You could actually breathe a sigh of relief this time, because apart from a few older Mac Pro models, macOS Catalina runs on all Macs that already got along with the direct predecessor. So only a few models fall through the rust – and only a few users are forced to change the Mac. And yet a new system always harbors new challenges, and new features such as Sidecar only run on current models. Time to check your own equipment and possibly renew it. It also fits that Apple has been very active over the past year and has revised almost all Mac series and cut off some old braids.
As always, the Californians have remained true to themselves and have not necessarily lowered the prices, but rather improved the equipment. And as always, we don’t even know for sure whether our recommendations will survive the time from going to press: after all, Apple likes to introduce new Macs shortly after the iPhones in autumn. However, no computer series is currently overdue for a big announcement, although there are rumors that Apple could add a larger model with a 16-inch screen to the MacBook Pro series.
Mobile base: MacBook Air
It wasn’t long ago that Apple renewed the MacBook Air, giving it a contemporary retina display with a 13-inch diagonal and TrueTone technology. This significantly enhances the wedge-shaped mini notebook. At the same time, the normal MacBook without a name suffix, which was originally intended as an entry-level model, was removed from the program, so that the MacBook Air now plays the role of the cheapest portable Mac.
The MacBook Air is no longer as cheap as the previous version, but you can be there from 1,250 euros – provided you can accept 8 gigabytes of main memory and 128 gigabytes of SSD that cannot be upgraded. In both cases, the extremely sensible doubling costs around 250 euros, which makes the entry significantly more expensive. The quality of the display is extremely good, and thanks to two Thunderbolt 3 interfaces that also offer USB-C, the expandability is also good. Apple has also breathed significantly more power into the processor, but it remains a dual-core processor with 1.6 GHz that does not tear out any trees. Nevertheless, the very compact MacBook Air can be the right choice for everyone who is looking for a mobile device that does not have to perform at its best. You can find a test of the current model in Mac Life 10/2019.
Mobile performance: MacBook Pro
The biggest enemy of the MacBook Air is the still quite new MacBook Pro with a 13-inch screen, for which you will also find everything you need to know in Mac Life 218. For only 250 euros more, it offers not only a significantly faster four-core processor with a comparable size, but also the touch bar, the context-sensitive replacement for the function keys, even in the entry-level model.
The MacBook Pro is intended as a mobile workstation that has enough power and equipment to replace a desktop computer almost everywhere. However, the small 13-inch model is only not overwhelmed if you do not use any performance-hungry programs and thus might even get by with an iPad. From 2,000 euros, there is then a much faster version with 2.4 GHz instead of the 1.4 GHz processor and, for an additional charge, a faster i7 processor with 2.8 GHz.
With the 13-inch screen, however, you can only get by with reduced demands; you should then place a monitor with a Thunderbolt 3 connection on the main workstation. The 15-inch models already offer a little more space and also faster processors from a six-core Core i7 with 2.6 GHz, for which you then have to pay steep prices starting at 2,700 euros – the price can vary depending on the processor, graphics chip , Storage and mass storage drive far beyond the 5,000 euro mark. Only the 15-inch models also offer separate graphics processors with enough steam for performance-hungry tasks. Some would like a larger screen for the “mobile workspace” rating, especially since many miss the old 17-inch models, however expansive they were. Rumor has it that Apple is working on a new MacBook Pro with a 16 or 16.5-inch diagonal, but it will definitely not be a bargain.
Tiny: Mac mini
Apple has also recently revised the Mac mini and given the tiny one a gray color. The little one is now adequately afloat and only available with an SSD instead of a hard drive – certainly the only right decision, especially since four Thunderbolt 3 ports are available for external mass storage. Seen this way, the Mac mini is also suitable as a server. However, it is less suitable for graphics-intensive tasks, because the onboard graphics from Intel is too weak for that. After all, the main memory can be upgraded by replacing the DIMMs. Unfortunately, the entry with a four-core i3 processor with 900 euros is not low, there are also six cores and more than 128 gigabyte SSD storage for an extra charge – but then it will also be expensive. The Mac mini is still a very affordable way to buy a Mac for everyday tasks or as a small server.
