If you’re wondering which Mac to buy, you’ve come to the right place. In our 2020 buying guide you’ll find everything you need to know about the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, iMac, iMac Pro and Mac Pro, with expert buying advice to help you choose the machine (and configuration) that’s right for you.
Apple makes six different types of Mac, and within each of those categories there are variations in the specs and features, so things can get pretty complicated. That’s where this complete guide comes in, helping you make the right decision. If you’re simply looking for a great offer, visit our MacBook Pro deals, MacBook Air deals, and iMac deals and Mac mini deals pages.
The current Mac range, in brief
Let’s first take you through each Mac that is currently available from Apple, to give you an overview of what’s on offer and what you’ve got to choose from.
Apple makes two types of laptop (having discontinued the 12in MacBook in July 2019 – but you may find it available on the Refurbished Store) and four types of desktop Mac.
- MacBook Air
- 13in MacBook Pro
- 16in MacBook Pro
Mac desktop computers
- Mac mini
- iMac Pro
- Mac Pro
- Available from: Apple (UK store or US store), Currys, John Lewis, KRCS
- Last updated: March 2020
- Price: From £999/$999
The MacBook Air is the thinnest and lightest Mac laptop as well as the cheapest of Apple’s laptops. It is a popular choice and rightly so.
The Air was updated in March 2020. Apple doubled the storage options, added a quad-core processor option and 10th generation Intel chips, and improved the keyboard. This was the first major change to the line up since October 2018 when Apple introduced colour options (gold, silver and Space Grey), smaller bezels and a slimmer body, and more powerful components.
The MacBook Air represents great value for money.
Who is the MacBook Air best for?
The MacBook Air is perfect for anyone who frequently needs to carry their laptop with them, especially students, commuters, and hotdeskers.
Because it’s so slim it’s also a great option if you want a Mac to use at home or at work that doesn’t take up a whole lot of space. You can always plug it into a monitor on your desk, or even plug it into a TV screen (via an adapter) if you feel you would benefit from a bigger display.
MacBook Air specs
There are two standard MacBook Air models available. The specs are as follows:
£999/$999 MacBook Air:
- 1.1GHz Dual-core i3 10th gen processor
- Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz
- 256GB Storage
- 8GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X memory
- Intel Iris Plus Graphics
£999/$999 MacBook Air:
- 1.1GHz Quad-core i5 10th gen processor
- Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz
- 512GB Storage
- 8GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X memory
- Intel Iris Plus Graphics
There are also various build-to-order options (a faster processor, 16GB RAM, 1TB of 2TB SSD), if you want more speed or storage and your budget can stretch.
You get a Retina display with a 2K resolution, an improved keyboard and a Force Touch trackpad. You’ll also find Touch ID incorporated into the keyboard, so you can use your fingerprint to sign in and verify purchases.
The MacBook Air is not the fastest Mac laptop you can buy, but whether that matters depends a lot on what you will be doing with it, and what your priorities are when looking for a new Mac.
If the majority of what you do on your Mac is everyday tasks, such as sending and receiving email, browsing the web, and using office applications, the MacBook Air is quite capable of meeting your needs. Even beyond that kind of use, you can happily use the Air for editing short videos, or for working with photos from your iPhone or point-and-shoot camera.
The MacBook Air offers 12 hours of battery life, which should be enough to last the length of a long haul flight, or a day’s work.
The MacBook Air does not have an Ethernet port: in fact it’s limited to two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports (one of which will need to be used for power, if you want to charge) and a headphone jack. And like all Macs, the MacBook Air lacks an optical drive. We don’t have much use for an optical drive these days, but if you really think you need one there is always the option of purchasing Apple’s USB SuperDrive for £65.
Should you buy a MacBook Air now or wait?
Apple updated the MacBook Air in March 2020. It was a significant update, including better processors, improved RAM and increased storage. Perhaps the best news is that Apple also changed the keyboard design to address issues with the previous keyboard design. It’s a good time to buy.
If you like the MacBook Air but think it’s a bit above budget, read our article about how to get a cheap Mac and take a look on the Apple refurbished store to see if Apple has any cut-price Macs. We have an article dedicated to Why you should buy a refurbished Mac. We also have the latest MacBook Air deals here.
