Apple makes six different kinds of Mac, and within each of those categories there are sub categories and variations in the specs and features.

In this feature (which we have updated following the launch of the MacBook and the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models, and the new Retina iMac model introduced in May) we will take you through each Mac that is currently available from Apple; which Mac is best suited to which type of user; the Macs that are the fastest, and the Macs that are the cheapest; and the Macs that are the best value for money.

We intend to help you decide which Mac is best for your needs, so read on to find out which Mac to buy. And if you are still stumped there is even a 'Which Mac is right for me?' quiz that you can take at the end.

And if you're wondering about where to get a good deal on a Mac, and whether you should go for a brand-new, secondhand or refurbished Mac, take a look at these two articles: Should I buy a refurbished Mac?Best place to buy a Mac

Plus read: i5 or i7? Haswell or Broadwell? What is turbo boost? Here's how to choose the best processor for your Mac

Every Mac reviewed

We've tested almost every Mac available now and in the past, so you can always draw comparisons with this year and last year's models - especially handy if you are considering buying an older Mac from Apple's refurbished store, from a friend, or from eBay. From time to time we will refer to our Speedmark tests as well as other tests we have performed in our labs. 

These test results should give you some idea of how much power you are getting, how this Mac compares to another Apple computer, and whether the Mac you are considering is capable of doing what you are hoping to do.

We'll start off with a summary of each Mac available right now before we go into more detail about each model.

Read:

Every Apple Mac

Apple's range of Macs includes the following:

MacBook

This is Apple's newest Mac - the first model went on sale on 10 April 2015. It's built more for style and portability than for the practicalities of computing – it has only one port and a basic processor. But it does have a Retina display, and it does come in gold, silver and space grey, just like your iPhone.

Read our MacBook preview and our comparison review of the MacBook Air and the MacBook, find out which is the best lightweight laptop

You can buy the new MacBook here.

MacBook Air

This is Apple's ultrathin and incredibly light laptop, sometimes referred to as an ultrabook. It comes in two screen sizes, 11-inch and 13-inch. The MacBook Air was first launched in 2008 and was Apple's first laptop to feature a SSD (flash storage). Apple's cheapest MacBook Air costs £749. To jump straight to MacBook Air click here.

New models launched on 9 March 2015.  See our MacBook Air (13 inch, early 2015) review and MacBook Air (11 inch, early 2015) review for more details. We have more MacBook Air reviews here.

You can buy the MacBook Air here.

Also read: Mac mini or MacBook Air: the best low-cost Mac for your money

MacBook Pro

There are actually three types of MacBook Pro available: a 13in MacBook Pro with a high-resolution Retina display and flash storage, a 15in MacBook Pro also with a high-resolution Retina display but with more advanced processor and specs; and a simple (non-Retina) MacBook Pro that is the only Mac to feature a CD/DVD drive (that latter model hasn't been updated since 2012).

The Pro part of the name suggests that this is a more powerful machine than the MacBook Air, however, the prices of the 13in models are a lot closer to the MacBook Air than they used to be. There are two screen sizes of MacBook Pro available: a 13-inch and 15-inch version. The 13in Pro was updated in March 2015, and the 15in models was updated on 19 May 2015.

Read about the new series of 15in MacBook Pro with Retina display here, plus read our review of the 2015 2.5GHz 15in MacBook Pro here and the 2.2 GHz 2015 MacBook Pro here.

You can buy the MacBook Pro here.

You can read our New 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro (early 2015) review here, or watch our video review below:

To jump straight to Retina MacBook Pro section click here / To jump straight to the non-Retina MacBook Pro click here.

Read our MacBook Pro reviews including:  | 2015 MacBook Pro review (15in)   Retina MacBook Pro review (15in, 2.2GHz, mid 2014) | Retina MacBook Pro review (15in, 2.5GHz, mid 2014)Apple 13in Retina MacBook Pro review (2.7GHz, 128GB, Early 2015, £999) | Apple 13in MacBook Pro review (2.7GHz, 256GB, Retina display, Early 2015, £1,199)

Wondering which MacBook is best for you? Read: MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro comparison review, 13in Apple laptops compared plus, if you want to find the best Mac laptop for your needs read: Which MacBook buying guide

Mac mini

The Mac mini is Apple's compact desktop computer first introduced in 2005. It's also Apple's cheapest Mac, starting at just £399 - the same price as a 16GB iPad Air 2. One of the best features of the Mac mini is its HDMI port, which helps to make this Mac an excellent option for a home media centre as you can plug it directly into your TV screen. The Mac mini was last updated in October 2014. To jump straight to the Mac mini section click here.

You can buy the Mac mini here.

Plus: When will Apple update the Mac mini

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iMac

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).

There are two different sizes of iMac available: the 21.5-inch iMac and the 27-inch iMac. In June 2014 Apple added a new lower-cost iMac at the entry-level, and then in October Apple introduced a 27in 5K Retina iMac, which was followed on 19 May by a new iMac with Retina display, available at a cheaper price, read more here: We have a new, cheaper Retina iMac, but Apple still hasn't updated the other iMacs.

The other iMacs in the range haven't been updated since September 2013 and we were hoping that the range would see an update soon. On that basis it is odd that Apple has only updated the Retina iMac - although the reason could be to do with the processors used, and that may well mean that the 21in iMac could be updated in June at WWDC. Read about the 2015 iMac release date here.

You can buy the iMac here.

For now, the cheapest iMac costs £899. To jump straight to the iMac section click here.

Read:

Mac Pro

The Mac Pro is Apple's professional Mac with a price tag to match, starting at £2,499. It's a fully fledged workstation aimed at those who need the ultimate in power, or the true Mac fanatic. 

Apple’s Mac Pro gained a whole new revolutionary design back in December 2013, although very few people were able to get their hands on one before the beginning of 2014. To jump straight to the Mac Pro section click here.

You can buy the Mac Pro here.

Read:

Mac desktop versus Mac laptop: Buying Advice

Everything you need to know about the MacBook

 

MacBook specifications

There are actually two standard MacBook models available, both with a 12in screen (measured diagonally). Dimensions for both unit are identical: 28.05cm by 19.65cm, and 3.5mm at the edge tapering to 131mm thick (the MacBook Air tapers from 17mm to just 3mm). The new MacBook weighs less than a kilogram at 920g.

The key difference between the two models is the amount of storage available, and the speed of the processor, although the most obvious difference is that there are three colour choices: gold, silver and space grey, just like the iPhone.

The entry-level MacBook unit offers a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor (Turbo Boost up to 2.4GHz), and 256GB PCIe-based flash storage. The other MacBook unit offers a 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor (Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz), and 512GB PCIe-based flash storage. Both models offer 8GB RAM and Intel HD Graphics 5300.

There don't appear to be any build-to-order options which would normally allow you to add a faster Intel processor, more storage, and more RAM. However, Apple did indicate in its press release announcing the product that there would be.

The new MacBook sports many new features including a Force Touch trackpad that utilises built-in force sensors so that when you click you receive haptic feedback, and Force Click  – this adds a new dimension to clicking, a new way of right-clicking, perhaps. There is also a new keyboard with keys slightly more spaced out than previously. Many of the new technologies incorporated in the new design have allowed Apple to make it slimmer and as lighter than any other Mac. For example, thanks to the new Core M chip the MacBook doesn’t require fans, and by slimming down the logicboard Apple has been able to utilize every last corner for battery. Apple claims the MacBook is the “world’s most energy efficient notebook”.

