So, this one is pretty self-explanatory. Before delving into the tech-specs, you have to set a realistic budget for yourself. When buying tech, it's easy to want to splurge, but you may not have to. Macs are expensive. Buying the top of the line Mac is even more expensive.
What to consider: Budgeting and costs
- Do you know how much a Mac costs?
Before you can move forward, familiarize yourself with the cost of a Mac. While a Mac Mini can be as low as $699 (USD), a Mac Pro tower can be well over $5,999 (USD). Now, it's not likely you will be getting a Mac Pro, or that you will need one if you are using this guide, but knowing the range can be helpful. If you want to get a better idea of pricing or have never looked at Apple's Mac pricing, head to apple.com/mac and take a peek at the costs of a few of their Macs. This should give you a general idea.
- What is your max budget? What is the line you cannot afford to go over?
Having boundaries is important. By knowing this number, you can stop yourself from walking into the store and walking out with a Mac you can't afford or didn't want in the first place.
- Is your budget flexible?
Do you have specific needs for your Mac? Maybe, you need a lot of storage, if so this will impact the overall cost of your Mac, so keep in mind that if you have specific tech specs you are looking for, your budget needs to be realistic enough to fit them. However, maybe the tech specs you have in mind aren't necessary for your needs (I will get into this more later).
Now, you should have a number in mind. Write it down or keep it cataloged in your mind. We will come back to this number later.
Where do you work? Do you move from room to room to switch things up as you complete a day's work? Do you like to be at your desk with a cup of coffee? Do you prefer to go to a local coffee shop? What is your process like?
When considering what kind of Mac to buy, this is extremely important. Getting the right Mac means considering how you will be using it and what kind of flexibility you need the product to have.
What to consider: Choosing between desktops and laptops
- Do you like to move from room to room? Work from bed or on the go?
If so, do not limit yourself by getting a desktop. It is not practical to move an iMac. Even with a Mac Mini, you should not be unplugging and replugging in a Mac Mini constantly (this resets your Mac Mini's SMC). While it's not completely detrimental, you shouldn't be resetting your SMC unnecessarily. So, I wouldn't recommend a Mac Mini as an option for portability or moving from room to room.
This means getting a Macbook is your best option. Now, you can look into the specs and costs of Macbooks to make an educated decision.
- Do you like to go to public locations like coffee shops?
Again, the best option here would be to choose a Macbook. Now, you can look into the specs and costs of Macbooks to make an educated decision.
- Do you like to work at a desk or have a dedicated work space?
If you prefer to work at a desk, and you have no plans on moving to different locations to work, then go for a desktop. This could mean an iMac, Mac Pro, or Mac Mini. Now, you can look a little deeper into tech specs and costs to make the best decision.
In my experience, storage is one of the most overlooked, and one of the most important, factors considered when buying a new computer. It isn't uncommon for people to get home, get started with Migration Assistant, and not be able to transfer over their data because their new computer is lacking the necessary storage. Before moving forward, take the following steps to ensure you have plenty of storage for a long time to come.
What to consider: Your storage needs
- How much storage does your current computer have and how much have you used up thus far?
If you have a 256 GB computer, and you are reaching 250 GB of that, you need to consider sizing up. Over time, you are only going to accumulate more and more data. If you have a 256 GB computer and are nowhere near the max of that, you may be okay moving forward with another 256 GB computer.
- What will you be using the new computer for and what space do you need going forward?
If you will be using your computer for new purposes like video creation, graphic design, etc., and you didn't use your previous computer for these same purposes, keep in mind you will be taking up more storage than you have in recent years. This is where sizing up may be necessary.
This method takes into consideration past and future use. How did I use my computer in terms of storage yesterday, and how will I be using that storage moving forward? Think of it like moving into a new house. If your family grows, you might need more room than you had in the previous home, right? How much space do you need going forward?
- How much storage should a Mac use of the allotted storage available?
A Mac should never be full to the brim with data. No tech product should ever be full to the brim with data. There is a golden rule with iPhone storage, and there's one with Macs as well. Considering how much space is needed for a Mac to function, to be able to save data going forward, and to be able to do future updates, I would say a good rule of thumb is having about 20 GB of free space on your Mac at all times. If an upgrade comes out tomorrow, you don't have to worry about clearing space. You can continue to save data, and you shouldn't have to worry about your computer randomly shutting down or crashing due to storage-related problems.
Also, when you buy a Mac, part of the storage used is for the system. So, say the system takes up 13 GB on your 256 GB Macbook Air. That means you have 243 GB of free, usable storage. This system storage does stack, so consider that system storage does increase as you upgrade, etc.
Every Mac user has their Mac for different reasons. Maybe you like to use your Mac for school or work. Maybe you use it mainly to browse the internet, do some online retail therapy, or maybe you are a graphic designer. Whatever the case, these are things you need to consider when purchasing a new Mac. What might be the best for one person, might not meet your needs. What might be necessary for them, might be unnecessary and lavish for your everyday use. Before making your final decision, consider the following factors.
What to consider: Personal usage
Are you someone who will mainly be using your mac for internet browsing, document creation, and other basic uses?
If this is the case, you do not need the top-of-the-line Mac currently on the market. If you want it and can afford it, go for it, but it isn't necessary. Save that money for another expense unless you really just want the best-of-the-best and have the need to splurge.
In this case consider the "bottom-of-the-line" (it's still a Mac, so you can't go wrong for basic use), because you don't need anything fancy! Here's what I suggest:
- Macbook Air (13-inch) with 256 GB of storage or more (depending on personal storage use). Super affordable, these laptops are sure to be perfect for basic use.
