Recently, I’ve put together some buying guides for the new M1 Macs.
I felt I had to because people are clearly struggling, big time, to pick the right Mac.
You only need to look at the comments on my M1 MacBook Air review. People want an M1 Mac, but their buying process is halted by questions such as:
“Should I get the 7-core or 8-core M1 MacBook Air?”
“I do lots of video calling; should I upgrade the RAM to 16GB?”
“I’m worried that I’m going to run out of space for my photos. But I can’t afford more storage. What should I do?”
“I’ve heard that the fan in the M1 MacBook Pro will make it last longer and be worth more when I sell it on. Is that true?”
The questions continue to flood in.
Why are people so confused about which Mac to buy?
I think my experience with these confused buyers highlights two concerns:
- Apple is clearly making it difficult for people to pick the right Mac.
- People are way too concerned about future-proofing.
We discussed this on my Discord server, recently. “I’m of the opinion that ‘future-proofing’ is a waste of time,” said one member. And, while that might sound a little controversial, it really got me thinking.
Why are we obsessed with avoiding the base level options Apple presents us with? Why, after picking our preferred starting point, do we agonise over how much RAM to add, which storage level to opt for and whether or not AppleCare+ is worth it?
For some, BTO makes sense
I’ve bought ‘built-to-order’ (BTO) Macs in the past. For instance, I upped pretty much everything on my 16” MacBook Pro until the digital shopping basket was bending under the pressure of such a heavyweight laptop.
My reasoning was entirely business-related. This machine would be tasked with helping me make and export videos quickly, therefore the more I spent on it, the more productivity gains I’d experience and, in turn, the greater the return on investment.
I’ll come back to that point in a minute.
So, who else is likely to go for a BTO? Well, let’s not beat around the bush: nerds like you (possibly) and I. We want the big numbers – the best stuff on offer. We don’t want to wake up one morning wishing that we had opted for that additional 8GB of RAM, and we certainly don’t want our nerd mates to grab better specs than us.
This is cool. It’s totally pointless, yes (it’s laughable how many times I’ve bought stupidly-quick computers in the past only to use 25% of the capacity 95% of the time), but it’s no different to someone who buys a high-performance car. Most of the time, it’ll be used to nip to the shops for a pint of milk. You could do that on a moped.
As I’ve always said – you should never feel bad about buying something (even AirPods Max), particularly if it makes you happy. But what concerns me is the ‘average’ consumer, who, I suspect, often spends far more than they need to.
Base spec Macs are fine
They are. Even for nerds like me.
A case in point. The first M1 Mac I bought was the MacBook Air. After using it for a couple of weeks, I decided to conduct a Final Cut Pro test between it and my aforementioned basket-breaking 16” MacBook Pro.
What does that say about the return on investment I was expecting from my 16” MacBook Pro?
I went on to edit a couple of 4K videos for my channel on the M1 MacBook Air. It was a little slower to work with, but not frustratingly so. And yes, I had to wait longer for it to export, but it didn’t delay the publishing of the video.
My point? Base spec Macs are fine. If that’s all you can afford, you’ll soon forget any perceived shortcomings.
I suspect this has always been the case. For instance, I used to run my entire business on a base-spec 2016 13” MacBook Pro. You know, the one with the escape key and which many of the tech elite referred to as “not a real MacBook Pro”.
For me, it was a professional machine. I used it until 2019. It went through one keyboard and, by the end of my time with it, was beginning to frustrate during video production. But it lasted the distance and I’m still incredibly fond of it.
Isn’t that the essence of ‘future-proofing’?
This is why you still see age-old Macs with glowing Apple logos in coffee shops. People fall in love with them. Many will probably have agonised over the spec during the original purchase, too. But do you think they care that they ‘only’ have 8GB of RAM or 256GB to play with now? Of course they don’t.
Then there’s my mum. She bought the first MacBook Air which popped up on the John Lewis website because it was a MacBook Air. And why not? Why should she spend invaluable time trying to work out if 16GB will allow her to undertake more Zoom calls without the laptop breaking a sweat?
Make it easier for people, please, Apple
Before I sign off, a quick appeal to Apple: please make it easier for people to decide which Mac is right for them.
I appreciate their inability to make the purchase process easy benefits my little business (what would I make videos about, otherwise?), but it bothers me that normal people are having such a hard time picking the right computer.
For example, don’t give them the choice between a 7-core and 8-core GPU. That’s daft. In fact, don’t even mention the GPU. Leave the teardowns and benchmark performance-peeping to those who genuinely have an interest in it.
Check out my M1 Mac buying guides: