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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.

One Mac that's easy to take off your shopping list is the Mac Pro (if you haven't done so already). At £2,499 it's simply overkill for nearly all student tasks and unless you really are involved in some heavy number crunching or professional-level video editing, you won't value its power. Even in a field like computer science or 3D animation you will get by on a high-end MacBook or iMac. Then there is also the unsavoury thought that the Mac Pro's high cost and small footprint make it a huge theft risk for student apartments. In the vast majority of cases you would be better served saving the money and opting for a cheaper model, especially when you consider that you'd need to buy a screen, keyboard and mouse for the Pro.

We'd also suggest ruling out Apple's new 1.1GHz MacBook (Early 2015). While its super slim design is attractive, and its retina display is a thing of beauty, it's not really very powerful and at £1,049 it's very expensive for what it offers. Students can get a better deal.

Apple's MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and new MacBook range

The current MacBook range of laptops is truly impressive, and you can get an incredibly advanced machine for a reasonable price. We would caution against buying the non-Retina 13" MacBook Pro. It does have some advantages over its Retina brethren, mainly down to the fact that you can replace the battery, hard drive, and RAM yourself, thus prolonging the life of the machine and reducing the initial cost. It is also the only Mac left that has a CD/DVD drive built-in.

While these features are certainly useful, the fact is that the 13" MacBook Pro hasn't been updated since June 2012 and the low resolution 1280x800 screen is looking very dated now, especially when seen next to the gorgeous Retina displays. At £899 it's also too expensive.

In previous years we ruled out the MacBook Pro with Retina display due to its high price. But Apple has reduced its base model to £999, which is admittedly still a lot to pay for a laptop, but it's great value for what you get. With a 13-inch retina display, 2.7Ghz Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, 128GB flash storage, super sharp display and Force Touch technology, we think the MacBook Pro with Retina display is the best MacBook on the market for power users.

If you absolutely need more onboard storage then you can go up to the 256GB version for an additional £200, but as all the other specs stay the same we'd advise buying a cheaper external drive instead.


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