Oldest Mac you would buy today?

kingston73

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Original poster
Dec 23, 2015
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So it's 2020, I'm considering buying my first mac ever. I've had iphones for years, an ipad since the ipad 2, and airpods. I figure I might as well fully commit and go all in but I really don't NEED a mac so I'm looking at used ones on Swappa and other similar sites. What is the oldest mac you could consider buying today? It would mainly be for surfing the internet on the couch but I'd occasionally use it for typing assignments, making presentations for my students (I'm a high school teacher). Nothing high level or resource intense.

I'd prefer keeping things under $300 if that's reasonable but I could see myself going up to maybe $500 if neccessary. Looking at swappa there are 2012's that start in the mid $200's, [macbook Pro's (13 inch).] up to 2015 Pro's (15 inch) for around $500.

Suggestions and opinions are very welcome, thank you.
 
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junkw

macrumors 6502
Jun 25, 2010
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Haifa, Israel
I'd choose a 15" 2014 or 2015 with iGPU

The 15" 2013 had ghosting issues
And less than 2013 will probably be considered unsupported for next macOS versions
- - Post merged: - -
 
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vertical smile

macrumors 601
Sep 23, 2014
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It would depend on the specs of the Mac, but the oldest Mac I would get to be my primary Mac would be a 2010/2012 Mac Pro.

For other models:

iMac would probably be a decent spec Late 2012.

Mac Mini decent spec Late 2012.

Any of the Laptops, I would go 2013-2015, although I personally prefer a desktop as my primary Mac.

Each one of these would probably be the best deal on price and longevity. They will all continue to get security updates for the next 2+ years.
 
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maflynn

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May 3, 2009
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Laptops, I would largely avoid at this point, desktops, I have a 2015 iMAc and its still going strong (though only my kids are using it). So if I were to buy a Mac in 2020, a 2015 iMac could probably be the oldest for me.
 

Falhófnir

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Aug 19, 2017
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Another vote for the 2014 or 2015 15" MBP - at reasonable prices these should be solid performers and have a good few years life left in them for office type productivity and surfing.
 
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Infinite Vortex

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Mar 6, 2015
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Personally I probably wouldn't go past 2015 or so, especially for a laptop. There's an ageing battery you need to consider and replacements aren't exactly cheap. Then there are many that have display coating issues. This would probably get you out of budget although you do want to have a good experience and I can't see you having that with something that greater than 5-6 years old.
 

iluvmacs99

macrumors 6502
Apr 9, 2019
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So it's 2020, I'm considering buying my first mac ever. I've had iphones for years, an ipad since the ipad 2, and airpods. I figure I might as well fully commit and go all in but I really don't NEED a mac so I'm looking at used ones on Swappa and other similar sites. What is the oldest mac you could consider buying today? It would mainly be for surfing the internet on the couch but I'd occasionally use it for typing assignments, making presentations for my students (I'm a high school teacher). Nothing high level or resource intense.

I'd prefer keeping things under $300 if that's reasonable but I could see myself going up to maybe $500 if neccessary. Looking at swappa there are 2012's that start in the mid $200's, [macbook Pro's (13 inch).] up to 2015 Pro's (15 inch) for around $500.

Suggestions and opinions are very welcome, thank you.
If you are just getting a Mac as a standalone system, then what you are looking at with the 2012 Macs I presume would be fine since it can run either Mojave or Catalina. If, however, you are looking to build an Apple eco-system (which I am sensing you are) since you had listed iPhones and iPads and use the Mac to backup and sync to your iPhone, then you may run into issues if you get a new Phone through a plan upgrade and your used Mac will eventually run into issues where the OS is too old to allow syncing between phone and Mac due to lacking security updates. If you don't ever plan to sync or build an Apple eco-system around your Apple products, then the 2012 Macs will have about 2+ years of security updates left assuming that Apple drops OS upgrade for 2012 Macs in 2020.

Apple's Macbook series from late 2012 to 2019 all seemed to have some issues with keyboards, power and the like. When people sell a recent Mac, you need to watch out whether they are dumping them because they are a problem waiting for it to happen or simply a computer that Apple just couldn't get it fixed and is a lemon. It does happen, so find out why they are selling those Macbook Pros.
 

vertical smile

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Sep 23, 2014
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Apple's Macbook series from late 2012 to 2019 all seemed to have some issues with keyboards, power and the like.
not sure 2014-2015 have keyboard problems?
The 2016 models started the Keyboard issues.

