Welcome to our regular collection of our Apple Breakfast column, including all of the Apple news you missed this week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.
Don’t get seduced by a laptop you don’t need
In a recent installment of this column, I discussed the simple idea that the price and the quality of Apple’s products, particularly Macs, don’t always scale at the same rate. At the entry level, a small extra outlay of $200 or $300 will see a huge improvement in your experience, whereas at the top end, a lot of extra money earns you relatively little obvious gains unless you’re a very high-end user. In terms of bang for your buck, certain dollars are more wisely spent than others.
That’s the logic on which we base our recommendation that you shouldn’t buy the deeply compromised $1,199 M2 MacBook Air, when a slightly higher-specced configuration offers much better performance. But it also means you should be cautious about jumping a level to the premium models, where your dollars have far less effect. The sweet spot, as ever, is the inbetweener—at the extremes of the range you’re either getting too little or paying too much.
The mirror image of the baseline Air at the top of Apple’s laptop range is the MacBook Pro. Putting aside the confounding 13-inch MacBook Pro for a moment, the 14-inch and 16-inch Pros, even in their cheapest configurations, come in at eye-watering prices that can easily creep into the high $3,000 range, yet the average user will notice very little difference in day-to-day use compared to a $1,499 Air.
That wasn’t always the case. Before Apple silicon came along, the performance difference between the Air and the Pro was much wider, and it made sense for many moderate users to spend a little more to get a machine that wouldn’t just perform better when they bought it but several years later as well. A Core i7 15-inch MacBook Pro was expensive but also guaranteed to last a lot longer than a Core i3 MacBook Air or Core m3 MacBook.
These days the upgraded specs in the Pro machines are truly for pro users–or to be more precise, a bang that will show up in only the most demanding apps used by only the most demanding users, for a proportionately high number of bucks. The M1 Pro and M1 Max chips available in these machines are faster than the newer M2, and that’s before you factor in their extra RAM. The Pros also deliver better screens and sound systems, more ports, and the option of far more storage. In other words, these are serious machines with serious spec lists.
Apple’s chips are so good now, the question isn’t whether the specs are good or even whether they’re good enough to justify the price. It’s whether they fit your requirements. It’s easy to be suckered in by premium specs and an enthusiastic sales assistant, but for anyone who isn’t a high-end video producer on the move, an M1 Pro or Max MacBook Pro is likely to be overkill. Even if you have $1,999 or $2,499 to spend on a laptop, your money would be better served elsewhere. Maybe extra memory on an M2 Air for instance.
(The cheaper 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro is something off an outlier and it’s hard to recommend outside of a good deal. It’s nowhere near as expensive as a 14-incher, but as our review explains, in most respects and for most customers this is a weaker alternative to the MacBook Air, with a smaller display, heavier chassis and fewer color options.)
Ultimately, we end up with two factors when deciding which MacBook is the right choice. The first is the inconsistent relationship between price and quality, which will tend to make inbetweener products better value than either budget or premium alternatives. The second is the necessity of examining not just what you can afford, but what you actually need from a laptop.
And for most laptop buyers, both factors should lead you to the same conclusion. You don’t need a MacBook Pro no matter how much you may want one.
Trending: Top stories of the week
The iPhone 14 went from doom to boom faster than an A16 benchmark, notes the Macalope.
With the launch of the latest Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, a folding iPhone feels further away than ever.
Apple’s next iPhone SE needs these five Google Pixel 6a features.
No, throttling and overheating isn’t a problem on the M2 MacBook Air.
We love the Mac mini but it’s a seriously bad time to buy one.
Jony Ive has revealed Steve Jobs’ one-word advice on design and expressed his anger about much current design.
The rumor mill
This fall’s launch schedule will bring the biggest devices Apple has ever made–literally.
The average selling price of the iPhone 14 range could top a thousand dollars. Here’s why you’ll probably pay more for your iPhone this year.
It looks like the iPhone 14 announcement will be another virtual event, with Apple still nervous about in-person gatherings.
The full-size HomePod is on the way back! Apple is reportedly developing smart speakers, cameras, and displays.
Apple will reportedly switch all AirPods cases to USB-C in 2023, as Lightning continues to vanish from the company’s products.
Mind you, Apple is even preparing to ditch USB-C, if reports of a brand-new 4-pin connector on the next iPad Pro are accurate.
Podcast of the week
Is a smart home revolution in the works at Apple? On this episode of the Macworld Podcast, we talk about Apple’s efforts in the smart home market and what we could see from the company in the near future. Stick around!
You can catch every episode of the Macworld Podcast on Spotify, Soundcloud, the Podcasts app, or our own site.
Software updates, bugs & problems
Hold on to your hats: Apple is bringing back the iPhone’s battery percentage indicator! Although this alternative design is a bit nicer.
A small change in the latest beta of iOS 16 suggests updating your AirPods is about to get a lot easier.
Apple has fixed a playback bug in iMovie and Final Cut Pro X. We explain how to update.
And with that, we’re done for this week. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter for breaking news stories. See you next Saturday, enjoy your weekend, and stay Appley.