I was speaking to a customer in Bradford-on -Avon today about replacement options for their venerable MacBook Pro 15″ 2011, which has once again succumbed to a failing GPU. The discussion came round to what they should replace it with, which got me pondering… What Apple products that still have current support for the latests OS, would I spend my own money on?
Of late that’s become a much more difficult question for me to answer, due to the large number of documented hardware issues with Apple products of late and the steep inflation in prices over the last few years. Plus I’m stingy and want good value for my hard-earned money. It’s a short list when you consider I’m looking at any Apple product sold since 2011…
What’s worth considering?
- Magic Mouse 1 – Love them, and unlike the V2 uses replaceable AA batteries.
- iPhone 5 SE – They’re dirt cheap, still supported with iOS 13, very reliable and have Touch ID. I fail to see the “killer feature” more recent phones have. Bigger screens? Buy an iPad and both together are still cheaper than a iPhone 8 or later.
- iPad 2018 – Under £300, supports the Apple pencil and plenty quick enough. Unless you’re a digital artist the iPad Pro is just a much overpriced version of the same thing.
- MacBook Pro 13″ Mid 2012 – They’re a bit chunky, but with easily and cheaply upgraded battery, RAM and hard drives, plus bombproof build quality they make excellent workhorses. Hard drive cables can fail, but cheap to replace.
- MacBook Air 11″ 2014 to 2017 – Decent keyboard, easily replaceable battery and hard drive, stupidly portable and very reliable.
- MacBook Pro Retina 13″ or 15″ 2014-5 – Fewer of the reliability issues that affected the 2012-2014 models, just as quick as the 2016-2018 models, but with none of the terrible keyboard and display issues. Bonus points for cheaply upgradable hard drives, SD card reader and normal USB ports.
- iMac 27″ Retina 2015 onwards – The reason I would consider this is the stunning screen. Everything else is “meh” to fine, but the screen makes up for a lot of my indifference. Earlier models can suffer from GPU failures and should be viewed with some suspicion.
- Mac mini 2018 – A brilliant little machine, only let down by the soldered on hard drive.
- MacBook Pro 2019 16″ – Only time will tell if they end up being reliable, but at least they’ve returned to using a sensible keyboard and have better cooling. The lack of upgradable or replaceable anything quickly pushes prices to ridiculous levels once you add in a little bit of future proofing, but it does a least offer something significantly “better” than the 2015 models, albeit at a silly cost.
What should you avoid like the plague?
So what devices would I explicitly avoid? Any iPhone 6. Anything with a “Butterfly” keyboard. Any Retina MacBook Pro 15″ apart from the 2014-5 and 2019 models. Any 2013-2014 iMac with Retina display. Any iMac Pro*. Any Mac Pro**. Any Magic Mouse or keyboard with a built in battery or AirPods***.
If you’ve got money pouring out of your pockets then frankly buy what you fancy and ignore Mr Scrooge over here. If your computer earns you so much money that it will pay for itself in short order, or your employer has money to burn, get the fastest thing you can justify. But for everyone else who doesn’t have unlimited funds, wants an Apple device that should last for a good time all whilst at a reasonable cost, I believe my list represents the “best of class” devices that Apple have sold in the last 8 years…
* I bet they will start to suffer GPU failures in the coming months/years. AMD Vega video cards run notoriously hot and Apple devices never have generous cooling. Plus the cost is nuts. A 9900K Hackintosh with similar specs will cost a fraction of the price.
** The “Cheesegrater” Mac Pros are no longer supported and the “Trash Can” Mac Pros are underpowered and plagued with GPU failures. The fabled 2019 Mac Pro is going to cost silly money for anything significantly faster than a well put together quality Hackintosh or compared to a comparably powerful Windows workstation.
*** Any expensive device that includes a non-replaceable battery and hence will be landfill in a few years time needs to burn in hell. Keyboards, mice and headphones can and should last for a decade.