Despite there only being a few models in Apple’s computer lineup, it’s important to recognize they each fit their own niche. Whether you are searching for portability for travel or power for gaming, understanding which computer is right for you can be incredibly helpful as you make an expensive purchase. Browse through this complete Mac buyer’s guide to find which one is right for you.
Best Mac for Games
When it comes to gaming, the iMac lineup is undoubtedly the best place to start in this Mac buyer’s guide. Yes, the 16” MacBook also adds a dedicated graphics card, but screen real estate still wins out.
With that in mind, you have both the M1 iMac and the 27” iMac. The latter undoubtedly offers the best mix of screen size and quality with a 5K Retina display. That you can add up to 128GB of RAM, 8TB of hard drive space and a Radeon Pro 5700 XT graphics card with 16GB dedicated memory, makes it the best option for gaming in the Apple world.
That said, the M1 iMac shouldn’t be ignored. The 24” iMac with the M1 chip has already proven itself to be incredibly solid for day-to-day computing and, for games that are optimized, performance is top notch. It won’t handle the same level of AAA titles as the 27”, but for games through the App Store (Apple Arcade) and non-AAA titles from stores like Steam and GOG, it’s more than capable.
Best Mac for Ultra-Wide Monitor
When it comes to using any ultra-wide monitor, from the least to most expensive, it’s best paired with the Mac mini. No other computer at Apple offers a similar balance of size and power with the M1 chip. It can support one monitor at 6K resolution via Thunderbolt and another 4K monitor connected via HDMI. That should offer plenty of confidence that any ultra-wide monitor should run at 60Hz without any stutters or glitches.
Lastly, add in a bevy of additional ports with USB-C, USB-A, HDMI 2.0 and Wi-Fi 6 – all with one of Apple’s least expensive computer price tags. That it works in a home or small office is all the more reason this is a great option for an ultra-wide monitor.
Best Mac for Students
If you’re browsing this Mac buying guide looking for one that’s best for students, the answer might really depend on both age and type of education. For most students, the MacBook Air is going to be the best bet. It’s the best package of portability, battery life, performance and price.
With the M1 chip, students should easily be able to get through a day’s worth of classes and homework and, if managed carefully, a second full day as well. That’s not something most, if not all, computers of similar size can claim. That you can also run compatible iOS apps on the M1 Air is just another feather in its cap. The downside? You can’t upgrade the MacBook Air.
For students not necessarily in graduate school, the iPad Air or iPad Pro might also be a great solution. That’s especially true when you factor in Apple Pencil compatibility for quickly taking notes and syncing them to the cloud. The combination of portability, plentiful keyboard options (Magic Keyboard) and battery life also makes it a really strong choice for students. Its pricing, especially the Pro, can get up well past the cost of the Air, but when you factor in the additional tablet features like gaming, entertainment, reading, etc., the value is absolutely there.
Best Mac for Professionals
Professionals looking for the best Apple has to offer should look to the 27” iMac. Once again, it’s the best value of size, power and screen. For professionals, especially those who have a need for multitasking with multiple pieces of software on the screen at once, the added real estate at 27” is invaluable. Having the option of adding RAM before or after purchase is another way to best manage performance.
Did you underestimate how much you need for running multiple applications in the background? Add more RAM later. With 8TB of SSD space available, there’s plenty of room for thousands of PowerPoint and Excel documents. As the 27” iMac is the only computer you’ll read about in this Mac buyer’s guide that can be customized after the fact, it’s important to consider that for any professional.
Best Mac for Artists
When it comes to artists, choosing which Mac is right for you is something of a toss-up. On the one hand, the screen real estate with the 27” iMac is really great. On the other hand, the value of the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil has been shown to be an invaluable hardware element for graphic designers and artists. Everyone from comic book artists to video editors to people who design logos for businesses has been shown the value of the iPad Pro’s tight connection with the Apple Pencil.
None of this takes away from how powerful the desktop-based versions of Photoshop will be on the 27” iMac, but it’s really going to come down to whether you think the size of the screen is more useful than the direct feel of a “pencil” in your hand.
Best Mac for Portability
When it comes to portability, anyone looking for which Mac is right for them should absolutely look to the 2.8 pound MacBook Air first. It’s unquestionably the best in Apple’s lineup when it comes to size (think portable), battery life and power. The M1 chip has already shown itself to be powerful enough to handle all of your daily tasks while battery life ensures you can get not only one full day, but likely two before recharging.
On the other hand, the combination iPad Air/iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard make for a fantastic choice for travel and portability. The combination of the Air and Magic Keyboard will likely run about the same as the MacBook Air, while the Pro may go over, depending on how much storage you need.
Of course, with the iPad, you get the added benefit of a better experience for streaming video, playing games and the like. What you don’t get is a full desktop experience. If you can forgo that and focus on email and the browser for light work and personal tasks, the iPad + Magic Keyboard is the best all-around combo.
Best Mac for General Needs
Anyone looking for a general needs computer should start with the Mac mini. As Apple’s least expensive entry in its Mac lineup, it’s a great starting point for anyone who just wants the computing basics. Yes, it requires an additional monitor, keyboard and mouse, but all of that can still be purchased for less than the lowest-priced MacBook Air.
That you get the M1 chip all but assures you have plenty of longevity available and promised software updates to keep you safe and secure. It’s small enough to tuck away behind a monitor or in the corner of a small desk, and it stays out of your way. There’s the customization you can do when you purchase in terms of more memory or RAM, but the base configuration is more than enough for general needs.
Best Mac for Programming
Programming is an interesting question for choosing the right Mac. On the one hand, every Mac will work for varying programming needs. On the other hand, the more power for programming the better and, with that in mind, both of the iMac models should be at the top of your wish list. The M1 chip in the new 24” iMac is a great starting point for the future of Apple programming. The screen is large enough to keep multiple windows open and freely engage in programming.
The same goes for the 27” iMac, but with even more screen real estate to work with. Could the 16” MacBook Pro work? Sure. However, it’s important to be realistic about programming needs, as the more screen real estate, the better. You can program on a 10” Netbook (remember those?), but you wouldn’t want to do it for very long.
Best Budget-Friendly Mac
The words “budget-friendly” and Apple have not always been thought to go hand in hand. However, the reality is that computers like the MacBook Air offer more power and battery life than similarly priced ultrabooks. It’s the least expensive Mac in this Mac buyer’s guide. Even if you include the Mac mini, it’s the best one-piece option you can buy in the Apple ecosystem.
Did we mention that the battery life is outstanding? That said, if your needs are really minimal, like online shopping, checking email and Facebook, etc., the entry-level iPad is a great alternative. Most people would be surprised how much they don’t need a computer for upwards of 90 percent of their daily computing needs.
At the end of the day, there is absolutely a computer or iPad for everyone in this complete Mac buyer’s guide. Even if you have minimal computing needs and a small budget, something exists that can get the job done with more power and battery life than you need. On the flip side, if you require peak power for artistry work or video editing, the iMac 27” is ready for you. It’s even possible to run Android apps on your Mac. Before you ditch your water-damaged MacBook for a new Mac, find out how you can save it.