The biggest issues that I remember for the pre-2016 laptops were the delamination issues, which would be very apparent for anyone shopping which also include the 2016 and 2017 models, and the battery issues which I think were on the 2015+.

EDIT: I think 2015 MB was the first one with the butterfly keyboard, but I think the problem really started to become apparent in 2016. The Butterfly keyboard didn't make it into the MBP until the one that was released in Oct of 2016.
 
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a2jack

macrumors 6502
Feb 5, 2013
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Mac Mini late 2012 ,referb. Under $300 for an i5. Around $450 for an i7. Try 'Mac Of All Trades' ,they have a sale on. a2
 
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Reflej0

macrumors member
Jan 3, 2020
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It depends on the use, leaving aside the resale of the equipment in the future.
I know that the Macbooks Pro of 2012, 2013 that once were top of the line today give a monstrous performance yet.
The same goes for the iMacs of 2013.
But there are two issues to consider:
  • Graphic performance: I think this link clears all doubts, basically any mac that has a graphics that does not start with Intel is better than one with Intel.
  • Status: In the portable equipment, charge cycles are important where you can observe it in this link. And in non-portable devices, the thermal paste of the CPU is important (where it cannot be observed anywhere).
There are issues that maybe someone thinks they should include as SSD discs or RAM memory speed (DDR3 / DDR4) but unfortunately it is perhaps not as relevant since today there are iMac with fusion discs (somewhat old) and Macbook with DDR3 memories .

Personally I would look for a 2015/2017 iMac (if money allows) with a dedicated GPU to be "quiet."
Or else I would look for a 2017/2018 Macbook / Macbook Air to be "quiet" in normal tasks.
 

Erehy Dobon

macrumors 6502a
Feb 16, 2018
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Based on the abysmal quality of MacBook keyboard design over the past few years, I wouldn't try to purchase anything but the currently available models.

I have a MacBook Air 2019 with a 3rd generation "improved" [sic] butterfly keyboard, but I have no confidence that this one's keyboard will last as long other older MacBooks I have owned. As far as I can tell, any MacBook keyboard using the butterfly mechanism is questionable.

Apple has a sweeping multi-year, multi-product line, multi-model repair program for this particular issue. Not a ringing endorsement for this particular technology, is it?

My Air 2019 replaced a MacBook 2017 (the discontinued line) which in turn replaced a non-Retina 11" Air from 2013. My Air has the best display. My 2013 had the best keyboard.

The 2017 MB had by far the worst keyboard; it was a pretty machine but not particularly capable at anything except being an anorexic supermodel. There are other super-thin notebook computers today, its looks weren't enough to keep the product line alive.
 
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avz

macrumors 6502a
Oct 7, 2018
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I would not go older than a mid-2010 13-inch MacBook Pro. It supports APFS natively and will be perfect for surfing the net and HD media playback.
 

bunnspecial

macrumors 604
May 3, 2014
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Aside from my Mac Pro 5,1(2010 upgraded to 2012 CPUs), I am a daily heavy user of a 2012 15" "classic"(non-retina) MBP, AKA MBP 9,1. This is a model with a bit of a cult following-the pre-Retina form factor was the last with a built in optical drive, if that's your thing, or when you come to the point of realizing that you haven't used the ODD in a couple of years you can inexpensively add a ton more storage space. The computer mostly operates off a 1tb SSD, but I have a 2tb spinner in it for big files I want with me but where I don't necessarily need fast access speeds. The 2012s specifically are the only ones of this form factor with USB 3.0, and the 15" 2012s are among the few dGPU computers without GPU issues. This was also the last model available with an anti-glare(matte) screen, which I have.

With that said, I've been traveling a lot more lately, and that computer is a pain to lug around. For that reason, I bought a 2015 13" Pro that I primarily use when traveling. There again, the 2015s are sort of the last of their kind-they have the good feeling and reliable scissor keyboard, no touchbar, and USB-A ports(plus other useful ones like HDMI and built-in SD readers). These have PCIe SSDs that you can replace yourself-I actually saved some money by buying one with a 128gb drive and buying a 512gb separately(the 2015s can use NVMe natively-I'd have actually gone that route as opposed to an Apple OEM AHCI but had bought the 512gb in anticipation of a deal for a 2013 that fell through, and NVMe is supposed to be buggy in 2013s). I REALLY didn't appreciate just how good the battery life is until I actually used it, but it blows me away-I can reliably get 5 hours out of it, and can stretch that longer if I'm really careful. The drive especially makes it FEEL very fast, although if I'm really hammering the CPU my 2012(which is a quad vs. dual) still get the job done faster.

