Which MacBook Is the Right One for You?

I was about to title this post "Which Laptop Is the Right One for You?" but unless you're on a tight budget and don't mind your hardware becoming obsolete in a year or so, there's no reason to look anywhere else for your family laptop needs. In short, Macs are the most stable and user-friendly notebooks out there, and until Windows 8 appears, steer clear of cheapbooks (laptops below $500).

On Monday, Apple's Tim Cook announced a brand new laptop, the MacBook Pro With Retina Display. It is, without mincing words, breathtaking. The screen has double the resolution of any other screen available on a laptop today and it is thin, light, and quite powerful. 

But is it for you?

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Apple currently sells three laptops: the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro, and the top-of-the-line Retina MacBook. At this point in the game, the audiences for each are cleanly segmented.

Remember also that the resale value on many of these laptops is phenomenal. Try selling an old Dell on eBay for a quarter of what you paid for it (let alone 50 percent) and you'll see what I'm talking about. I've consistently paid for at least 60 percent of my new MacBook purchase by selling the older model I had been using.

 
Courtesy of Apple

MacBook Air - For travelers and folks who want to keep it light and breezy - Starts at $999 - This model is amazingly thin and light. It comes in two sizes, 11-inch and 13-inch, and I've been consistently happy with the 13-inch size. Some caveats: this model has no optical disk and uses Flash memory for storage so there are no hard drives. I would recommend getting the most storage space and memory you can afford. Clock speed, aka CPU speed, is of secondary concern.

The MacBook Air is a great coffee table laptop. You can pop it open, do a little work, and then close it up when you're done. It's also been an indispensable travel companion and can do everything a bigger laptop can do except, in some cases, play 3D games.

 

MacBook Pro - For folks who need an optical drive and a little more power - Starts at $1,199 - The MacBook Pro is very similar to its predecessor. It has an optical drive so you can watch and burn DVDs and a high-resolution webcam for chatting with friends and family. The MacBook Pro comes in 13- and 15-inch versions and they're quite a bit heavier than the Air. 

The new model features a connectivity system called Thunderbolt, which offers very speedy uploads and downloads to hard drives as well as a direct connection to compatible monitors. It also supports USB 3.0, a new USB standard that is faster than current USB.

This is definitely more of a stationary computer although you can travel with it. I've eschewed the MacBook Pro line because I've never really needed that much power on the road.


Courtesy of Apple

Retina MacBook Pro - For folks who need the latest and greatest - Starts at $2,199 - Now here's the pickle: this laptop is Apple's finest creation to date. It's far better -- screenwise -- than any other laptop out there and you will be amazed by it. However it doesn't have an optical drive (not much of a problem) and it's very expensive. What to do?

If you have to talk yourself into buying this thing, you're probably not the right audience -- yet. However, if you pick up a less powerful Mac and sell it when the Retina model hits a more acceptable price (probably around Back-to-School), you might feel a bit better about things.

Bottom Line: If you're not a power user, the MacBook Air is just perfect. It does everything you want it to -- video editing, photo viewing, etc. -- and it's amazingly thin and light. If you must get a Pro this time out, the Retina is probably the way to go. Paying the premium for the screen is worth it and the resale value will be quite high once this thing gets old in the tooth. Good luck and happy MacBooking.

 

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