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Which is the best Mac for students in 2016? Should you buy a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, MacBook, Mac mini or new iMac?

Martyn Casserly | March 28, 2016
If you're starting college or university in the coming year, you may well be thinking about buying a Mac to help with your studies.

The next model available costs a cool £1,299 and bumps the internal memory of the MacBook up from 256GB to 512GB, a more suitable option for students (especially those doing creative courses). Its processor is also given a slight bump up to 1.2GHz from 1.1GHz, but everything else (including its 12" screen) stays the same.

The MacBook is the first Apple laptop to feature the new USB-C standard, which can handle data transfer, video input and power transfer in a single port. This means that the MacBook features only USB-C ports, and only a single one at that. The fact that you'll have to buy an adaptor to use any external hard drives, USB sticks, or even a wired internet connection with your MacBook, and the fact that there are more powerful (and cheaper) laptops available, we wouldn't recommend the MacBook for university studies. Get a cheaper, or more powerful, MacBook Air instead.

Apple's iMac: be careful of the new low-cost iMac

We're going to out on a limb and recommend you stay away from Apple's new low-cost (£899) iMac. On the surface it looks ideal: the price is reasonable at £899 and it has a larger screen than any laptop. But it comes fitted with the same 1.4GHz processor as the one used in the 2014 MacBook Air and the Mac Mini, which is somewhat slow and, unlike on the MacBook Air, isn't twinned with a flash hard drive. The combo of slow processor and slow hard-drive in the low-cost iMac makes it an awkward experience. We think you'd be better off with a Mac mini, unless you upgrade your £899 iMac with a Turbo Drive, which will offer the benefit of increasing the speed at which your iMac runs, and will cost you just £200 more (that's £1,099). 

The slightly more expensive iMac (£1,049) is a much different proposition. It has a 2.7GHz quad-core Intel CPU, 8GB RAM and a 1TB hard drive (we'd still recommend a Fusion Drive update if you can afford the extra £200). It's a great Mac for graphic designers and video editors alike, as it combines a lot of storage (handy for large files) with a good processor and the screen is excellent.

For £1,199 you can get the new 21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K Display. Its processor is even faster, with a 3.1GHz quad-core intel Core i5. It also has 8GB of onboard memory and a 1TB hard drive. The price is nudging upwards, but it's a beautiful machine. In all iMac cases we advise trying to get the Fusion Drive upgrade if possible, it's an extra £80 but will make a real difference with performance.


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