Want a new MacBook Pro? Answer these 6 questions before buying the Apple laptop

Is now the best time for you to buy a new MacBook Pro? Erik Eckel presents six questions that will help you determine whether you can justify making this purchase.

Apple M1 Macs 2020

Image: Apple

People, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, are making long-delayed purchases and splurging on everything from vacation homes to automobiles to hobby-related endeavors. The prevailing sentiment is life is finite, so why not treat yourself, especially when pandemic-related reminders are everywhere?

While prudence is always important, particularly during a pandemic when business expenses must carefully be managed, don't overlook the importance of having capable tools, too. They aren't just wish-list items.

SEE: How to migrate to a new iPad, iPhone, or Mac (TechRepublic Premium)

Business owners are often reluctant to invest in needed new technologies when, in fact, the investments enhance efficiencies, improve operations, and boost performance. It's the old penny-wise and pound-foolish argument, once again.

With so many businesses pivoting to enable remote work, better service, and changing customer needs, it's possible your previously purchased laptop was never intended to be used in the way you are relying on it. All of a sudden, system performance, Wi-Fi reliability, available storage, ports and expandability, and display size are potentially much more important factors than they once were. Yet, you're possibly living with a model you intended to use in a different office with different peripherals or even for very different purposes.

SEE: Best MacBook Air and MacBook Pro builds in 2020 (TechRepublic)

You might be contemplating an upgrade, but widespread news, rumors, and advice may be discouraging you. Warnings and well-intended guidance sometimes sound similar to these statements:

  • Don't buy a MacBook Pro now because Apple's getting ready to implement new models.
  • Wait to buy a new MacBook Pro because next-generation models will eliminate the failed Touch Bar experiment.
  • Delay your purchase because new models will feature more ports.
  • Put off a purchase now because new MacBook Pros may return to using MagSafe charging.
  • Wait for new models because they'll be faster, lighter, bigger, smaller, have better battery life, etc.

Or, you might hear other objections, including recommendations that might contradict those popular protestations:

  • Don't buy an M1-powered MacBook Pro, as it's a bad idea to buy the first generation of any new technology.
  • Take a wait-and-see approach to learn just how compatible the new Apple M1 chips prove.
  • Don't buy a 13" model when new 14" or refreshed 16" versions are supposedly coming soon.

Any time you make a big purchase contemplation is appropriate. This fact is true whether purchasing a laptop, car, or home.

But one fact doesn't change: Continuing cutting wood with a dull, outdated saw remains a losing proposition. Ultimately, it often costs more continuing to use the wrong tools than it does to pony up and buy what you really need: A longer-lasting, more-capable saw that completes more projects more efficiently.

SEE: Apple Silicon M1 Mac buying guide: 2020 MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro vs. Mac mini (TechRepublic)

There's a reason experts track and study such things as the time-value of money and opportunity costs associated with delaying decisions and actions. Failures to act carry their own expenses.

So ask yourself these questions when considering purchasing a new MacBook Pro, or any other Mac, for that matter:

  1. Is my current model failing or experiencing hardware issues?
  2. Does my current MacBook Pro, due to its age, take excessively long to complete basic tasks?
  3. Is my current laptop incompatible with new macOS versions?
  4. Is my current MacBook Pro, due to its age, unable to run required new applications?
  5. Is my existing computer's battery life too short for the way I must work now?
  6. Is there another member of my team that could work more effectively or productively using my current laptop, were they to receive it?

If new models are free of widespread headlines touting common failures, incompatibilities, or performance issues, and you answered yes to any of the above questions, you should pursue purchasing a new model now. There's no need to wait.

This is especially true if new models are rumored to include new features you might not want. For example, maybe you have a collection of standard USB-C chargers and cables and don't want to convert docking stations and buy a whole new collection of various chargers, cables and adapters to match the new standard. Or maybe you're fond of the Touch Bar and use it frequently. In such cases, waiting may prove disadvantageous.

SEE: MacBook Pro M1 review: Apple amazes with its first Silicon MacBook Pro (ZDNet)

Prudence requires you at least consider whether rumored new models will provide important new capabilities needed to work more effectively or productively or whether new first-generation features truly pose any practical and valid productivity or efficiency risks. But such snags are unlikely. And the benefits of a new system, especially if you're using a laptop that's already a few generations old, will begin accumulating and paying off immediately.

The worst thing that could happen is you buy a new system now and discover cool new features in a fresh model a month or two from now. While it's unlikely a new charging technology--such as traditional USB-C versus a new MagSafe option--or incremental chip improvements--the differences of which are often difficult for common office professionals to notice in similar systems, whereas differences between a more contemporary model and the system you've been using for four years may prove profound--will truly enhance your daily productivity, it's possible, in which case you still have options.

If new features prove surprisingly necessary or helpful down the road, you can always exchange the recently purchased system and receive reasonable trade-in value from Apple that can be deducted from the new model's cost. Alternatively, you could pass the recently bought system to another employee whose own efficiencies and productivity would benefit, as a result. No big problem, really.

You don't need to be an anthropologist or sociologist to perceive how pandemics sometimes change mindsets. While pandemics are horrific and unfortunate, if we can at least as a result glean a few ways to make or justify making our lives easier, that's a good thing that can come from all the loss and disruption.

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By Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...