So the rumors were true, the event has officially confirmed them and now the first results are in: Apple’s new MacBook Pro laptops are indeed amazing, they do have the potential of redefining what a portable computer can do in 2022 and initial reviews of either the 14- or 16-inch model are extremely positive. The Cupertino giant has met expectations regarding performance, expandability and battery life. But not all is rosy in Mac Land because, well, there can be no great transition to totally new computer architectures (like the one Apple is making all through 2021) without leaving the old ones behind. Which is something that, in light of what these new MacBook Pros revealed, consumers should be aware of, now more than ever.
With these new laptops, the company proved that there’s a well-thought-out, flexible plan in place for not only transitioning all Mac Computers to “Apple Silicon”, but building on this architecture in ways that allow for system customization and steady progress. The Cupertino giant can change the number of CPU cores, the number of GPU cores, the amount of addressable RAM or combine blocks of cores in order to build Mx-based Macs with specific usage scenarios in mind. That’s how Apple plans to proceed: M1 processors will be succeeded by M2 processors, there will be “vanilla”, “Pro” and “Max” variants, there will be differences in CPU/GPU configuration and performance depending on the power envelope of each Mac model… the possibilities are many and varied. It’s a smart approach that can work for Apple as well as for consumers (for a change).
The only problem is this: right now, we are in the middle of that transition from Intel-based Macs to Apple Silicon-based ones. We have M1-based MacBooks (Air/Pro), an M1-based Mac Mini and an M1-based iMac (24-inch), while still available are Mac Minis that are Intel-based, 27-inch iMacs (not iMac Pros) that are Intel-based and even Mac Pros (those modular tower-shaped wonders) that are Intel-based.
This is a situation that deserves consumers’ attention and, for better or worse, a fair amount of patience. Apple is already committed to (a) complete the transition of Macs to its own architecture until the end of 2022 but also to (b) continue supporting Intel-based Macs “for years to come” (Tim Cook promised as much in June 2020). If history taught us anything about this kind of situation, though, is that people should be reigning in their expectations regarding the matter of long-term support: as was the case when Apple transitioned from the PowerPC architecture to the Intel one in the mid-2000s, once the company has released its most powerful Mx-based Macs, it has little incentive to continue supporting Intel-based Macs on a software level.
The new macOS Monterey, which is just out, is also available for Intel-based Macs, yes (the M1-based version offers more features). But, realistically, the version of macOS succeeding it, the 13th, will most probably be the last one Apple makes available for the Intel platform: we would be pleasantly but extremely surprised if the company developed a full macOS version for those computers in 2023. This means that consumers considering buying an Intel-based Mac now — be it a Mac Mini, a 27-inch iMac or even a Mac Pro — should only be expecting security updates for the OS of those computers from 2023 going forward…
…and, well, that is the whole point of this story: those consumers shouldn’t even be considering an Intel-based Mac anymore. It’s not just the fact that Apple will not be using new Intel tech for its computers going forward, it’s not just that macOS 14 will most likely never be released for Intel-based Macs. It’s also the fact that the Mx architecture seems so capable, performant and efficient that — for people thinking of getting a professional Mac more powerful than the new MacBook Pro models — it’s worth waiting for the Apple Silicon version of it. The term “bang for the buck” is rarely, if ever, associated with Apple products but, in this particular situation, it can be: the money that would be spent on buying an Intel-based Mac right now will simply buy more power in the form of an Mx-based Mac of the same cost.
So… no. Do not be tempted by any offers you may be coming across for Intel-based Macs from now on. Not on Black Friday, not on Cyber Monday, not ever. These computers have an expiration date already and, at the prices they command, they are not a good investment.
The only possible exception coming to mind is the case of Windows use: these Intel-based Macs are the last ones that can run Windows 10 and their applications natively via Bootcamp (Mx-based Macs do not offer that option and they most probably never will). For those people that absolutely need to use Windows applications and at full speed — as they can also be run through software via e.g. a virtual machine or Parallels — these Macs still make some sense. For everyone else, though, getting e.g. a fully loaded MacBook Pro 16 or waiting for even more powerful Mx-based Macs is the right way to go. The Intel Mac era is, for all intents and purposes, already over.