This report covers Apple Macintosh laptops and desktops and the considerations involved in choosing between PCs and Macs. ConsumerSearch has separate reports on Windows-based desktop computers, gaming computers, laptops, cheap laptops and netbooks. If you are interested in the Apple iPad, iPad 2 and iPad mini, we have a separate report that covers these and other tablet computers.
Apple's MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops, and its iMac and Mac mini desktop computers, have now all been refreshed to use Intel's current third-generation Core processors, nicknamed Ivy Bridge. Ivy Bridge CPUs bring a slight performance gain and much better integrated graphics capabilities than their well-regarded Sandy Bridge predecessors.
That said, the biggest change to the MacBook Pro line is the introduction of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display: a powerful notebook with high-end components, a high-resolution display just like the iPad's much-praised screen, and a slimmed-down frame that would fit nicely into the MacBook Air line. Apple had to make a few sacrifices to cram that power into a case that small, however, which we cover later in this report. Most recently, Apple introduced a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, which is similarly gorgeous but a tad less powerful.
That 13-inch laptop was part of Apple's late 2012 round of product introductions, which also included an update of its iMac line. Those all-in-one desktops saw a move to Ivy Bridge technology, but it is the breathtaking design that drew the most oohs and ahhs. Proving beauty is more than skin deep, however, available high-end processors and discrete graphics lead critics to say that the iMac is a class leader in the all-in-one space -- Windows or Apple -- even though it lacks some niceties such as an optical drive or touch screen.
Among the options available on the new iMac is Apple's hybrid Fusion Drive, that combines a decently sized 128 GB solid-state drive (SSD) with a more than ample traditional disc drive to offer 1 TB of storage. Experts are blown away by how fast the Fusion Drive grants access to the most often-used applications and files, and how quickly it allows the iMac to boot up -- in just 15 seconds, according to some reports.
The Mac mini remains Apple's least expensive desktop computer, at least in its base configuration. However, step-up configurations offer high-end processors and the same Fusion Drive to make it anything but entry-level -- both in performance and price. That leads experts to say that the Mac mini could be the best choice among Apple desktops for those not interested in an all-in-one.
What of the Mac Pro, you say? It soldiers on, only modestly changed in recent years. Though it hasn't seen an upgrade to Sandy Bridge -- let alone Ivy Bridge -- technology, it still sports professional-grade Intel Xeon processors, making it a heavy-duty computational powerhouse best suited to power users and commercial applications. It is Apple's most user-configurable, user-upgradable and expensive computer.
When evaluating Apple laptops, desktops and tablets, we look to reviews from top sources such as PCMag.com, Macworld, CNET, Laptop Magazine and others, taking into consideration their expertise and how thoroughly they test each product. Based on their feedback, we score the computers on how well they perform and how easy they are to use -- as well as on other factors such as bang for the buck -- to find the very best choices.