Your Guide to Picking the Right Mac

Selecting the right Mac device for you is not easy – working out exactly what kind of computer you need can be difficult and stressful. Here, we take a look at Apple’s current Mac line-up to help you choose which Mac is best for you. We go through exactly what makes each Mac model unique and explain all the technical jargon associated with them to help you pick out the perfect model.

For a general rule of thumb, iMacs tend to be the most powerful consumer Apple products, followed closely by the MacBook Pro, then the MacBook and finally the MacBook Air. By contrast, the MacBook Air is the cheapest and most portable, while the iMac is the least portable, and the MacBook Pro the most expensive for the same level of quality. However, this varies substantially among refurbished Apple computers because how old and what model significantly affects the quality of the device. Read our extensive guide to choosing the right Mac for you to find the computer that will suit your needs.




How Much Processing Power Does Your Mac Need?

Refurbished Apple computer with coffee and mouse

All Macs run on Intel processing chips. The only main competitor to Intel are AMD chips, and both brands are roughly equal in quality and price, with both offering cheaper and high-quality versions – what matters is the model of chip you have.

The cheapest and oldest on Macs are the Core 2 Duo chips. From around the middle of 2006 to 2010, most Mac devices ran Core 2 chips. They were very powerful at the time, and still, hold up today for document work and multitab browsing. However, the processor is now more than a decade old since it was cutting-edge – the Core 2 Chip is older than the iPhone! If you are looking for a good computer on a very tight budget, a Core 2 Duo will keep your computer running, but you are not going to be able to do any of the fancy things computers can do today.

The step up from the Core 2 Duo range is the new Core range of Intel chips – the i3, i5, i7, and i9s. On Apple devices, the i3 is a two core processor apart from the latest mac mini, which runs a four-core i3 microprocessing unit.  The i5 is either two or four cores, apart from the latest mac mini which can come with an i5 six-core microprocessor. The i7 can be either two or four cores, except again the mac mini which can come with an i7 six-core microprocessor. Finally, the new macbook Pro comes with a six-core i9 microprocessor. Mac Pro workstations come with a Xeon microprocessor instead, which is even more powerful.

How do cores impact performance? An analogy helps: imagine the core is an office and the cores are the clerk workers. Each clerk (core) can typically only work on one process at a time. The more clerks you have employed in your office, then, the more processes can be worked through at once.

The Core 2 Duo is limited because it only has two cores working at once. The next step up, the i3 processors, are available on some iMacs released between 2010 and 2011, the ‘education-only’ edition of the iMac released in 2013, and the new Mac Mini (2018). The Mac Mini runs a Coffee Lake i3 processor which means it is quad-core and therefore more powerful than the alternative i3 processor Macs. For any load of office work, for video streaming or some basic photo editing an i3 processor will be more than enough. The Mac Mini might even be able to do more than that, thanks to the extremely high-quality i3 processor it works on. However, this range of computer will still struggle with high-end gaming or video editing.

Moving on, i5 microprocessors are available on most iMacs, Mac Minis, and MacBooks after 2010. Not only can they manage any office work, web browsing, or media streaming with ease, you can manage most photo editing and some video editing with an i5 processor. Many of our refurbished iMacs and refurbished MacBooks for sale come with an i5 processor and are more than able to do the job.

Finally, if you truly need a powerful processing unit, you ought to look out for an i7 core processor. There is very little that they cannot handle: from high-end gaming to 4K photo and video editing, these processors can meet your needs. Only the highest end refurbished MacBook Pros and iMacs have these chips installed.

We should also note that future Apple products in store might have different chips. The newest range of MacBook Pros use an i9 core processor, which are even more powerful still than the alternatives, and workstation computers like the Mac Pro might use a Xeon microprocessor instead. Both of these cores are more powerful than the ones we mentioned. However, both are overkill for almost any user. An i7 processor will do the job for almost any computer you need.

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How Much Memory Does Your Mac Need?

Refurbished Apple macbook with notepad and espresso coffee

All computers require memory to function. Memory refers to the amount of RAM, or Random Access Memory, held on your computer. RAM is an extremely fast storage part of a computer dedicated to currently running programmes and software. If you close a program and its process disappears in Task Manager, then the operating system will unload it from memory, freeing that RAM up for something else if need be. The more RAM you have, the more memory your computer has to focus and solve particular challenges.

The lowest amount of RAM you should get for a computer in 2018 is 4GB. This will be enough for basic document work, web browsing, and media streaming. All of our refurbished MacBooks for sale come with at least 4GB RAM.

Most Mac devices in the last five years come with at least 8GB of RAM, which is the minimum you need for video editing and heavy-duty use of your computer without a lot of spluttering and lag. Some of our refurbished MacBook Airs for sale and most of our Macbook Pros for sale will have the option for 8GB RAM.