- Available from: Apple (UK store or US store)
- Last updated: 13in – July 2019; 16in – November 2019
- Price: From £1,299/$1,299 to £2,799/$2,799
- Latest reviews: MacBook Pro 13in (2019) and MacBook Pro 16in (2019) review
Apple last updated the MacBook Pro in November 2019, replacing the 15in model with a slightly larger 16in one. The 13in MacBook Pro was last updated in July 2019 when Apple improved the two entry-level MacBook Pro models by adding a Touch Bar and quad-core processors. The two superior 13in models had been updated in May 2019.
As the Pro part of the name suggests, this is generally a more powerful machine than the MacBook Air. However, since the March 2020 update to the MacBook Air the gap has closed. In fact we’d suggest that right now the MacBook Air is superior to the entry-level 13in MacBook Pro models.
The MacBook Pro is also heavier than the MacBook Air, although still reasonably svelte – the Pro series benefited from a slimming-down redesign in 2016. The MacBook Pro features USB-C ports, and the Touch Bar incorporates a fingerprint scanner into the power button.
Oh yes, the Touch Bar. This feature, a unique selling point of the Pro line, provides users with contextual controls depending on the app they’re using at the time – for example, using Final Cut Pro X will offer shortcuts for different functions, while in Safari it’ll offer shortcuts to your favourite websites. We tend to think the Touch Bar is more of a fun gimmick than a useful addition (it’s not even particularly intuitive to use – we often find ourselves reaching to touch the screen instead) but it’s worth trying it out in an Apple Store to see if you like it.
Just like Apple’s other laptops the MacBook Pro has a Retina display, so called because it hits the sweet spot where our eyes are unable to actually detect any more pixels. It’s ideal for creative work.
Who is the MacBook Pro best for?
The MacBook Pro is a great choice for creative pros and Mac users looking for more power from a laptop.
The main selling points of the 2019 MacBook Pro are the high-res screen and powerful processors, and the fact that you get all that in a relatively compact and light body.
Battery life should suffice for daily use. We think the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is perfect for anyone who needs a powerful laptop that they can carry around without damaging their back, with a special focus on creatives.
As to whether you should buy the 13- or 16in model, this depends foremost on what you will be using it for, and secondly on how often you will be carrying the laptop around. If what matters most to you is having a laptop that is light enough to carry with you on your commute, but powerful enough to use for processor-intensive applications, then the 13in will suit you. Although we’d suggest that you look to the MacBook Air range which offers more storage and newer processors currently.
If your needs are a little more advanced, the 16in Pro will serve you well. With some of the best Speedmark scores of any Mac, and significantly higher than the 13in models, the 16in models are capable of pretty much anything. Not that the 13in models are a slouch, mind you.
And if you’re wondering whether an iMac might suit you better because it has a bigger screen, remember you can always plug the MacBook Pro into a large monitor and use that when you’re at your desk.
If you’ve already got a Mac and are looking to sell, read: Which Mac do I have? and How to check your Mac’s tech specs.
MacBook Pro specs
There are actually six MacBook Pro starting configurations available in two different sizes: four 13in versions and two 16in versions. You can then add further build-to-order (BTO) options and upgrades if you’re willing to spend more.
All four 13in models have Intel 8th-gen processors. (Note that 9th-gen chips are available, but you have to buy the 15in model to get those.) They’re quad-core i5 or i7 going up to 2.8GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.7GHz. There’s also up to 16GB of RAM, integrated Intel Iris Plus 655 graphics and up to 2TB of SSD storage.
The 13in display offers 2560 x 1600 Retina resolution at 227ppi, while the 15in model offers 2880 x 1800 resolution at 220ppi. All six models come with Apple’s True Tone technology and the T2 processor found in the iMac Pro, a sub-processor that makes various things run smoothly.
The 16in models have 6- or 8-core Intel 9th-gen processors. They come in Core i7 and i9 options with up to 2.6GHz (6-core) or 2.4GHz (8-core) and Turbo Boost up to 5GHz.
There’s up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM, Radeon Pro 5300M or 5500M discrete graphics with 4GB of video memory (upgradable to 8GB) and up to 8TB of SSD storage.
