The new "low" to "mid" Apple laptop lineup has become very confusing now. I've tried putting together a chart of the notable differences between the models ranging from $1200 to $1600. The similarities aren't that important - they all have 8GB of RAM configurable to 16GB; they all have configurable SSDs; they all have higher CPU configurations. All for more money. I left off the TBMBP intentionally. The differences there are easy to identify - 25W quad-core CPUs, more ports, etc. There is no confusing a choice to get those if processing power is what you want. I also left off the last-gen MBA intentionally. The differences there are also easy to identify - USB-A ports, magsafe, low-res screen, old keyboard, old trackpad. It's a great machine and a super value, but there is no confusion in selecting it. Adapt a copy of the chart in Google Docs for your own use! Sources: https://www.apple.com/macbook/specs/ https://www.apple.com/macbook-air/specs/ https://www.apple.com/macbook-pro/specs/ And users helping me out below. How the heck is someone supposed to choose a model? The differences are pretty minor, and there is no one obvious best model, or best bang for buck model. For example, if a college student asked me which Mac to get for normal classroom stuff with a budget of $1300 - I wouldn't really know which to recommend. EDIT: Taking a look, I think the differences between the 3 models are as follows: The nTB MBP should really be called the MBPjr in my opinion. That isn't meant as a dig, I just don't think it's really a "Pro" Mac like the other quad-core models with the truly powerful CPUs. It is for those that want a bit more processing power and particularly for those working with visual arts due to the better screen. For example, light photography manipulation or video editing. Also, it might be a better choice for those that run light matlab sims, compile code, etc. These are tasks where the higher power CPU will be a benefit. Thus, the MBPjr is the better choice for a STEM college student. The rMB is actually not such a bad deal considering the base SSDs are larger. Compare the 256GB rMB with the 256GB MBA - the rMB is $100 cheaper, but has a slightly lesser CPU. Also, it has less ports, a worse webcam, a last-gen keyboard, and a slightly smaller screen. If portability is at the top of a priority list, the rMB is the better choice though. I wouldn't recommend the rMB to a college student. That leaves the new MBA - who is it for? It is for people that don't plan on doing anything that might need sustained CPU power, but want an additional port, an extra inch of screen, a better webcam, a slightly better keyboard, and the slightly better battery life. The new MBA might be the best choice for a non-STEM college student.