Mac laptop buying advice please

PLEASE don’t tell me about Chromebooks and Windows machines. They don’t suit my needs.

I’ve got a 2010 MacBook Air and while it’s given good service, I need a new laptop.

I’m interested in a refurb in some flavor of Air/MacBook/Macbook Pro, but I’m dithering on whether I really need a quad core. I’d like a 15" screen and 512 gig drive is a necessity (I’d prefer 1TB but the price gets pretty high fast) and I think 8 gigs of ram.

The three main things I use the computer for are writing, web, and watching videos, both streaming and downloaded. I’d also like to use Powerpoint more; I think my machine is just too weak to support it (every action lags by many seconds rather than happening real time).

The current machine is duo core/512/4GB.

Given my needs, do I need a more recent quad core or could I scrape by with another duo core?

I might be wrong but I think all 15 inch MacBooks for the past several years come with at least a quad core, so if you want a 15 inch screen you’re stuck with at least a quad core MacBook Pro.

That sounds like overkill for your needs, but at least it will be fairly future proofed, especially if you intend to keep it as long as your MacBook Air. If you decide on a 13 inch screen, keep in mind that a recent dual core i5 or i7 is much more powerful than a 2010 Core 2 Duo, so you’ll be doing better than scraping by.

Thanks zbuzz. How much should I be thinking about clock speed, or nor at all given my needs?

For your use, just get the cheapest MacBook or Air; it will do you fine.

I insist on fluid UI’s and complete responsiveness, so I tend to buy higher-end versions. Still, my 2013 MacBook Pro and Late 2014 iMac give me that. Everything newer is faster. You’ll be fine.

4 gigs of RAM isn’t enough; that’s likely your main problem with the current setup. Get at least 8.

IMHO, we are pretty much past the days when clock speed itself should be a top consideration. I think things like does it have integrated graphics vs a discrete video card, do you want one with the Touch Bar, or RAM and SSD size, etc will affect your real world usage much more than 2.6 vs 2.8 GHz.

Despite not putting much stock in GHz alone, I’d definitely still recommend checking out geekbench.com to compare CPU benchmark scores for the various models. They aren’t real world results, but they’ll give you a starting point for what you can expect, particularly for the different generations of Intel chips.

And also you might want to check out the refurb section of the Online Apple Store.

None of those should be CPU-bound. A 4-core cpu is not going to make a difference. Going up to 8GB of memory will likely help.

If you want a 15" screen, then you’re basically just choosing between the ~2016 Macbook Pro and the earlier model. I dislike the touchbar that replaced the function keys, and all the new 15" models have it, so I might choose the older one. But that’s a personal preference.

Definitely type on it. Hang out at an Apple store and type lots of the sort of thing you would normally type, because many professionals absolutely HATE recent Macbook keyboards. Writers who cover the Mac like Andy Inhatko have been dumping them and buying Windows laptops because they can still get a decent keyboard. The first generation of the hated “butterfly switch” keyboard would die if so much as a crumb made it’s way under a keycap. But the main reason they hated them so much was the lack of travel, so limited that it’s like typing on a piece of marble.

Thanks for the feedback. My wife recently got a pretty tooled-up laptop she intends to use for video editing; I’ll try typing on hers to see how good (bad) the experiences is.

Nothing other than an SSD (which all the new ones have, pretty much) will help your performance on a Mac more than memory. I’d suggest 16, actually.

“writing, web, and watching videos”

16Gb is just insane for the stated use, though. Trust me; I love my RAM and my iMac has 32Gb, but my use is significantly beyond “writing, web, and watching videos,” which could largely be satisfied with a humble iPad with keyboard.

Or a simple Chromebook. :smiley:

I am no Mac expert but if you are just buying this for yourself please note that Apple sells their hardware refurbished with a lot of it just returns. The stock changes constantly.


You may not be interested but they come with 1year warranty and you can purchase Apple Care for them.
Good luck.

Indeed. I actually have no idea why the computer would be running slow. My current desktop set-up is a 16GB RAM quad-core MacPro (trash can edition) with 256GB SSD drive (I foolishly thought I could upgrade this later–and I technically can–but it ain’t cheap and requires a special SSD drive), but my mid-2010 Apple laptop is a dual-core i7 (though I have 8 GB RAM) with a 240GB SSB drive, and it works fine with more memory intensive applications like the latest versions of Lightroom and Photoshop. I certainly don’t have any actions lagging by “many seconds” and, although I don’t have Powerpoint, I can’t imagine it’s more processor intensive than that. Perhaps just the extra 4 GB of RAM helps? I mean, it’s not as fast as my desktop, sure, but it’s also not lagging like that.

I would think the OP would be fine with absolutely the most basic current Mac model.

Apple columnist Andy Inhatko recently rescued his MacBook with an industry standard SSD and a $12 adapter. He Tweeted about it last week.

I agree. The OP really should back up his or her Macbook Air, reformat it, and install the OS fresh. There is little to no reason for anything to take that long to perform tasks as simple as described.

The one I’m talking about is a MacPro desktop. I’ve put in new SSDs in my laptops without an issue. The MacPro (2013 cylinder version), AFAIK, only works on a certain type of SSD, and I’m not aware of any adaptors to make it work (there’s not enough room in there to make it fit even, from what I can tell.) Best I could find is about $400-$450 for a 1TB SSD that is compatible with this model. So I just use an additional external SSD on the USB 3.0 bus, in addition to my normal external drives.

So he didn’t dump it.

He still owns and loves his MacBook, and he has to have one because most of the writing he does is about Mac OS. But his “daily driver”, the thing he does most of his writing on, is a Lenovo. My point is that Apple no longer seems to have any interest in producing laptops with keyboards that are acceptable to professional writers. You don’t have to trust me, just visit twit.tv and watch a few episodes of Macbreak Weekly. Two of the three hosts on the show about the Macintosh are principally typing on Windows machines because of that fact.

Thank you for all your help. As I said in my OP, I am not going for a Chromebook–because I need local storage. And I am not getting a Windows machine because I have used and hated Windows many times.

As for updating my current machine, I don’t think it’s possible. It’s got as much RAM as it can take and I don’t think the drive can be changed. These machines were built to be obsolete and Apple doesn’t even support them any more.

I do think the RAM is probably limiting me and I’d probably go for 16 GB if I feel I can afford it. The big one is the drive; 256GB isn’t really big enough as I often have a lot of very large video files downloaded. 512 would be a minimum, but most of the refurbs are 256. 1TB would be great but the cost jumps hugely.