The MacBook Pro doesn’t offer USB-A or an SD card slot. The two entry-level models have two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports while the other models offer four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports; thus, a single port can handle charging, data transfer, A/V and more but requires an adapter to use legacy accessories.
Like the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro doesn’t feature a Ethernet port, but it does have built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi and if you need to plug into a wired network you will be able to purchase an adaptor separately.
Should you buy a MacBook Pro now or wait?
The 16in models were only introduced in November 2019 so now might be a good time to buy – although we’d suggest waiting until June as we think Apple might boost the processors soon. As for whether to buy the 13in MacBook Pro: if you are concerned about the keyboard – which has a well-publicised issue – you might want to wait until Apple updates it with the new keyboard design seen on the new 16in MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. This will surely be coming soon.
- Available from: Apple (UK store or US store)
- Last updated March 2020
- Price: From £799/$799
- Latest review: Mac mini 2018 review (2020 model only increased storage)
The Mac mini is Apple’s compact desktop computer first introduced in 2005. It’s also Apple’s cheapest Mac, starting at just £799 or $799 (although it did used to be cheaper than that – when the 2014 model launched it cost just £399/$499). The mini used to be Apple’s least powerful Mac, but the latest iteration (now in Space Grey) has a lot more oomph than previously, and can be upgraded to some fairly meaty specs.
It was updated in March 2020 but Apple only increased storage. We hope that the company will see fit to improve the processors later in 2020.
Who is the Mac mini best for?
For anyone who uses their Mac for browsing the web and writing emails, and doing general office work the Mac mini could suffice. It’s powerful enough to do a good job with photo and home video editing. If you are looking for a Mac that will just sit on your desk, or in the study, the Mac mini is a cheap option.
The Mac mini is also a popular choice for a living room Mac. A lot of people plug it into their TV screen via an HDMI cable (the Mac mini retains its HDMI port). And, apparently one reason why Apple, after waiting four years, finally updated the Mac mini was its popularity with developers and server farms.
When the Mac mini stopped featuring a optical drive back in 2011 there was a bit of an outcry from those who though it was an ideal home entertainment centre, but DVDs are far less popular than they were back then thanks to the rise of streaming services.
The Mac mini is a popular choice for developers – probably because it’s cheap and they can just plug it into an existing monitor and keyboard. It’s likely to become more popular for that now, and may even begin to appeal to creatives with more demanding needs, thanks to higher spec build-to-order options – though the lack of a discrete GPU is still a serious limitation. Read about the best Mac for developers here.
Mac mini specifications
There are two Mac minis available. The cheapest Mac mini has a 3.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i3 processor and Intel UHD Graphics 630, along with 8GB DDR4 RAM and 256GB SSD storage (up from 128GB prior to March 2020). The other model has a 3.0GHz 6-core Intel Core i5 (with Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz) and 512GB SSD (up from 256GB SSD prior to March 2020). The graphics and RAM remain the same.
The top of the range Mac mini has various build-to-order options, including a 3.2GHz 6-core Intel i7 processor, 2TB SSD, 64GB RAM, and a 10 Gigabit ethernet port. Opting for the top-of-the-line options across the board jumps the price up to a very meaty £3,859/$4,099 though, so watch out.
The Mac mini weighs 1.3kg and the dimensions are 19.7cm by 19.7cm. It’s just 3.6cm tall, so it really is mini as the name suggests. The shape and weight haven’t changed from the previous model.
All the Mac mini models feature the following ports and standards
- 4 Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports
- 2 USB-A 3 ports
- HDMI 2.0 port
- Gigabit Ethernet (upgradeable to 10Gb)
- Audio in/out
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 5.0
Should you buy a Mac mini now or wait?
The Mac mini was updated in March 2020 and gained increased storage options, however we’d still like to see a new processor as the current processors are 8th generation Intel while other Macs now offer 9th generation and 10th generation processors. We don’t anticipate an update before October though.
