Our guide to current models. A quick look at the best Apple laptops in the latest series – powerful, tech and still beautiful MacBooks.
In this small guide, I will try to answer the question of which MacBook to buy in 2021 if you want a good computer that will delight you for several years in a row.
The Best MacBook Consumer Guide 2021
Apple MacBook Air
The MacBook Air line has been the best-selling and beloved Mac line for years. I cannot but agree with this, because it is the “airs” that have been my main computers for work and play since 2013.
Before 2020, however, every MacBook Air had its own set of compromises that prevented me from calling it the perfect computer. The main complaint with the 2018 and 2019 models was the butterfly keyboard, which was never reliable. Another drawback is only 128 GB of internal memory in the basic version, which by modern standards is slightly more than nothing.
And then in 2020 came that MacBook Air, which I can finally call the perfect compact laptop. With Retina display (2560×1600, 2K, 400 nits brightness), new Magic Keyboard with reliable scissor mechanism, a choice of three 10th Gen Intel processors, updated Intel Iris Plus graphics and 256 GB base. So also at a slightly lower cost than the 2019 model. At the same time, the new MacBook Air continues the traditions of past generations: it has an insane autonomy (up to 11 hours without an outlet), compact dimensions and modest weight.
This is an excellent machine to perform so-called “managerial” functions: a browser, office programs, Photoshop and its analogues, any web services. If you wish, you can do a simple video editing, because even the base model with Intel Core i3, according to the benchmark results, is noticeably more powerful than all the airs of previous years. This performance is more than enough for me, so I use it not only for travel, but in general as the main computer for everything. Everything works fast and stable. And I solved the problem with a modest set of ports using a dock with three USB-A, HDMI and a card reader for microSD and SD.
Of the current models, this is the most inexpensive option. And, perhaps, this is the computer that you can safely buy if you are not going to solve professional high-performance tasks on it. I am sure that you will have enough for 3-5 years with a margin.
MacBook Pro 13″
Following the MacBook Air, a big update this year has caught up with the MacBook Pro 13 “- Apple’s most popular laptop in the Pro line. And it will appeal to those who need all the advantages of” Air “, but want more performance. Magic Keyboard, by the way, now here too.
The MacBook Pro even in the “basic” version is equipped with a more powerful processor compared to the MacBook Air and an improved cooling system, which is designed for long-term work under load. This is the most important benefit. At the same time, this advantage affects battery life – MacBook Pro will work without an outlet for 1 hour less than Air. But it will charge faster, because the included adapter is 61 W versus 30 W in the MacBook Air.
Next to performance in the list of differences from Air is a brighter display (500 nits versus 400 nits) with support for DCI-P3 color gamut (versus sRGB). This will certainly be appreciated by those users who will actively work with graphics on it.
The third difference is the Touch Bar, a long and flat OLED display that replaces the F1 through A12 keys. The thing is useful, but controversial. I met both fans of the “touchbar” who got used to it and even became a little more productive, and ardent haters who ask to return the usual keys from the “flash”.
In terms of dimensions and weight, the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are quite comparable, except that they have a slightly different shape. Air has a signature wedge-shaped design, while the nose is symmetrical around the entire perimeter of the case. The MacBook Pro is a little heavier at just 110 g. But this difference hardly affects mobility – both devices are very convenient to take with you on trips.
The cost of the “basic” MacBook Pro is more expensive than the Air. Is it worth it? This moment is as individual as possible. Someone already knows where to apply this power, someone will prefer to buy with a margin, and someone like me will be completely satisfied with the MacBook Air.
Apple Mac Mini
The small Mac mini takes up little space, runs quietly and does not heat up much. A great option for a home or work computer when you don’t need a laptop and you don’t have enough money for an iMac.
You need to connect your monitor to Mac mini, and at the same time a mouse and keyboard: after all, there is nothing like that in the package with a Mac, just a cable, and everything else is purchased separately.
Like the big iMacs, the younger Mac got all the necessary connectors, so you can do without adapters, unlike the same MacBook. Plus, if you need more power, an external graphics card is connected to the Mac mini. You can also add more RAM to the Mac mini, just like the iMac.
In theory, the Mac mini is a relatively inexpensive ticket to the world of macOS, but if you consider that you also need peripherals and a monitor, then this is almost an entire iMac.
Apple iMac with Retina 5K Display
Monoblock comes in two formats: a smaller one with a 21.5 “screen and a larger one with a 27” screen. Small, of course, costs less, but think carefully about whether it is worth saving. In the older version, you can manually increase the amount of RAM, but in the younger version it is impossible. Plus, the difference in screen sizes is very noticeable. In general, I vote for the 27-inch iMac with both hands, and leave the younger model for schools and libraries.
But keep in mind that when you buy a standard iMac, you get a computer not with an SSD, but with an HDD. Simply put, instead of a high-speed disk, you will have a slow drive, albeit a large one. And this is sad, because the difference is very noticeable and I know many stories when people bought an iMac with hard drives, and then regretted that they did not pay extra for versions with SSD.
Yes, it is more expensive, but the difference in price is worth it, because no one wants to look at the system slowing down before our eyes. And, of course, the computer will slow down: programs start slower, the Photo library, which is packed with tens of thousands, will surprise you with unhurried work, copying data will also take longer.
Buying an iMac with Fusion Drive is also not worth it: the hybrid drive is not very fast, alas. If so, only an iMac with an SSD can make you happy.
Among the advantages of the iMac I want to include the possibility of upgrading the RAM. Take off the lid and set the slats of the required volume, the procedure takes five minutes and even a humanist like me can handle it. So you take a base iMac with 8GB of RAM, buy the amount you need, and get a lot more storage at a very nice price. Alas, you won’t be able to replace the SSD on your own.
Do I need to increase the amount of memory? Living with a base 8GB is tricky, especially if you have dozens of browser tabs open and love manipulating photos. Then you need at least 16, or better, 24 or 32 GB.
Instead of buying the top version of the iMac, you can swing the iMac Pro. From the visible differences – a dark case in Space Gray, from not visible – redesigned cooling, chic speakers, powerful graphics and a processor. If you know why you need so much processing power, go for it.
A very expensive computer with very impressive potential. Apple promised to release a modular Mac for customization, Apple kept its word. True, no one said that such a device would be affordable and widespread. Recommending it for purchase is like advising buying an excavator: it is clear that the thing is good, but not everyone will find a use for it.
So which MacBook should you choose?
If you need a modern laptop, then buy the MacBook Air 13 with 256GB of storage.
A versatile laptop for all occasions? Buy a basic MacBook Pro and everything will be fine.
The optimal Mac for home or your studio? So, buy an iMac 27, you just have to strain and look for a custom option with an SSD.
Mac and games? Forget it. You need at least discrete graphics, which is expensive, and even the top MacBook Pro will be slowed down by some old GTA V. It’s cheaper to buy yourself a console and not suffer.