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 time of year Apple usually updates its Macs, and whether an update is expected soon. We'll also mention if there are any particular configurations to avoid.
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 has started a transition from Intel processors to its own processors. The first M1 Macs launched in November 2020. If you are wondering whether to buy one of these Macs read Should I buy an M1 Mac?, we also have Should I buy an Intel Mac?
When will Apple launch new Macs?
There are a couple of things that can help when predicting when a new model might land. One is to be aware of when Apple last updated the range. The other is to note when Apple has previously to announced updates to that range.
Most recent launches:
- 24in iMac, M1 - April 2021
- MacBook Air, M1 - November 2020
- MacBook Pro, M1 - November 2020
- Mac mini, M1 - November 2020
- 27in iMac, 3.1GHz 6-core to 3.8GHz 8-core - August 2020
- 13in MacBook Pro, 2.0GHz quad-core - May 2020
- 16in MacBook Pro, 2.6GHz 6-core/2.3GHz 8-core - November 2019
- Mac Pro, 3.5GHz 8-core to 2.5GHz 28-core - on-sale December 2019
As for the times when a Mac launch is most likely. In the past the most likely times to see Mac updates were: WWDC in June for professional Mac models (e.g. 27in iMac, 16in MacBook 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.
These rules are no longer so clear cut though. In the past it was easier to predict when Apple would launch new Macs because the company used to issue a Mac update every 12 to 16 months. Those updates were often tied to the launch of the next generation of Intel processors.
Now that Apple is transitioning from Intel to its own series of processors, it is no longer tied to Intel's upgrade cycle. This doesn't necessarily mean that the updates will happen more frequently though - the transition has only just begun and it's hard to say how regularly Apple will update its own processors.
We do, however, know that updates for the following Macs are likely to arrive in the next few months:
- 13in MacBook Pro: The 2.0GHz Intel model was last updated in March 2020. Expect to see a M-series replacement for this model soon. Indications are that we could see a 14in model in the summer of 2021. Read about the 14in MacBook Pro.
- 16in MacBook Pro: This model was introduced at the end of 2019. Back then Apple increased the screen size from 15in, but the components were unchanged from those used in the mid-2019 15in MacBook Pro. We expect that Apple will update this soon with it's own M-series chips. Apparently delays and component shortages mean we could be waiting until autumn 2021 though. Read about the 16in MacBook Pro.
- 27in iMac: The larger iMac is still using Intel chips so an update to M-series chips is expected. We may also see a larger screen, possibly 32in. We don't expect to see this new model until autumn 2021 though. Read about the 32in iMac.
- Mac mini: There are two M1 Mac mini models and one Intel Mac mini. Apple is said to be planning an update to this Intel model at some point in 2021 or 2022. For more information read about new Mac mini.
- Mac Pro: Apple introduced the current iteration of the Mac Pro in December 2019. The company intends to transition it from Intel to its own processors but this process is likely to take longer than for the other Macs. We wouldn't expect to see a new M-powered Mac Pro until 2022. Read about the New Mac Pro.
- MacBook Air: The MacBook Air gained M1 chips in November 2020. It's gained rave reviews. You may assume that it would be a great time to buy - and it is. Except that rumours suggest a new, redesigned MacBook Air could arrive early in 2022. Read about the next MacBook Air.
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.
Should I buy a MacBook Air now or wait?
- Last update: November 2020
- Next update: Spring 2022 (Possibly)
The MacBook Air was last updated in November 2020 when it gained Apple's M1 chip. It's Apple's cheapest laptop, starting at £999/$999.
In our review of the M1 MacBook Air 2020 we said:
There is no doubt at all that the M1 MacBook Air offers a significant improvement compared to its predecessor in every way that matters, the highlights being much better battery life, software improvements to the FaceTime camera, and the significantly faster operation.
There are still some areas for improvement though, for example the fact that you can't plug in more than one other monitor (unless you read this: How to connect two or more external displays to Apple Silicon M1 Macs).
Is now a good time to buy a MacBook Air?
The M1 MacBook Air is an excellent machine, and we do recommend it. However, we would suggest that if you are likely to be pushing your Mac with processor or graphics intensive apps than the M1 MacBook Pro might be a better option.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Apple is said to be planning a MacBook Air redesign, with new colour options coming. That will probably arrive early in 2022. Read more here: New MacBook Air rumours.
Our recommendation is that if you can find a good discount on the price of the MacBook Air right now then it's a great time to buy. Take a look at our Best MacBook Air deals.
Should I buy a 13in MacBook Pro now or wait?
- Last update: May 2020 (Intel) & November 2020 (M1)
- Next update: Summer 2021
We're in limbo right now with the smaller MacBook Pro iteration. There are four models to choose from, two with an Intel processor introduced in May 2020, and two with M1 processors introduced in November 2020.
Those 2.0GHz Intel MacBook Pro models were great when they launched in May 2020 (reviewed here), but since the arrival of the M1 MacBook Pro in November 2020 they are looking decidedly average. Read our comparison of the M1 and Intel MacBook Pro.
When we reviewed the M1 MacBook Pro we described it as a revolutionary moment for the Mac, we were that impressed by the benchmarks. But we were disappointed that there wasn't more RAM available.
Is now a good time to buy a 13in MacBook Pro?
We were beyond impressed with the M1 MacBook Pro and we do recommend it, however, we think that something even better is coming - and it could be here soon.
Apple has long been rumoured to be working on a 13in MacBook Pro redesign that could see a 14in model launch in the summer of 2021. Read more here: New 14in MacBook Pro rumours.
The existing M1 MacBook Pro might be sufficient for you, but if you are looking for a little more power, then we'd recommend waiting for the new model. But if you must buy now check out our round up of the Best MacBook Pro deals.
