Which MacBook Should I Get?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 01/16/20 •  12 min read

Apple offers two MacBooks: The MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. Both are powerful but serve different purposes. The MacBook Pro is a workhorse, and though the MacBook Air is lighter, it can be configured to be as powerful as the base model of the MacBook Pro. Which MacBook will serve your needs best?

You should get a MacBook that will meet your needs both now, and well into the future. Finding the right balance between enough power and too much is power is the key. By asking the right questions, you will be able to determine exactly which MacBook is right for you, and how it should be configured.

So you have decided that buying a PC laptop again, is just not worth dealing with hardware failure, viruses and malware, and the constant Windows updates that occur at the most inconvenient times without asking for permission to do so. I get it.

Fortunately, Apple has the solution to these problems. The MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro deliver the goods with outstanding hardware coupled with an operating system that is not only designed for simplicity, but purposes to protect you from viruses and malware. But of these, which one should you get?

I have intentionally NOT placed a comparison chart showing the differences between each MacBook offered by Apple. Why? Because I want to you purchase your MacBook based on your need, not based on specs. Let’s get into this.

Bigger is Not Always Better

From 1991 to 1999, America was blessed with 204 episodes of the TV show, “Home Improvement“, where “Tool Time Tim” would always try to find ways to make things bigger, better, and certainly more powerful.

Regardless of what Tim was building, he ended up delivering way more power than it was designed for, usually making the situation far worse in the end. When purchasing a computer, more power is not always better either. In fact, it just might be foolish.

When it comes to laptops, more power does not necessarily make it a better solution for the end-user. For example, do you think that it would be wise for a 75-year-old grandmother who uses a computer to surf the Internet, check her email and use FaceTime to communicate with her grandchildren, to purchase a maxed out 16″ MacBook Pro? Of course not. Why? Because it’s overkill. That particular maxed-out MacBook Pro was not designed for those menial tasks. It was designed to serve as a workhorse by running programs like Final Cut Pro, Pro Tools, or AutoCad all at the same time.

Who is the Laptop For?

When purchasing a MacBook, you first have to determine how the MacBook will be used. The way to answer that question is to ask who the laptop is going to be used by and for what purpose.

Without getting too geeky, I want to clarify a few things for you when it comes to computer specks.

RAM (Random Access Memory)

Think of RAM as very fast short-term memory. It’s the place where you MacBook temporarily stores all of the information it needs right now, as well as the information it will need in the very near future. RAM is the place where your computer will load all of the things that might be needed in the very near future, so that when called upon, the information is readily available. The more RAM your machine has, the more temporary information can be stored there so that your computer can quickly access the needed information.

Dual Core Processor / Quad Core Processor

A computer processor is the brain of the computer. It is responsible for executing applications on your computer. A “Dual Core” process has 2 “brains”, whereas a quad-core processor has 4 “brains”.

When considering a Dual Core processor vs a quad core processor, you have to ask yourself if the MacBook you are buying will be used for highly intensive tasks such as video editing, gaming, or applications that allow for animation or 3D modeling? If so, you will want to get a MacBook that offers a quad-core processor. If you will primarily be using your MacBook to writie papers, browsing the web and checking email, then a dual-core processor will serve just fine for you. 

SSD (Solid State Drive)

An SSD drive is a hard drive where your operating system and all your applications and files reside. Perhaps the best way to explain what an SSD drive is, is to compare it to the traditional hard drive of the past. A traditional hard drive would work much like a record player. All of the information was stored on a cylindrical disk where a needle would read the contents of that disk, much like a record player.

An SSD drive has no moving parts, much like a flash drive. Because there are no moving parts, one can access the data on an SSD drive much faster. This is why a new MacBook can be booted to a Desktop screen in 20 seconds, as opposed to well over a minute when using a traditional hard drive. Fortunately, all MacBooks sold today have SSD drives, making them boot faster, and applications launch much faster, thanks to the SSD drive.

Now, having discussed a few hardware specs to consider when purchasing your a new MacBook, let’s take a look at a few types of users who use MacBooks, and try to find the right MacBook for each of the following users.

College Student / Teacher

College students and Teachers need a laptop that is reliable, and works all the time. Time is very important to them, so they don’t have time to worry about malware or virus is infecting their computer. They spend a lot of time writing papers and doing research on the Internet, and stream a movie a couple of times a week for entertainment purposes.

Additionally, they will want a lightweight laptop that they can carry around campus, one that is not too heavy. Portability is very important to them. Finally, they want a laptop that will easily connect to Wi-Fi and find any available local printers as well.

They don’t need power as much as they need to be productive, unless, of course, their major requires it. For example, if their major is in Media Arts, they will require a machine that will be able to handle heavy apps running at the same time, such as Pro Tools, PhotoShop, or Media Presenter. This type of user would do well to purchase a MacBook Pro, as it offers a quad-core processor, allowing the student to run multiple intensive programs at the same time.

For the most part, however, your typical college student simply needs a reliable computer that they can use to write papers and surf the Internet. The average college student could easily get away with a MacBook Air. Granted, it only offers a dual core processor, but again, that’s all that the average college student requires to accomplish the tasks at hand.

