No, we’re not Consumer Reports and yes, we’re aware that computers aren’t casual purchases, especially not at Apple prices.

We bother to share this info because this upgrade opportunity is time-sensitive (and potentially valuable), yet the market and its options are also weird these days. We’ve been researching our own potential upgrade, and our research is pointing us to a decision we never expected to make.

Our nickel tour of the current Mac upgrade situation:

By all accounts, the new M1 chips are ridonkulously fast. We first mentioned these new Apple processors on 11/11, but we’ve kept watching since then and it’s been really hard to find anyone who’s not impressed. These chips aren’t just a marginal improvement, like “oh, it’s a nice boost, maybe 40% better than before.” These new chips are multiplying the processing speeds most of us know now. And still…

💸 The new M1 models aren’t any pricier. If anything, they’re cheaper. This is matter-of-factly true just looking at the MSRPs, and it makes sense because in-house chip manufacturing will slash Apple’s production costs.

The downside to all of this…

📉 Your (current) computer’s value is about to nosedive. Resale value always takes a hit whenever new models come out—and the bigger the new improvements, the less people want the old models. Unfortunately, that will apply doubly in this case. Fortunately, at this writing, Apple’s trade-in values haven’t dropped just yet.

💳 There are now (good) financing options. If you have or sign up for an Apple Card, you can pay for your purchase in 12 monthly installments with no interest. Cash flows for the win!

Another perk of the financing route: if you trade in your old Mac to save on the new Mac, the full trade-in value applies at the time of purchase (even if you couldn’t have turned in the old one yet). In other words: you don’t need a ton of extra cash just to avoid a “limbo period” between computers.

🤷🏼‍♂️ The weirdest part: the MacBook Air (MBA) and MacBook Pro (MBP) now have near-identical core specs. In the past, the MBA and MBP were different animals inside and out. But with the new M1 models, the only real MBA/MBP differences are peripheral: the MBP gets a Touch Bar, slightly longer battery life, slightly brighter screen, slightly louder speakers, and a slightly better microphone array.

Otherwise, all of the new M1 models—MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, even the Mac mini—are outfitted with, in effect, the exact same core hardware. If that seems unusual to you, well, that’s why we wrote this article: it is unusual, but it’s also incredibly relevant for any upgrade decisions.

If you’re skeptical, just compare the models and see for yourself. Otherwise, we’ll close this matter by sharing the decision we never expected to make: we’re “upgrading” to a MacBook Air because it now has the same M1 power we want and none of the frills we don’t want.

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