The 2015 iGPU 15"s are good computers. In fact, I helped a few folks at work spec them out when they wanted an alternative to the USB-C only touchbar models(for a while they were still available along side the TBs). When I was shopping a little while back, though, they were running a lot more than $500 for good ones. $500 was more in the range of 13"(in fact that's what I paid for mine). I'd suggest getting 16gb of RAM to future proof. In addition, you want one with the best battery health you can find. The pre-Retina MBPs and also the older non-retina MBAs make for a relatively easy DIY battery replacement as they are screwed in(you often need special screwdrivers, but those aren't difficult to find and if you buy replacements from Newertech, you get the correct drivers). The non-Retina machines usually run ~$100 for a quality aftermarket replacement(Newertech) or ~$130 for Apple to install a factory battery if still available. The Retinas are a different story-the battery is glued in, and while DIY replacement is possible it's not for the faint of heart. Newertech will sell you the battery for under $100, while Apple charges $200 to do it for you. I would avoid buying one with a bad battery unless it was priced to make replacement worthwhile.
 

JimmyG

macrumors member
Oct 19, 2019
40
18
Hudson Valley NY
So it's 2020, I'm considering buying my first mac ever. I've had iphones for years, an ipad since the ipad 2, and airpods. I figure I might as well fully commit and go all in but I really don't NEED a mac so I'm looking at used ones on Swappa and other similar sites. What is the oldest mac you could consider buying today? It would mainly be for surfing the internet on the couch but I'd occasionally use it for typing assignments, making presentations for my students (I'm a high school teacher). Nothing high level or resource intense.

I'd prefer keeping things under $300 if that's reasonable but I could see myself going up to maybe $500 if neccessary. Looking at swappa there are 2012's that start in the mid $200's, [macbook Pro's (13 inch).] up to 2015 Pro's (15 inch) for around $500.

Suggestions and opinions are very welcome, thank you.
Hi kingston73,

Sounds like you're looking at Macbook Pros which, IMHO, wold be a great choice for portability...your being a teacher, and all.

First thing would be to understand how Apple regards their older computers when it comes to servicing and support...I'd recommend giving this page a good read...

Vintage and obsolete products - Apple Support:

...my point here being, I hate to see folks spend good money and not get their money's worth or serviceable longetivity.

That being the case, if you can find a "2015 Pro's (15 inch) for around $500" I'd suggest this would be a much better choice than any "2012's that start in the mid $200's" as the latter is already on their Obsolete list.

So my simple shopping plan recommendations would be...

• The newer the better, within your budget.

• Be mindful of the numerous caveats fellow posters are bringing to light here, understanding that no particular model was ever perfect (read: there were no "truly bad" Macbook Pros, don't sweat the small stuff).

• Go shopping, and have some fun with your "new" computer!

Hope that helps! Keep us posted on what you decide!

:)
Jimmy G
 

a2jack

macrumors 6502
Feb 5, 2013
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Buying a used laptop is always a risk. Many have spent their lives 'on the road', sliding off car tops, cooking in the heat, freezing in winter.

Desktops have usually had a more pampered life, inside in an office or home.

If you really don't need potability, go with an iMac or Mini. These machines are far more easy to upgrade and cost less. a2
 
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mward333

macrumors 6502a
Jan 24, 2004
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I still dearly love my
MacBook Pro 17" (Late 2011), 2.5 GHz Core i7
One (of the two) graphics cards in it eventually died, and I even shipped it away to have the machine fixed, so that it can continue to hobble along, using the other graphics card.
This computer is a beast. Even though it is admittedly heavy, there are times when having a 17" laptop is really helpful.

To answer your question, though, I would recommend the 2015 Macbook Air. I am a professor and we have bought a ton of these in my research group. They are durable; you can find them with an i7 processor; and I am satisfied with their ability to do real work. Admittedly, I am often using them to simply connect to an (external) server, but I still really value those machines! Highly recommended!
 

