Well the choices are a little complex right now. Having gone back to Windows 10, I can say that you will get a low cost option, but you will have problems. If you go with Apple it will be largely trouble free, but expensive. So what's a person to do.
Well assuming that you are doing nothing special, there are three big decision points:
- Do you need Microsoft Office or something else that runs on the desktop. Right now for instance I use GSuite for essentially all my document processing with a fallback to Office365.com. If you don't need Office or a "real app", this expands your choices considerably. For instance, an Apple iPad is not a bad choice.
- The second question is do you have to have a big screen or not. I'm typing this on a 15" MacBook (the current one is 16") and this is good if you are a developer and want four screens. The big problem here is that there is a huge premium for these machines. They are more like $2-3K vs $1K because I think that they know they can get it from corporations who are pretty price insensitive
- As an aside, if you are a little older then you might want something with a bigger screen, although, with the current accessibility and zoom features make that less of an issue. But the zoom feature is actually pretty good to make the user interface bigger.
- If you can wait, as an aside, Apple is moving to their own proprietary silicon which promises really great imporvements in battery life.
- Final thing is that looking at the obsolescence and making sure a new model isn't down the line. For the Apple, there is Buyers Guide and pricing is easy with the Appleinsider data.
So here are your choices rated from first to less first 🙂
- MacBook Air for ordinary use. These are really good reasonable choices if you are just doing basic processing. They are designed to be the low end of the line and a really good choice if you can make them fit. This assumes that you sometimes want to use a real application but not all the time. The good news is that these are both refreshed. YOu can get them for as little as $1K plus Applecar with 2 Core 1.1GHz, 8GB of memory and 256GB of SSD. But, the sweet spot machine bumps these up in order with 16GB RAM, 4 cores and 512GB drive. Depending on your budget, these are $200 more, then another $100 to $1300. The dream machine would be moving to 512GB SSD at $1500. This is currently $100 off at $1400
- MacBook Pro 13" without Touchbar is the other choice. This is slightly heavier at 3 pounds and with 1.4GHz, 16GB, 512GB, it is $1700 with a $100 discount right now. For most people, they are not going to see the processor bump difference
Finally, the last point is that there has been some price compression at the high end (maybe the recession effect?), so the higher machines like the 6-Core 2.6GHz, 16GB memory, 512GB SSE is $2,100 or $300 off. But these are really professional range machines.
And if you are an educator or going to school, they are offering a free set of AirPods or a big discount on AirPod Pros (a way better deal), as an example $1,379 for the same (this compares to $1700 in the merchant market), plus you get $149 off of set of AirPods (so the AirPod Pro is just $90) and $200 for AppleCare+ (buy it with your American Express card to get an extra year warranty).
And if you can last say a year, the upcoming ARM-based Macs promise much better performance and battery life.
The iPad Alternative
If you don't really need real applications and can use Google Suite, then another good option is the iPad Pro which now has mouse support and a keyboard. The main advantage here is incredible battery life at 12 hours or so and an included cellular modem so you can compute just about anywhere. It is way more convenient than you think to be able to do that. The great choice is the 12.9" iPad Pro so you get the same screen size as a MacBook Air or 13" Pro.
The sweet spot price here is to the $1,249 256GB SSD with Cellular at $1249 which you can get for $1,179. For this option, you really want the $349 Magic Keyboard so it works like a laptop plus an Apple Pencil $129 is a nice addition although not necessary.
The overall price is actually higher than a MacBook Air at $1,727, but you get both an entertainment machine with longer battery, roam everywhere and a small laptop.
The Windows Alternative
Well there are two or three that make sense that are in the MacBook 13" range, but you get the price benefit, but not the support and so forth. The big question is do you want a touchscreen. Personally I have not found it that useful on my Surface Pro, but YMMV:
Dell XPS 13. At the same configured 16GB memory, 512MB SSD, it is $1250 direct so quite a bit cheaper. Their equivalent of AppleCare is 3 years of premium support $1478, but there is of course no in-store option for this.
HP Envy. This is also thin and light and a bit cheaper than the Dell equivalent at $1220 with their 3 year protection at $210.
Lenovo X3. This is the other well known laptop for the thin and light crowd, but I haven't priced on quite yet.