- iMac (24-inch) with 256 GB of storage or more (depending on personal storage use). You really can't go wrong here. If you need a bigger display for vision or accessibility purposes, go for the 27-inch iMac with 512 GB or storage or more.
- Mac Mini with 256 GB of storage or more (depending on personal storage use). With the Mac Mini, you do not get a monitor, so buying and choosing a monitor is another, separate hurdle with this Mac. However, Mac Minis are extremely affordable.
Are you a student, work from home on your computer, or will be using your computer fairly diligently? Maybe you do some gaming?
If you are using it for gaming, document creation, the internet, some photo editing, and maybe more complex but not super techy uses, then consider going for a mid-range, more powerful Mac.
- Macbook Pro (13-inch) with 256 GB of storage or more (depending on personal storage use). This is a great machine. If you need a bigger display for vision or accessibility purposes, consider going for the 16-inch Macbook Pro with 512 GB of storage or more instead.
- iMac (24-inch) with 256 GB of storage or more. Shoot for the mid-range option with an 8-Core GPU. If you need a bigger display for vision or accessibility purposes, go for the 27-inch iMac with 512 GB or storage or more. If you game, consider adding additional RAM and choose the 16 GB RAM option before checking out if you are using Apple's website (you add it as an upgrade of this tech spec). The basic model comes with 8 GB, but I would recommend the 16 GB of RAM.
- Mac Mini with 256 GB of storage or more (depending on personal storage use) and add on the additional RAM by choosing the 16 GB RAM option before checkout if you are using Apple's website (you add it as an upgrade of this tech spec). Of course, this means purchasing a monitor separately, which is another job, but it's still a great and affordable option.
Note: some gaming or heavy-handed gaming might mean going for a Mac meant for more techy use. Not all gaming is the same. Not all games will run as well on a mid-range model as it will on a top-of-the-line Mac.
Do you do graphic design, movie creation, web design, heavy-handed gaming, or any other more tech-heavy projects or work?
If you work in tech, I would scale up and get a mac that can handle what you will be using it for. Getting the bottom of the line Mac won't be the best decision for you. While all Macs are great machines, they aren't all meant for tech-heavy usage.
In this case, consider a Mac with more RAM (random-access memory), a more powerful processor, a GPU that can handle whatever fun, techy stuff you're doing, and more storage. I would recommend one of the following:
- Macbook Pro (16-inch) with 512GB storage or more (depending on personal storage use). Shooting for the 16-inch will help you work more seamlessly, having more RAM is crucial, and having more storage is a must). Trust me, you'll thank me later.
- iMac (27-inch) with 512GB storage or more (depending on personal storage use). I would recommend upgrading your RAM to 16 GB instead of the 8 GB given with the standard model 27-inch iMac if you are using Apple's website (you add it as an upgrade of this tech spec).
- Mac Pro. These are very expensive, but amazing machines. If you are considering buying this, you are probably someone who does not need this guide.
After you have set your budget, factored in how you will use your Mac, considered your storage needs, and factored in what tech specs your Mac needs based on how you use it, the rest is really simple. It's like an equation you have to add up. Above, I gave recommendations based on how you use your Mac (basic use, mid-range use, and techy use).
Now, ask yourself, which of the suggestions depending on your use meet both your budget, portability, and storage needs, and there's your best option!
For example, if you are someone who will be using your Mac for basic programs, like portability, and need a decent amount of storage for pictures (maybe your previous computer was 512 GB and you never got close to that limit but want to maintain that amount), you might want to go with a Macbook Air (13-inch) with 512 GB of storage.
See how I considered the portability, storage needs, and level of usage needed?
Now that you get the basics on how to purchase the right Mac for you, here are a few tips and tricks to make the process super simple:
- Make sure you are buying the most recent models possible. This ensures the longevity of your product.
- Apple has a comparison option on their website. There you can compare different Macs tech specs. To try it out, go to apple.com/mac/compare.
- Only splurge if you can. Don't feel pressured to go over your budget to get the "coolest" gadget Apple has. Macs are expensive. All Macs might not all be created equal in terms of what the user will need, but they are all good computers.
- Don't you dare forget about storage. Trust me. It's really important.
- Consider any accessibility needs. If you need a bigger display, go for the model you want but with a larger display. This may mean you are spending more, and consequently getting better, bigger tech specs, but at least you will have your needs met.
- Don't go into the store without doing research first. You may walk out with a machine you got excited about, but that doesn't meet your needs or that was beyond your initial budget.
- Consider refurbished Macs. If you have a tight budget, consider a refurbished Mac, but make sure to get it from an Apple authorized reseller. Also, consider you may not be able to buy Apple Care or have the average 1-year limited warranty that comes with most products.
- Never buy from a place like Marketplace or other unauthorized resellers that don't have return policies that protect you (unless you are ready to take a risk). It is common for stolen devices to be sold this way. Often these Macs are locked by Activation Lock, don't turn on, or are faulty. If that reseller has their own return policy and you have proof the product is unlocked and works, go for it, but I would still be mindful of the risks you take here. You may not have any kind of warranty to protect yourself.
- Don't buy an expensive product and not get insurance. A limited warranty does not cover liquid damage or cracked screens. Buy the extra protection now to protect yourself later.
- All tech reaches a time when it cannot upgrade, update, or plateaus (becomes vintage or obsolete). This is unavoidable. It is impossible to predict the life of any computer, but being able to use your Mac for the next five years (minimum) to the next ten years (maximum) should be expected. I have seen people with 12-year-old Macs. If they still work, great, but just keep in mind this may not happen for your Mac. It's all about how you use it and what you use it for.
- Are you a student? Check out Apple's educational shop. They have discounts for you!