I’m historically not a fan of Apple devices. But things have changed…
As we saw in my Desktop Computer Buyers Guide and my Laptop Buyers Guide , I am not the biggest fan of Apple laptop and desktop computers. They have become increasingly difficult to repair, with most of the components soldered onto the logic board - this means any fault requires either the faulty component(s) to be desoldered from the logic board and replaced, or for the entire logic board itself to be replaced. Apple doesn’t carry out any kind of spot repairs to logic boards - if you take an out of warranty machine into an Apple store, the only course they will take for repair is a logic board replacement. This can run into the high hundreds of pounds and ends up being uneconomical compared to just getting a replacement machine entirely. And finding a reliable technician to carry out a spot repair to a logic board is hard - if you are in New York, there is the excellent Louis Rossmann .
Previously, I only recommended getting an Apple machine if you needed to use software that is only exclusively available for MacOS (or you have money to burn) - for me, the internals were always pretty much the same as a PC equivalent, albeit in a shinier package (with an associated high premium). For most users, going Apple was an expensive, and largely unnecessary, choice.
However, last autumn, Apple made a significant change which makes it more difficult to ignore their machines…
In November 2020, Apple released a new batch of Macbooks and Mac Minis that contained the same type of chip that is found inside iPhones and iPads - ARM. ARM processors require a lot less power to operate compared to the Intel chips that used to be inside Apple laptops and desktops. This means that they require significantly less cooling to operate in a stable fashion, and in turn this means you get a lot more battery life than before. Many (including me) were skeptical that putting the same processor as a tablet or a smartphone into a computer that will be used for desktop tasks would work. It has been tried before, and usually performance suffers, especially for intensive workloads like video editing.
However, it quickly became clear that Apple’s new ARM chips - which they call the M1 - can not only match the performance of the Intel processors they previously used, but in fact in many cases can outperform them.
This leaves anyone looking to buy a new machine in 2021 with a difficult dilemma. If your budget is anywhere from £700 upwards, it is very hard to ignore the pure processing power of Apple’s M1 devices. As you can see from this deep dive , they are unquestionably more performant than their rivals. And for Macbooks, you get a machine that runs significantly cooler than any Windows device with the same processing power, and as a result the battery life is significantly longer.
However, this doesn’t change the downsides of buying a Mac that I mentioned in my previous buyers guides - the M1 Macs, as with those before them, have a single logic board with all components soldered directly to it. This means that it is extremely difficult to repair them, and when purchasing one, you have to choose how much RAM and storage you want up front - unlike other machines, there is no option to replace or upgrade the RAM and storage at a later date. And, Apple being Apple, there is a hefty premium for choosing a higher-than-entry-level configuration. When choosing a configuration, upgrading from 8GB RAM to 16GB RAM costs £200, and upgrading from a 256GB to a 512GB SSD also costs £200 - so a total extra outlay of £400. This is often referred to as the “Apple tax” - carrying out these upgrades on a PC with replaceable RAM and SSD would cost about £30 for the extra 8GB RAM and £50-60 for the 512GB SSD (plus labour if you pay someone to fit them).
So, if you are buying a new machine in 2021, Apple is worth a serious look - if you can handle the total lack of repairability. I would like to see Apple pressurised to modify their design at least to some degree. But of course, they would make less money if the machines were more easily repairable. And they clearly don’t favour helping to improve repairability . One way around this is to pay for AppleCare , which is essentially like an insurance policy covering your device.
And as always, for further expert advice and upgrade services, contact Hither Green IT .