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Mac Buying Guide 2023: Which Apple Mac is right for me?

Mac Buying Guide 2023: Which Apple Mac is right for me?

Note: This feature was first published on 19 June 2023.

There's a Mac for everyone. (Image source: Apple)

Mac Buying Guide 2023

The circle is complete. With the unveiling of the new Mac Pro, the entire Mac lineup now runs on Apple Silicon. And at WWDC 2023, Apple announced not just the Mac Pro but also the all-new 15-inch MacBook Air and an updated Mac Studio. With so many Macs to choose from, it’s easy to see why one might be lost and confused. If you are shopping for a new Mac, this is the guide you need.

Why get a Mac?

Apple's custom Mac silicon is so far ahead of what traditional x86 processors from Intel and AMD can offer. (Image source: Apple)

The single most compelling reason for getting a Mac is Apple Silicon. It’s impossible to overstate its importance because it utterly transformed the computing landscape. Its combination of performance and efficiency is so far ahead of traditional x86 processors from Intel and AMD that even now, nearly three years on, they are still playing catch up. Unless you are into Windows gaming or have a need to run very specific Windows software, MacBooks should be your choice of notebook. Even the most basic M2 chip is a beast. The speed at which apps launch and the responsiveness of the system, even when it’s heavily taxed, is nothing short of amazing. And yet they are so power efficient that they’ll easily last an entire day. Intel and AMD have made significant improvements recently, but they are still nowhere close to matching Apple in terms of real-world everyday user experience. And that’s why you should get a Mac.

How much is a Mac?

Consider memory upgrades carefully because memory is part of the SoC and cannot be upgraded in the future. (Image source: Apple)

One of the things that’s going to inform your purchasing decision is cost – the other is whether or not you need portability. So let’s talk a look at how much a Mac costs. We are only going to be looking at starting prices here because there aresimply too many price points to cover if we are going to include into specific system configurations.

MacBook starting prices
13-inch MacBook Air 15-inch MacBook Air 13-inch MacBook Pro 14-inch MacBook Pro 16-inch MacBook Pro
From S$1,599 From S$1,899 From S$1,899 From S$2,899 From S$3,599
Mac starting prices
Mac Mini 24-inch iMac Mac Studio Mac Pro
From S$849 From S$1,849 From S$2,999 From S$9,999

One thing to note about the prices of Macs is that memory and storage upgrades are going to jack up the overall price of the system real quick. Every extra 8GB of memory is going to cost around S$300 while every 512GB of storage is an additional S$300 too. With that in mind, let’s talk about memory and storage considerations.

Memory and storage considerations

Between memory and storage, always get more memory first. You can always increase storage later with external drives.

One thing that’s going to heavily impact the price of your system is memory and storage, particularly if you are adding them on as part of a custom order. Another thing to note is that because of how tightly integrated Apple Silicon is, there’s no way to upgrade memory and storage. So you have to be really certain of how much memory and storage you want when you order your system.

A common question I often get asked is if 8GB of memory is enough. Because of the unique way Apple Silicon and macOS use and manage memory, 8GB of memory is actually adequate for users who will primarily use their Macs to browse the web, check emails, stream videos, and edit the occasional video. That said, my recommendation is to get your Mac with at least 16GB of memory. This ensures your system is future-proofed for the next couple of years. Furthermore, going up to 16GB of memory is usually a S$300 upgrade, which isn’t terribly costly.

As for storage, I think 256GB is going to be a stretch for most people unless they supplement it with some sort of cloud storage and stream all of their content. 512GB should be a more comfortable figure for most users. That said, if you had to choose between memory and storage upgrades, I’ll prioritise memory. Remember, memory cannot be upgraded but you still have the option of external drives to expand your storage should you require more in the future.

The cheapest way into Apple Silicon: Mac mini

The Mac mini is the correct Mac desktop for most people.

With prices starting at S$849, the absolute most affordable way into an Apple Silicon Mac is the Mac Mini. That aside, it’s also the most compact desktop Mac, which makes it great for anyone with space constraints. And for users who demand more performance, they can order their Mac Minis with the more powerful M2 Pro chip. So really, the Mac Mini is the weapon of choice for just about anyone who doesn’t need portability and is looking for the most cost-effective way to get into Apple Silicon. One thing worth noting is that the cheapest variant only comes with 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD so you’ll likely want to upgrade at least the memory, which will bump its price up its price a bit.

Pros:Value for money, very compactCons: M2 variants only have 2 USB-C ports

Read our review of the Mac mini here.

You can find the Mac minion Amazon, Lazada, Shopee, and the Apple Online Store.

The best MacBook for most people: 13 and 15-inch MacBook Air

The 15-inch MacBook Air is the largest MacBook Air yet.

