Best Mac Laptop for Longevity

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by spellflower, Nov 7, 2016.

  1. spellflower macrumors regular

    Jun 7, 2005
    I've been using my 2007 Macbook since I got it over 8 years ago. It still works, but due to software limitations it's time to upgrade.

    I'd like to get as long as possible out of my next Mac too.

    I'm pretty sure the bottom-of-the-line Air would meet all my needs.* But will it last me for the next 8 years?

    I know I don't need the power of a quadcore 15" Pro now, but is it worth the money in the long run if it remains viable for years longer than the Air?

    Should I spend the money now and reap the benefits for years to come? Or would I be wasting money on speed and features I really don't need and never will?

    What's the sweet spot for long-term value?

    *My main uses are web browsing, Netflix, Spotify, DVD's, email, LibreOffice, GarageBand recording, and minimal photo editing. I prefer laptops because I like to be able to work in different places around the house, but I rarely need to travel with my computer, so I'm not concerned with size or weight. A bigger screen would be nice for watching movies, but I could also take the money I saved and buy an external display for that purpose.
  2. Obi Wan Kenobi, Nov 8, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2016

    Obi Wan Kenobi macrumors 6502

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    Mar 9, 2011
    London, UK
    I think your best value option for longevity is a 2016 MacBook Pro. The screen size and whether to have a touch bar are matters of personal preference / budget.

    You are right about the 13" MBA, in that it would fulfil your needs for now (I have the 2015 model and I'm very happy with it), but Tim Cook made it clear at the MacBook Pro launch that MacBook Pros are the future of laptops for Apple now. The 13" MBP weighs about the same as the Air and is smaller than the Air, and has a better screen than the Air. The MBA's reason d'etre is no more.

    You say you want to get as long as possible out of your next Mac, I think an MBA would be an unwise purchase at this point. Whereas a MacBook Pro will be 'current' for many years to come (judging by what Apple's being doing with its 'Pro' line). I think these machines will give you great value in the long term.

    The gains in processor speed and power we used to see aren't happening any more. Intel is reaching the limits of what is possible with this technology. The new chips simply use lower power and are more efficient. Therefore if you buy the current tech, you can reasonably expect long usage, with minimal slow down as new OSs come out in the years to come, because the newer machines aren't going to be much faster.

    As for which processor or whether to get extra RAM. I think the base level will be good enough to give you the lifespan you are used to for the tasks you describe.

    I think this is an excellent time to buy a machine if you're going to keep it for several years. I just wish they were cheaper.
  3. Willo34 macrumors regular


    Feb 5, 2015
    I would go for a 2012 MacBook. It's the last model you can upgrade as much as your current machine. All nice and well the newer Mac's, but it's basically a one stop shop. You can't change what's in there apart from an more RAM etc.
  4. Buggyflayer macrumors regular

    Nov 13, 2014
    West Sussex, UK
    If you're doing Garage-Band and Photos you should think about the size of SSD. I found that with only 128GB built-in it wasn't long before I purchased a 128GB Transcend Jet-Drive for the SD slot for Photos & iTunes, using built-in storage for fast audio manipulation.

    My Mid 2012 Air is now 4 years old. The battery is under 60% health. It still works great but I'm not convinced that I want to invest in both a large SSD and new battery for it so have begun looking at options.

    If finance has any bearing, given the price of the new Pro and that you don't need that power, buy a new Air with the guarantee but don't buy the base model, get one with a decent sized SSD and more RAM too. Then, even if you throw it away after 4 years you're no worse off per year than buying the 15" Pro. If the increased outlay isn't a factor, buy the 15" its a much better specced machine than the new 13" Pro. If you get into things like Ableton with Software instruments you'll appreciate the power :)
  5. Brammy macrumors 65816

    Sep 17, 2008
    My recommendation is to get the best option in the size you want.

    I do not think the MacBook will stand the test of the time. The Core M processor I feel will become slower and slower as macOS evolves.

