How to Switch Part Nine: Choose Your Mac

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By: switchtoamac at: 4:00 PM on August 15, 2006 | Comments (8)
Although this site is geared toward helping people make the switch, all Mac users will find this article helpful. After you have identified your user type, you can then take steps towards purchasing your Mac. You must first however decide on the model to buy. The focus of this article is to help you choose your Mac.

Apple's desktop and portable systems are known for their sleek innovative design, professional appearance, and wow factor. The iMac desktop, for example, is an all-in-one unit that hides the internal components behind the monitor. The portable MacBook Pro's aluminum case and backlit display can make heads turn.

Choose your Portable



The MacBook is Apple's consumer level portable that is geared towards every day use to accomplish tasks such as web surfing, e-mail, using iLife, staying connected with friends via instant messaging, and word processing. It's not designed for professional use and if gaming is your forte, you'll be better off getting a MacBook Pro. As of this writing, the MacBook is only available with a 13-inch widescreen. You can however drive up to a 23-inch Cinema HD Display with a MacBook but be aware that the graphics card is integrated. You may experience slower performance on your MacBook when connected to an external display because the memory used by the graphics card is shared with system's main memory.

Read more about the MacBook at the MacBook guides.

MacBook ProMacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro is Apple's professional line portable that enables powerful usage, professional audio and video capabilities, gaming, and expandability. A MacBook Pro can do everything a MacBook can do and more. For example, expansion cards can be placed into the MacBook Pro's integrated ExpressCard/34 slot to extend functionality. A MacBook Pro can also drive Apple's 30-inch Cinema HD Display thanks to the dedicated PCI Express based graphics card. Faster processor speeds, video performance, and better audio capabilities are available on the MacBook Pro versus the MacBook. Any software that can run on the consumer level MacBook will run on the MacBook Pro but the opposite is not true. Apple's professional software requires certain hardware features and system specifications that are not available on the consumer level MacBook. MacBook Pro's come in two sizes, with either a 15-inch or a 17-inch screen. It's not surprising that the MacBook Pro is more expensive than the MacBook.

The driving force between choosing between a MacBook, MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro should focus on the following factors:

  • Usage
  • Ease of Portability
  • Screen Size
  • Expandability

The starting point to drive your decision should center on your use case and expansion requirements (if applicable). If you need a very portable and light system, and with all other factors out of the comparison, don't opt for the 17-inch MacBook Pro, as it's large and the heaviest of Apple's portables. If you're the type of user who needs an expansion slot (ExpressCard/34), then you'll have to purchase a MacBook Pro. If you need FireWire 800, a feature often used by video professionals, the MacBook Pro is the ideal choice. Appearance may be important to you. MacBook Pro's come in an aluminum metal case whereas MacBooks come in either a white or black plastic polycarbonate case. Apple has a great table to help guide your decision between its portable systems.

Read more about the MacBook Pro at the MacBook Pro guides.

MacBook Air

MacBookMeasuring just 0.76 inches thick and 12.8-inches wide, the MacBook Air is Apple's ultrathin portable that is geared towards users who desire ultra portability in a 3.0 pound offering. The MacBook Air provides users a similar usage offering as the MacBook (see above) but in an ultra portable form. The Air does not include a built in optical drive because it's built with wireless in mind. If you need to use a disc simply leverage Remote Disc, a feature that allows you wirelessly use an optical drive of another Mac or PC. You do have the option to purchase an external optional drive specifically designed for the MacBook Air if you prefer direct disc use. The MacBook Air draws on features from the MacBook Pro including the built-in ambient light sensor and backlit keyboard for ease of use in low light conditions. The Air includes a 13.3-inch widescreen backlit LED display geared for efficiency. It was the first Mac to offer a multi-touch trackpad for gesture-based input. Standard models include a traditional hard drive but buyers have the option to upgrade to a solid-state drive.

Read more about the MacBook Air at the MacBook Air guides.

Choose your Desktop

As far as desktops are concerned, the first question to answer is whether or not you need a display. If the answer is yes, opt for either the iMac or Mac Pro. If the answer is no, you probably have a legacy monitor that you can use so you might opt for the Mac mini. The next questions to ask are desktop size, expandability, and performance. The performance question is often answered by your user type; profesional, consumer, hybrid, or transitive.