TwoH

macrumors regular
May 19, 2019
148
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iMac-wise anything 2012 upwards, in terms of macbooks, I love my 2014 13" and can't see myself getting anything older than that.
 
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Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
18,261
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You're probably gonna have to spend more then $300-500 to get anything decent.

Mini -- 2012 or later.
iMac -- 2015 or later, preferably at least 2017 (for USBc)
MacBook Pro -- the 2012 NON-retina can be upgraded easily if you can find one in decent shape. Otherwise, get a 2015, BUT NOT 2016, 2017, 2018 (because of the defective butterfly keyboards).
 

firelighter487

macrumors regular
Apr 30, 2014
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Personally I probably wouldn't go past 2015 or so, especially for a laptop. There's an ageing battery you need to consider and replacements aren't exactly cheap.
My 2012 MacBook Pro has a battery from 2013 (according to Istat and 689 cycles. it's at 85% now and Istat says that I still have like 4 hours of life left.

a battery in an old machine with a ton of cycles I would avoid, but if it wasn't used that much it's likely fine.
- - Post merged: - -

Buying a used laptop is always a risk. Many have spent their lives 'on the road', sliding off car tops, cooking in the heat, freezing in winter.
I've always had luck with used MacBooks. all of them that I bought were good machines (except for a 15" 2011 but those are known to be unreliable)

Laptops, I would largely avoid at this point
why? 2016 and up sure because of the bad keyboard, but 2012 to 2015 13" MBP's were very reliable machines. the older 13" MBP's were too but I wouldn't go older than 2012 due to support.
 

Saturn007

macrumors 6502
Jul 18, 2010
380
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Battery cycles matter a lot, but so does the rated health or capacity of the battery. I have an aging 2013 MBA and it has 800 cycles on it now, but it's at 80% of the original design capacity and its health is Good, according to Coconut Battery.

Still, ceteris paribus, low cycle count is the way to go!
 

naerct

macrumors member
Mar 19, 2019
89
14
Southern NH
There's a lot of good advice on this post, and a lot of variety, depending on your specific needs. Since I'm retired, all my Macs are long in the tooth. The OP listed only basic duties, so I'm going to throw out anything before 2012. I still have my original 2009 4-core cMP (for sale <$500) as well as a 12-core powerhouse with dual 3.33GHz CPUs 48GB RAM RX 580 with 8GB VRAM and a NVMe PCI card that holds 2 blades and gets PCI 3 speeds, 2800MB/s. They are great, but are now stuck at Mojave. I also have the 2012 13" MBP and have dual 500GB SSDs (replaced the DVD player). It works great and is on 15.2, but that is likely to be its last OS. I have a lot to say about laptops and iMacs, but have lost track of the Mini. Go get the free App, Mactracker, it has all the specs on every Mac ever made. Here's my recommendations, but more aptly what to stay away from. I believe 2012 was the first year that most Macs had two major advancements, Thunderbolt and USB3. If you have much to do externally and backup your computer, it's nice to have fast in/out ports. USB2 just doesn't cut it anymore, unless your transfers are in kilobytes. The only problem is that most of the 2012 units will be stuck in Catalina. The other thing to stay away from is spindle HDDs, since they are really too slow as boot drives. That goes for the Fusion drives as well. Some of the drives are replaceable, but not for the inexperienced, and many of the SSDs are permanently attached. So, you will have to pay the ransom for Apple RAM, at least for the laptops. I just got a 2019 iPad, and it is amazingly fast (RISC) and nimble online. Like my iPhone 7 (and the newer MBPs) it has a fingerprint (or facial) device that makes using secure passwords so simple. I use 1Password with about 20 characters, and the ability to use the fingerprint access is amazing. On my old iPad, I had to log in every time I needed a password, or to double check it... I would also consider the MBA as it is less powerful than a MBP (not for major photo editing) but still should be fine for most computing. Good Luck.
 

firelighter487

macrumors regular
Apr 30, 2014
177
18
The Netherlands
I also have the 2012 13" MBP and have dual 500GB SSDs (replaced the DVD player). It works great and is on 15.2, but that is likely to be its last OS.
doubt it. it's still listed as "supported" on Mactracker rather than Vintage, and it was sold from 2012 to 2016, so a long long time. I doubt Apple will drop it, since it's one of the most popular MacBooks of all time.