    I'd recommend a Maxxed out 2015 or 2016 MacBook Pro. Get the i7, Max Ram, and Max Storage.
  6. StayPuft Suspended


    Mar 22, 2016
    Mac and "longevity" aren't traditionally used in the same sentence. Having said that, get as new as you can afford. You run the risk of planned obsolescence if you buy something a bit too old.
  7. Pakaku macrumors 68000


    Aug 29, 2009
    If that's all you do, I can't see why your current laptop isn't doing the job. Do you just want a new laptop for no particular reason?

    Since your needs aren't that processor-heavy, I would probably avoid the current Macbook and anything newer, because the keyboard key-travel distance is atrocious to type on. Unless you plan to use a USB keyboard, but then you're still out of luck without a dongle, and who uses a USB keyboard with a laptop anyways?
  8. Trusteft, Nov 13, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2016

    Trusteft macrumors 6502


    Nov 5, 2014
    Longevity and laptops don't usually go hand in hand. Plus when something will go wrong, it will be a $#%* to fix. I will give a different suggestion. If you are set to go for an Apple laptop, go for a Macbook. Get a good USB hub/dongle so that you don't abuse the single USB port, and you are set. Why? Because of its fanless design. In general the fewer mechanical parts, the better in the long run. It has zero mechanical parts, including lack of fan. It's not very powerful but you don't need that anyway. The huge downside is the single port which if it goes back you are in trouble. That's why I suggested a usb hub. EDIT: Also to make the laptop survive as long as possible, use an external keyboard and mouse. The laptop will look like new for years to come.

    Of course if you can wait few months to see if Apple releases something more interesting in terms of desktop systems (mini mainly), and the eventual refresh of the Macbook, hopefully they will add another USB port and/or upgrade to TB 3.
  9. spellflower, Dec 10, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016

    spellflower thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 7, 2005
    I don't know why some of you have this idea that longevity and laptops are mutually exclusive concepts. As I said, my current machine, a 2007 MacBook, is over 8 years old and still running fine.

    The only reason I'm replacing it is because it's not capable of running supported versions of software that I need. That means, for instance, that since upgrading my phone's iOS, I can no longer sync it with my computer, as it now requires a version of iTunes that my computer can't run.

    So it really comes down to software compatibility. The question is: how much longer do high-end laptops continue to be supported vs. low-end machines released the same year? And does this make them more cost-effective in the long-run?

    I decided to answer the question myself by making a table with the relevant information. It took a while, but here it is:

    As you can see, based on the historical data, it does NOT save you money to buy a high-end machine; even if it's supported longer, you're still paying more per year. True, the savings decrease a bit when you buy a slightly upgraded version of the low-end machine, and if the high-end model has features and speed you need now, that's another story. But even if you have to replace a low-end machine 3 years earlier than a high-end one, you're still saving money.

    Of course, it's hard to say how things will change in the future; as technology changes, the patterns of the past may be broken. Capitan could continue to receive security updates for years to come, making a June 2007 MBP an even better bargain. But Apple could also push the current MBP into obsolescence three years from now. If anyone has any input on which is more likely, I'm all ears!
  10. StrawberryX macrumors member

    Jun 14, 2013
    For longevity it should be a laptop where you can change the battery.
    We have a 15" powerbook G4, 15" macbook pro, unibody macbook, white ibook, 11" macbook air with replacable battery, 13" macbook air with non replacable battery.
    And 2 mac pro desktops.

    All work exept the 15" macbook pro graphic card is toast, most macs will just become to slow, like the powerbook ...
    Only thing that needs replacement is the battery and best to keep them on the fastest OS for the laptop.

    If security and web is very important, the newest stable OS is nice.

    But the problem with the later macbooks is, when the battery starts sucking, you can throw them away.
    I wouldn't buy a 3000 euro/dollar + machine that has such a short lifespan.
  11. spellflower thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 7, 2005
    Great point, StrawberryX! Are the new machines' batteries really not replaceable? Even by the Genius Bar? I've finally gotten over the fact that I won't be able to upgrade RAM, but a soldered battery might just push me to buy an iMac and a netbook instead of a MacBook.
  12. Brammy macrumors 65816

    Sep 17, 2008
    The thing is, the laptops that have the fully serviceable parts -- like my beloved 2011 MBP -- while they will still run for a few more years, unless you don't upgrade the OS and apps eventually while they will still turn on and work, are for all practical purposes unusable.

