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Best Apple Mac for Students? What MacBook is good for College?

Best Apple Mac for Students

Whats the best Mac for Students, which is good for College?  Even though it’s entirely possible to get through college without a laptop, college students and professors alike know how helpful a good laptop can be. From taking notes to research to communication with other students to writing papers and completing various assignments—no other item in college student’s backpack is as versatile and often as indispensable as a laptop.

Apple Macs have always been a favorite for students

Visit just about any lecture hall, and you’ll immediately notice the overwhelming presence of Macs. Yes, it’s true that some college students are attracted to Mac computers simply because of their popularity, but most choose a Mac because they want a reliable machine they can depend on and which can get them through a long day without a charger.

Some college departments have specific software requirements their students should be able to meet, and Macs are the only computers that can run macOS, Windows, and Linux without a hitch thanks to Apple’s Boot Camp.

But the fact remains that Macs are not cheap. When buying one for a student, you want to pick the right model, one that can last for several years and still offer satisfactory performance and battery life. To help you out, we’ve narrowed down Apple’s current line-up to just three models, which we consider to be the best Mac computers for students.


Best Mac for Liberal Arts Students: 12-Inch MacBook

Best mac for Students 12 inch MacBook

Most liberal arts students use their laptops predominantly for writing—lots and lots of writing. Because inspiration likes to come unannounced, and often far away from the nearest electrical outlet, it makes sense for liberal arts students to choose a laptop with a long battery life, small size, and fast Wi-Fi connectivity.

The 12-inch MacBook is the smallest and lightest laptop in Apple’s line-up, weighing just 2 pounds, and it also offers an excellent battery life of up to 10 hours and the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 wireless technologies.

Instead of traditional scissor switches, the 12-inch MacBook features a comfortable keyboard with Apple’s second-generation butterfly switches, providing superior responsiveness and crispness when typing. Below the keyboard is a large trackpad with support for Force Touch, which allows it to detect slight differences in pressure.

What Mac features are best for students?

The 12-inch MacBook has an edge-to-edge Retina display with 2304 × 1440 pixels, energy-efficient backlighting, and wide viewing angles. The fine resolution makes text very easy on the eyes, and its IPS display technology guarantees professional-grade color accuracy.

You can get the 12-inch MacBook either with a 1.2 GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 for $1,299 or with a 1.3 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 for $1,599. Both versions start with 8 GB of RAM and Intel HD Graphics 615, but the more expensive version has a 512 GB PCIe-based onboard SSD, instead of just a 256 GB PCIe-based onboard SSD.

Unless you need as much processing power as you can get, we recommend the less expensive version of the 12-inch MacBook. Intel Core m3 processors are so energy-efficient that they don’t require any cooling whatsoever, yet they are fast enough for just about anything apart from professional software applications such as Adobe After Effects or AutoCAD.


Best Mac for STEM Students: 13-Inch MacBook Pro

Best for STEM Students 13 inch Apple MacBook Pro

It’s only natural for STEM students to require more processing power than students of liberal arts do. A laptop is suitable for a STEM student only if it can run computationally expensive software simulations, compile software, and handle applications such as Photoshop, Dreamweaver, or Microsoft Visual Studio, just to name a few.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro offers a 2.3 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.6 GHz even in its most basic configuration, which costs just $1,299. The laptop is also available with Touch Bar for either $1,799 or $1,999, depending on the amount of storage space, but you should stay away from these versions because Touch Bar isn’t really all that useful.

Instead, get the 256 GB version without Touch Bar, which costs $1,499 and is configurable up to 1 TB SSD. The basic version only comes with 128 GB of storage space, and that’s just not enough for anything beyond basic tasks. The 256 GB version additionally has Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 onboard graphics card, 8 GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 onboard memory, and a beautiful 13.3-inch Retina display with 2560 × 1600 pixels, wide viewing angles, and up to 500 nits brightness for comfortable outside use.

Another Apple Mac option for Students

We should also mention that there’s a 15-inch MacBook Pro. While not exactly huge, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is slightly too bulky and heavy for hauling around campus, but, above all, it’s just way too expensive for most college students, starting at $2,399 for a version with a 2.8 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7.


Honorable Mention: 13-Inch MacBook Air

13 inch macbook air best for students

Despite its advanced age, the MacBook Air is still an excellent choice for all students who have other things to spend money on besides a laptop. Starting at just $999, the MacBook Air is by far the least expensive Mac on this list, yet it has the longest battery life (up to 12 hours between charges), and some even swear by its keyboard, which has much longer vertical space below each key compared to the 12-inch MacBook (1 mm versus 0.5 mm).

The MacBook Air is also the only Mac on this list with regular USB 3.0 ports. While it seems that virtually all Mac users will have to eventually embrace the dongle life, the owners of the MacBook Air should be able to get by without adapters for a few more years.

When it comes to the downsides of the MacBook Air, the outdated CPU and display are probably the two biggest ones. Yes, the laptop is still fine for writing documents, chatting with friends, or browsing the web, but things do slow down noticeably if throw too many tasks at the laptop at once.

