The choices have never been better, or closer, so let’s help you choose the right MacBook this holiday season
It’s a tight call
It’s hard to find an argument against MacBooks right now.
The poor designs of just a few years ago, are a long way behind us now. The butterfly keyboards, lack of ports, bad batteries, and thermal throttling, all seem a bad nightmare.
But, just because the current lineup of MacBooks is possibly better than it’s ever been, doesn’t mean the choice is any the easier. In fact, because the range is now so good, it makes getting your selection right, even more critical.
So, as Christmas, the holidays and the sales approach, let’s see if I can throw some light on the right MacBook for you, and your requirements.
This year, the MacBook Air was given a new lease of life with a new body shape, colours, and, of course, the M2 chip. The M2 chip can also be found in the 13-inch MacBook Pro, too.
Late last year, both the 14-inch, and 16-inch MacBook Pro’s were given a huge spec bump with the M1 Pro & Max chips being used in them.
If you are a power-hungry user, then you really need look no further than these M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBooks. I can testify to that, as I have been using one for the past seven or eight months. So with power in mind, don’t think that the newer M2 must be better than the M1 Pro & Max MacBooks. The nomenclature, does not tell the full story.
All the new MacBooks have an improved port selection, with better and brighter screens. The webcams (1080p) are also all improved, as are the speakers across the range when compared to their predecessors. Touchbars are gone, and MagSafe is back!
So, although the M2 is not more powerful than higher-end M1 Pro and Max chips, it is more powerful than the M1 chip that is its most direct competition.
With M2 architecture, it enables you to spec your new MacBook with up to 24GB of unified memory, and, with up to 10 cores of GPU. It also has a faster 8-core CPU as well.
The figures that Apple quoted upon release of the M2 chip, showed impressive stats – the CPU was apparently 18% faster than before, the GPU 35% quicker, and with 20 billion transistors, which can handle some crazy amount of intense operations every second. Trillions if memory serves me correctly!
If video is your thing, well, the M2 Chip delivers hardware accelerated support for H.264, HEVC, ProRes and ProRaw file types – perfect if you are an iPhone 14 Pro user then! It will also be quicker both encoding, and decoding ProRes video files.
I mentioned, briefly, earlier, that the screen on all new MacBooks are brighter.
The MacBook Air now has a max brightness of 500 nits, and the MacBook Pros 1000 nits. The mini-LED backlit panels also feature 120Hz ProMotion, with thinner bezels. The MacBook Air’s display is larger than before, with a 13.6-inch screen.
The screens on these MacBooks have a notch. It is honestly not something you should concern yourself over. You forget about it being there pretty quickly, once immersed in work. There is no Face ID on these MacBooks through. They unlock via either Apple Watch, or Touch ID.
Be careful on your choice, though, if you routinely use numerous external monitors. Whilst the larger 14-inch, and 16-inch MacBooks have support for up to four external displays, the MacBook Air and the 13-inch Pro, only have support for a singular, external display.
Often times, manufacturers claims on battery life can be a little exaggerated. In the case of these M series MacBooks, though, that is not the case. The claims, even in real-world workflows, are pretty accurate.
Apart from the obvious – i.e. what your work entails, the only other significant factor that I have found that negatively affects them is brightness. Running either the M2 MacBook Air, or M1 MacBook Pro for sustained periods at max brightness, on battery, will quickly impact your range.
The figures though, with that caveat in mind, are impressive with 18 hours of video playback possible on the MacBook Air and 20 hours for the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Quite possibly, the biggest influence upon your choice of MacBook, after performance, will be portability.
I uploaded a video at the weekend about the 16-inch M1 Max MacBook Pro. In it, I described the larger MacBook Pro, as a desktop, that can move. It is heavy, bulky, and cumbersome. It is not a MacBook you’d ever want to move around regularly.
The MacBook Air lives up to its name, however, and is actually, marginally lighter, than the M1 model that it replaces. The 2022 model is a manageable 2.7 pounds and less than half-an-inch thick.
Although you may well find some cracking deals, even post the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend, the prices for MacBooks is now fairly wide-spread.
Although not mentioned here much, the M1 MacBoo Air starts from £999, and the M2 Air from £1249. To get yourself in to MacBook Pro territory, the prices start at £1349 for the 13-inch model, £1899 for the 14-inch, and, £2399 for a 16-inch version.
What’s right for you, then?
For simple browsing and admin work, I’d say definitely checkout the M1 MacBook Air. It is still one of the best machines out there, and will more than suit your needs. It would also serve students well for course work.
If you find your workflow is morphing from light, and general work to the occasional more intense task, then look at a well spec’d M2 MacBook Air.
But, for professional, creatives, or those working regularly on intense projects, the active cooling, and XDR screens of the 14-inch, and 16-inch MacBook Pros should be where your aim is set. They are a pricey choice, but they are worthy of the name Pro, and will serve you well for years to come, and not leave you wanting.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro is an odd one, though. It does not really fall in to one camp or another. I’d always choose either an M1, or M2 MacBook Air over the smallest MacBook Pro.
Hopefully, this will act as an easy to refer to guide of what to pick, look out for, spec, select and buy this Christmas. Let me know what you end up with.
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