Your Mac is so old its system font is based on hieroglyphics. Time to upgrade! But what if when you do, Apple releases another, better Mac, for less money? That’s the worry. (Apart from the bit about less money, because Apple.)
This article can help. We’ve explored the current state of play with Apple’s Mac line-up, interpreted the rumour coos of the patented prediction pigeon, and for each model offered a shiny ‘Stuff says’ buying recommendation.
The state of play: The M1 MacBook Air rocked up in late 2020. We liked its innards (great battery; zoomy chip; fab display) but were less enamoured by the chunky bezels on the unchanged case – and the rubbish webcam. Then Apple revealed the M2 MacBook Air at WWDC. It gets a new design that fixes our issues with the old one, along with the new M2 processor that promises more power, better keyboard and MagSafe charging.
What’s next: Now that the M2-powered MacBook Air is the real deal, it’ll stay current for at least a few years. The M1 is sticking around as an entry-level alternative.
Stuff says: We preferred the M1 MacBook Air’s design to the entry-level MacBook Pro’s – it’s nicer to type on. We’ve yet to test the new model’s typing prowess, but in all other respects it looks like a positive upgrade. If you don’t need pro-grade power, the M2 MacBook Air is the Apple laptop to buy.
The state of play: The M1 entry-level MacBook Pro arrived alongside the most recent Air in late 2020. Again, the case was dated, but we were won over by the M1 chip. Apple has now upgraded the internals with newer, faster M2 silicon, but left the rest of the machine as is.
Even with a power hike, it’s hard to get too excited by the M2-powered MacBook Pro. Why? Well, the late 2021 14in MacBook Pro was the first of a new breed, with its revamped display, lack of Touch Bar, better camera and improved I/O. The MacBook Pro 16in was the same, but more so.
What’s next: Rumours point to other MacBook Pro models remaining as-is until as late as 2023, whereupon they’ll get M2 Pro and M2 Max chips. Apple’s said to be exploring eye-searing OLED displays and Face ID too.
Stuff says: Don’t bother with a 13in MacBook Pro at this point, unless you really, really want a TouchBar. The faster CPU alone isn’t enough of a draw for us. The sheer power of the 14in and 16in models means that even if Apple updates them later this year, they’ll still be a good investment.
Round the bend: the folding MacBook Pro
MacRumors reports a foldable MacBook Pro device is on the cards at some point. Although given how much Mac users hated the Touch Bar, we shudder to think what they’d make of an entire keyboard being a glass surface when the device is in ‘laptop’ mode.
The state of play: We didn’t review the late 2020 Mac Mini on this site, but it’s the case from the 2018 model, the guts from the 13in MacBook Pro and a few extra ports (2x USB-A, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet). There’s also an Intel i5 model knocking around.
What’s next: The Mac Mini will be updated alongside other lower-end Macs. Firmware in the Studio Display suggests such units already exist, but doesn’t state what’s inside them. It’s likely we’ll get low-end M2 and more powerful M2 Pro options, the latter of which will spell the end of the Intel model. No news on a redesign of a case that’s now best and most charitably described as ‘classic’.
Stuff says: Like the other M1 Mac debutants, hold off buying one unless you must. The same goes for the Intel model, unless you have a specific need for older architecture.
The state of play: We weren’t convinced about the April 2021 M1 iMac on seeing photos of it, but on review discovered it’s a beauty. Well, at least in purple. It’s a solid performer too, if since eclipsed by M1 Pro and M1 Max Macs.
What’s next: There’s lots of chatter about the iMac. An M2 model will replace the M1 version soonish, but we doubt the design will change. Perhaps the colours will, Apple ditching unpopular hues and adding new ones. Further in the future, expect a mini LED panel with ProMotion and FaceTime.
There’s also the thorny issue of the 27in iMac, which Apple killed. Rumours are mixed whether Apple will replace it. If it does, don’t expect that until 2023, and assume it’ll have design language close to the MacBook Pro: black bezels and boring grey. Or maybe it’ll be an Apple Studio Display with an iMac inside rather than an iPad – and hopefully a better camera too…
Stuff says: Tricky one. The 24in iMac is great, and the timeframe around updates is unclear and has long been uneven. But if you do buy, this Mac will last you for years anyway.
The state of play: We reviewed the Mac Studio, the latest entry in Apple’s Mac line-up, in March 2022. Our verdict? It’s great, but surprisingly noisy.
What’s next: We’ve no idea about cadence nor what’s coming in the next Mac Studio, and there are no rumours around, bar obvious ones regarding M1-series chips later getting swapped out for their successors. We’d hope any update would let the fan power down when the unit’s idle, mind.
Stuff says: If a Mac Studio is your jam, spread it on your toast right now. (Which means “just buy it” in parlance we this minute made up because we’re peckish.)
The state of play: We never reviewed the Mac Pro, but we did coo at it during WWDC 2019. We can say for sure: 1) it looks great; 2) it at the time was insanely powerful, and; 3) the very serious Apple guardian near the wheeled unit we saw didn’t take kindly to a quip it’d be fun to “ride around on, like in a game of Mario Kart”.
What’s next: Apple’s stated the Mac Pro will be the last Mac to shift to Apple silicon, but there’s no timeframe. It’s unlikely the design will change much – pros need quick access to the Mac’s innards to add and remove components. As for the chip, fused Ultras are rumoured, dubbed ‘Extreme’. But at this point, an M2 Extreme seems more logical than an M1 Extreme, given that M2-series chips are now official; having the new Mac Pro on previous-gen silicon would be odd.
Stuff says: Don’t buy the current Mac Pro, unless you’re made of money and want that silly and expensive real-world Mario Kart experience. It now underperforms for the price and will be replaced by something much better within months.