Should You Buy an Intel Mac or Wait?

So Macs with Intel inside!
So Macs with Intel inside!
Photo: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

Apple launched what very well may be the last Intel iMac this week, and while we haven’t had nearly enough time with it for a full review yet, early benchmark results reveal an absolute beast of a machine (even if our review unit is loaded with enough stuff to bring the price up to a whopping $4,500). If your old iMac has been showing its age or you’re just itching to have something new and nice in that hastily organized home office, you’re probably asking yourself if you should buy that new Intel iMac or if you should wait for an iMac with Apple’s own custom processor rumored to be just around the corner.

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While Apple has promised to start shipping Macs loaded with its own silicon later this year, it hasn’t said what those devices actually are, which makes deciding whether to wait or buy even more challenging.

There were early rumors that the iMac would be one of the first devices to get an Apple Silicon makeover. However, recent evidence points to the recently updated MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air, which was last updated in March, as being the first devices with Apple’s ARM-based CPU inside.

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But here’s the thing: For the first time in half a decade, Apple is actually in lockstep with Intel, releasing products that have the latest Intel processors inside. Traditionally, Apple products carried Intel CPUs a year or more out of date—in one truly egregious period, the company was trying to sell laptops with 5-year-old processors at full price.

But that’s not the case right now! If you buy an Apple device it’s going to have a (custom) Intel processor coming from the same generation as its competitors. Despite ARM being just around the river bend, there’s never really been a better time to buy an Apple laptop or desktop.

And no, you probably shouldn’t wait for those first few ARM Apple devices. Will a lot of us probably buy one just to play with them and use an excuse like, “I needed a second laptop anyways”? Undoubtedly. Should you buy the first generation of ARM-powered computers from Apple? Heavens, no!

As with cars, the first major redesign of a laptop tends to have...issues. My original Retina MacBook Pro died a slow death after a spate of display issues. I went through three replacements of a first-generation MacBook Pro with touch bar, and the biggest lemon device I’ve ever owned was a first-generation unibody iMac back in 2009. I keep buying these things because I really like new things, and also one time I touched a hot iron three times in a row before I realized it was hot, so you know I’m not always quick on the uptake.

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These devices often have a lot of kinks to work out, and early adopters are like unofficial beta testers. Even the most diligent in-house testing of laptops isn’t going to catch all the issues that will crop up when they go into wide release. There will be issues. Maybe they’ll be thermal issues. Maybe the new laptops will use some never-before-seen display connector, or a radically redesigned hinge. Who can say what the problem will be! But it will almost certainly exist and that means risking a lot of hours at the Apple Genius Bar.

So why, unless you’re my dumb ass, would you go and buy a brand new, (hopefully) totally redesigned iMac with a never-before-used-for-that-purpose processor, when you can instead get the best iMac Apple has made with Intel inside and wait until all the dust settles? You should never buy the first generation of a device unless you absolutely have to—but if you have thousands to blow, then by all means go off.

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Senior Consumer Tech Editor. Trained her dog to do fist bumps. Once wrote for Lifetime. Tips encouraged via Secure Drop, Proton Mail, or DM for Signal.

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DISCUSSION

barrett66
Faslanetech

I don’t LOVE the keyboard on my 2017 MacBook Pro Touch Bar 15" BUT, I’ve got used to it and must admit I haven’t had a single issue with anything regarding the Mac as a whole....I guess I got lucky, (knock on wood.)


Skip the iMac (IMO)... they aren’t easily upgradable, except the ram but to do a HD/SSD upgrade is a bitch KI?NDA... (removing entire display assembly) isn’t for a novice and I’ve done about 15 of them and STILL cracked 3 screens in the process simply using the guitar pick tool to remove the adhesive not even getting to the step of pulling the screen off...ugh.

A Mac Pro isn’t even close to being justify-able price-wise unless you professionally edit video or do music production constantly to justify the price tag of 4,000+

A MacBook Air I feel is plenty for say, parents and younger kids just surfing and playing Netflix and light games.

And for the 20-40yr olds get a 8GB intel i5 or i7 MacBook Pro with a 500GB SSD. You’ll be very happy you did and many in this age group I’ve found like to tinker in Photoshop etc. The extra CPU/GPU options will be welcomed.

If you’re in one of these “recommended” age groups (LOL) don’t be offended.
I work in IT and home computer repair an this is just what I’ve noticed for age groups and their necessities, of course it’ll vary just don’t rush out and buy a new Mac because your 5 year old Mac is slow, many can still be upgraded to an SSD (2012 and older and squeeze a couple more years out of on the cheap. GAWD help you if you have a 2011 MacBook Pro, the video cards are shit and 95% of them I get in are toast because Apple used a shitty Nvidia 330M GPU and it’s garbage. If you want the best of both worlds (macOS and Windows) definitely get a Mac.

Can’t say shit about ARM of course but I won’t adopt it for a few years AFTER it’s release....I’m an Intel guy all the way and simply think ARM could pretty much suck unless you’re simply using a lower end Mac for pretty basic tasks.