Your Mac laptop 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 always the worry.
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 bad news is we might not get any more new Macs until 2024, and there’s no immediate sign of an M3 processor update either. This revelation comes from tech analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who’s been right before. Kuo tweeted (X-ed?) “Apple will not launch new MacBook models (equipped with M3 series processors) before the end of this year” on September 8th, while Bloomberg’s Mark Gurnam thinks the M3 will be announced in October, and an M3 Max chip is already in testing. These new processors are due to be manufactured on the new 3nm process from TSMC, like the new A17 Pro chip from the iPhone 15, and it’s possible the mobile CPUs take precedence over the desktop.
From the current generation, Apple announced three new M2-powered computers at WWDC 2023. Here are our news stories on all three:
- Apple launches new 15-inch MacBook Air powered by M2
- Apple’s Mac Studio gets supercharged with M2 Max and M2 Ultra options
- Ultra-powerful Mac Pro finally gets Apple silicon treatment
Also check out our main guide to the different MacBooks available: Which is the best MacBook for you? Apple MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro.
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 enamored by the chunky bezels on the unchanged case – and the rubbish webcam. Then Apple revealed the M2 MacBook Air at its developer conference (WWDC) in 2022. It brought a new design that fixed our issues with the old one, along with the new M2 processor that delivers more power, a better keyboard and MagSafe charging. And now there’s a 15in version of that model that launched at Apple’s 2023 Apple developer conference (WWDC23) with M2.
What’s next: Now that the M2-powered MacBook Air is here, its design should stay current for at least a few years – even if the underlying components get renewed annually.
Stuff says: If you don’t need pro-grade power, the M2 MacBook Air is the Apple laptop to buy, though it’s difficult to ignore the bang-for-buck of the older M1 version. With the 15in version, a bigger screen is always nice, but it’s getting trickier to pick the perfect model for you.
The state of play: The MacBook Pro with M1 arrived alongside the M1-powered Air in late 2020. The 13in case was dated even then, and it continues to linger like a bad smell today. The 14in MacBook Pro and 16in MacBook Pro that turned up in 2021 were a breath of fresh air, with a new design, revamped display, better camera and improved I/O. The Touch Bar got deleted, too. Those models used M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, which have since been replaced with more powerful M2 Pro and M2 Max versions – as seen in our 2023 MacBook Pro review.
What’s next: M3 Pro and M3 Max are the obvious additions, likely due in 2024. Apple’s said to be exploring eye-searing OLED displays and Face ID too (about time!). OLED displays for Macs are said to have been delayed – perhaps until 2027 due to manufacturing issues, but this seems a long way off for us when the iPad Pro lineup looks to be getting OLED displays in 2024. However, some think there will be much less time to wait.
Whatever the situation with the display, expect the case design to stay the same for the next generation. Some rumours suggest the lowest-rung 13in MacBook Pro will get an upgrade to M3 soon, but we think it will be discontinued.
Stuff says: The sheer power of the 14in and 16in models means that even if Apple updates them early next year, today’s versions will 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: The Mac Mini is still using the case from the 2018 model, and the guts from what’s inside the M2 MacBook Air but with a few extra ports (2x USB-A, HDMI, gigabit Ethernet). It’s now a little bit cheaper for the standard Mac Mini M2 version but it is also available with the M2 Pro should you want more power. There’s now no Intel version available.
What’s next: The Mac Mini might be next updated when there’s an M3 chip – probably in early 2024. There is no news on a redesign of the case though. It’s most charitably described as ‘classic’.
Stuff says: If you want a desk-bound Mac, you’d do a lot worse than to get one of these.
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 (Ed: and yellow). It’s a solid performer too, if since eclipsed by M1/M2 Pro and M1/M2 Max Macs.
What’s next: An M2 iMac to replace the M1 version now seems off the cards, given how close Apple must be to M3 silicon. We doubt the design will change. Perhaps the colours will, with Apple ditching unpopular hues and adding new ones. Further in the future, expect a mini LED panel with ProMotion and FaceTime. Apple has also tested Face ID for the Mac.
There’s also the thorny issue of the 27in iMac, which Apple killed after the iMac Pro which Apple also killed. Rumours are mixed whether Apple will replace it and given that it hasn’t already, one has to suggest that it probably won’t get replaced.
If a 27in replacement model does appear, 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 it has to get a new chip sometime in the next 12 months, surely. Maybe hold off unless you’re totally sold on one specific colour.
The state of play: We reviewed the Mac Studio, in March 2022. Our verdict? It’s superb, but surprisingly noisy.
What’s next: An M2 Ultra version of the Studio has now debuted alongside an M2 Max version. And the numbers are mind-boggling with up to a 24-core CPU, plus up to 76-core GPU for those that need some serious power. The M2 Ultra can also support up to 192GB of unified memory. Apple says that the latest Mac Studio is up to 4x faster than the most powerful Intel-based 27-inch iMac was (RIP).
Stuff says: Now is the time to buy – Mac Studio is a brilliant machine.
The state of play: We last coo’d at the Mac Pro in person during WDC 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”. However, since then, the game has most definitely changed.
What’s next: The Mac Pro was the last Mac to shift to Apple silicon and it’s now running on M2 Ultra, with a 24-core CPU and up to a 76-core GPU, 192GB of unified memory, and 8TB of internal SSD storage. As with other Mac Pros, it’s modular with 7 PCIe Gen 4 slots, eight Thunderbolt 4 ports and support for 22 streams of 8K ProRes content. It’s basically a Mac Studio but with complete hardware customisation.
Stuff says: If you need the ultimate in power and hardware customisation – in other words, you are probably editing a Hollywood movie – this machine is the best of the best. The Mac Studio is a way better option for most though.
Now read: Which is the best MacBook for you?