Stay at Home Mom

A stay-at-home Mom’s needs are different than that of a student who is majoring in Media Arts. The student’s needs are different, but not better. Again, you want to purchase a computer that will work for your needs, not the needs of someone else.

Would it make sense to buy a computer that you would only utilize 20% of it’s capabilities (if that)? Why spend more than you need to?

A typical stay-at-home Mom will use a computer less often than your average college student. She may use it to surf the internet, do some shopping, and manage a budget and perhaps a few other thing. But outside of that, her needs don’t require a laptop that will go to the moon and back. The base model of a MacBook Air would probably suffice just fine given her needs.

Business Professional

When I speak of a “Business Professional”, I’m referring to one who uses the computer as their primary tool for a living. For example, a professional web-designer, video editor, or sound engineer. These types of careers require very powerful computers to accomplish several intensive tasks at the same time.

For example, rendering video takes a lot of processing power, and requires a lot of RAM as well. Given the requirement so such a career, one would do very well to purchase a 16″ MacBook Pro, one that offers a lot of disk space, RAM, and an 8 core processor. Like an Indy race car driver, it will work VERY fast.

Without a very fast and powerful computer, if you were to make animated movies like, “Toy Story” or for a living, you would be frustrated to no end because it would take soooooooo long to render videos. Such a person would want to invest in a machine that was designed for the task at hand.

MacBooks Last for Several Years

You may be wondering if purchasing a MacBook is worth it, after all, they are expensive. Yes, they are expensive, but when you consider how long they last, you begin to realize that they will actually save you money in the long run.

I personally have a MacBook Pro that from 2008 that just died two months ago. It is now 2020. That computer lasted 12 years. When you consider that the lifespan of a PC running Windows is typically 3 to 5 years, (due to hardware failure), you begin to see the value of purchasing a MacBook.

Why are they so expensive? The hardware is second to none. The craftsmanship found in the design of their laptops is just stellar. People who purchase a MacBook know that they will last for years because the MacBook has such a great reputation. Ask any Mac user how long they have had their Mac, and undoubtedly, they will tell you it is reliable. It’s not uncommon for one to hold onto a MacBook for 5-7 years, if not longer.

Be Sure to Purchase AppleCare+

You do have 60 days after your initial purchase to purchase AppleCare++ for your new MacBook, but statistically speaking, if you don’t purchase AppleCare+ at the time of purchase, you probably never will, and you will regret it.

You may be the most responsible person, one who goes to great lengths to ensure that your “baby” is well cared for. But, can you say that for all of your friends? Do they care as much about your MacBook as you do? How about the people that sit around you at the local coffee shop, you know, the people that don’t even know you?

Do your young children even know how to care about your MacBook when they are trying to get your attention by pulling on your arm as you sit at your desk with your full coffee mug just waiting to be spilled all over your MacBook keyboard? I think you are seeing my point. Just because you care greatly about your MacBook is no guarantee that other people will.

I have said this before, and I will probably say it again. If you cannot afford to purchase AppleCare for your new MacBook, then keep saving your money until you can purchase AppleCare+ with your new MacBook. Purchasing AppleCare+ is like going to a very fine restaurant. If you can’t afford to tip the server, you can’t afford to go out to eat at a fancy restaurant. Likewise, if you can’t afford Apple Care+, then you can’t afford the computer.

If I may, let me be a bit more blunt. If you cannot afford to tip your waiter at a restaurant, then you cannot afford to go to that restaurant. The difference, however is that the waiter will not take care of you once you step out of that restaurant, whereas AppleCare+ will cover accidental damage to your MacBook for three years.

Still not convinced that you need AppleCare? I’ve written an exhaustive article titled, “Is AppleCare worth It?” for you. If you have any doubt, I highly recommend that you read that article in its entirety before making a decision not to purchase AppleCare for your new MacBook.

Purchasing an Apple Product Creates a Partnership with Apple

Recently, I purchased a new MacBook Pro from Apple. A few days after my purchase, I was surprised to receive the following e-mail from Apple.

I can’t remember ever remember receiving a follow-up e-mail from any retail store offering to schedule a free online personal session where I can speak to a real live person and ask any and all of my questions regarding the product that I have purchased. Ever. Can you? Apple does.

Apple also offers “Today Sessions”. These are free training sessions where you can visit an Apple Store and take a class on the product that you have purchased. If you visit https://www.apple.com/today/ and click on the Calendar menu link at the top right hand side of the screen. You will then be able to see what classes are offered during the next two weeks. You can even register for any one of their free classes, and register for other classes as often as you like, even if you never purchased one of their products! That’s what partnership looks like.

Finally, when you purchase AppleCare+, you can call an Apple representative (who is an authority in the product that you have purchased), any time of the day, any day of the year. They are literally available to you all the time, for three years. Gotta love that.

Closing Thoughts

What MacBook should you get? Get the one that will serve your needs, but don’t spend more than you need to. Unlike a PC laptop, a MacBook is reliable and will last you for several years. If you are still unsure on which MacBook is a right fit for you, stop at an Apple Store and tell them what you do for a living and how you currently use a computer and how you plan on using it 5 years from now. They don’t work on commission, (I know, I asked), genuinely want to get you into the right MacBook for you and your needs.

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.