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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

Moving up to the 27-inch models you'll find a 3.2GHz quad-core, Intel Core i5 (£1,449) or 3.4GHz quad-core, Intel Core i5 (£1599), which feature faster 1TB hard drives, more powerful NVIDIA graphics processors, and 8GB RAM which can be upgraded easily by the user to 16 or 32GB. For the very best though you'll need to go to the amazing iMac with 5K retina display (£1999), which boasts top notch components and of course that gorgeous display.

As with the MacBook Airs, you can upgrade various aspects of each iMac, including RAM, storage, and in some cases the CPU. The entry-level iMac is a notable exception, having only the option to upgrade the storage. We would definitely recommend this, as the extra £200 spent on a Fusion drive will noticeably improve the day to day performance.

iMac vs MacBook Air: Comparing the choices

With computers being so powerful these days, it makes good financial sense to not overpay for features you'll most likely never use. If your intended use for your device involves not much more than general media consumptions (watching films, listening to music), internet browsing, social media, and office-style productivity, then you should consider the entry-level models in both the iMac and MacBook Air line up.

While the MacBook Airs are still powerful laptops, they are intended more for day-to-day use rather than serious content creation, or computationally demanding task such as gaming. So, if these are your goals, then the more powerful iMacs will be a better fit, or indeed a MacBook Pro. If you're into photography or videography then the colour rich, expansive screens, and larger storage, of the iMacs are a distinct advantage when it comes to reviewing and editing your media.

But, of course, if you're a student, travel a lot with work, or don't have a lot of space at home to dedicate to a desk, the MacBook Airs are amazingly light, and will get most jobs done with little fuss.

iMac vs MacBook Air: How the cheapest models compare

At first glance the £749 11-inch MacBook Air and £899 21-inch entry level iMac might seem a world apart, but they actually share much of their internal components. In fact the iMac has the same 1.4GHz dual-core, Intel Core i5 CPU as all the MacBook Airs, and also shares the same graphical capabilities. It's no great surprise then that when we compared the iMac and the 11-inch MacBook Air in our labs we discovered that the MacBook Air actually managed to outperform its big brother in some areas, scoring 139 in our Speedmark 9 tests, compared to the 116 score of the entry-level iMac.


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