Should I buy a 16in MacBook Pro now or wait?
- Last update: November 2019
- Next update: Summer 2021
The 16in MacBook Pro was introduced towards the end of 2019, but the only change then was the size of the screen - an increase from 15in to 16in - and the switch to new keyboard design. Other than that it has the exact same specs as the 15in model it replaced, which was from earlier in 2019. Read our 16in MacBook Pro review here.
An update is long over due and we expect one soon.
Is now a good time to buy a 16in MacBook Pro?
We think Apple will upgrade the 16in MacBook Pro to take advantage of it's own processors very soon so we would advise against buying the Intel-powered 2.0GHz model.
Reports indicate that the a new 16in MacBook Pro powered by an M1X or M2 chip could arrive in June 2021, although supply may be constrained due to global component shortages.
Should I buy a 24in iMac now or wait?
- Last update: May 2021
- Next update: 2022
Apple's new 24in iMac is eye-catching, both in terms of the quality of the 4.5K display and the colourful case. There's a choice of seven different colours, with pink, blue, green, orange, yellow, purple and silver on offer and all but silver offering a bold tone on the back that is complemented by a paler version on the front.
The new iMac's screen is larger than its predecessor, although it's not quite the 24in that Apple insinuates by the name: this iMac has a 23in screen compared to the previous generation's 21.5in display.
The M1 chip inside is the same as that used in the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro above, and the Mac mini below. The specs on offer are also the same, however, the iMac does offer the benefit of more efficient cooling and that may be of benefit in processor intensive applications. Read our 24in iMac review.
Is now a good time to buy a 24in iMac?
The 24in iMac has only just gone on sale, so if it is the Mac that is right for you then this is the perfect time to buy one. Even better if you can get a good discount on one. Check our round up of the best iMac deals.
If, however, you need an iMac that is designed with creative pros in mind we would suggest that you wait a little longer until Apple updates the 27in iMac. More on that below.
Should I buy a 21.5in iMac now or wait?
Apple's introduced the 24in iMac but it is still selling the old entry-level 21.5in iMac. The cheapest iMac you can buy at £1,099/$1,099.
This entry-level 21.5in iMac is the most neglected of all of Apple's Macs. It has not been updated since 2017 and lacks a Retina display. At least Apple no longer sells it with a slow, mechanical hard drive.
Is now a good time to buy a 21.5in iMac?
It's the cheapest iMac, but we would not advise buying it. You can get much better money elsewhere in Apple's range or if you look for a discount on one of the other 21.5in iMacs being sold by resellers. Check out our Best iMac deals.
Should I buy a 27in iMac now or wait?
- Last update: August 2020
- Next update: Autumn 2021
The 27in iMac is popular with professional creatives thanks to its discrete graphics and high-res 5K display.
It's also popular with other 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 Intel processors, now everyone is awaiting the arrival of a version using Apple processors.
And this new model may well offer a larger display - read about the upcoming 32in iMac.
Is now a good time to buy a 27in iMac?
The 27in iMac was updated in the summer of 2020 and it's an excellent Mac, as you can see from our 2020 27in iMac review. However, the promise offered by Apple's own processors, that are already making waves in the industry, can't be ignored.
With indications that the new larger iMac will offer more processor and graphics cores than the already speedy 24in iMac, we do advise that you wait for that model to arrive before buying a 27in iMac.
That's as long as you can wait - we expect that the new 27in (30/32in) iMac will arrive before the end of the year, but we could be waiting until 2022.If you can't wait then at least check out our round up of the best iMac deals and grab yourself a bargain.
Should I buy a Mac mini now or wait?
- Last update: M1 model - November 2020, Intel model - October 2018
- Next update: Intel model - summer 2020
When Apple introduced the M1 Mac mini in November 2020 it also kept the 2018 Intel model on sale, so there are two types of Mac mini you can buy right now. The easiest way to tell which is which is by the colour - the silver models are M1, the Space Grey Mac mini is Intel-powered.
The unit we are most interested in here is the M1 Mac mini, which not only gained rave reviews, it is the best value Mac you can buy, with prices starting at £699/$699. Read our Mac mini M1 review.
The Intel model, on the other hand, doesn't really offer much other than the ability to upgrade it to support 64GB RAM, support for up to three 4K displays, and more ports - all of which are features that may well be more important to you than the speed of the M1 chip. Read our review of that model here: 2018 Mac mini.
Is now a good time to buy a Mac mini?
We thoroughly recommend the Mac mini. It offers the same specs as the other M1 Macs for much less money, the only difference being the absence of a screen. But since you can buy a decent 4K display for less than £300/$300 we don't think that is a big problem.
We would note that if you need something a bit more powerful a new Mac mini is said to be in the works at Apple which will slot in at the top of the range. That model may utilise a M1X or M2 chip and support more RAM.
If you want to buy a Mac mini check out our round up of the Best Mac mini deals.
Should I buy a Mac Pro now or wait?
- Last update: December 2019
- Next update: 2022
Apple launched the current Mac Pro in December 2019. That was the first update since December 2013. That was 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. It then took just over two more years to come up with the new model, which has some very impressive specs, but is not cheap.
The main 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. Read our review of the 2019 Mac Pro.
Is now a good time to buy a Mac Pro?
If you need a machine like the Mac Pro then now is a good time to buy.
However, we know that Apple is planning to transition the whole Mac line up to its own processors by the middle of 2022, so it follows that we can expect an update to the Mac Pro next year.
What form that will take remains to be seen. It's likely that Apple will introduce a new line of powerful processors and graphics just for the Mac Pro, but will this meet the needs of the target market.
On the other hand, this new Mac Pro may be less powerful than the current one, but there may be a bigger market for it and a lower price. Read about the new Mac Pro.