What’s worse, the 13.3-inch display of the MacBook Air is so behind modern laptops that Apple even doesn’t mention it in the laptop’s overview on the official website. It has only 1440 × 900 pixels and covers just 66 percent of the sRGB color gamut.

Apple releases gorgeous Rose Gold MacBook with better battery and faster processor

Finally, Rose Gold fans can rejoice. When Apple released the first 12″ MacBook last year, it was met with a lot of controversy. Users disliked its single USB-C port and slower processor, as compared with the MacBook Pro, of course. Still, the unit appears to have been a success, which is why it’s no surprise that Apple has announced a new 12″ MacBook.

According Geekbench, the speed of the processor is 20% better than the original 2015 MacBook model. This is a very respectable speed improvement and one that is sure to satisfy at least some of the critics.

Rose Gold MacBook

In addition to this, the disk-write speeds are considerably better–estimated to be as much as 80-90 faster compared to the 2015 MacBook. As with the processor speed improvement, the disk-write speeds being significantly faster should lead to a smoother, better performing machine.

Apple claims that the 2016 MacBook has a web browsing battery life of 10 hours. This is quite a bit better than the MacBook Pro and on par with the MacBook Air. However, as we’ve seen with many devices, a claim of 10 hours does not mean that the device will actually last that long in between charges.

New! Rose Gold Color

The new 12″ MacBook comes in four color options–gold, silver, space gray, and rose gold. The same Retina display, Force Touch trackpad, USB-C port, and ultra slim design are also found in the 2016 MacBook. New to the mix is a sixth generation Intel dual-core 1.3 GHz processor that is said to have Turbo Boost with speeds up to 3.1 GHz. Faster 1866 MHz memory is here, too.

MacBook in Rose Gold

Apple has the new MacBook on its website as of today and it is set to hit Apple’s retail stores and authorized resellers on 4/20/2016. The unit starts at $1,299 all the way up to $1,599 USD depending on the configuration chosen.

Which Mac should I buy?

Apple has 6 Macs to select from and choosing one can be difficult. They are the iMac, MacPro, MacBook, MacBook Air, Retina MacBook Pro, and the Mac Mini. Each Mac targets a specific market but there are no set rules about crossing over to enjoy the features of a professional Mac like the Mac Pro as long as you can afford its much higher price tag. The choices have many potential buyers asking – Which Mac should I buy? To help you figure out the best Mac product for your needs, here’s a brief summary of each.

Apple MacBook Pro

Macbook Pro

This month Apple is launching the new MacBook model. It will have the Retina display and the Force Touch haptic trackpad. You can also expect a new basic processor and upgraded battery life.  From all appearances though, the 2015 MacBook Pro looks exactly like the 2012, 2013, and 2014 models so that take a wee bit out of the excitement. Also the new MacBook Pro will only be sold with the 13 inch display and does not compared well to the new 12 inch MacBook which has an absolutely beautiful new design. However, the new MacBook Pro is all about what’s inside which is the Force Click, 97% sRGB coverage and 73% Adobe RGB, and contrast ratio of 880:1 – all of which are slight improvements from the 2014 model.

Apple MacBook


The new MacBook just came out this April 2015 and focuses more on portability and aesthetics. Read more about the design and new innovations in our recent write up.

Apple MacBook Air

MacBook Air

The MacBook Air laptop by Apple first came out in 2008 and was the first laptop from Apple with the SSD flash storage. There was an upgrade released in 2014 and a new 13 inch released in early 2015. Aside from better quality graphics, faster storage, and a change from Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt 2, there is nothing significantly different with the precious model.

Apple Mac Mini

Mac Mini w/ Apple Thunderbolt Monitor

This is the compact desktop from Apple which first came out in 2005. It is also the cheapest Mac and can be plugged into your TV monitor if you want to create a home movie/media theater. The last update was in 2014 and is actually priced lower than the 2012 versions. One reason could be because the 2012 Mac Mini has a faster processor and is more upgradable.  The RAM of the 2014 model is soldered on to the motherboard making it impossible to upgrade memory after purchase.

However, the newer Mac Mini has 3 models from a 500GB drive to a 2 TB Fusion drive. It also has build to order options so the 2TB Fusion drive is actually an upgrade of the high end 1TB that can be ordered with a corresponding fee.

Apple iMac


This desktop was first released in 1998 and is known for streamlining the design of the computer and away from the bulky-looking monitor. There were 2 new improvements introduced in 2014: the entry level, low cost iMac without Retina display and the 27 in 5k Retina. There are rumors of a possible new iMac this 2015 but nothing specific has been revealed.

Apple MacPro

Mac Pro without Monitor

The MacPro is the professional’s computer is a high-end Apple product where the base model costs almost $3,000. Apple has labeled it as the “pro-level desktop” with 6 Thunderbolt 2 ports, a built-in HDMI output, Wi-Fi antenna, and faster SSD storage. It is known to be very quiet, powerful, and if fully loaded, can cost over $8,000.