Even the Retina display is the thinnest screen ever on a Mac. It offers a 16:10 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2304 x 1440. It also uses less energy than Retina displays on other Macs.

Apple admits that the MacBook is designed for the wireless world, and it has to be: there is only one port. This next generation USB-C port will support power in and out, so you can charge your MacBook from it, as well as plug in a hard drive or other peripherals. You will need an adaptor if you are hoping to plug more than one device in at a time, though.

MacBook Connections

The MacBook infamously had only one port (plus a headphone port). That's the trade-off required for Apple to create such a thin Mac. The single port is USB-C, which is a new industry standard that offers 5Gbps data transfer via USB 3.1, as well as charging and DisplayPort 1.2. You will be able to plug anything into that port – but you will require an adaptor if you want to plug more than one thing in at a time.

Like the MacBook Air, the MacBook doesn’t feature an Ethernet port, so if you want to plug it into a wired network at work or on holiday you will need to purchase an adaptor. However, the MacBook does offer 802.11ac Wi-Fi so it’s unlikely that in today’s wireless world you will need to plug it into a network.

Read: Portgate and why the MacBook doesn't deserve the criticism

Also: Best USB Type-C accessories for the Retina MacBook

How fast is the MacBook?

The MacBook will not be Apple’s fastest Mac, tests of other computers that use the same chip suggests that the MacBook will be slower than last year’s entry level MacBook Air, however, it does at least feature a SSD drive, so it could prove faster than Apple’s other slowest Macs: the £899 iMac and the £399 Mac mini which utilize slower hard drive technology.

We’re waiting to get the MacBook in our labs, and when we do we will be testing them thoroughly.

MacBook price

The 256GB, 1.1GHz MacBook will cost £1,049

The 512GB, 1.2GHz MacBook will cost £1,299

Who is the MacBook best for?

There are many Mac users for whom the MacBook will not be ideal. This is not a powerful computer and it is no replacement for the MacBook Pro. Nor is it necessarily a replacement for a MacBook Air while it is possible to upgrade to faster MacBook Air models for a lot less money.

The MacBook does have some points in its favour. It is 160g lighter than the MacBook, smaller (even than the 11in MacBook Air) and thinner, so if you are carrying it around in your bag that might be a relevant factor in your decision. The other big difference is that the MacBook ships with just 8GB RAM while the MacBook Air ships with 4GB RAM, but you can always upgrade that at point of purchase.

Whether the tradeoff of weight and size is significant to you will depend a lot on what you will be doing with the MacBook. 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 should be quite capable of meeting your needs. (For really light tasks the even more portable iPad Air 2 tablet may be an alternative worth considering - see our iPad Air 2 vs new 12-inch MacBook comparison.) If you're expecting to edit movies using Final Cut Pro we don't expect this Mac to cut the mustard.

Read:

Everything you need to know about the MacBook Air

MacBook Air Specifications

There are actually four standard MacBook Air models available, in two sizes. However, the only real differences between the different models are the size of the screen, the amount of storage available, and battery life.

All the MacBook Air units offer a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM, and Intel HD Graphics 6000 as standard. The 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air both offer either 128GB or 256GB SSD options.

There are also various build-to-order options which allow you to add a faster Intel processor (the 2.2GHz dual-core i7, for £130), more storage (512GB SSD for £240) and 8GB RAM (for £80).

As we mention above, the other key distinction between the different MacBook Air models is the battery life. The 11-inch MacBook Air offers 9 hours of battery life, compared to 12 hours on the 13-inch MacBook Air, which should be enough to last the length of a long haul flight, or a day’s work. The 13-inch Air features a better 54-watt hour battery compared to the smaller 38-watt hour battery in the 11-inch model.

The other difference is weight and dimensions, obviously the 13-inch MacBook Air is bigger than the 11-inch model.

The 11-inch MacBook Air weighs 1.08kg, and the dimensions are 30cm by 19.2cm.

The 13-inch MacBook Air weighs 1.35kg, and the dimensions are 32.5cm by 22.7cm.

Both models are just 3mm thin at the edge, tapering to 1.7cm.

Due to its smaller screen the 11-inch MacBook Air offers fewer pixels than the 13-inch model. Up to 1366x768 at 16:9 aspect ratio, compared to 1440x900 at 16:10 aspect ratio on the 13-inch. That display is incomparable to the 13-inch Retina model, which offers 2560x1600 Retina resolution at 227 pixels per inch.

Note that the aspect ratio is different on the two Airs, the 11-inch model is the only Apple Mac to offer a 16:9 aspect ratio – which is the same as a widescreen TV. Some people find the narrower screen more restrictive.

Read:

MacBook Air (13 inch, early 2015) review 

MacBook Air (11 inch, early 2015) review

MacBook Air Connections

The MacBook Air doesn’t have a great deal of ports, that’s the trade-off necessary for such a thin Mac. The MacBook Air doesn’t feature a Ethernet port, for example, so if you want to plug it into a wired network at work or on holiday you will need to purchase an adaptor. However, the MacBook Air does offer built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi so it’s unlikely that in today’s wireless world you will need to plug it into a network.

The MacBook Air also lacks an optical drive, as we said above, the only Mac to still feature a CD/DVD drive is the MacBook Pro (non Retina). 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.

There are two USB 3 ports, but you can also connect accessories (including external storage and monitors) to your MacBook Air via the Thunderbolt 2 port, Apple’s high-speed connector. The 2014 MacBook Air had a Thunderbolt 1 port, which is slower than the Thunderbolt 2 port on the new model, but still faster than USB 3 (20Gbps for Thunderbolt 2, compared to 10Gbps for Thunderbolt 1, compared to 5Gbps for USB 2). You can purchase various adaptors that let you plug in FireWire 800 hardware, for example, into this port.

All the MacBook Air models feature the following ports and standards

  • Mini DisplayPort
  • Thunderbolt 2 port
  • 2 USB 3 ports
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Stereo speakers
  • Dual microphones
  • Headphone port (including support for the iPhone headset with remote and mic)
  • Full size backlit keyboard with ambient light sensor
  • Multi-Touch trackpad

In addition the 13-inch MacBook Air features

  • SDXD card slot

How fast is the MacBook Air?

It’s not Apple’s fastest Mac, in fact, the entry level MacBook Air is one of Apple’s slowest current Mac - although the faster flash drive should speed things up compared to thethe £899 iMac and the £399 Mac mini run at a similar speed. It's certainly not the slowest Mac. However, 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 MacBook Air for editing short videos, or for working with photos from your iPhone or point-and-shoot camera.

For most people the MacBook Air is plenty fast enough. This is partly thanks to its flash storage, which speeds things up considerably. When we ran tests on the MacBook Air and the standard non-Retina MacBook Pro (which features a hard drive) the MacBook Air outperformed its so-called Pro cousin. Flash memory is better because it is faster at reading data.  This makes a huge difference when running your Mac: opening documents, starting programs and even booting up all happen much faster.

