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Buying advice: MacBook laptop or Mac desktop? Choosing between an Apple laptop and desktop computer

Lou Hattersley | July 16, 2015
Which type of Apple computer should you buy? Apple desktops have huge screens, but MacBooks offer portability. This guide to buying Mac computers will help you choose between an Apple Mac desktop and a MacBook laptop computer.

You can upgrade to an SSD (Solid State Drive) hard drive on the iMac and Mac mini, although this costs £160 to upgrade for a smaller sized (but much faster performing) 256GB SSD. The Mac mini and iMac both offer the Fusion Drive as a £160 upgrade. The Fusion Drive blends SSD technology with a traditional Serial ATA space to offer a 1TB drive with higher performance. It's an upgrade we highly recommend. There's a speed versus space issue here but it depends on your function. If you're going to be editing a lot of video then the larger internal hard drive will make a lot of difference.

Another option is the Fusion Drive, which gives you a flash drive as well as a hard drive, so you get the best of both worlds. It tends to be a £200 upgrade and we'd say its well worth it if you really think you need the extra storage space.

Mac laptop or desktop: Upgradability

Apple computers are notoriously difficult to upgrade, and the latest range offers even more restricted computing than ever. The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with Retina Display both have soldered RAM and hard drives: they are basically non-upgradable, what you buy is what you'll use forevermore. The MacBook Pro without Retina Display still enables you to upgrade the RAM (up to 16GB) and swap out the hard drive. The iMac 21.5-inch is technically upgradable but so hard to strip down that it might as well not be, but the iMac 27-inch allows you reasonable access to the RAM and hard drive.

The Mac mini used to be easy to upgrade, although the version introduced in 2014 isn't as upgradable as the past models had been. However, it is possible to swap out the hard drive if necessary, although you can no longer easily upgrade the RAM. So be sure to buy the memory you need with this model.

The new Mac Pro is an interesting unit in that it replaces the one Mac with superb upgradability options with a radically new design. You can upgrade the RAM fairly easily, but you can no longer install PCI-Express cards into the Mac Pro and the SSD. However the SSD isn't soldered to the board as in a MacBook Air, instead it sits on a card above the GPU. Tantalisingly you may be able to upgrade the graphics card down the line, although the CPU will be forever fixed.

Upgradability is a mixed bag. On the one hand there are size, weight and performance advantages to having everything soldered inside the machine. But you can easily extend the life of a Mac by updating the RAM and hard drive as prices fall. Again the Mac mini and iMac 27-inch offer longevity.


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