Every year on Black Friday, optimistic MacBook shoppers get sucked into buying a laptop they never should have bought. It’s pretty understandable – Apple products are rarely on sale, so when you see a Black Friday MacBook deal for less than $500, it’s hard not to get excited.
But let me promise you something: if you buy one of those very old, heavily discounted MacBooks, you’ll be deeply disappointed with what you get.
Take this deal on a 13-inch MacBook Air for $532, for example. You might look at the pictures and think it looks quite modern. And you would be right. The MacBook Air M1 currently sold by Apple still uses this same chassis. Put them on a table side by side, and you couldn’t tell the difference.
You’d probably stand by that opinion as you opened the box and removed the plastic, enthused by the sleek design of Apple’s marketing materials. But once you start using this thing, you’ll notice major issues with this three-year-old MacBook.
This MacBook Air was a low point in the range – the last models before the arrival of the M1. Performance was pretty awful, using Intel’s Y-series dual-core chip. It’s a fanless system, and when I reviewed it, the device even had trouble performing several basic tasks, like making a video call and running Chrome simultaneously. That’s not to say that with just 128GB of storage, you’ll probably need to get an external SSD as well.
But wait, it gets worse. Amazon even sells MacBook Airs from 2017 and earlier. Yes, a five-year-old laptop with a crusty old Intel processor. You might think that for just $249 it’s worth it, but combine that old-looking design with seriously poor performance, and you’ll regret your decision almost immediately. Also don’t you dare to buy this for your kid going off to college.
On top of all that, Apple no longer supports MacBook Airs before 2017. That means you can’t even get the latest macOS Ventura software update, plus any future updates that are coming.
This may sound deflating, I get it – money is tight right now, and everyone is on a budget. So what are you doing?
Well, there’s actually a really solid discount right now on the 2020 M1 MacBook Air. And even though this one is two years old, it’s still a unbelievable portable. In fact, for most people, I tend to recommend it even over the MacBook Air M2. It uses an older chassis, yes, but the M1 transforms this otherwise standard MacBook into the ultimate laptop for work or college. The battery life is out of this world and you will be shocked at the quality of the performance.
This MacBook is still being sold by Apple for $999, so the fact that you’re getting a $200 discount is pretty amazing.
If you really need to get closer to $500, that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with an old, outdated laptop. There are plenty of good options for this price – they just aren’t MacBooks.
Take, for example, this deal for a Surface Laptop Go 2 for $599. This compact 12.4-inch laptop comes with Intel’s latest 12th Gen Core i5 processor – and in an overall package that looks remarkably modern. You can even double the storage to a more manageable 256GB for just $100.
But if you really want value in a laptop, you’re much better off going with a Chromebook than an updated MacBook. As long as you can do all your work in a browser, a Chromebook will feel much faster and last longer than a 2017 MacBook Air. This offer for a Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i is the best example I could find for the Black-Friday. For just $269, you get a modern-looking thin and light laptop – and the 11th Gen Core i3 processor will be blazing fast in the context of ChromeOS.
Whether you opt for a non-MacBook or splurge on the MacBook Air M1, there’s really no reason to buy a very outdated MacBook. In the end, if he doesn’t have an M1, it’s just not worth it.
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