We tested the new 1.6GHz processor in the MacBook Air by running the Geekbench 3 benchmark test and the 13in MacBook Air scored 2912 points in single-core mode, and 5821 points multi-core.

The 2014 MacBook Air with its 1.4 GHz Haswell-generation processor achieved 2777 and 5400 points in the same tests.

Read:

MacBook Air Speedmark results

  • 11-inch MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB, Mid 2014) 131
  • 11-inch MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014) 139
  • 13-inch MacBook Air/1.4GHz (128GB) (not tested but expect around 131)
  • 13-inch MacBook Air/1.4GHz (256GB, Mid 2014) 138
  • 11-inch MacBook Air/1.3GHz (256GB, Mid 2013) 143
  • 13-inch MacBook Air/1.3GHz (128GB, Mid 2013) 142

You'll notice that it looks like 2013's MacBook Air models were slightly faster than the new 2014 models. Note that we believe this is because there are variations of SSD being used inside the MacBooks, and some appear to be faster than others. In general during out application testing we found the 2014 models to be faster than those of 2013.

MacBook Air Price

As we said above there are four standard versions of the MacBook Air available and various build-to-order options that you can add on at point of purchase.

  • 11-inch MacBook Air/1.6GHz (128GB 2015) £749
  • 11-inch MacBook Air/1.6GHz (256GB 2015) £899
  • 13-inch MacBook Air/1.6GHz (128GB 2015) £849
  • 13-inch MacBook Air/1.6GHz (256GB 2015) £999

Build-to-order options:

  • 1.7GHz Dual-Core Intel i7 £130
  • 8GB RAM £80
  • 512GB Flash storage £240

We recommend that you purchase the extra RAM when you buy the MacBook Air as it cannot be upgraded later. If you feel you need more storage you could buy an external hard drive or a NAS drive to store content on and back things up when necessary. It is interesting to note that Apple is shipping the entry level MacBook with more storage as standard, 256GB compared to 128GB in the MacBook Air.

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. Both models are lighter than any other Mac, and the 11-inch is not only light, it’s small too.  

Because it’s so tiny 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 adaptor) if you feel you would benefit from a bigger display.

If you don’t wish to spend a few pounds more to buy a Retina MacBook Pro then you won’t be disappointed with the MacBook Air. But beware that the screen quality of the Air is no equal to the Retina display of the MacBook Pro, or for that matter the new MacBook. 

Read:

Everything you need to know about the Retina MacBook Pro

Retina MacBook Pro Specifications

There are actually five standard Retina MacBook Pro models available, in two sizes. Unlike the MacBook Air these different models are substantially different, with the 15-inch models offering quad-core i7 chips, 16GB RAM and more.

The 13in MacBook Pro was updated in March 2015, while the 15in model was updated in May 2015. Read our rumours about the 15in MacBook Pro release date here.

The key selling point with these Macs is the Retina display, so called because it hits the sweet spot where our eyes are unable to actually detect any more pixels, so it’s about as precise as you can get, ideal for creative work.

The 13-inch model offers 2560x1600 Retina resolution at 227 pixels per inch, while the 15-inch model offers 2880x1800 resolution at 220 pixels per inch.

13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display spec

The three 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro units, updated in March 2015, offer a dual-core Intel Core i5 processors, 8GB RAM, and Intel Iris Graphics as standard. They all offer 9-hour battery life, according to Apple.

The differentiators are the processor clock speeds: 2.7GHz on two models, and 2.9GHz on the high-end version; and the flash storage available: 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB.

The various build-to-order options allow you to add a faster Intel processor (a 3.1GHz dual-core i7, for £170), more storage (1TB SSD for £400) and 16GB RAM (for £160).

Read:

15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display spec

The two 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro units were last updated in May 2015, they both offer quad-core Intel Core i7 processors, 16GB RAM, and Intel Iris Pro Graphics as standard. The top of the range 15-inch Retina also offers a discrete grapics card: the AMD Radeon R9 M370X. These Mac laptops offer 9-hour battery life, according to Apple (that's one hour more than the previous generation offered).

The differentiators are the processor clock speeds: 2.2GHz and 2.5GHz, and the flash storage available: 256GB, or 512GB.

The various build-to-order options allow you to add a faster Intel processor (a 2.8GHz quad-core i7, for £150), and more storage (1TB SSD for £400). Note that the 2.8GHz clock speed doesn’t mean this is a slower processor than the 3.1GHz dual-core processor offered as a bulid to order option for the 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina model: it’s an i7 rather than a i5, and it’s a quad-core.

The above build-to-order prices depend on which model you purchase as the base unit.

Read:

The differences between MacBook Pro,  MacBook Air and MacBook

One of the key distinctions between the MacBook Air models and the MacBook Pro Retina models is battery life.  The 11-inch MacBook Air offers 9 hours of battery life and the 13-inch MacBook Air offers 12 hours. This compared to 10 hours for the 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina, and 9 hours for the 15-inch Retina model. (Note that when we tested it the 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina actually surpassed the battery life Apple claimed, scoring around 17 hours and suggesting it might offer better battery life than all the other Mac laptops).

The other difference between Apple’s laptop ranges is weight and dimensions. The 13-inch Retina MacBook weighs 1.57kg, compared to the 13-inch MacBook Air, which weighs 1.35kg. The MacBook weighs even less - less than a kilogram in fact. However, dimensions of the 13-inch Retina MacBook are 31.4cm by 21.9cm compared to 32.5cm by 22.7cm on the MacBook Air – so the 13-inch Air is slightly larger. The 13-inch MacBook Pro isn’t a lot thicker than the MacBook Air either, measuring 1.8cm, while the Air is 1.7cm at its thickest point (though it slims to 3mm). The MacBook is smaller still: 28.05cm by 19.65cm, and 0.14cm to 0.52 thick.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display measures 35.89cm by 24.71cm and weighs 2.02kg. It’s the same thickness as the 13-inch model at 1.8cm.

Read:

Retina MacBook Pro Connections

The MacBook Pro with Retina display has a few more ports on offer than the MacBook Air. However if you are looking for a Mac capable of playing a DVD or CD you may want to look at the MacBook Pro without Retina display, or purchase a £65 SuperDrive separately. The lack of optical drive is a necessary trade-off for such a thin Mac, plus we don’t find ourselves using CDs and DVDs as much as we used to.

Like the MacBook Air and the MacBook, the MacBook Pro Retina 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.

There are two USB 3 ports, but you can also connect accessories (including external storage and monitors) to your Retina MacBook Pro via the two Thunderbolt 2 ports (that’s one more than on the MacBook Air). Thunderbolt is Apple’s high-speed connector, which is faster than USB 3 (20Gbps compared to 5Gbps). You can purchase various adaptors that let you plug in FireWire 800 hardware, for example, into this port.

You will also find a HDMI port (for plugging in to you TV) and a SDXC card slot (for your camera’s memory stick) on both Retina MacBook Pro models.

All the Retina MacBook Pro models feature the following ports and standards

  • Mini DisplayPort
  • 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports
  • 2 USB 3 ports
  • HDMI port
  • SDXD card slot
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Headphone port (including support for the iPhone headset with remote and mic, and support for audio line out)
  • Stereo speakers
  • Dual microphones
  • Full size backlit keyboard with ambient light sensor
  • Multi-Touch trackpad

How fast is the Retina MacBook Pro?