Apple may start using ARM-Based Chipsets in future Macs

Ming-Chi Kuo, a KGI Securities analyst, recently offered the prediction that Apple may be making a shift away from Intel to their own ARM-based systems-on-a-chip for future lower-end MacBook models. As reported by MacRumors, the prediction is based on the increasing power and capability that the A-series chips have to offer. The A8X can easily compete with Intel’s Atom processors and even the Core i3 line.

Apple has been rumored to be working on new ARM-based Macs and MacBooks for some time now, but so far we haven’t seen any definitive evidence that they are indeed entering mass production. It is not surprising that Apple is experimenting with MacBooks running on ARM instead of Intel, however. In fact, it’s to be expected.

Source: KGI Research

Prototyping every possibility when it comes to future products should be considered good practice and we would be surprised, if not shocked, if Apple didn’t have the MacBook Air and other models sporting the A8X chipset in a basement somewhere in Cupertino. The same thinking goes for Macs with touchscreens, eye tracking, TouchID and other technologies that are possible but not yet implemented.

Moving away from Intel does have its drawbacks, however. The biggest hit will come from the fact that you will most likely lose Windows compatibility. Since the internals of today’s Macs are very similar to those of PCs, it is very easy to install and run Windows without any problems. The move to the A-series chipsets will likely see the end of BootCamp as we know it.

But the compatibility issues don’t stop there. Virtualization software like VMware Fusion, Parallels Desktop and VirtualBox all rely on that underlying Intel architecture to make their virtual machines speedy and easy to set up and use. So in that sense a move away from Intel will also disrupt any workflows that individuals and businesses using virtual machines have come to depend on.

The last area that might take a hit if Apple begins transitioning to their own chips will be games. Or more specifically game ports from Windows. Just like with the virtual machine conundrum, many games also rely on the fact that your Mac’s underpinnings aren’t all that different from a PC. Once the transition is underway, game developers will have a much harder time porting their titles to OS X.

It is important to understand that the question regarding the ARM transition is not “if”, it is “when”. As the A-series chipsets become more and more powerful, it makes more and more sense to begin the switch. Fortunately for consumers, Apple has already gone through two system architecture transitions (PowerPC and Intel) so the ride shouldn’t be too bumpy. In fact, the transition to Intel was one of the smoothest that the computer industry has ever seen.

Should I buy a MacBook or iPad

Whether you’re a road warrior or often find yourself leaving on a jet plane in the name of your career, you likely have an arsenal of gadgets you bring along in your carry-on luggage. But is that laptop really necessary, or could you save both space and weight by swapping it out for a tablet? It truly depends on the nature of your job.

A good rule of thumb is that if your job has you producing a large amount of content, you’re better off sticking with your trusty MacBook. However, if it’s more likely you’re just consuming content, then an iPad will certainly be sufficient.

Should there be any possibility you’ll be doing a lot of typing, having a MacBook will definitely make life easier. The touchscreen keyboard on the iPad is not conducive to working on larger documents or lengthier emails, despite the fact that the suite of iWork programs is available as a series of well-equipped iPad apps. Of course, you can also bring along a portable Bluetooth keyboard or use a case with one built in, but they still don’t compare to having a proper computer for document creation and editing.

A MacBook is also a better choice than an iPad if you’re delivering a Keynote presentation and aren’t entirely sure you can connect to the projector you’re using via Bluetooth. While the Keynote and Keynote Remote apps on iPad are great, that stunning presentation you spent hours on won’t be doing you any favors unless you can show it off.

You’ll be glad you have your MacBook handy in a variety of other situations as well. If there’s a chance you’ll be given information via a disc or thumb drive to review, you won’t have to figure out how to get it via email or the cloud instead. If you’re in one of the many hotels worldwide that still provide Wi-Fi only in the lobby and leave you limited by an Ethernet cord in your room, you’ll be glad for your MacBook. Furthermore, it’s a great charging station for your peripheral devices, reducing the number of cords you’ll have to pack and the need to search out enough plugs.

All that being said, there is definitely a lot of merit in taking an iPad along on your next business trip instead. Not only will it allow you to pack a smaller bag and save your back from the added weight, but it’s extremely portable and boasts a number of useful features.

If you’re mainly reading – emails, reports, blogs, you name it – then an iPad is ideal. It’s also more than sufficient for accessing your email, keeping your social media accounts up to date and tweaking a few documents via iWork. With the right app, it can allow you to go paperless, signing and emailing contracts right on it with the use of a stylus. You can also upload photographs with a simple camera adapter kit, and do a little more typing with one of the aforementioned options to bring a keyboard.

The iPad is a great option for anyone concerned with battery life and the possibility of not having anywhere to plug their MacBook in. So long as you have 3G or Wi-Fi, you’ll always be able to get online. And it’s ideal for situations where you have a limited amount of elbow room, like on an airplane or in a crowded press conference.

If you’re unsure of the situations you may find yourself in while traveling for business, taking your MacBook along is certainly a safer bet. It gives you the most options for completing your work, viewing files and connecting to the Internet. However, if you know exactly what you’re heading into and prefer to be extremely mobile, your iPad should certainly cover most of the bases for you.