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Feeling generous? The right Mac can be the perfect gift

Christopher Breen | Dec. 15, 2014
Only the worst sort of ingrate would complain about finding an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch stuffed in their holiday stocking. But if you want to really impress your favored Apple fan, there's nothing that does the job like placing a brand-new Mac under the tree. But, budget considerations aside, which current Mac is the most appropriate for the Apple lover in your life?

Going with a leaner look
And then there are Apple's laptops. While the boxes they come in may not be as imposing as a wrapped iMac, the right person will find them just as welcome. Let's start with the thinnest laptops Apple makes.

MacBook Air
The MacBook Air is supermodel slender and weighs next to nothing* (*nothing defined as just over 2 pounds for the 11-inch model and just under 3 pounds for the 13-inch MacBook Air). Yet even with its thin design and light weight, it's a solid piece of engineering--nothing about it feels flimsy.

When shopping for a MacBook Air you have a couple of choices to consider. First is screen size. A lot of people love the 11.6-inch model because it's ultra portable and still powerful. Others, who find they squint a little too much at the smaller Air's screen, prefer the more expansive 13.3-inch model.

And then there's storage. The $899 11-inch MacBook Air's flash drive holds just 128GB of storage. That's plenty for folks who do typical computer things or are happy to attach an external drive to their computer for additional storage. But if a lot of large apps and files are going to be used with this laptop, you should look at the $1,099 version instead, which has a 256GB flash drive. Otherwise the two models have the same 1.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor and Intel HD Graphics 5000 built-in graphics processor.

Ports are not aplenty on these light laptops as the 11-inch model has just two USB 3 ports and a Thunderbolt port. The 13-inch MacBook Air adds an SDXC card slot to this configuration. Each has 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. If you want to expand further you'll use adapters or a dock via the Thunderbolt port. By default they ship with 4GB of RAM, which is a little on the slim side. You may wish to bump that up to 8GB when ordering.

Who should you give it to?
If your holiday pal walks akimbo due to one shoulder that's been dragged downward by years of carrying a bulky laptop, they'll be, at the very least, relieved to receive such a light laptop. Priced as it is, it's not a bad choice for college students if their work doesn't require massive amounts of storage. Photographers working in the field will appreciate it for its portability. And anyone who likes a grab-and-go laptop will love the Air.

MacBook Pro
The MacBook Pro is heavier, faster, and has a crisper display (except in one case) than the MacBook Air. It ships in six versions--the $1,099 non-Retina 13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro, three 13-inch MacBook Pros with Retina display, and two 15-inch MacBook Pros with Retina display.


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