Is it still worth buying a used MacBook with an Intel chip? | Computer

Apple is expected to complete the transition from Intel processors to Apple Silicon chips themselves by 2022. This means that the blue team components will no longer equip Macs until then. Looking ahead, and even though support is guaranteed for years to come, it’s hard to recommend a MacBook with Intel, even a used one. The decision has its drawbacks, understand what goes into that scale.

MacBook Pro (2020) with Apple M1 (Image: Paulo Higa/Tecnoblog)

The transition from Intel processors to Apple Silicon

Apple plans to have the entire lineup of Macs equipped with its own SoC (system-on-a-chip) by mid-2022. The transition began in late 2020 with the new MacBook Pro and Air and the Mac mini. In April 2021, the colorful iMac also showed up with an M1 chip.

Apple’s history with Intel began in 2005, and lasted for 15 years with the company. The change comes to meet Apple’s expectations for performance and energy efficiency and to further integrate the software and hardware, as is already happening on the iPhone and iPad.

Disregarding performance

If the purchase objective is performance, tests have already proven the superior performance of Macs with M1 in relation to those equipped with Intel.

However, anyone looking for a used MacBook is likely to be cost-effective to use macOS and the applications available in that ecosystem, whether third-party or Apple.

MacBook with Intel still worth it?

It depends. It is necessary to understand the pros and cons, considering all the expectations when buying a used product. A few topics can help clarify this decision.

1. Support for Macs with Intel

Intel-based Macs are still upgraded to new macOS versions. In version 12, Monterey, only MacBook Pro and Air models from 2015 onwards will receive the update. In Big Sur, the previous version, the 2013 devices were still compatible.

Apple says the following:

Apple will continue to support and release new versions of macOS for Mac computers with an Intel chip in the coming years and has more new developments still in development with Intel

This 2020 advisory does not specify a target date for ending support for Intel-based Macs. However, these models with Intel have already stopped receiving some interesting news from macOS Monterey, the 2021 OS update.

The truth is that every product has an expiration date, even the new M1. But with Apple at the helm, Apple Silicon Macs are expected to last longer, just as an iPhone 6s will still get iOS 15 six years after launch.

Safari on macOS Monterey has groups of tabs (Image: Press / Apple)

Safari on macOS Monterey has groups of tabs (Image: Press / Apple)

Still in 2021, with macOS Monterey, the 2013 Mac Pro and 2014 Mac mini will have access to the update. Nothing is guaranteed for 2022, when old machines may not pass the cut test, it’s still a long time to live.

The bottom line for this topic is: New Macs can still be enjoyed longer. This is obvious. If the user doesn’t mind not receiving macOS news every year (and depending on the model release year) the purchase might still be worth it — which brings us to the next topic.

2. Price

As with every Apple product, the devaluation of Macs is slow. The latest Intel MacBook Pro and Air models announced in early 2020 can be found* at prices similar to or even higher than those with the M1 in late 2020.

In cases like this, when the launch interval is shorter, it might be wiser to invest in some model with M1. Otherwise, if the idea is to take something from the outskirts of 2015, it is good to consider a very good offer to close the purchase, thinking that the 2022 or 2023 updates may not be enough for these models.

* Consider research done on June 14, 2021.

3. Application Compatibility

The ones who suffer at the beginning of this transition are professional consumers, who need specific software that has not yet been compiled for Apple Silicon.

Paulo Higa reviewed the MacBook Pro with M1 here on Techblog and he mentioned that, at the time, Google Drive File Stream (used to sync Google Drive disks with macOS) was the only program in his routine that still didn’t work.

But it’s all a matter of time, some programs work very well with the Rosetta 2 translation, even if they haven’t been specially compiled for an Apple Silicon yet. Since Apple’s chips are the future of Apple’s computers, developers will also prepare their applications for this architecture.

MacBook Pro (2020) with Apple M1 (left) and MacBook Pro (2019) with Core i9 (Image: Paulo Higa/Tecnoblog)

MacBook Pro (2020) with Apple M1 (left) and MacBook Pro (2019) with Core i9 (Image: Paulo Higa/Tecnoblog)

At the time of writing this article, I’ve been using a MacBook Air with M1 for a little over a month and I haven’t had any incompatibility issues, all my apps worked fine — all basic, it’s worth mentioning.

The tip is to research if specific software you use works well on Macs with M1 before you buy. If the answer is no and the switch can’t wait, a Mac with Intel is the only way out — if you’re keen to stay in the apple ecosystem.

What do I miss when choosing a Mac with Intel?

Let’s say you’ve found an excellent offer to buy a used Intel MacBook that’s not at the age limit, works well, and will serve the purpose of the purchase, what’s really out of the package?

At first I would say performance, but not every consumer takes advantage of the full potential of the Mac, so some with Intel still serve well in terms of performance.

Apple M1 chip (image: playback/Apple)

Apple M1 Chip (Image: Playback/Apple)

The highlight of this equation is regarding new features and software updates. Even the 2020 models with Intel were without news from macOS Monterey and some from macOS Big Sur, such as the iOS apps available on macOS. It’s a year or a few months apart, but with a game-changing internal component. This discrepancy tends to be more intense over time.

The same performance argument holds for future updates: classifying the purchase as valid or not will depend on the end use. A user who just wants to attend online classes or do homework, for example, sometimes doesn’t even think about updating the system — no matter how annoying the notification is on the screen.

With information: Apple.

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