The new rules for buying a Mac

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True, a 13-inch MacBook screen may be a bit small when it comes to Photoshop’s and Final Cut Pro’s glut of palettes and windows. And sure, some users don’t like the glossy screens that are mandatory on the MacBook and MacBook Air. But all Mac laptops can connect to the large external display of your choice. So unless you’re always working on-the-go, even a MacBook will serve your display needs (and as a bonus, you can toss it in your bag when you need to).

The New Rule: If you’re doing high-end work with a laptop, you’ve probably got a nice desktop display to connect it to when you’re at home or in the office. If you’re bothered by a small, glossy screen and you’ll be doing most or all of your computing away from home, you may want to opt for a 17-inch MacBook Pro.

The last word

Which Mac should you buy? That’s an awfully personal question, and it depends entirely on who you are. If you’re using powerful programs to do professional-level work in the graphics, video, or scientific world, the Mac Pro was designed for you.

But for most people, even those who consider themselves power users, we strongly suggest an iMac rather than a Mac Pro. As Apple has improved the Mac Pro’s specs, it has added features once considered “pro level” to the iMac line. If you’ve never considered buying an iMac, it’s time to take a closer look at its dual-core processors, high RAM ceiling, abundance of speedy USB and FireWire ports, and support for external monitors.

We also strongly feel that potential Mac buyers should give Apple’s MacBook family some serious consideration. With the Mac’s transition to Intel processors, Apple’s laptops have gained power they never had before—they work well on your desk and give you the benefit of portability. Not everyone will opt for a laptop, but a MacBook is all the Mac that many users will ever need.

[Jonathan Seff is Macworld’s senior news editor; Jason Snell is Macworld’s editorial director.]

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