For most readers who demand a portable system, the MacBook Air is the one to get. It’s slim, light, has all-day battery life and more than enough power for most people. The lineup also recently received a new addition in the form of the larger 15-inch MacBook Air. This new larger model is an excellent choice for people who prefer a larger screen. And best of all, despite the larger screen, it still remains very thin and relatively light. One thing to note is that all MacBook Air models have fan-less chassis. The upside to this is that they run silently. The downside, however, is that throttling can be an issue if you are running intensive sustained workloads. If you do a lot of gaming, video editing, or anything that requires sustained CPU and GPU performance, you might want to consider the MacBook Pro instead.

Pros: Powerful, portable, battery that lasts all dayCons: Limited ports, not great for sustained workloads

Read our review of the 15-inch MacBook Air here.

Read our review of the 13-inch MacBook Air here.

You can find the 13 and 15-inch MacBook Air on Amazon, Lazada, Shopee, and the Apple Online Store.

The cheapest “Pro” MacBook: 13-inch MacBook Pro

If you can't quite stretch your budget to a 14-inch MacBook Pro, this is the cheapest MacBook with an active-cooling system.

This MacBook is a bit of an oddball because even though it’s powered by the company’s new M2 chip, it’s in a body that is nearly seven years old.And because of that, the bezels around the display are a little thicker than you’d expect. And in place of proper function keys, you have the controversial Touch Bar. It’s also missing features found in new MacBooks like a MagSafe port and a higher-resolution webcam. That said, this is the most affordable MacBook with an active-cooling system, which is important for users running intensive sustained workloads. This Mac is really only best for users who want the highest-performing MacBook but can’t quite stretch their budget to a 14-inch MacBook – which, admittedly, is very pricey.

Pros: Most affordable MacBook with active coolingCons: Dated design, Touch Bar, missing new features like MagSafe

Read our review of the 13-inch MacBook Pro here.

You can find the 13-inch MacBook Pro onAmazon,Lazada,Shopee, and theApple Online Store.

For performance on the go: 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro

The 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pros are some of the best notebooks money can buy.

I regard the MacBook Pro as the “Rolls Royce of ultraportable notebooks” because of its terrific blend of features, performance, and portability. These are the best notebooks Apple makes and, boy, do they have the goods to back them up. To start, both 14 and 16-inch models come with Liquid Retina XDR displays, which is Apple-speak for a mini-LED display. They are also powered by the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips which offer significantly more performance than your standard M2 chip. In addition, the MacBook Pros feature active cooling so they can sustain their performance for longer, which in turn makes them great for professionals who need serious performance to edit videos, compile code, or run virtual machines. Finally, the M2 Pro and M2 Max can also be spec’ed with more memory – up to 96GB – which, again, can be incredibly beneficial for professionals who run memory-intensive apps. Battery life is also great. If you aren’t maxing out the CPU or GPU, it’ll last just about as long as a MacBook Air.

Pros: Gorgeous display, breathtaking performance, SD card readerCons: Pricey, a little heavy

Read our review of the 14-inch MacBook Pro here.

You can find the 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro onAmazon,Lazada,Shopee, and theApple Online Store.

For the cleanest setup: iMac

If you care about the way your desktop setup looks, you can beat the iMac.

Folks who are concerned about aesthetics as much as they are about performance and features should look at the iMac. It has a sleek and playful design and is possibly the best-looking all-in-one system I’ve ever seen. Furthermore, it comes in seven colours and can be ordered with colour-matching accessories. The screen is high-quality too – it’s a 24-inch 4.5K Retina display. The only downside is that Apple hasn’t updated it yet so it’s still powered by the older M1 chip. Still, for most people, the M1 chip offers more than enough performance. I guess that’s the price to pay if you want to look good.

Pros: Sexy-looking all-in-one systemCons: Powered by an older chip, limited ports

Read our review of the iMac here.

You can find the 24-inch iMaconAmazon,Lazada,Shopee, and theApple Online Store.

For pros only: Mac Studio & Mac Pro

The Mac Studio and Mac Pro are overkill for most people. Of course, you could still get them if you feel like you need the absolute best that Apple has to offer.

The Mac Studio and Mac Pro are overkill for most people. Powered by Apple’s most powerful chips – the M2 Max and M2 Ultra – these are systems designed for professionals who need the last word in performance. If you don’t find yourself editing streams of 4K or 8K videos, running multiple virtual machines, compiling tons of code, or dealing with massive 3D models and graphics, there’s little need for these systems. Both the Mac Studio and Mac Pro can be equipped with Apple’s flagship M2 Ultra chip. However, the Mac Pro has the benefit of additional PCIe slots that can be useful for professionals who require the use of specific PCIe cards for storage, networking, or audio and video I/O. If you don't even know what a PCIe card is, you don't need it. Of course, you could get these systems too if you feel like balling out, but really, these are systems for professionals who have very serious and demanding computing needs.

Pros: Very powerful, very fastCons: Very expensive, niche

Read our coverage of the new Mac Pro and updated Mac Studio here.

You can find the Mac Studio and Mac ProonAmazon,Lazada,Shopee, and theApple Online Store.

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