- Available from: Apple (UK store or US store), Currys, KRCS
- Last updated: March 2019
- Price: From £1,049/$1,099
- Latest review: 27in iMac 2019 review & 21.5in iMac 2019 review
Apple’s iMac is probably its most famous Mac. First introduced in 1998 and causing shockwaves in personal computing, over the years the iMac has lost its old bulky CRT monitor, and slimmed down. Now it is incredibly thin, but the whole computer is still concealed behind that gorgeous display (there is no tower to hide away under your desk).
Despite the fact that the iMac turned 20 in 2018 Apple didn’t update it that year, instead waiting until March 2019. We are still hoping for a more significant redesign in 2020. Read about what is expected from the 2020 iMac here.
Who is the iMac best for?
It’s a desktop Mac, so the iMac is obviously best for someone who doesn’t mind being tied to their desk. Or perhaps you already own a laptop and need a decent work machine. The great thing about buying an Apple computer is that because everything is tied to your iCloud account all your Safari bookmarks, iCloud documents and applications will be available to you on all of your Macs.
The type of person for whom the 21.5in iMac is ideal will be different to the type who would require a 27in iMac.
The 21.5in iMacs are great options for most general use. We would steer you away from the entry-level model though, it’s not been updated since 2017 and lacks the Retina display as well as only offering Intel graphics rather than the discrete Radeon Pro graphics card offered by the rest of the range.
For professionals who need a powerful Mac, the choice will probably be between the 27in iMac models, the 15in Retina MacBook Pro, and the March 2019 update puts the iMac right back in the mix. It’s an excellent option.
Overall, the iMac is ideal for graphic design, or those who work with video and images, it’s also great for gaming.
The iMac Pro is even faster but it’s also a lot more expensive. For more information read: iMac Pro vs iMac.
There are two different sizes of iMac available: the 21.5in iMac and the 27in iMac. The full iMac range was last updated in March 2019 with new processors going up to Intel’s 8th and 9th generations.
The old entry-level iMac (which doesn’t have a Retina display) is still available. This costs £1,049/$1,099, and features a (7th-gen) 2.3GHz dual-core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 and a 1TB hard drive. It’s the lowest spec machine Apple sells.
But then we move up to the new models. For another £200/$200 you can a faster 8th-gen 3.6GHz quad-core i5, 8GB RAM, Radeon Pro 555X graphics with 2GB video memory, a 1TB hard drive and even the 4K Retina display. Well worth £1,249/$1,299, in our opinion.
For a further £200/$200 you can go up to six cores. The top-of-the-range 21in iMac offers an 8th-gen 3.0GHz 6-core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, Radeon Pro 560X graphics with 4GB video memory, a 1TB Fusion Drive (which is faster than the hard drives in the previous two models mentioned) and the 4K display. That’s £1,449/$1,499.
Browse the 21.5in iMacs on Apple’s store.
The 27in iMacs also offer i5 processors (unlike the 15in MacBook Pros which introduce i7 processors at the high end). However, the processors in the 27in iMacs are all 6-core, so you can expect plenty of power.
The entry-level 27in iMac features an 8th-gen 3.0GHz 6-core i5, 8GB RAM, Radeon Pro 570X graphics with 4GB video memory and a 1TB fusion drive. And like all the bigger models it comes with a 5K display with a resolution of 5120 x 2880. This entry-level 27in iMac is £1,749/$1,799. Read about Fusion Drives here.
For £200/$200 more there is the mid-range, with an 8th-gen 3.1GHz 6-core i5, 8GB RAM, the slightly better Radeon 575X graphics and the 1TB Fusion Drive. Total price: £1,949/$1,999.
The top-of-the-range iMac, which costs £2,249/$2,299, goes all the way up to Intel’s 9th generation of processors. It offers a 9th-gen 3.7GHz 6-core i5, 8GB RAM as standard, Radeon Pro 580X graphics with 8GB video memory, and a 2TB Fusion Drive.
Browse the 27in iMacs on Apple’s store.
The iMac offers an SDXC slot, USB slots, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Ethernet. Now that all the models have been updated they all feature Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports. There are also four USB 3 ports – which will work with the older USB A standard if you have old peripherals.
