Whether you are updating your old MacBook laptop or planning to buy your first Mac part of the decision of which model to buy should be based on timing. Before you part with your money you should check that the model you are buying isn't about to be upgraded by Apple. There is nothing worse than buying a new MacBook Air only to see Apple update the models a month later. Luckily you are here reading this article so the chance of you making a mistake like that is slim (although you should check the date this article was last updated!)
In this article we'll tell you the best time to buy a MacBook, when to buy a Mac, at what times of year Apple usually updates its Macs, and whether an update is expected soon.
We will run through each Mac and MacBook Apple currently sells and assess whether now is a good time to buy one based on educated guesses as to when the next one will launch. Sometimes if you want a month or two you can get more for your money - provided Apple keeps its prices the same.
You may have heard that Apple is beginning a transition from Intel to its own processors (read more about Apple Silicon and what it means). We may see new ARM Macs in November 2020, if we do there you may have this question: Should I buy an Intel Mac?
When does Apple update Macs
An update the Mac is imminent - Apple is expected to start its transition from Intel to Silicon processors on 10 November 2020. The first Apple Silicon Mac will likely ship soon after.
Normally the update cycle depends on the product though. It tends to be the case that Apple issues a Mac update every 12 to 16 months, even if it's just to the next generation of Intel processors. But it's not always the case and launch dates are rarely predictable as you will see if you read on.
In a normal year (which 2020 is not) we would say that the most likely times to see updates are: WWDC in June for professional Mac models (e.g. 27in iMac, 16in MacBook Pro, iMac Pro and Mac Pro) and October for consumer-focused Macs (e.g. MacBook Air and Mac mini). However, as you will see when you read on, this is not a rule that Apple abides by particularly, nor does Apple always launch new Macs at special events: it often just takes the Apple Store offline for a few hours and then when it returns new Mac models are available.
Let's take a look at each Mac and MacBook on the market and assess if you should consider buying it now. Check the date at the top of the article to see when we last updated this information.
Best time to buy MacBook Air
- Last update: March 2020
- Next update: November 2020 (Possibly)
- Should I buy a MacBook Air: This will be a choice based on whether or not you want the new Silicon processor, or if you'd like to stick with Intel.
Current MacBook Air
The MacBook Air was last updated in March 2020. It was a decent update with a bonus price cut.
So, what of the next MacBook Air? Will Apple update the MacBook Air a second time in 2020? Rumours suggest it might, with the addition of Silicon, Apple's new processors based on ARM.
We could hear more at Apple's 10 November event.
We have more information about the new MacBook Air here.
Is now a good time to buy a MacBook Air?
Our advice is wait, but it probably won't be for long. If you aren't sure about Silicon, then you will probably still be able to pick up a decent deal on an older MacBook Air. Take a look at our Best MacBook Air deals
Best time to buy 16in MacBook Pro
- Last update: November 2019
- Next update: Possibly November 2020
- Should I buy a 16in MacBook Pro: The 16in MacBook Pro has the same specs as the 15in model it replaced which was from earlier in 2019. It's due an update and we expect one soon.
Current 16in MacBook Pro
The 16in MacBook Pro was last updated in November 2019 when we saw Apple discontinue the 15in model and replace it with a 16in MacBook Pro with improved keyboard and a bigger screen, while maintaining similar dimensions.
The 15in MacBook Pro had been updated a few months earlier in July 2019 when it saw a price hike and a slight processor upgrade (same generation processors). Yet another example of a Mac not fitting any predictable pattern for updates.
So what's in the pipeline? Apple introduced the 16in MacBook Pro in November 2019 so will we have to wait until November 2020 before it updates it again? It seems like a update is immanent, however we don't expect to see Silicon processors here yet.
Is now a good time to buy a 16in MacBook Pro?
We think Apple will upgrade the processors to Intel's 10th-gen or newer very soon.
Read out 16in MacBook Pro review here.
Best time to buy 13in MacBook Pro
- Last update: May 2020
- Next update: November 2020
- Should I buy a 13in MacBook Pro: Apple's expected to update the 13in MacBook Pro at the 10 November event, so we could soon see Silicon processors.
Current 13in MacBook Pro
The 13in MacBook Pro was last updated in May 2020. However not all the 13in models were significantly updated. Only to more expensive two gained 10th gen Intel processors, while the entry-level models kept their 8th gen processors and doubled their storage.
We expect these entry-level MacBook Pro models to get the Silicon treatment in November 2020.
Is now a good time to buy a 13in MacBook Pro?
As with the MacBook Air, our advice is wait, but it probably won't be for long. If you aren't sure about Silicon, then you will probably still be able to pick up a decent deal on an older MacBook Pro. Take a look at our Best MacBook Pro deals
If you want your 13in MacBook Pro to have the latest processors and an improved keyboard then we recommend waiting. Hopefully Apple will update the range by June 2020.
Read our entry-level 13in MacBook Pro review here.
Best time to buy a 21.5in iMac
- Last update: August 2020 (minor update)
- Next update: Spring 2021
- Should I buy a 21.5in iMac: Yes unless you want to wait for Silicon processors
Current 21.5in iMac
Apple's not really done much to the range of 21.5in iMacs over the past few years. In August 2020 we saw a minir update (Apple removed the hard drive options and replaced with SSD as standard). Prior to this the iMac was last updated in March 2019, which was almost two years after the last upgrade.
