MacFinder's Buyers Guide

Learn how to pick the right Mac.

Choosing the correct Mac for your needs doesn’t need to be complicated. All computers are similar in that they use the same core components; processor (CPU), graphics (GPU), memory (RAM) and storage (HDD / SSD). As long as you follow some relatively simple guidelines, you can quickly improve your confidence when purchasing. Below we’ve broken down what we believe to be the main factors in your Apple purchase. This is no means a comprehensive guide to each part but should serve as a simplification to an otherwise complicated system of components and specifications to help you choose a configuration.


The processor is the biggest dictator of performance in a computer. The more powerful the processor the quicker the computer will run. However, not everybody requires a high-level performance and you can save yourself hundreds by opting for one that better suits your needs.

System Age
The newer a system is the newer the processor is. Newer generations of processors are more powerful and efficient. Even the lower range versions of processors can be quicker than the older but higher range models.

The ranges in order are as follows in performance order from highest at the top to lowest at the bottom.

  • Intel Core i9
  • Intel Core i7
  • Intel Core i5
  • Intel Core i3
  • Intel Core m7
  • Intel Core m5
  • Intel Core m3
  • Intel Core 2 Duo

Systems generally come in dual-core or quad-core however newer high-performance model are now available in 6, 8, 12 or even 24 and more. For home use a dual-core system is fine. Anything else we recommend a quad-core. Only if you require serious power would you need any more.

Clock Speed
What you should be aware of is that a lower clock speed doesn’t always mean a slower system and you should look at the above factors first. It isn’t anywhere near as important than the others but if you’re comparing models of the same year it’s a good indication.


Unless you’re a video editor, photographer or other similar professional or enthusiast then you can skip this one. For those of you who do work in the world of graphics having a dedicated graphics card in your system is important. Heres what you should be looking for.

A good indication of performance is the VRAM or video memory on the graphics card inside. Normally you’ll see a size of 2GB or above and this is what we would recommend.

Model / Age
The newer the model of graphics card just like a processor the faster and more efficient they are.

Avoid Integrated Graphics
For users who need graphics performance, integrated graphics are no good. What this term means is that the graphics processing is handled by the processor as well with an ‘integrated graphics card’. You can spot which models use integrated graphics because you’ll see reference to either Intel HD Graphics or Intel Iris Graphics.


If you want to use your computer casually – for example, you simply want to browse the internet, reply to emails and listen to music – you only need around 2GB memory. However, we’d recommend you get a computer with 4GB RAMso your computer can handle anything you throw at it, and you are somewhat future-proofed if more intensive updates of the applications you use are released.

For power users, or office workers looking for a used Apple computer, we recommend 4GB to 8GB of RAM. At this size, internet browsing, emails, watching videos and listening to music is easy, and you can do many of these things simultaneously. You can also run word processing, flash games, and run simple graphics programs smoothly with this much RAM. At 8GB, you can handle larger file sizes and run more intensive applications as well.

If you work in a creative environment where you need to edit large files or photos and videos, especially if you’re accessing more than one file at a time, then we recommend getting a computer with at least 16GB of memory. This gives you enough memory for video editing, music, and design work, and running more intensive software such as the Adobe Suite.


Storage is just as vital as processors. Old-school Hard Drives have been rejected for SSDs because they increase the performance of the systems. Most reputable resellers will replace hard drives with SSD replacements before sale. You can work pretty well with 128GB SSD storage, though we recommend you get at least 256GB if you are intending to store photos, videos or a large amount of documents.

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