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Buying advice: MacBook laptop or Mac desktop? Choosing between Apple's MacBook range and desktop Mac range

Lou Hattersley | Feb. 29, 2016
In this feature, we look at Apple's Mac desktop and MacBook laptop range of computers and help you work out which option is right for you.

All Macs feature Wi-Fi, but the portable nature of a laptop doesn't doesn't just mean that you can take the computer to a local coffee shop - a MacBook can be moved into meeting rooms for presentations, and if you're at home you can move from the desk to the couch and carry on using your computer.

It's worth noting here that some Apple laptops don't have an Ethernet port, so you can only connect them to the internet, or your network, wirelessly. It's worth making sure you won't be putting the IT guy at work out too much if you can only access the network over Wi-Fi. Luckily you can buy adapters that make it possible to plug into the local network if Wi-Fi isn't an option.

Mac desktop or laptop: Display

Apple prides itself on its Retina displays, first introduced on the iPhone the pixels on a Retina display are said to be packed so tightly together that you cannot actually see them with the naked eye - hence Retina.

Among the MacBook ranges two models offer Retina displays. The new 12in MacBook and the Retina MacBook Pro, available in 13 and 15in versions.

Currently, three of the 27in iMac models offer Retina displays for extra pixels, along with a single 21.5in iMac with a Retina 4K display - the other two iMacs available feature standard 1920x1080 sRGB displays.

As for screen sizes there are laptop screens to suit everyone: the screen on the MacBook Air starts at 11-inch, then there's the 12in Retina MacBook and 13in MacBook Air and Retina MacBook Pro, and there's also a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro (there was previously a 17-inch model, but this was discontinued by Apple despite being popular with photographers and videographers).

With regard to the iMac, the screen size ranges from 21.5-inch to 27-inch. Mac mini users can choose any screen they like as it doesn't come supplied with one, although this will incur extra cost.

Don't underestimate screen size as a factor in productivity: this Apple study shows that large monitors provide productivity gains of between 50-65 percent.

However, you don't have to settle for the display that comes with your Mac - all Apple Macs can be plugged into a separate display - so if you have a gigantic 42in display that you want to use, go ahead and be super productive!

Mac laptop or desktop: Processor speeds and performance

In each category of Mac, there are entry level models that tend to share similar specs. For example, the £399 Mac mini sports a 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor and the £899 iMac sports a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor at the entry level - the two did match until Apple updated the iMac range in October 2015, leaving the Mac mini as one of the least powerful Macs currently available.


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