On the desk: iMac
Apple did not have to completely redesign the iMac for a long time, but faster processors and better graphics chips have also been granted this series of computers (see Mac Life 10/2019). The iMac is still available with a 21.5 or 27 inch screen size. There is even a version of the small model without a retina display, which, including the monitor, keyboard and mouse, is barely more expensive than a mini for 1,300 euros. With a retina display, a dedicated graphics chip and a faster processor, it starts at 1,500 euros, but the memory of the small iMacs cannot be expanded. You have to reach for the big screen, where a six-core processor and a faster graphics chip are included. But at least 2,100 euros are due – and if you want to have a much faster SSD instead of the Fusion Drive, you have to add 120 euros for the 256 GB version. If you pull out all the stops when it comes to the equipment, you end up with well over 5,000 euros, but you also get a very fast computer.
Pure performance: iMac Pro
The normal iMacs already offer very high computing power, but the iMac Pro models are a completely different caliber: Equipped with Xeon-W processors with eight to 18 (!) Cores, a lot of RAM and SSD disk space as well as significantly more powerful connections on the outside, the deep gray anodized iMac Pros are designed for maximum performance much more uncompromisingly than their tame silver counterparts.
However, the price tags also show completely different numbers: The smallest version already costs 5,500 euros, but the prices range up to over 15,000 euros and show at the latest that this Mac is clearly aimed at professional users who have to do extremely computing-intensive tasks. Small warning to people who do not pay attention to the euro and buy the iMac Pro mainly because of its cool black case: The high-speed technology means that the fans rotate more audibly than in the normal iMac.
Longed for: Mac Pro
Apple presented a completely new Mac Pro generation in early summer, but it was still not available at the time of going to press. Apple’s policy here is a little surprising, because the old Mac Pro was introduced in 2013 and then neither updated nor reduced in price, which did not exactly create confidence in Apple’s support for professional users. However, the previous “barrel design” probably stood in the way of improvements, so that the new Mac Pro comes in the mini tower with sophisticated cooling options. The performance will have to prove this “hell machine” in our tests, but Xeon processors with eight to 28 (!) Cores, main memory between 32 gigabytes and 1.5 terabytes, up to four GPUs and eight partly occupied PCI Express -Extension slots are sure to set new records.
Apple also introduced a new, 32-inch “Pro Display XDR” that offers a huge 6K resolution, enormous dynamic range and a very high brightness and of which several can be connected to the appropriately equipped Mac Pro.
The prices are just as rapt as the performance data. In Germany you pay 6,499 euros for the “smallest” Mac Pro. The top model costs almost ten times as much. The display is also not cheap at 5,499 euros. In addition, there is the 1,099 euro stand.
The prices already make it clear that Mac Pro and iMac Pro are really only intended for professional use – even surfing and writing, professionals have a better workstation. If it’s supposed to be portable and performance doesn’t matter, choosing between a MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13-inch isn’t easy. The lower cost price for the MacBook Air is opposed by the somewhat more powerful processor of the MacBook Pro. If more power or screen size is required on the go, you have to stick to the MacBook Pro models anyway and then dig deeper into your pocket. It is by no means certain that a MacBook Pro beyond 15 inches will soon be available again. If you often transport your MacBook, you should rather rely on external monitors.
Stationary computers are almost out of fashion, but Apple’s ideas are comparatively original: the Mac mini is not a rocket, but it is really tiny and suitable for all everyday tasks. In addition, you have the free choice of monitor, whereby a television also makes a good partner. The smallest version of the iMacs turns out to be a money box, but the retina version is definitely worth it. But actually you should grab the 27-inch model right away, because only with this iMac can you upgrade the memory yourself.