The iMac lacks an optical drive; Apple traded in the built-in SuperDrive when it slimmed down the monitor to a super-thin 5mm. We don’t find we have much use for an optical drive these days, but if you really think you need one there is always the option of purchasing Apple’s USB SuperDrive for £65. You can buy a SuperDrive here.
All the iMac models feature the following ports and standards
- 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports (USB-C)
- 4 USB 3 ports (USB-A)
- SDXC card slot
- Gigabit Ethernet
- Headphone port (with support for Apple iPhone headset with microphone)
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.2
Should you buy an iMac now or wait?
The iMac range was updated in March 2019 so we expect an update in the first half of the year – or at least by June to coincide with WWDC.
- Available from: Apple (UK store or US store), KRCS
- Launched on: 14 Dec 2017
- Price: From £4,899/$4,999
- Latest review: iMac Pro review
Apple issued a big mea culpa to creative professionals in 2017, acknowledging that the 2013 Mac Pro didn’t cut the mustard: problems with the thermal design, apparently, meant it was very difficult to upgrade. The company assured these users that a new Mac Pro was on the way (although it won’t be here until 2019) but it announced a new product called the iMac Pro in the meantime.
The iMac Pro features a thoroughly redesigned thermal system, and ran without slowdowns or significant fan noise when we stressed the GPU to 91 degrees Celsius. This should allow Apple to upgrade the system in future without hitting the same problems it saw with the now discontinued trashcan Mac Pro; but we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out.
It’s also immensely powerful – the most powerful Mac so far, and one that smashed every speed and graphics benchmark we put it through – and rather beautiful to look at: it’s the same elegant design as the 27in iMac, but (for the first time on a Mac desktop) it’s Space Grey. The new Space Grey peripherals look great too.
Who is the iMac Pro best for?
The iMac Pro is for creatives and other people who need a super-powerful Mac: video and photo editors, 3D modellers, VR devs, music producers.
For the past few years those users have been migrating to the iMac instead of the Mac Pro, so Apple felt it should just go with it, and give the iMac a pro-targeted revamp.
If your requirements are even higher than could be satisfied by this beast, you’ll might want to wait for the new Mac Pro, but that machine is so extremely powerful and astronomically priced that a souped up iMac Pro may well be the best fit for you.
iMac Pro specifications
This is the starting configuration, which costs £4,899/$4,999:
- 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz
- 32GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory
- 1TB SSD
- Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB of HBM2 memory
- Built-in 27in ‘Retina’ 5K display, 5120 x 2880 resolution, 500 nits brightness, Wide colour (P3)
- 1080p FaceTime HD camera
- Stereo speakers, four microphones
- Ports: 4x USB 3, 4 x Thunderbolt 3/USB-C, SDXC, ethernet, 3.5mm headphone jack
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
- 65cm x 51.6cm x 20.3cm (depth includes stand); 9.7kg
You can customise this extensively, however. Processors up to 18 cores are available, and you can get up to 256GB of RAM and up to 4TB of flash storage. You can upgrade the Vega 56 graphics card to a Vega 64 or Vega 64X, too. If you go all-in with every upgrade and extra it’s possible to spend almost £13,500/$14,500.
Should you buy an iMac Pro now or wait?
It’s been more than two years since the iMac Pro arrived and unless you include the tiny update in March 2019 (adding new configuration options for RAM and graphics) there has been no change. So we expect a change soon and suggest you wait for that.
- Available from: Apple (UK store or US store)
- Launched on: December 2019
- Price: From $5,999/£5,499
- Latest review: Mac Pro (2019) first look review
The Mac Pro is Apple’s professional Mac with a price tag to match, starting at $5,999. It’s a fully fledged workstation aimed at those who need the ultimate in power and have a huge budget.
Who is the Mac Pro best for?
Professionals who need extreme processing capability.
Mac Pro specifications
You can configure the 2019 Mac Pro anywhere from an 8- to a 28-core processor, with up to 1.5TB of RAM – yes, 1.5TB of RAM, not storage – and up to 4TB of SSD storage. It’s an astoundingly powerful machine.
Should you buy a Mac Pro now or wait?
The Mac Pro went on sale in December 2019. It’s unlikely that Apple will make a big change to the specs for a while so it should be safe to buy one now and if you do it’s likely to last you a long time.