I’ll be in the market for a new Mac sometime in the next couple of months. While I still spend the vast majority of my time working from my iPhone and iPad, my usage of macOS has increased as I’ve shifted focus toward web design. I still write most of my code on my trusty iPad Air 2, but it’s difficult to test changes without a resizable browser window.
I have James Finley’s Web Tools installed, which let’s you test responsive sites at different device widths. It’s a great app and it can get the job done in a pinch. But screen real estate is at a premium and I often feel like I’m beyond the upper limits of what’s comfortable on a 9.7-inch display. A Mac would really make writing and testing HTML and CSS a lot easier.
I still have my 11-inch MacBook Air, which has done an admirable job at filling in the gaps for me lately, but the machine is getting a bit long in the tooth. It was purchased almost seven years ago, has an intermittently functioning trackpad, and lacks a Retina display. I could put in the time and effort to replace the trackpad, but it probably isn’t worth the trouble. I doubt it will be supported by Apple’s latest version of macOS for much longer and I think a Retina display is a must-have for any design work at this point.
The big question is, what Mac am I going to buy? Well if you follow the recommendations on the MacRumors Buyer’s Guide, the only Mac worth buying right now is the iMac Pro — its the only machine in the lineup that doesn’t feature a “Caution” or “Don’t Buy” badge. But the iMac Pro is a bit too expensive for my budget.
That means my best option is to wait for Apple to release new hardware, which will hopefully happen at WWDC next month. As for the specifics, I’m currently leaning toward a 27-inch iMac with the cheapest solid state drive available. If the state of Mac notebooks was a little different, I might consider a MacBook or MacBook Pro. But I suspect their next iteration will feature the same keyboard they have today, which is prone to hardware failures and isn’t that comfortable to actually type on.
And the iMac is a better fit for me anyway. I can use my iPad when I have to work on the go and the iMac’s large display will be put to good use with numerous text documents, browser windows, and an FTP client. I’ll be able to retire my MacBook Air and the aging Mac Mini that we’ve been using as our home server and replace it with one, single Mac that serves all of our traditional desktop computing needs.
I don’t think I’ll be gaining too much by waiting for the iMac’s next hardware revision — most likely just some minor upgrades to the internals. I hope Apple reduces the price of SSD upgrades. Or better yet, relegates all spinning disks to built-to-order options. With the rise of streaming music services and cloud storage for photos, the average customer doesn’t need giant hard drives like they used to.
One major concern I have with waiting, though, is that Apple could remove the RAM door that current 27-inch iMacs feature. They did so with the iMac Pro and I would hate to see that trickle down to the consumer-level iMacs so quickly. What I’d like to do is purchase a nearly stock 27-inch iMac — only upgrading to a solid state drive if it isn’t the default configuration — and plan on upgrading the RAM down the road.
Apple’s RAM is typically quite expensive compared to aftermarket options and having to make that decision at the time of purchase will put a considerable strain on my budget. I could easily get by with 8GB of RAM now and upgrade to 16 or 32 in a year or two when I have a little more spending money available. But if Apple removes the RAM door, I might have to buy a lesser machine than what I would eventually end up with if I was able to upgrade it later.
But I think it’s still worth waiting. I’m taking a bit of a gamble on Apple continuing to give customers an easy way to upgrade their RAM, but I’d like this iMac to last as long as possible. The extra few percentage points of performance won’t mean much, but if waiting another month or two gives me an additional year of macOS updates, it’s definitely worth it.