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iMac vs MacBook Air, find out which of Apple's Macs is best for you

Martyn Casserly | Jan. 27, 2015
We compare Apple's iMac and MacBook Air so you can judge which is the right for your needs

See also:

iMac range reviewMacBook Air vs MacBook Pro11 Best apps for working on an iPad

iMac vs MacBook Air: The current MacBook Air range

Apple has kept the MacBook Air range very simple in recent years. At the moment your choices are straightforward and really come down to the size of screen fits your needs. The two variants - the 11-inch and 13-inch - both share the same 1.4GHz Intel Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and come in either 128GB or 256GB flash-storage options. It should be noted though that neither of the current models boasts a full HD screen, and there are lots of rumours that Apple will finally introduce a retina MacBook Air sometime this year. There is also the distinct possibility that a 12-inch version will also appear, possibly to replace the current smaller model, so if the 11-inch just seems that little bit too diminutive, then it might be worth waiting until the summer.

At the moment though you can buy the 11-inch Air with 128GB of storage for £749 or 256GB for £899, and the respective 13-inch alternatives are each £100 more, at £849 (128GB) and £999 (256GB). On the Apple website you can also use the built to order options to upgrade the CPU in any of the machines to a 1.7GHz Intel Core i7 for £120. This is a decent upgrade, but we'd advise you leave this and increase the amount of RAM instead, as it can't be upgraded later and could become restrictive far quicker than the existing i5 CPU. Moving from 4GB to 8GB costs £80, and is something of an essential purchase if you want to really future-proof your device.

iMac vs MacBook Air: The current iMac range

Things are a little more complicated on the iMac side of things. There are still two screen size options - 21-inch and 27-inch - but each model within those variants comes with a different CPU and graphics capability. The base model is cheap for an iMac, coming in at £899, but a fair amount of compromises were made to achieve this price, as the 1.4GHz dual-core,Intel Core i5 CPU, Intel HD 5000 graphics, and 500GB hard drive suggests. It's fine for general, light computing, but anything more testing will soon show up its limitations.

Spend a bit extra on a 21-inch model and you'll move up to either a 2.7GHz quad-core, Intel Core i5 (£1049) or 2.9GHz quad-core, Intel Core i5 (£1199) both of which come with 1TB hard drives, 8GB RAM, and, respectively, either Intel Iris Pro graphics or an NVIDIA GeForce GT750 graphics processor. This extra horsepower would certainly make them better choices if you want to play games or edit more effects-heavy home videos.


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