10 things you should know before you buy a MacBook for students


M2 Macbook Pro 13 Inch Close Up Of DisplaySource: Gerald Lynch / iMore

Back-to-school time is in the air when many families and students decide to purchase a new MacBook. However, before making a purchase, there are a few things to keep in mind and consider.

Happy shopping for a MacBook for students.

1. Decide on a screen size first and portability

Apple has two laptop lines, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Each product line is somewhat distinct when it comes to offering different screen sizes. Your first decision should be to decide on the screen size you want. If you want a 13-inch model, you’ll have to decide whether to get a 13.6-inch MacBook Air or 13.3-inch MacBook Pro based on other specifications. Otherwise, there’s the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro. All models are on our list of the best MacBooks overall and the best MacBooks for students.

Along with screen size, be aware of the machine’s weight and how that could affect portability. All of today’s MacBook models are lighter than past models. However, some remain heavier than others. Especially for those on a large campus, there’s a big difference between carrying a 2.7-pound MacBook Air and a 4.7-pound 16-inch MacBook Pro.

MacBook Air (2022) MacBook Pro (2021)
Release date July 2022 October 2021
Display sizes 13.6 inches 16.2 inches
Processors Apple M2 Apple M1 Pro or Apple M1 Max
RAM 8GB/16GB/24GB 16GB/32GB/64GB
Storage 256GB to 2TB 5126GB to 8TB
Weight 2.7 pounds 4.7 pounds
Color choices 4 2
Starting price $1,199 $2,499

2. Buy as much processor speed as you can afford

M2 Macbook Air Starlight Hero

Source: Gerald Lynch / iMore

Apple doesn’t allow you to swap out parts on any of the MacBook models. With this in mind, zero in on what you can afford and go with it — starting with the processor speed. Expect to pay around $200 more as you upgrade to a better processor. However, don’t go overboard.

If you’re only purchasing a new laptop to take notes and write reports, save yourself some money and buy less. Conversely, if you’re planning on doing creative work using an Adobe product or something like Final Cut Pro, go with a bigger processor.

About Apple silicon

Cupertino has transitioned away from Intel processors in recent years, with today’s MacBooks using in-house silicon. The current MacBook Air (2022) and 13-inch MacBook Pro (M2) include an M2 chip, while the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro offer an M1 Pro or M1 Max chip. Each chip consists of the computer’s CPU, GPU, unified memory, and Neural Engine. Decide which chip matches what you hope to do with your new machine.

3. The same goes for RAM

Deciding how much computer memory to buy is also crucial. Random-access memory, or RAM, is your system’s short-term data storage. The larger the RAM, the quicker your computer can access data. Additionally, the more programs your system runs, the more memory you’ll need.

Again, Apple doesn’t let you change MacBook RAM after purchase, so you’ll want to choose wisely.

4. How about storage?

Macbook Pro 14 Inch Better

Source: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore

With the advent of cloud-based computing, the amount of onboard computer storage isn’t nearly as significant as it was just a few years ago. With this in mind, I recommend not purchasing the minimum storage available on any given MacBook. That number, which currently stands at 256GB on some models, probably isn’t enough for most people over the long term. Conversely, having over 2TB of storage on a laptop is perhaps too much for most folks.

5. Consider a portable hard drive

It would be best if you backed up your MacBook regularly using the built-in Time Machine feature. For this, you should invest in a portal hard drive. The best USB- hard drives for Mac come in various sizes and price points.

6. Do buy AppleCare+

AppleCare+ Logo

Source: Apple

Buying a MacBook isn’t cheap; replacing parts without a warranty is also expensive. Each Apple laptop comes with one year of hardware repair coverage. I recommend purchasing AppleCare+ to extend that coverage to three years. You can buy your coverage at the time of purchase or any time during the first year. Prices vary depending on the MacBook model.

7. Get a case

MacBooks are beautiful devices. Unfortunately, they are also fragile. To protect your investment, be sure to purchase a case or bag. There are plenty of options out there, with great cases for MacBook Air and for MacBook Pro.

8. Look for education pricing

Bts Header Giftcard

Source: Apple

When considering a MacBook for students, consider that year-round, Apple provides discounts to qualifying higher-education students, parents purchasing on behalf of higher-education students, and faculty and staff at higher-education and K-12 institutions. Cupertino typically adds extra incentives to convince you to buy through them in the lead-up to new school years worldwide.

For 2022, Apple is offering nice discounts across the various product lines.

Promotions are available through Apple’s online store, retail stores, and authorized campus stores, as well as through Apple’s education site.

9. Check Amazon for discounts

Amazon has fast become one of the most popular places to purchase Apple products online, including a full line-up of current and past MacBook models.

Amazon has been aggressive when it comes to discounting Apple products. However, don’t expect to see huge discounts on current models. Instead, the largest deals can be found on new past models, always marked as Previous Model.

A word of caution: Be on the lookout for Apple products on Amazon marked Renewed. These products are not new.

According to Amazon:

Renewed products work and look like new. These pre-owned products are not Apple certified but have been inspected and tested by Amazon-qualified suppliers. Box and accessories may be generic. All Renewed products come with the 90-day Amazon Renewed Guarantee.”

10. Finally, look at our cheat sheet

Macbook Air M2 Hands On Keyboard Wwdc

Source: Gerald Lynch / iMore

Each current MacBook is terrific, with its own set of features and internals. Here’s a breakdown of what’s different with each current MacBook model:

M2 Air

13-inch MacBook Air (2022)

Apple’s least expensive MacBook is also the most popular. It even has Touch ID and is the only current MacBook model in Midnight and Starlight.

13 Inch MacBook Pro

13-inch MacBook Pro (2022)

The smaller of the two Pro models is excellent for those looking for a smaller laptop while still wanting premium parts inside. Like the MacBook Air, it includes a brand new M2 chip.

14 Inch MacBook Pro

14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)

With the same internals as the 16-inch MBP, this is the one you need if you want incredible power in a smaller package.

16 Inch MacBook Pro

16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)

Here’s the one for designers and anyone who wants a large display. It’s also the most expensive model, even at its entry-level point.

Decisions, decisions

With four MacBooks on the market (not counting the older models), many choices exist. Take your time and find the MacBook that meets your requirements — and budget — and have a great school year!

Updated June 2022: Includes latest MacBook models.

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