has a bigger battery as well.  Apple reports this machine as having 2 hours less battery life when surfing the web.  

The screen on this MacBook is also better than the MacBook Air.  While both are Retina Screens, this machine is brighter and also offers a wide range of colors.

It has the same 2 Thunderbolt connectors on the side and a better graphics card inside.  

The MacBook Pro comes in only Silver and Space Gray though.

Who Should Get the MacBook Pro without Touch Bar?

Get the MacBook Pro without Touch Bar if you want:

  • The cheapest but fastest MacBook
  • You encode Video or Audio and what a cheaper portable machine
  • Don’t mind spending $100 more for a heavier machine than the Air.

Avoid the MacBook Pro without Touch Bar if you:

  • Need portability
  • Want Gold
  • need a reliable keyboard or are worried this one might break.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

13 inch with Touch Bar

Right now, the fast MacBook you can get will cost you a lot more.  

The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is the fastest portable Mac you can get and also the only Mac that currently comes in 2 sizes.  You can opt for the 13.3-inch screen or go larger with the 15-inch.  The 13 inch MacBook Pro is the same size and weight as the Non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro.  The 15 inch is a bit bigger at .61-inches and just over 4lbs. 

Both of these Touch Bar equipes pros have processors with more cores as well.  The 13 inch has 4 cores while the 15 inch has 6 cores.  This allows the computers to do more at one time.  The 15 inch also has a dedicated graphics card, and is the only MacBook that has one.  If you need a graphic intensive computer, the 15 inch is the best your could get.  

Both Machines use the Touch Bar – a screen that replaces the function keys of your laptop.  It is adaptive based on the app that you use.  It is also customizable to fit your need.  Still, the Touch Bar has been hot-button issue since Apple doesn’t offer a MacBook with the top of the line specs without it.  

Along with the Touch Bar, you also get TouchID which was missing from the MacBook Pro without Touch Bar.  A little bonus for all that cash that you spend.  

The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar’s keyboard has been updated to the newest version of the butterfly keyboard.  So you should be good for a while on this one, as I said earlier, the verdict is still out.  

Port-wise, this laptop is rocking 4 thunderbolt 3 ports, two on each side.  It’s pretty nice to be able to plug your cable into either side to charge.  If you need ports, this is your best options currently.

These are the best screens that you can get on a MacBook with the wide color gamut and retina specs.  

The MacBooks start at $1799 and ramps up quickly. The Pros only come in Silver or Space Gray.

Who should get the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Get the 13-inch MacBook Pro if you:

  • Need the fastest MacBook
  • Think you might could use the Touch Bar (better for photos and video editing)
  • Encode Video or Audio and want the fastest you can get. 
  • Need a graphics card
  • Do heavy photo editing

Avoid the MacBook Pro if you:

  • Like the functions buttons and don’t want to lose your touch feedback of them
  • Don’t want to spend that much money on a laptop
  • Not sure about the Touch Bar
  • Want more portability.
  • Want a laptop in gold.

MacBook

12 inch MacBook

The laptop that ushered in the modern Mac laptop has gone a while without an update.

If you are looking for a laptop and are thinking about the MacBook, I would encourage you to look at the MacBook Air unless you want the smallest and lightest laptop Apple makes.  The Air does just about everything else better than the MacBook.  

The processor inside the MacBook is the most underpowered in all the MacBooks.  It can still do everything, but its the speed at which it does it.  I would avoid doing any encoding on this device.  

The MacBook is currently using the last generation keyboard as well, so it could be more prone to breaking.  

Another things going against the MacBook is the one port that it has. It only has 1 port and it’s a USB-C port.  There’s no Thunderbolt 3. 

It does come in Gold though.  If you get an older model, you can find it in Rose Gold as well.  The MacBook starts at $1299, but you do get a 256GB SSD.  

Who should get the MacBook

Get the MacBook if you want:

  • Ultra portability
  • Gold and small
  • only USB-C

Avoid the MacBook if you:

  • Need a reliable keyboard
  • want something faster for the price
  • want a bigger screen
  • Don’t need to travel much.

MacBook Air (older version)

If you are looking for the absolute cheapest MacBook that you can still buy new, you might look at the MacBook Air.  

Apple has kept around the previous version of the MacBook Air for sell at $999.  It has nothing that the modern macs have.

The screen is not retina, nor does it have the wide color gamut.

The keyboard is the old style keyboard, so we know it’s relaible. 

It doesn’t have USB-C or Thunderbolt 3.  It does have Thunderbolt 2 and USB3 though. It also has MagSafe, the old style of charging that many still love.  

It has a few generation old processor in it. 

I wouldn’t recommend this laptop to anyone unless you just need a laptop.  It’s old and there’s no telling how long it will be supported.

Who should get the MacBook Air

  • If you prefer the old keyboard
  • want MagSafe
  • Use legacy ports like USB
  • want the cheapest MacBook

Avoid it if you:

  • Want something that will last you a while.
  • Need speed.
  • Use thunderbolt 3 or USB-C

Wrap up

There are many options in the MacBook line-up.  I would highly recommend everyone to start with the new MacBook Air as the base model and move from there.  If you need more power look at the MacBook Pro without Touch Bar if you are trying to save money.  If you need even more, get the model with the Touch Bar.

If you need more portability you can check out the MacBook, but really, I’d stay away from it for now.  You might be better off checking out the iPads.  

I hope this guide helps you.  Don’t forget to check out our other guides:

iPhone buyers guide

iPad buyers guide

Gift Guide

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