We ran benchmarks on the new 2.7GHz 13-inch MacBook Pro and Geekbench reported 3,326 points in single-core mode and 7,100 points in multi-core mode. We don't have Geekbench figures for the comparable entry-level Mid-2014 model with 2.6GHz processor, but the 'best' 13-inch MacBook Pro with 2.8 GHz Intel Core i5 of last year was measured with 3,307 and 7,086 points respectively, so there is an improvement, allbeit fractional.

However, if you want the fastest Retina MacBook Pro you really need to look at the 15-inch models. The 13in models have a dual core processor, while the 15in models have a quad-core processor. Those quad-core processors mean than the 15in models were around 60 percent faster than their 13-inch counterparts. Not that the 13-inch model is a slouch. 

Note though that the new 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro offers essentially the same processor as the previous generation, so expect little difference in terms of speed from 2014 to 2015. It will still be faster than the 13-inch models, but expect the gap to be closing as the new 13-inch models have gained a new generation of processor (Broadwell, rather than the Haswell in the 15-inch).

This means that the top-of-the-range 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display features a Core i7 2.5GHz processor. These chips are Core i7 Haswell quad-core processors (far faster than the dual-core setup of the 13in models - don't presume the lower number means the machine is slower - there are four processor cores.)

So, even though the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro has been updated, the spec of the 15-inch model remains practically the same as the 2014 Retina MacBook Pro. The Mid-2014 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display here scored 3,658 in single-core mode and 14,360 points in multi-core.

Read:

Retina MacBook Pro Speedmark results

  • 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz i5 (Mid 2014) 158
  • 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz i5 (Mid 2014) 174
  • 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz i7 (Mid 2014) 246
  • 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz i7 (Mid 2014) 280
  • 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz i5 (Late 2013) 155
  • 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz i5 (Late 2013) 177
  • 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz i7 (Late 2013) 241
  • 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz i7 (Late 2013) 282

In our speedtest results you’ll notice that it looks like some of the 2013 Retina MacBook Pro models were slightly faster than the 2014 models. Note that we believe this is because there are variations of SSD being used inside the MacBooks, and some appear to be faster than others. In general during out application testing we found the 2014 models to be faster than those of 2013. Only one of the 13-inch Retina MacBooks has been tested, it is unlikely that there will be a significant difference between the two models as they feature the same processor. As mentioned, it’s the SSD drive that may affect the speed.

Retina MacBook Pro Price

As we said above there are five standard versions of the Retina MacBook Pro available and various build-to-order options that you can add on at point of purchase. You can also purchase the MacBook Pro without Retina display, but we will deal with that unit separately.

  • 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz i5 (128GB) £999
  • 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz i5 (256GB) £1,199
  • 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz i5 (512GB) £1,399
  • 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz i7 (256GB) £1,599
  • 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz i7 (512GB) £1,999

Build-to-order options:

13-inch 2015 Retina MacBook Pro

  • 3.1GHz Dual-Core Intel i7 £170
  • 16GB RAM £160
  • 1TB Flash storage £400

15-inch 2015 Retina MacBook Pro

  • 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel i7 £150
  • 1TB Flash storage £400

If you think you might need the extra RAM in your 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro we recommend that you purchase the extra RAM when you buy the Mac as it cannot be upgraded later. If you feel you need more storage you could buy an external hard drive or a NAS drive to store content on and back things up when necessary.

Who is the Retina MacBook Pro best for?

The main selling points of the Retina MacBook Pro are its high res screen, the powerful processors, and the fact that you get all that in a compact and light case. Battery life might not be as good as the MacBook Air, but 8 or 9 hours will be more than enough for most people – how often are you away from a plug socket for that long? We think the MacBook Pro with Retina display is perfect for anyone who needs a powerful laptop that they can carry around without damaging their back.

As for whether you should buy the 13- or 15-inch 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 power hungry applications, then the 13-inch will suit you.

If your needs are a little more advanced, the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina will serve you well. With some of the best Speedmark scores of any Mac, and significantly higher than the 13-inch models, the 15-inch models are capable of pretty much anything. And if you are wondering whether an iMac might suit you better because it has a bigger screen, remember you can always plug into your 30-inch monitor and use that when you are at your desk. 

Everything you need to know about the MacBook Pro (non-Retina)

 

MacBook Pro Specifications

There is just one non-Retina MacBook Pro model, and in many ways we are surprised that it is still available, as Apple hasn’t updated that model since 2012. Despite the predictions that it would be discontinued as Apple moved away from optical drives and switched to solid state flash storage in its laptops, the MacBook Pro lives on, testament to the fact that there are people out there who want a Mac with a CD/DVD drive and a big hard drive.

The MacBook Pro has a 13-inch glossy screen that supports resolutions up to 1,280x800 at a 16:10 aspect ratio.  In comparison, the 13-inch MacBook Air offers 1440x900 pixel, while the 13-inch Retina MacBook offers 2560x1600 Retina resolution at 227 pixels per inch, that’s twice as many pixels.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro offers a 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, but you should note that this is an older generation of processor than the Haswell processors currently in most of the Macs Apple sells (the Mac mini also features an older processor). You’ll also find 4GB RAM (configurable to 8GB), a 500GB hard drive as standard (with configuration options for a 1TB hard drive or various SSD options), and Intel Iris Graphics 4000 (the generation before the graphics card in the MacBook Air).

Apple claims you will get up to 7 hours use out of this MacBook Pro, one hour less than the 15-inch Retina model. If you want the maximum battery life available, the other Mac laptops offer more, up to 12-hours in the case of the 13-inch MacBook Air.

The various build-to-order options allow you to add a faster Intel processor (a 2.9GHz dual-core i7, for £120), more storage (1TB hard drive for £40, 128GB SSD for £120, 256GB SSD for £280, 512GB SSD for £520) and 8GB RAM (for £80).

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MacBook Pro Connections

The MacBook Pro has a few ports that aren’t on offer on the other MacBooks, including Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, a SuperDrive for playing DVDs or CDs, and a Kensington lock slot.

There are two USB 3 ports, but you can also connect accessories (including external storage and monitors) to your MacBook Pro via the one Thunderbolt 1 ports. Thunderbolt 1 is slightly slower than the Thunderbolt 2 ports (20Gbps) you will find on the Retina MacBook Pro, but still faster than USB 3 (10Gbps compared to 5Gbps).

The MacBook Pro lacks the HDMI port that features on the Retina MacBooks, but it does feature the SDXC card slot for a camera’s memory stick. You’ll also find  802.11n WiFi rather than the 802.11ac WiFi that features in Apple’s newer Macs.

The MacBook Pro features the following ports and standards

  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Firewire 800
  • Thunderbolt 1
  • 2 USB 3 ports
  • SDXD card slot
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Headphone port (including support for the iPhone headset with remote and mic, and support for audio line out)
  • Stereo speakers with subwoofer
  • Omnidirectional microphone
  • Full size backlit keyboard with ambient light sensor
  • Multi-Touch trackpad

How fast is the MacBook Pro?