Higher end devices will have either 16GB or 32GB of RAM. You need 16GB if you want to use your laptop for serious photo editing, If you want to completely future-proof your laptop, the 2018 Macbook Pro offers 32GB RAM, enough for even the most intense video editing. Again, most of our MacBook Pros for sale have the option for 16GB RAM, as well as a large number of our iMacs. We occasionally have refurbished iMacs in store with 32GB RAM: if you get in touch with our team, we will be happy to keep you informed of any devices that meet your requirements.

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How Much Storage Does Your Mac Need?

Apple macbook computer with mouse in a bookshop

Storage is the ‘hard’ memory of your computer and refers to where your device stores your files, programmes, operating systems and more. The more storage you have available on your computer, the more you can save to the device.

Storage is not just about file size, but also about read speed, which facilitates booting up and down of different files and operating systems. Imagine if you had a good memory, but it took you a long time to ‘remember’ anything that is in your memory, and instead, everything was stuck on the tip of your tongue. That is what ‘read speed’ is like for your computer: how quickly it can recall its memories.

HDD or Hard Drive Disk storage on a Mac is slower to recall things, but has larger storage. By contrast, SSD or Solid State Drives have been much more common in recent Mac products: they typically store less but has a much higher read speed. This means the computer boots up and works much faster when dealing with high-quality photo or video editing. It is not uncommon to see an SSD Mac to boot up in seconds, compared to the minutes you wait for computers reliant on HDD.

We do not recommend purchasing Apple devices with just HDD storage. Since Apple moved to AFPS, Apple has made existing HDDs practically obsolete, unable to run on Mojave, the most recent Apple computer operating system. Instead, Apple has released the Fusion Drive, which ‘sticks together’ a very small SSD which sits on top of an HDD on some of their devices to try and give the best of both worlds. Devices with a 1TB Fusion drive, for example, load up almost as quickly as their SSD counterparts, at a fraction of the cost. In a choice between HDD and Fusion, we strongly recommend the latter. The choice between Fusion and SSD, however, relies on knowing whether you want more storage or quicker access to your saved data.

The smallest amount of storage you can get on a modern Mac device is around 128GB, which is a little over 70 hours of HD video, about ten copies of Skyrim size video games, or about 25,000 JPEG photographs. Note as well that 10GB or so of your memory will be taken up by system data, like Mac OS. You should only get 128GB’s worth of storage with an SSD. Likewise, a 256GB SSD will be able to hold close to 150 hours of HD video, about 20 AAA games, or 50,000 photos. If you are looking for a budget laptop, a 256GB SSD will have more than enough storage.

At 500GB or 1TB, you are either looking at either a budget Fusion drive or a high-end SSD computer. If you simply need a computer with a lot of storage to save a lot of high-quality files onto, then a refurbished budget iMac will do the job very well. By contrast, 500GB or 1TB SSD come on refurbished iMacs or refurbished MacBook Pros, and both are incredibly powerful devices, capable of lightning-fast video and photo editing. Devices with HDDs might also be able to do some lower-end video and photo editing, but they will struggle to keep up with their SSD counterparts. If you want to do video or photo editing or hardcore gaming, an SDD is practically obligatory.

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How Big a Mac Do You Need?

Refurbished apple computer with a second desktop and lights

The last question we will look at is how big a device you need. Different ranges of Apple products come in different sizes, and you should know how portable you want a device to be before choosing.

The smallest range of Apple computers are our refurbished 11” MacBook Airs. With a screen 11.6” diagonally, they are the smallest computer Apple offers. Since 2010, all MacBook Airs use SSD storage and Intel Core i5 or i7 processors. They are the lightest MacBook product, and while they are also the least powerful, they still pack enough to do most tasks. You can also get MacBook Airs in 13.3”.

For professionals looking for a portable laptop, the MacBook Pro offers 13.3” and 15.4” computers. They are much more powerful than their MacBook and MacBook Air counterparts but are still very portable and easy to use.

If you do not want a portable computer, then the iMac desktops are most suitable. The earlier versions come in a variety of sizes, most often with a 21.5” monitor though also some come with a 20” or 24” screen. The newest models are most often a much bigger 27” screen. We often have in stock refurbished iMac computers that are both 21.5” and 27” large and we recommend taking a look or talking to one of our team for more help finding the device you are looking for.

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Buying refurbished Apple products is a great way to get a bargain without compromising on quality. Follow this guide, and you will be able to find a fantastic deal that suits your needs. The advice above applies both to buying new and refurbished and covers everything you need to know about the differences between different Mac products.

If you would like any further support or are looking to buy refurbished Apple computers, please get in touch with one of our team, and we will be more than happy to help you get the device you need.