The entry-level 21.5in iMac is the most neglected of all of Apple's Macs. It has not been updated since 2017, lacks a Retina display, although at least Apple no longer sells it with a slow, mechanical hard drive. It's the cheapest iMac, but we would not advise buying it currently.
Is now a good time to buy a 21.5in iMac?
The iMac remains a go-to choice Mac for many professionals and businesses, while also being an excellent home computer in its own right.
The (relative) affordability of the 21.5in iMac, paired with more than capable specs for most people, puts it at a slight advantage to the still-excellent 27in version (discussed next).
However, as we mentioned above, the entry-level 21.5in model hasn't really been updated since 2017 and is one to avoid right now. We really hope that Apple will do away with this model and reduce the price of the better specced model above it.
As for the rest of the range, the 8th-generation Intel Coffee Lake processors in the current line up were a significant boost on the previous 7th-generation processors when they were added in 2019, but since Coffee Lake dates back to 2018 we'd suggest that you wait for a new iMac.
As for when this new iMac will arrive, it might not happen until spring or summer 2021, but when it does it's expected to sport Apple Silicon processors and a redesign!
Read about the new iMac here.
Best time to buy a 27in iMac
- Last update: August 2020
- Next update: Summer 2021
- Should I buy a 27in iMac: Yes
Current 27in iMac
The 27in iMac is popular with professional creatives as well as business users looking for a more powerful machine with a larger display.
The most recent update was in August 2020 when the 27in models gained 10th-generation processors.
Is now a good time to buy a 27in iMac?
Since the 27in iMac was updated in the summer of 2020, and the transition to silicon is expected to take until at least the summer of 2021, we'd suggest that you can go ahead and buy the bigger iMac now, unless you want Silicon.
Another reason to wait is that we think that Apple might be working on a redesign for the iMac. If you'd like to see a bigger screen and a sightly more ergonomic design it might be worth waiting.
Read about the new iMac..
Best time to buy a Mac mini
- Last update: October 2018
- Next update: November 2020
- Should I buy a Mac mini: It's two years old, so we'd advise waiting
Current Mac mini
Apple finally updated the Mac mini in October 2018 a full four years after the last iteration. This was long overdue and while this 2018 mini is more expensive than before, it’s a whole lot better.
In our glowing review of the Mac mini we praised the performance and comparable savings on a full desktop Mac. For some this is the perfect small and cheap(er) Mac. For others a laptop will always be a more attractive option.
Is now a good time to buy a Mac mini?
Apple has introduced a new Mac mini - for developers working on the transition of their apps from Intel to Silicon Macs. It's possible that a Mac mini could appear with a Silicon processor.
With the current Mac mini being two years old now it is feasible that the company could issue another update soon. However, based on the fact that it took Apple four years to update the Mac mini last time it's quite possible that we could be waiting a long time for the next update.
Best time to buy an iMac Pro
- Last update: December 2017
- Next update: By December 2020
- Should I buy a iMac Pro: It's over a year old, so we'd advise waiting - but don't assume Apple will update the iMac Pro now that the Mac Pro is here
Current iMac Pro
Returning to the iMac briefly, there is one other model: the iMac Pro. This is a more powerful iMac with more powerful, workstation-level processors that is aimed at the more demanding creative professional.
It went on sale in December 2017 and is an absolute beast - but it's not been significantly* updated since and the 27in iMac has been closing the gap, and the Mac Pro (discussed below) is now encroaching on its territory. Read how the iMac and iMac Pro compare here, and how the iMac Pro and Mac Pro compare here.
*We say it's not been updated but Apple did make a few tweaks to the build-to-order iMac Pro options in March 2019. There is now a 256GB RAM option and a new Radeon Pro Vega 64X graphics chip, for example.
Is now a good time to buy a iMac Pro?
Never mind if it’s a good time to buy it, the first question you should be asking yourself is if you should be buying one at all.
With an astronomical starting price it’s only a Mac to consider if you professionally need to edit, process and render very large image and video files. These are machines that should bank a production studio, not a home office.
If you need the power though, then you might want to hold off to see if Apple updates the internals again, or brings down the price. Or you might like to turn your attention on the Mac Pro - more on that below...
Best time to buy an Mac Pro
- Last update: December 2019
- Next update: 2021
- Should I buy a Mac Pro: If this is the Mac you need then now is a great time to buy
Current Mac Pro
Apple launched the brand new Mac Pro in December 2019! This was the first update since December 2013. That's a wait of Six. Whole. Years!!!
Apple took the extreme measure (in 2017) of admitting to journalists that it messed up with the Mac Pro, and now it's here. It's got some very impressive specs but it's not cheap (although its starting price isn't much higher than the iMac Pro).
The benefit of the 2019 Mac Pro design is that it should be possible to update it at a later date if you do want to take advantage of new options and offerings.
Is now a good time to buy a Mac Pro?
If you need a machine like the Mac Pro then now is most definitely the time to buy. Based on Apple's upgrade cycle for the Mac Pro we wouldn't expect any significant change to come in the next year or so.
It's very unlikely that you'll want to buy one, unless you have very specific needs.
Read more about the Mac Pro here.
Best time to buy an MacBook
A quick word on the MacBook...
In July 2019, Apple discontinued the 12in MacBook. If you really, really want to buy one, you may still find it available from some third-parties and in the Apple Refurbished Store, but you won't find it among Apple's current line-up.
We do think that Apple might have future plans for the MacBook brand, but for now we'd recommend buying the MacBook Air instead.