As you would expect from a Mac that is now a few generations old, this is not one of Apple’s fastest Macs. However, that may not matter to you if you only intend to watch DVDs, play CDs, and do tasks such as browsing the web and sending emails.  

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MacBook Pro Speedmark results

  • 13-inch MacBook Pro/2.5GHz i5 (Mid 2012) Untested

We don’t have speedmark results for this particular model, however, at the time that model launched a 2.3GHz quad-core i7 MacBook Pro was available which featured an Nvidia graphics card. That model has a Speedmark of 167, and would be significantly faster than the remaining model, which features a dual-core i5 chip and Intel graphics.  The slightly more comparable, 2.4GHz MacBook Pro from late 2011, with it’s dual-core i5, 500GB HD, 4GB RAM, and Intel HD 3000 graphics, scored 85 in the Speedmark tests.

MacBook Pro Price

As we said above, there is just the one non-Retina MacBook Pro available, with a few build-to-order options that you can add on at point of purchase.

  • 13-inch MacBook Pro/2.5GHz i5 (500GB) £899

Build-to-order options:

  • 2.9GHz Dual-Core Intel i7 £120
  • 8GB RAM £80
  • 1TB hard drive £40
  • 128GB SSD £120
  • 256GB SSD £280
  • 512GB SSD £520

If you think you might need the extra RAM we would normally recommend that you purchase the extra RAM when you buy the Mac, as in most modern Macs tha RAM cannot be upgraded later, however the good news with the MacBook Pro is that you can upgrade the RAM yourself. Although it is only configurable to 8GB. We would recommend the SSD drive option for the MacBook Pro as it will speed things up considerably, although if you are paying the extra for the SSD you might as well go the whole hog and get a MacBook Air or Retina MacBook Pro. If you really need that optical drive you can get a SuperDrive for £65, and if you want more storage, then an external storage device could do the trick for you.

Who is the MacBook Pro best for?

The main selling points of the MacBook Pro is its big 500GB hard drive and the fact that it is the only Mac to still feature a optical drive for CDs and DVDs. If you want the extra storage space and don’t care that a traditional hard drive is slower than more modern flash storage, then the MacBook Pro might suit you. But, as we said above, you could purchase a separate external hard drive and get even more storage for your money. Find yourself a NAS drive and you won’t even have to plug it in as the backups and file transfers will happen over the network.  

For those people who feel that they absolutely have to have a DVD/CD drive, perhaps they have a huge music or film collection, the MacBook Pro might be a good choice, but as we said above, you can purchase a SuperDrive for £65 and plug it in when you need to. We guarantee you won’t need to use it as much as you are anticipating though. These days music and films are available as downloads, or for streaming, and software is downloaded from the developer, or from the Mac App Store, which is available on every Mac.

We feel that £899 is quite a high price to pay for what is essentially a two year old Mac, you can pay just £100 more to get a Retina display model, or you can pay less and get a 13in MacBook Air, or even less, just £749 to get a 11in MacBook Air.

Do you really need that CD drive? We bet you could live without it.

Everything you need to know about Mac mini  

Mac mini Specifications

Two years after Apple last updated the Mac mini the company has revamped its entry level Mac, and lowered prices. 

There are three Mac minis available. The cheapest Mac mini has the same 1.4GHz dual-core processor and integrated graphics chip as the MacBook Air and the entry level iMac, so it's no surprise that the new Mac mini’s processor and graphics performance is close to the current MacBook Air range and practically identical to the new £899 iMac. The MacBook Air has the edge due to its flash storage, while the Mac mini and iMac still feature a hard drive as standard.

The other two Mac minis offer Intel dual-core i5 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz processors with Intel Iris Graphics. These are comparable to the processors inside the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, but as with the MacBook Air, you can expect the faster flash storage to give these models a boost.  The 21.5-inch iMacs offer 2.7GHz and 2.9GHz quad-core processors, so even expect them to be significantly faster, even with the burden of movable storage.

The Mac mini offers only Intel i5 dual-core processor options as standard, there are i7 processors available at point of sale, but these are still only dual-core. The previous generation of Mac mini models offered better quad-core processors.

The Mac mini weights 1.22kg and the dimensions are 19.7cm by 19.7cm. It’s just 3.6cm tall.

When it comes to the amount of space the unit will take up on your desk, its footprint is smaller than the 11-inch MacBook Air, with dimensions of 30cm by 19.2cm.

The top of the range Mac mini has gained a new build to order option. You can now get a 2TB Fusion Drive for an extra £80 when you buy the £799 model, bringing the price to £879. Only the top of the range model has this option.

The 2012 Mac mini server version offered a 2TB hard drive, which made it a popular choice among those looking for a media server, so Apple’s decision to offer this 2TB fusion drive is likely a reaction to this. We’ve been told that these drives have only recently become available in a smaller physical size, likely Apple was waiting for this new drive before offering the option for the Mac mini.

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Mac mini Connections

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Mac mini offers an HDMI port, and perhaps for this reason it is a very popular Mac for those wishing to set up a Mac media centre in their living room.

You will also find four USB 3 ports, an SDXD card slot, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, and even an IR receiver.

The Mac mini features an Ethernet port, and built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi like all the newer Macs.

The Mac mini also lacks an optical drive, as we said above, the only Mac to still feature a CD/DVD drive is the MacBook Pro (non Retina). 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.

The Mac mini used to offer a FireWire 800 port, which will be important to those who have previously made big investments in FireWire peripherals, although you could purchase a Thunderbolt to FireWire adaptor and continue to use them (there are two Thunderbolt 2 ports on the Mac mini which offers a throughput of 20Gbps). Now the only Mac to offer FireWire is the non-Retina MacBook Pro.

All the Mac mini models feature the following ports and standards

  • 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports
  • 4 USB 3 ports
  • HDMI port
  • SDXC card slot
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Audio in/out
  • IR receiver
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0

How fast is the Mac mini?

The Mac mini is not one of Apple’s fastest Macs, however, you can get a surprisingly speedy Mac for just £399. Even the 2012 generation of Mac mini was a pretty speedy beast as you can see from the speedmark results below.

Mac mini Speedmark results

  • Mac mini/2.3GHz (quad-core i7, 4GB RAM, 1TB HD, 1GB Intel HD 4000, Late 2012) 149
  • Mac mini/2.6GHz (quad-core i7, 16GB RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive, 1GB Intel HD 4000, Late 2012 BTO) 165

We don’t have Speedmark results for the entry level model, but from our tests we know it is slower than the current range of MacBook Airs, thanks to their flash storage.

Mac mini Price

As we said above, there are three Mac minis available, with a few build-to-order options that you can add on at point of purchase.

  • Mac mini/1.4GHz dual-core i5 (500GB) £399
  • Mac mini/2.6GHz dual-core i7 (1TB) £569
  • Mac mini/2.8GHz dual-core i7 (1TB Fusion Drive) £799

Build-to-order options:

  • 3.0GHz Dual-Core Intel i7 £160
  • 16GB RAM £160
  • 1TB Fusion Drive £160
  • 256GB SSD £160
  • 512GB SSD £240

If you think you might need the extra RAM we recommend that you purchase the extra RAM when you buy the Mac mini, it used to be possible to upgrade the RAM in a Mac mini but this is no longer possible as Apple has soldered the RAM on. We would recommend the Fusion Drive option as the SSD part of the storage will speed things up considerably, while the extra capacity of the hard drive is likely to come in handy. If you are setting the Mac mini up as a home media centre you may miss the fact that it lacks an optical drive, but you can always purchase a SuperDrive for £65, and continue to play DVDs and CDs that way.

