A: My opinion is you should buy a MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020) with 16GB memory and 2TB SSD in Silver or Space gray - the model identifier is MacBookPro17,1.
If, like me, you like your Mac to last; then now is the time, I believe, to take the plunge. I'd recommend the top of the line brand new model, which you can keep for five years, secure in the knowledge that even though its the first of the new line of M1 equipped Macs, it will have enough oomph to still work fine at the end of its life. In the past I'd have recommended also looking at refurbished models after new models come out, but the switch from Intel to Apple silicon makes now the right time to jump. All the refurbished Macs are Intel based and their value will erode quite quickly. This Macbook is expensive I know, starting at £1299 and £2299 as specified for this article in the UK. But it is worth it and is nowhere near as expensive as an original Mac was new back in the 80's! You can justify it by amortising it over several years or buy it on finance.
M1 signals the start of a Two-Year Transition for the Mac
M1 powers the new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac mini. This is the beginning of a transition to a new family of chips designed specifically for the Mac. The transition to Apple silicon will take about two years to complete, and these three systems are the first step.
The new MacBook Pro with Apple M1 chip runs macOS Big sur and its apps faster than ever. Despite the familiar look and feel, there is new technology everywhere including Wi-Fi 6 and support for USB 4 along with recent innovations like the Touch Bar and Touch ID and a redesigned keyboard for better reliability.
macOS Big Sur
I've been using macOS Big Sur now on Apple Silicon based hardware for months now. It is fast, capable and a finished product. This is not something that is early to market in any way. Although there are huge changes, I havent noticed any significant issues with Big Sur on Apple or Intel based Mac hardware. The products are identical to use and share the same features and build number. The benefits come from extended capabilities like battery life and performance. Even arcane development tools like homebrew can run on Apple silicon through the Rosetta 2 application compatibility layer provided by Apple as part of macOS Big Sur. Apps for iOS devices can run too without modification. This is profound and will become more so as it dawns on developers and customers alike that this provides a new potential for more integrated, better performing, more widely adopted apps. The catch? They have to be reviewed by Apple for publication in the App Store. iOS developers are used to this already. macOS developers not so much. End users could not care less I suspect.
If you are upgrading an Intel based Mac to macOS Big Sur you'll find it to be a fairly painless experience but should back up anyway beforehand! But the easiest (not the cheapest) way of upgrading is to buy a new Mac and transfer your data to it. This also has an advantage in that you still have the old Mac just in case of any incompatibilities with peripherals or cables or perhaps legacy software that there might be.
The nuts and bolts of the MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020)
To find the MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020) you need to use the 'MacBookPro17,1' model identifier.
Introduced in November 2020, the MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020) is now the perfect choice for all workloads even gaming provided the game you want is available. A number of possible specifications exist, but if funds allow you should max out to 16GB RAM, and 2TB SSD storage. These MacBook Pro computers can't be upgraded after purchase so getting one which is maxed out now will pay dividends when you dont run out of space and the Mac consequently lasts you much longer.
Pros - MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020)
- Display: 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology is a masterpiece. It provides 2560-by-1600 native resolution at 227 pixels per inch with support for millions of colors and 500 nits of brightness.
- Video: This Macbook simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display at millions of colors and one external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz. It also supports Thunderbolt 3 digital video output and Native DisplayPort output over USB‑C. Finally VGA, HDMI, DVI, and Thunderbolt 2 output is supported using adapters (sold separately).
- Power and Battery: USB-C based power charges the built-in 58.2-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery for up to an astounding 17 hours wireless web or up to 20 hours Apple TV app movie playback according to Apple. Recharging is provided by the included 61W USB-C power adapter.
- Processor: Apple M1 chip provides an 8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores. There is an 8-core GPU and a 16-core Neural Engine. Apple claim huge benefits to their new chip technology and this Macbook has it, and software will emerge to take full advantage of it far beyond that provided with macOS Big Sur.
- Memory: 8GB or 16 GB unified memory. Memory can't be upgraded so choose a 16GB model.
- Storage: Up to 2TB SSD storage. Again max it out. It's expensive but worth it in the long run.
- Ports: Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports with support for charging, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3 (up to 40Gb/s), USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s). Headphone
- Keyboard and Trackpad: Apple have really worked to address keyboard issues and the newest Backlit Magic Keyboard with 66 (ISO) keys including 4 arrow keys in an inverted‑T arrangement is pure quality. The Touch Bar, Touch ID sensor, Ambient light sensor and Force Touch trackpad are carry overs from the previous model and give precise cursor control with pressure‑sensing capabilities. Force clicks, accelerators, pressure‑sensitive drawing, and Multi‑Touch gestures are straightforward to accomplish once learned.
- Wireless: Wi-Fi is upgraded to 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking while remaining IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compatible. Bluetooth also has the latest 5.0 wireless technology
- Audio: Stereo speakers with high dynamic range deliver wide stereo sound and support for Dolby Atmos playback. Apple describe the Microphone as a studio-quality three-mic array with directional beamforming.
- Weight: 1.4kg
- AppleCare is extra but you really should have it!
- Camera is a 720p FaceTime HD camera which is probably just right but hasn't changed forever.
- You'll need a USB-C hub to add old ports for older peripherals and devices or networking.
- No CD/DVD. No Apple computers have them any more.
- Will presently only run macOS Big Sur! No Windows.
The MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020) is the new gold standard. It is the most important MacBook Pro Apple have ever made. It is expensive when fully maxed out but should be future proof for 5-6 years and still resellable for good value at the end of life.
Where to buy
Currently Computer Exchange is out of stock although the MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020) is listed! The only option is Apple or Apple Authorised resellers. Buy on Black Friday direct from Apple to get a decent Gift Card reward!
£2,299.00 maxed out, excluding AppleCare.
MacBook Air (M1, 2020) - No Touch Bar, similar specification, slightly different keyboard, slightly smaller battery, lower power USB-C adapter
Mac mini (M1, 2020) - bring your own keyboard, mouse and monitor, no battery.
Note: I manage the development of apps for iOS (and now for macOS Big Sur on M1 based Macs.)