    That said, the one issue I have with the chart is laptops like my 2011 MBP can still work well for a year or two past their obsolescent date of Apple. So, the lifespan of that laptop is closer to 7 years than the 5 of the chart. It's a decent enough measuring stick, though.

    When I look at the sacrifices I made on the cost of my 2011 15" (I think I paid 1800 for it) is mainly that I didn't get the 1gb video card option. That said, I don't think the RAM of the card would make my games play better since the bottleneck is on the GPU speed.

    I love my Air, but I'm wishing I either got the 8g model with the i7, or gotten a 13" Pro with the retina screen.

    When I replace my 2011 Pro, I think I'm going to do a BTO for the 1TB SSD option. I think the most bang for my buck is still an i7 with a 1tb SSD. Since I can't replace the SSD, I'm better off getting that size. By the time I'm done jumping a 13" to an i7 and 1TB of storage, I might as well spend the extra money and get the quad-core i7 and dGPU.
  13. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    Not sure if I follow you here. The battery can be replaced on all current Mac Laptops and the price doesn't strike me as unreasonable. IMO, if you plan to keep the computer for a long time you should just price that into the purchase - it's $129 for the MBA for example. There are also third party sources.

    I sold my 2011 MBA to a close friend, she is still using it with the original battery. My 2013 MBA still gets almost as long run time as when it was new. In 2014, the battery totally died on my 2008 15" MBP. It is removable and easily replaced, but why would I waste the money to fix a computer that is so big, heavy and slow by today's standards? The battery is also probably dead on my 2003 PowerBook G4. But It don't know for sure since the whole computer died when I fired it up last winter. Again, why would I waste money repairing such an antique? ;)
  14. Pugly macrumors regular

    Jun 7, 2016
    Most of the end of support was because of a lack of hardware features. I think we just recently had computers lose support for macOS Sierra for no discernible reason.

    It's interesting to look at, but going back 10 years was really a different time in computers... there were still significant updates to hardware every year. Lately the significant changes has slowed. Look at the MBA since it switched to core i5 and i7 cpus... they haven't really changed much. I don't see a reason for Apple to drop support for these systems...

    Plus the macOS changes are really more os refinements, than overhauls and changes to fundamental systems that requires a hard cut off of hardware support.

    Air or Pro... these computers will be supported for a long time... software wise. Apple officially turns these computers into vintage after 5 years, and then stops supporting after 7 years.

    So no matter what you get, it should be supported for a very long time.
  15. Left4DeadBoy macrumors regular


    Sep 20, 2015
  16. Mainsail, Dec 12, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016

    Mainsail macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2010
    The thing I like most about Apple Laptops is they seem to last a long time. My kids all use MacBooks for school, and they get 5 plus years out of problem. That said, no matter which MacBook you select, I think 8 years is going to be a stretch. Obviously, there are folks with working 8 y.o. MacBooks, but you are probably going to run into performance and software update issues.

    Another approach is to not be focused on the 8 years. For example, you can buy a 13in 2015 MBA 8gb RAM 128GB storage for ~$800 when on sale at BB. Let's say it lasts you 5 years....That's $160 per year. Pretty good value.
  17. spellflower thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 7, 2005
    Based on my chart, the average supported lifespan of a Mac laptop is somewhere around 7.5 years. Of course, that assumes that the machine is still operational. My 8 year-old MacBook, I confess, does not have the original hard drive, battery, or charger, and the RAM is maxed out past what Apple officially recognizes (thanks, Crucial!)

    I recognize that I've had a better than average run, and I won't be sad if my next machine doesn't beat this record. But I'd like to do everything I can to better my odds, which is why I started the thread.