Who is the Mac mini best for?

The Mac mini is a great second Mac, or perfect for anyone who uses their Mac for browsing the web and writing emails, and doing general office work. It’s powerful enough to do a good job with photo and home video editing (although we wouldn’t recommend using it to create the next Hollywood blockbuster). If you are looking for a Mac that will just sit on your desk, or in the study, the Mac mini is a great 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).

While you could play your music, videos and slideshows on your TV screen via an Apple TV, which also gives to access to YouTube, Netflix and some other subscription movie and TV options. However, in the UK it doesn’t offer you access to 4OD, 5 Demand, or ITV Player because it doesn’t (by default) have a web browser. The Mac mini, on the other hand, does have a web browser, so it is a great solution if you want to be able to watch on demand TV, on your TV screen.

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. Three years later and DVDs aren’t as popular as they were then, so chances are you won’t miss the lack of an optical drive, but if you think you would benefit from one in your living room, you can always purchase a Super Drive for £65. You won’t be able to play a Blu-ray movie via the SuperDrive though. You might find that there is a digital version of the movie available with the disk that you can download onto your Mac mini though. Read: Connect your Mac mini to a TV: turn a Mac mini into a media hub.

The mini has an IR receiver so you can use it with Apple's remote (£15), that way you can controlled it from the sofa. You could also use an Apple Wireless Keyboard or a Magic Trackpad for more control. Alternatively download the Apple Remote app on your iPhone.

Apple's used to offer Front Row, which imposed an Apple TV-like interface on the Mac. However, Apple stopped including that software with Macs a few years ago. As an alternative, some people install the Plex Media Server on their Mac mini. It’s a free application that lets you add local media, but also Internet streaming services.

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Everything you need to know about the iMac

iMac Specifications

You may be thinking that the iMac was recently updated, with the new 5K Retina iMac model introduced in October 2014 and then another Retina model introduced in May 2015 (read the review here: 3.3GHz Retina iMac review) there was also a new entry-level model introduced in June 2014, along with lower prices across the range. However, the rest of the iMac range has not been updated since September 2013.

The iMac line up includes three 21.5-inch models, one 27-inch model, and two 27-inch Retina display models. You’ll find a variety of processor speeds (all processors are Intel’s Haswell generation), hard drive sizes, graphics cards and RAM options. 

The entry-level iMac, which costs £899, features a 1.4GHz dual-core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 500GB hard drive.

Next up is an iMac that for another £150 gives you a faster 2.7GHz i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. For another £150, the top-of-the-range 21-inch iMac offers a 2.9GHz i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 1TB hard drive for £1,199.

The 27-inch iMacs also offer i5 processors (unlike the 15-inch MacBook Pros which introduce i7 processors at the high-end). However, the processors in the 27-inch iMacs (non-Retina as well as Retina) are quad-core, so you can expect more power from them compared to the smaller iMacs. The entry-level 27-inch iMac features a 3.2GHz quad-core i5 processor, it also features 8GB RAM and a 1TB hard drive.

Then there are the two 27in Retina model, the new 3.3GHz version, and the top-of-the-range iMac with 3.5GHz Quad-Core i5 processor. Both offer 8GB RAM as standard (you can add 16GB or 32GB RAM and a 4.0GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 at point of purchase for a price). The 3.5GHz version also offers a Fusion Drive as standard. That Retina iMac cost £1,999 when it launched in October 2014, but the price has been reduced to £1,849, the other Retina iMac costs £1,599.

You may be wondering why the iMacs don’t yet feature SSD flash drives (with the exception of the Fusion Drive in the 3.5GHz Retina iMac). Knowing how much of a boost an SSD gives to a Mac we find it surprising that Apple continues to include hard drives as standard in its iMacs. Luckily there are various build-to-order options which allow you to add Fusion Drives and flash storage, as well as up to 16GB RAM, and faster Intel processors (3.1GHz dual-core i7, for £160 on the 21-inch; 3.5GHz dual-core i7, for £190 on the 27-inch). The flash storage options include: 256GB SSD for £160, 512GB SSD for £400 and the option of adding a Fusion Drive, which combines flash storage with a hard drive (for £160). We think that the Fusion Drive is a great solution, allowing you to benefit from more storage capacity and a faster experience. We hope that the rest of the iMac range will get updated this summer and would like to see Fusion Drives as standard. 

Note that the only upgrade options on the entry-level £899 iMac are the Fusion Drive (£200) and other SSD options. Read why we recommend that you buy the Fusion Drive to go with the £899 iMac here.

The graphics cards are another differentiator between the different iMacs. The £899 model features the Intel HD 500 found in the MacBook Air, the next model up features the Intel Iris Pro, while the top of the range 21-inch iMac features the Nvidia GeForce GT 750M. The non-Retina 27-inch model offers the Nvidia GeForce GT 755M while the new 3.3GHz Retina iMac features the newer AMD Radeon R9 M290. The top of the range Retina offers the AMD Radeon R9 M290X.

Where the £899 iMac features the exact same processor and graphics as the MacBook Air, the other iMac’s are more comparable to Apple’s Retina MacBook Pro. Obviously a big part of your decision if you are choosing between the two will be your need for portability. Remember that if you choose a laptop you can always plug it into your screen when you are at your desk.

Wondering how much space the iMac will take up on your desk? The 21.5-inch iMac dimensions are 52.8cm wide by 45cm high. The 27-inch iMac dimensions are 65cm wide and 51.6cm high. The screen is just 5mm thick (or should that be thin). The base at the bottom of the iMac measures 17.5cm on the 21-inch and 20.3cm on the 27in. The iMacs weigh 5.68kg or 9.54kg, so we don’t recommend carrying them around.

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iMac Connections

Like many Macs, the iMac offers an SDXC slot, USB slots, Thunderbolt 1 ports, 802.11ac WiFi, and Ethernet. With the exception of the Retina iMacs, the other iMacs are yet to gain Thunderbolt 2, which currently is available on the Retina MacBook Pro and the Mac Pro and the Mac mini.

There is no FireWire port on the iMac, if you want a dedicated FireWire port you’re only options are the non-Retina MacBook Pro and the Mac mini – but you can of course plug an FireWire adaptor into one of the two Thunderbolt ports.

You will find four USB 3 ports, which is the same number available on the Mac mini and Mac Pro.

The iMac lacks an optical drive, Apple traded in the built in SuperDrive when it slimmed down the monitor to a super-thin 5mm. As we said above, the only Mac to still feature a CD/DVD drive is the non-Retina MacBook Pro. 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.

 

All the iMac models feature the following ports and standards

  • 2 Thunderbolt 1 ports (2 Thunderbolt 2 ports on the Retina version)
  • 4 USB 3 ports
  • SDXC card slot
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Headphone port (with support for Apple iPhone headset with microphone)
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0

How fast is the iMac?

