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Everything Is a Little Confusing

First off: If you want to go ahead and install macOS Mojave, it appears to be safe and fine to do so. Make sure, as always, that you have a Time Machine backup first; and, if you use backup software such as CrashPlan, Backblaze, or Carbon Copy Cloner, you will need to take an additional step after the upgrade to ensure those applications can back up everything. See their respective web sites for details, or ask us if you need help.

 

Apple just announced several new product updates, and we like them. The good news is that there are lots of options in each of the product lines, at lots of price points. The bad news is that making a decision as to what to get is anything but easy, due to having to make trade-off choices between models with similar, but not identical, features. If you need help choosing, that's what we're here for.

MacBook Air
There's a new 13-inch MacBook Air that's lighter (2.75 lbs), and has Touch ID, a smaller footprint, a high-capacity storage option, and a high-resolution "Retina" display. Those things are cool, but...what? The 12-inch MacBook is still the smallest and lightest Mac (2 lbs). And the entry level 13-inch MacBook Pro has a faster processor, without being significantly larger, heavier (3 lbs), or more expensive -- though it lacks Touch ID. (In other words, the "Air" designation continues to mean nothing in particular.) And to further confuse matters, the stalwart previous generation MacBook Air model, without the Retina display, continues to be sold as the cheapest Mac laptop, and has a better processor than the new model.


Confused yet? Come on, Apple. You're supposed to be the ones who make this stuff easy. The new MacBook Air starts at $1,199, and comes in Silver, Space Grey, or Gold. If you can't figure out which model of Mac to get, go to a store, and see which one clicks for you. Then ask us about what specs to get before you order it, but as a rule of thumb we'd recommend 16 GB of memory (RAM) and a minimum of 256 GB of SSD storage (ideally at least 512 GB), for any new Mac you buy.

To try to make things simpler, here's our ordering of laptop Macs:

  • MacBook Air (non-Retina) 13-inch: Cheapest, with longest battery life; suitable for general purpose use, but not really recommended due to the much better display available on other models. No Touch ID.
  • MacBook 12-inch: Smallest, lightest, and least performing Mac laptop, suitable for general purpose use. No Touch ID, no Thunderbolt, and only one USB-C port. (It's also the only Mac in Rose Gold, if that matters to you.)
  • MacBook Air (Retina) 13-inch: General purpose, everyday use, plus Touch ID.
  • MacBook Pro (non-TouchBar) 13-inch: General purpose, everyday use, with better performance than MacBook Air Retina, though slightly heavier. No Touch ID.
  • MacBook Pro (TouchBar) 13-inch: High performance, with Touch ID, and two extra Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports.
  • MacBook Pro (TouchBar) 15-inch: Very high performance, with Touch ID, and two extra Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, and very high capacity storage option.

 

iPad Pro
If you're still with us, Apple introduced new 12.9-inch ($999) and 11-inch ($799) iPad Pro models, in Silver and Space Grey. They're also (naturally) continuing to sell the previous 10.5-inch model as a lower price ($649), in addition to the the "standard" 9.7-inch iPad ($329), and the ancient 7.9-inch iPad Mini 4 ($399). The new iPad Pro models are sleek, with Face ID rather than Touch ID, and a very narrow bezel all the way around the screen, and have a very high capacity storage option. Updated versions of the Apple Pencil and keyboard are also available, and there's now there is a magnetic connector for the pencil, which also charges it. As with the Macs, we think your best option is to go to a store and see which one you like best, (though we'd probably steer you away from the iPad Mini 4, as it is a three-year-old model).


Most surprisingly, the new iPad Pro has a USB-C port, like current Macs, rather than a lightning port, and that would seem to be an indicator of things to come across all their mobile products. They've also dropped the headphone jack, as is their wont, and are offering a new USB-C to headphone adapter. They do not appear to be offering a USB-C to lightning adapter, which means a lot of lightning accessories are going to be left out in the cold, such as the headphones that came with your iPhone. I do look forward to a future where all of Apple's products, whether iPhone, iPad, or Mac, have the same connector, so I generally endorse the switch, though it's going to cause pain in the short term.

 

Mac mini
Apple also introduced a very long overdue update to the Mac Mini, and it looks like a winner. The Mac mini has been described as an "iMac without a screen," which is about right. It's a 7.7-inch square, 1.4-inch high machine to which you can attach a keyboard, screen, and mouse, just like in the old days. Most people who want a desktop computer would instead opt for an iMac, but the Mini is well liked by those who, when they replace their computer, only want to pay for the machine itself, and not its accessories, or who want a different size screen from another vendor. It's also been a favorite for use as a server, as it takes up little space when no screen is attached.


The new Mac Mini costs more, starting at $799, though the old entry level Mini was an awful performer, so I think the price bump is worth it. If you want to use a Mac mini as an everyday desktop computer, we'd recommend the better model, which starts at $1,099, and, like the laptops, we'd recommend a minimum of 16 GB memory (RAM) and 256 GB SSD storage. Happily, it appears as though the RAM may be upgradeable after purchase; the solid state drive will not be (though external SSD products will always be an option). The new Mac Mini offers four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports as well as two "standard" USB-A ports, and retains its HDMI and headphone jack, while dropping its SD card slot.
 


Finally, Apple is continuing to make it fairly easy to get some money for your existing stuff when you replace a machine, by offering you credit for trading in an old Mac, iPad, or Phone. To find out the value of what you've got, go to https://apple.com/giveback
 
We know this is a lot to digest, but Apple gave us three solid new product updates. If you have any questions about any of them, give us a shout!

(November 2018)

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