    My conclusion is that there is no good reason to think that one model will continue to be supported for significantly longer than another, so I should focus on other variables in deciding which to buy.
  18. andreyush macrumors 6502


    Oct 24, 2015
    So my 2012 rmbp will be "vintage" next year? Nice xD...
  19. jamesaberry macrumors newbie

    Jul 17, 2007
    I bought my last MBPro in 2007. Refurbished. It's had a RAM bump and I've swapped the HD for an SSD - which made a big difference. It needs a new power brick, the facetime camera and bluetooth has stopped working. I'm going through the same dilemma you are too.

    I got a refurbished MBPro 13" Retina (2.9/16/512) and returned it after reconsidering; If I'm keeping the computer for ten years again, then I think the new 2016 one is the way to go. I've paid for the 1Tb drive and the extra RAM, but I don't think the processor speed bump is worth it.

    Hoping the battery life isn't as dire as everyone says.

    I wanted the USB C and the light, thin machine. I fly a lot.
  20. StrawberryX, Dec 15, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2016

    StrawberryX macrumors member

    Jun 14, 2013
    Just depends on what you expect from longetivety :)

    But with a powerbook, you can still buy a brand new battery today not from Apple.
    I don't think that will be the case for the TB Macbook pro.
    And for power, that machine could be powerfull enough in 10 years ...
    The Mac Pro 1,1 is a very capable machine ...

    Powerbooks are a different story, but a lot of intel macs are pretty powerfull and could run most OS's, apps if apple would allow you.
  21. alex0002 macrumors 6502

    Jun 19, 2013
    New Zealand
    The 13-inch 2012 cMBP has replaceable RAM and Disk/SSD and iFixit guide shows how to replace the battery.
    It runs the latest macOS Sierra 10.12 which should be supported for some time.

    The 2015 rMBP and MBA 13-inch are more modern and should retain operating system and spare parts support for longer, but servicing is going to be more difficult after the end of warranty.

    The 2016 MBP models appear to be very difficult to service, with only the non Touchbar 13-inch having a replaceable SSD. These models might be possible to repair at an official Apple repair centre for quite some time, but perhaps there will not be many third party repair options.

    The risk here is that you might not live close to an Apple repair centre and the overall price to repair might be unreasonable for what will then be an older machine.

    Apple notebooks tend to be reliable, but unless your work requires it, avoid anything with a dGPU, as these seem to be a common point of failure in more than one model.
  22. nighthawk67 macrumors regular


    Aug 26, 2016
    Cincinnati, OH
    I'm just going to have to respectfully, but completely disagree with this statement. I have a 2013 MBA even and mine is every bit as fast as the day I bought it and I haven't had a problem with it yet. I think I could easily get another 5-6 years out of it and in today's world that would be about a 10 year old computer by the year 2022-2023 that's impressive longevity!

    But I do agree in the get as new as you can afford, it should go without saying to stay within your means, but if you can still pay the bills I would go with the highest end MBP, but that's just me, touchbar may or may not be important to your preference. Let's say you spend 2500 on the highest end MBP and get only 7 years use that comes to about $30 a month value over that period, for me, my MBA is a lot more valuable than that per month and it initially didn't even cost that much!
  23. asoksevil, Dec 16, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2016

    asoksevil macrumors 6502

    Jun 7, 2010
    Taipei, Taiwan
    2010 MBA reporting in.

    No problems whatsoever, I'm expecting another 2-3 years out of it!
  24. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    That's fine, but the OP stated "I'm pretty sure the bottom-of-the-line Air would meet all my needs". Why in the world would he get the highest end MBP?
  25. nighthawk67 macrumors regular


    Aug 26, 2016
    Cincinnati, OH
    True! Needs are one thing, but if I planned on buying a computer for the long-haul I think I'd want all the bells and whistles I could get at the time. I got the MBA as a present for graduation I would have probably preferred the MBP at the time with Retina display, because I probably won't buy another computer until I NEED one - it would have been nice to have the pro.

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