The Retina iMac is one Apple's fastest Macs, even comparable to the Mac Pro. In fact we would tend to recommend the Retina iMac over the Mac Pro thanks to it’s gorgeous 5K Retina display (an equivalent display would cost around £1,500 on top of the price of the Mac Pro).

Among the 2013 models still available, the standard 27-inch model is still a pretty fast Mac, although the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro was  faster when we tested, and so is the Mac Pro, as you would expect. However, it is likely that the hard drive is what is slowing down this generation of iMacs, indeed, if you look at our test results below, you will see that by adding a Fusion Drive you can see a huge boost.

iMac Speedmark results

  • 21.5in iMac/1.4GHz dual-core Core i5 (21.5-inch, Mid 2014) 116
  • 21.5in iMac/2.7GHz (quad-core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB HD, 1GB Intel Iris, Late 2013) 179
  • 21.5in iMac/2.9GHz (quad-core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB HD, 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 750M, Late 2013) 189
  • 27in iMac/3.2GHz (27-inch quad-core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB HD, 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 755M, Late 2013) 211
  • 27in iMac/3.4GHz (quad-core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB HD, 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 775M, Late 2013) 235
  • 27in iMac/3.5GHz (quad-core i7, 8GB RAM, 3TB Fusion Drive, 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M, Late 2013, BTO) 326

We don't have speedmark results for the Retina model. As you can see, there is quite a leap between the Speedmark results for the entry-level model and the next iMac up. The 116 Speedmark is even slower than the Speedmark of the MacBook Air (131), despite the fact that the machines use the same processor. This is due to the slow hard drive. As we explain in our iMac review, we advise those purchasing an iMac to upgrade it with a Fusion Drive that combines an SSD with a hard drive as this will make a much bigger impact than spending £150 to get the next 2.7GHz iMac.  

There is also quite a leap from the 21.5-inch iMac models to the 27-inch models when it comes to our Speedmark results. This isn’t surprising as the 27-inch iMacs are aimed at the power user, and have a price to match. 

We have also tested a build-to-order 27in iMac with the 3.5GHz processor and 3TB Fusion Drive and it scored an amazing 326. That set up would cost you £2,069 which might sound a lot, but when you compare it to the Mac Pro, which starts at £2,499 and scores 291, or the £3,299 Mac Pro that scores 323, you might want to save yourself the extra expense with the bonus of not needing to find a monitor either. 

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iMac Price

As we said above, there are six iMacs available, with a few build-to-order options that you can add on at point of purchase.

  • 21.5in iMac/1.4GHz (500GB) £899
  • 21.5in iMac/2.7GHz (1TB) £1,049
  • 21.5in iMac/2.9GHz (1TB) £1,199
  • 27in iMac/3.2GHz (1TB) £1,449
  • 27in iMac Retina/3.3GHz (1TB) £1,599
  • 27in iMac Retina/3.5GHz (1TB Fusion Drive) £1,849

Build-to-order options:

  • 3.1GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 £160 (21-inch only)
  • 3.5GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 £190 (27-inch only)
  • 4.0GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 £200 (Retina iMac only)
  • 16GB RAM £160
  • 32GB RAM £480 (27-inch only)
  • 3TB Hard Drive £120 (27-inch only)
  • 1TB Fusion Drive £160
  • 3TB Fusion Drive £280 (27-inch only)
  • 256GB SSD £160
  • 512GB SSD £400
  • 1TB SSD £800 (27-inch only) £640 (3.5GHz Retina)

Our one recommendation with the iMac is that you purchase a Fusion Drive, or an SSD as a build-to-order option. The iMacs are let down by the hard drives that come as standard. We expect that the next generation of iMacs are likely to use flash storage as the Mac Pro does. It’s also worth updating the 21-inch models to take 16GB RAM as it’s not possible to update the RAM at a later date.

The entry-level iMac has very few upgrade options, and there is no way to upgrade the RAM at point-of-purchase or after as the RAM is soldered on. As we said above, we would recommend the Fusion Drive option on this model as it will speed things up considerably.

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. 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-inch iMac is ideal will be different to the type who would require a 27-inch iMac.

The 21-inch iMacs are great options for most general use. If you are a gamer we would steer you away from the £899 iMac as the graphics card doesn’t support many popular modern games. The other 21-inch iMacs, particularly the £1,199 model, which has an Nvidia graphics card, will do a better job.

For professionals who need a powerful Mac the 27-inch models are excellent options.  It is likely that for this category of user the choice will be between the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Pro. If you think you would benefit from the Retina display this is now available for a lower price in the 3.3GHz model.

The Mac Pro is obviously even faster but it’s also a lot more expensive, and as we note above, you can upgrade your iMac and spend less and get a machine gives the Mac Pro a run for its money.

The difference is the fact that you get a 27-inch screen with the iMac, but many professional Mac users will already own a 30-inch display that they can plug into a MacBook Pro. (You will still hear complaints about the older iMacs and their super glossy screens, luckily Apple listened to the complaints and for the past couple of generations, those using the iMac haven’t had to spend their days gazing at their own reflections.)

The Retina iMac is ideal for those who work with video and images, it's also great for gaming.

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Everything you need to know about the Mac Pro

 

Mac Pro Specifications

Having neglected the Mac Pro for a few years, Apple in 2013 updated the Mac Pro. For many this 2013 Mac Pro didn’t ship until spring 2014 though. There are two standard Mac Pro models, a quad-core 3.7GHz Intel Xeon E5 (£2,499) and a 6-core 3.5GHz Intel Xeon E5 (£3,299). As well as sporting more cores and a different processor, the top-of-the range Mac Pro also features 16GB RAM (rather than 12GB RAM), and faster graphics cards, the Dual AMD FirePro D500 with 3GB GDDR5 VRAM each (rather than the Dual AMD FirePro D300?with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM each). Note that those are dual graphics cards, one of the selling points of the Mac Pro.  Apple have engineered a powerful GPU architecture for the Mac Pro. Apple claims that with the additional power, users will be able to “seamlessly edit full-resolution 4K video while simultaneously rendering effects in the background - and still have enough power to connect up to three high-resolution 4K displays.”

Both standard units also feature 256GB flash storage, with build-to-order options for 512GB or 1TB of flash storage. 

We’ve heard that Intel is shipping new Xeon E5 chips so we expect that Apple will be updating the Mac Pro soon. Read more about the 2014 Mac Pro here.

Most people buying the Mac Pro will be choosing from the various build-to-order options, of which there are many. Choices include a 12-core 2.7GHz processor, 64GB RAM, a 1TB flash drive, and the Dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM. If you were to build the ultimate Mac Pro it would cost you £7,299.

Wondering how much space the Mac Pro will take up on your desk? The Mac Pro has a diameter of 16.7cm and is 25.1cm tall. It weighs 5kg, a fraction less than the 21-inch iMac. The old aluminium Mac Pro is a giant in comparison.

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Mac Pro Connections

The Mac Pro offers six Thunderbolt 2 ports – that’s enough to drive three 4K displays or six Thunderbolt displays, if you wanted to. You’ll also find Dual Gigabit Ethernet – two Ethernet controllers, each connected to it’s own lane, ensuring that there is enough bandwidth to operate at full speed. As you would expect the Mac Pro also offers 802.11ac WiFi.