Mac miniMac mini

The Mac mini is the ideal Mac for first time Mac users or switchers who would like to test drive a Mac. This is especially true if the user is unsure if he or she will continue to use a Mac. The Mac mini does not come packaged with a display, keyboard, or mouse because Apple knows that most users have spare accessories lying around, especially if one already owns a PC. If the mini will be your very first computer or if you want an Apple branded keyboard and mouse, you have the option to purchase them with the mini. Mac mini's don't have to function as desktop computers. People have found innovative ways to use mini's as media centers and have even installed them into automobiles. The mini has a small footprint; it's only 2 inches tall and 6.5 inches on each side. Don't get fooled by its size as the mini packs a decent set of specifications for most home users. It ships with a fast processor and includes decent integrated graphics. It's fully capable of running Mac OS X and Apple's iLife suite. One drawback to the mini is that its internal components are not the easiest to upgrade, RAM upgrades can be difficult. You can however purchase add-ons from numerous third-party vendors to increase hard drive space, USB 2.0, and FireWire 400 ports.

Read more about the Mac mini at the Mac mini guides.


iMacIf you need a desktop system with a display but don't need to shell out top dollar for a Mac Pro, you'll be best served by the iMac, it's an overall better deal for most users. The iMac is Apple's top selling desktop Mac. It 's the ideal desktop for the majority of Mac users. The iMac is a revolutionary space-saving computer with an all-in-one design housing both the computer and the monitor. It's available with either a 20-inch or 24-inch widescreen flat-panel display. The iMac offers better specifications and features when compared to the Mac mini. It ships with faster processors, larger hard drives, better graphics, and more ports. An added benefit is that you can connect a second monitor to the iMac to extend your screen real estate. Mac OS X fully supports multiple monitors. If you are a professional user or you simply want the top of the line Mac with all the bells, whistles, and specifications; get a Mac Pro.

Read more about the iMac at the iMac guides.

Mac ProMacPro

The Mac Pro is Apple's fastest Mac ever designed and it's the flagship of Macintosh line. It's catered towards professional users and delivers advanced performance, workstation graphics, multiple Dual-Core Intel Xeon processors, full expansion, high speed connectivity, and numerous configuration options. These systems share the aluminum style enclosure found on the MacBook Pro portables. Most often, Mac Pro's are used as graphics or video editing workstations and can be connected to one or more displays.

Read more about the Mac Pro at the Mac Pro guides.

Wrap Up

I urge you to visit your local Apple Retail Store or authorized Apple Reseller to test out your target Macintosh model. Be sure to check out the look, feel, and features of the system. Ask questions and take your time. Don't rush into a decision. Be thorough and rest assured that after you purchase your Mac, you'll be well on your way to becoming a satisfied Mac owner. Good luck.

Check out the Switch To A Mac Guides
You can find out more information about the Macintosh models at the Switch To A Mac Guides.


August 20, 2008
  • Added link to MacBook Air guides
August 5, 2008
  • Added MacBook Air, content revision, and updated images
August 28, 2007
  • Updated image and description of iMac to reflect new aluminum enclosure
March 22, 2007
  • Added information about the 24-inch iMac
  • Added links to the Switch To A Mac Guides

8 Reader Comments

Would a viewsonic monitor be any good on a mac system?


I haven't used any Viewsonic monitors with my Macs. You'll be best served by checking out the Viewsonic web site and checking the specifications to see if they are Mac compatible.

For the iMac, you missed out the recently introduced 24-inch version.

Don't forget that the new range of MacBook Pros all include firewire 800 - not just the 17 incher


I just wanna ask if there is any version of Messenger that could be used in PC and MAC. If I switch to Mac, should I change my account? Can I continue chatting with the friends I have on my Windows MSN Contacts' list?

Thank you very much!



No need to change your account. You can use MSN Messenger for Mac which can be downloaded from Microsoft at the following location.


I'm planning on switching to Mac, but I am still not sure if I should buy a Macbook or a Macbook Pro. Although I'm not a professional user, I plan on taking online college courses and spending about 5-6 hours daily on my computer to do work and take classes. Is a Macbook ok for me?



I think it boils down to how you will use your computer and what you plan to do while in school. You state that you don't consider yourself as a professional user so I would assume that you won't be using programs such as Adobe Photoshop or video editing titles such as Final Cut Pro.

If true, then the MacBook should suit your needs just fine. Good luck with your decision.

Be sure to take advantage of Apple's student discount. You can get to the Apple store for education. Apple is currently offering a Free iPod to students who purchase a a new Mac. See the image below.

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