There is no FireWire port on the Mac Pro, but as we’ve already mentioned above, you can get a Thunderbolt to FireWire adaptor. There are four USB 3 ports, the same number as you will find on the Mac mini and iMac.

The Mac Pro lacks an optical drive. 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.

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All the Mac Pro models feature the following ports and standards

  • 6 Thunderbolt 2 ports
  • 4 USB 3 ports
  • Dual Gigabit Ethernet
  • HDMI 1.4 UltraHD
  • Headphone port
  • Microphone port
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.0

How fast is the Mac Pro?  

As you would expect from Apple’s flagship Mac, the Mac Pro is fast. The surprising fact is that the year-old 27-inch iMac (235) and the top-of-the-range 15-inch MacBook Pro (280) aren't that far behind the entry-level model (291). And if you bump up your iMac when you buy it with build to order options you can get a pretty speedy Mac for your money (326) that rivals even the six-core Mac Pro model (323).

However, there is more to the Mac Pro than the speed and many users will be attracted to many of the advanced technologies that come with it, such as the dual GPUs, the powerful multicore processors, the Thunderbolt 2 ports, and the super-fast flash storage. For many the build-to-order options will allow them to build a professional and powerful workstation that will be able to do things an iMac user could only dream of. 

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Mac Pro Speedmark results

  • Mac Pro/3.7GHz (quad-core, Late 2013) 291
  • Mac Pro/3.5GHz (six-core, Late 2013) 323
  • Mac Pro/3.0GHz (8-core Xeon E5, 32GB RAM, 512GB flash storage, dual 6GB AMD FirePro D700, Late 2013, BTO) 350

We tested one build-to-order model with the 8-core set up and the ultimate graphics card (it would have cost £5,219). For now that is the fastest Mac we have ever tested, scoring 350. But if we manage to get our hands on the 12-core version we expect to be astounded.

Mac Pro Price

As we said above, there are five iMacs available, with a few build-to-order options that you can add on at point of purchase.

  • Mac Pro/3.7GHz (quad-core) £2,499
  • Mac Pro/3.5GHz (six-core) £3,299

Build-to-order options:

  • 3.5GHz 6-core with 12MB of L3 cache £400 (quad-core only)
  • 3.0GHz 8-core with 25MB of L3 cache £1,600 / £1,200
  • 2.7GHz 12-core with 30MB of L3 cache £2,800 / £2,400
  • 16GB RAM £80 (quad-core only)
  • 32GB RAM £400 / £320
  • 64GB RAM £1,040 / £960
  • 512GB SSD £240
  • 1TB SSD £640
  • Dual AMD FirePro D500 GPUs with 3GB GDDR5 VRAM £320 (quad-core only)
  • Dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB GDDR5 VRAM £800 / £480

Configuring the ultimate Mac Pro will cost you a cool £7,779. If you have any cash to spare then you could add a Sharp 32-inch 4K monitor to that for £2,999. Or why not go the whole hog and add three Sharp 4K monitors, to the tune of £16,776. That would be quite a Mac set up.

We would tend to recommendation that, if you have the cash, you opt for the six-core Mac Pro over the quad-core, but even better, add as many build-to-order options as you can afford.

Who is the Mac Pro best for?

The Mac Pro is the Mac for professionals who need extreme processing capability. For example, someone who wants a “video editing powerhouse” as Apple says, or those who use 3D applications.

If you are a power used the Mac Pro might intrigue you, but you will likely find that the iMac or Retina MacBook Pro are sufficient for your needs. 

Everything else you need to know about Apple’s Macs

What is the fastest Mac?

Here is a list of the fastest Macs, according to our Speedmark results. Note that the two Macs at the top of this list are both build-to-order options.

  • Mac Pro/3.0GHz (8-core Xeon E5, 32GB RAM, 512GB flash storage, dual 6GB AMD FirePro D700, Late 2013, BTO) 350
  • 27in iMac/3.5GHz (quad-core i7, 8GB RAM, 3TB Fusion Drive, 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M, Late 2013, BTO) 326
  • Mac Pro/3.5GHz (six-core, Late 2013) 323
  • Mac Pro/3.7GHz (quad-core, Late 2013) 291
  • 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz i7 (Mid 2014) 280
  • 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz i7 (Mid 2014) 246
  • 27in iMac/3.4GHz (quad-core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB HD, 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 775M, Late 2013) 235
  • 27in iMac/3.2GHz (27-inch quad-core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB HD, 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 755M, Late 2013) 211

Upgradability: Essential upgrade options for Macs

Unfortunately over the years Macs have become nigh on impossible to upgrade, as in its efforts to slim down the units Apple has glued components in place.  Apple is also notorious for using its own proprietary standards, so if you were to try and add a new SSD drive at a later date, for example, expect to be stumped.  The best advice is to build the Mac you need for the future when you purchase it from Apple. Our first recommendation would be to always upgrade the RAM to as much as you can afford. And where available opt for an SSD or a Fusion Drive. You can always plug in an external hard drive or use a wireless NAS drive. 

Macs also support the following standards, but you will need to purchase an adaptor to use them:

  • DVI output using Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter (sold separately)
  • VGA output using Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter (sold separately)
  • Dual-link DVI output using Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter (sold separately)
  • HDMI audio and video output using third-party Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter (sold separately)
  • Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter (sold separately)
  • Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (sold separately)

Read: How to right-click on a Mac

See also: How to control your Mac with mid-air hand gestures

And Best Mac mouse

Summary: Take our 'Which Mac is right for me?' quiz

Q: How much money are you prepared to pay for a new Mac?

1. As little as possible

2. No more than £900

3. About £1,000

4. No more than £1,500

5. Money is no object

Q: What do you do on your Mac

1. Surf the web, read emails, photos

2. All the above, plus some work stuff

3. All the above, plus games

4. I mainly use it for my work, which can be intense at times

5. I do intense graphics work and I need a Mac to match

Q: Do you need to carry your Mac with you?

1. I don’t really mind, it just needs to be cheap

2.  Yes, and I would like it to be as light as possible

3. Yes, but if I get a laptop it needs to be powerful

4. This Mac will be sat on my desk at work

5. I have a lot of equipment that lives on my desk

Q: What Mac would you be replacing?

1. A PC

2. MacBook or MacBook Air

3. MacBook Pro

4. iMac

5. Mac Pro

Results…. Count up your choices

Mostly 1. The Mac mini might be perfect for you but you don't have to settle for the new models, you could look on the Apple Refurbished & Clearance Store to see if you can pick up a bargain there.

Mostly 2. We recommend the MacBook Air. It’s a great option for general use. If you can afford to pay a bit more then the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina is a great option. If you can spare even more cash and want to make a fashion statement with your Mac, then you might even fancy the MacBook.

Mostly 3. If you chose mostly 3s, then the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro is probably for you. It’s an amazingly powerful machine, and has the added bonus of being portable and having a gorgeous display.

Mostly 4. The 27-inch iMac is a great option for anyone who needs a powerful Mac for pretty intense work. Although it’s worth considering a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro as these are currently more powerful Macs (but expect Apple to update the iMac soon).

Mostly 5. The Mac Pro is probably the obvious choice here, but it’s still worth considering the 15-inch MacBook Pro or an iMac with a Fusion Drive.

Read more:

Also read: Best free Mac Apps