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Best Mac Processor

Wondering which Mac is best for students? Get buying advice and the latest deals on Apple MacBook Pro, Air and iMac computers for college. The option to upgrade to a Core i9 processor. Jun 17, 2013.

Confused between two Mac’s? Unable to decide which is the best? Wondering what difference a processor can make?

Worry not! In this guide, we will try to explain the difference a processor can make and why it matters.

When Apple releases a new device, be it MacBook, iMac, iPhone, etc. everyone gets excited. People stand in a queue, they pre-order the device. But don’t you think it’s too much?

Before investing in a new device, you should always know if it is worth it. Here in this article, we will explain about different components that make a difference. Once you understand it, you will be able to decide on your own what is best for you. Whether it is investing in a new Machine or keeping the old device. Moreover, if you are buying a MacBook for the first time, then also it will help.

So, let’s begin.

Before that here’s a quick glossary of terms we will use in this guide:

Glossary

Cores – Individual CPU on the same chip e.g., if the chip has 6 cores, it means it has 6 CPUs. The more the CPU cores present, the better the processing.

GHz – It is the measuring unit for the clock speed. It denotes the number of operations performed by a single core. The Higher the clock speed, the faster the processor is.

Hyper-Threading – Intel’s trick to fool the software into thinking there are more cores than available. For instance, if your system has 4 core and 8 threads, you will see 8 logical CPUs in Activity Monitor.

Cache – Memory where processors can store data & reduce the need to access slower RAM on the motherboards

Turbo Boost – When processors run faster than the base clock speed it is called Turbo Boost. The disadvantage of higher clock speed is – battery drain and heat generation.

How to Choose Best Mac Based on Processor

Look for the Processor Generation

First thing first, look for processors and their generation. The number after the hyphen on the serial number of the processor explains the generation – for instance Intel® Core™ i77820… is 7th gen. Processor updated in 2019 are 9th generation

The processor is like a computer’s brain, aka CPU as the number of cores increases its power and multitasking abilities also improve. Intel Core processor is the most powerful and it comes in 4 categories:

Core i3 – Low-end processors with less RAM and fewer processor cores. If you are buying a MacBook for everyday computing tasks like video streaming, web browsing. Office work i3 will work great.

The latest generation has up to 4 cores and it helps watch content in immersive 4K and 360o viewing.

Core i5 – Used by multi-taskers, Core i5 processors are capable of handling extra memory. They have higher clock speed, larger processor cache, built-in graphics, and can support additional RAM.

Thanks to the latest generation it now has 6 cores. This line of a processor is generally used by designers, photographers, and beginner level PC gamers.

Core i7 – If you are into 3D modeling or advanced video editing, then i7 is the perfect processor for you. Gamers can also use it. The difference between i7 and i5 is not very drastic. Although you get more core, clock speed, performance gain but it does have that much gap as in i3 and i5.

Originally it comes with 6 cores and can create another 6 virtual cores.

Core i9 – It’s the latest and top-line desktop processor from Intel. With 18 cores and 36 threads, it is the most powerful processor. Core i9 offers extra processor cores, built-in graphics performance, fast clock speed, HyperThreading, and more cache.

Core i9 also includes Intel’s Core X, ultra-high-end desktop processors. With updated Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0, it elevates everything to a new dimension.

Core i9 can turn your Mac Machine into a studio from which you can produce 3600 or 4k video. Gamers will also not be disappointed. This is the ultimate processor for every task you ever want to perform

Xeon

This processor is not used by individuals. Xeon is a workstation or server processor. It supports more memory than i5/i7/i9. The latest 2019 Mac Pro offers up to 1.5TB RAM and uses Xeon; not only this, you get up to 28-cores in the Mac Pro.

Each of these categories has unique specifications. i5 is better than i3 and so on

Core i3Core i5Core i7Core i9
CodenameWolfdaleYorkfieldPenrynArrandaleLynnfieldClarkdaleLynnfieldClarksfieldBoomfieldGulftown
Process45nm45nm45nm32nm45nm32nm45nm45nm45nm32nm
PlatformDesktopDesktopMobileMobileDesktopDesktopDesktopMobileDesktopDesktop
ArchitectureCore 2Core 2PenrynWestmereNehalenWestmereNehalenNehalenNehalenWestmere
Socket (LGA)775775775mPGA989115511561156mPGA98913661366
Intel Chipset supportP35, P43, P45, G35,G43, G45, Q35, Q43, Q45, X38, X48P35, P43, P45,G35,G43, G45, Q35, Q43, Q45, X38, X48GL40, GS45, GM45, PM45UnknownP55,P57, H55, H57, Q57P57,H57,Q57 (wfl require FDI for IGP)P55, P57, H55, H57, Q57UnknownX58X58
Cores/Threads2/24/42/22/44/42/44/84/84/86/12
Hyper-ThreadingNoNoNoYesNoYesYesYesYesYes
QPI/DMIDMIDMIDMIDMIDMIDMIDMIDMIQPIQPI
MemoryDual-ChannelDual-ChannelDual-ChannelDual-ChannelDual-ChannelDual-ChannelDual-ChannelDual-ChannelTri-channelTri-channel
Turbo BoostNoNoNoUnknownYesUnknownYesUnknownYesYes
L3 CacheNoNoNo4Mb8MB4MB8MB6MB/8MB8MB12MB
45nm IGPNoNoNoYesNoYesNoNoNoNo
AvailabilityCore 2 DuoCore 2 DuoCore 2 MobileQ4 2009Q3 2009Q4 2009Q1 2010Q3 2009Core i7Q1 2010

At the time of wiring majority, Mac machines featured 8th generation processors. However, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is an exception as it offers a 9th generation processor, and the latest Mac Pro released on December 10th provides 8-28 core Intel Xeon E processors.

But it is too expensive. So, if you are looking for something similar, try the iMac Pro. It has a Xeon W old generation processor that ranges from 8-18 cores. It will not be the same as the iMac Pro, but it will be much better than other machines.

Now that we know about processor generation, cores let us understand how one processor is better than the other.

How to Choose Between Processors

Modern microprocessors are incredible; they incorporate multiple cores on one chip or CPUs, alongside they have graphics processors and cache. A processor can be better than another in two ways:

  • Power consumption
  • Time taken to execute a set of instruction

For most of us, the power used by the processor should be the deciding factor as it affects the battery and life of the system. However, if you are into video editing, 3D modeling, animation, scientific application latter should also be considered.

Power used by a processor affects a system in two ways:

  • Battery life
  • Heat

In simple words, the faster a processor, the more heat is discharged, and more battery is consumed. Therefore, a processor that helps reduce power consumption without affecting processing speed is the best. This explains why modern processors with smaller numbers of GHz are better.

As we move ahead, we will look at other factors like GHz, processor speed, Turbo Boost, different processor type, generation, number of cores, etc. All of this plays a vital role in deciding the best Mac processor.

To make things easy, here is a list of various processors you can find in the current Mac lineup.

MacBook Air MacBook Air27-inch iMaciMacMacBook Pro MacBook Pro
Model Number & IdentifierA2179 & MacBookAir9,1A2179 & MacBookAir9,1A2115 & iMac19,1A2115 & iMac19,1A2141 & MacBookPro16,1MVVM2LL/A* & MacBookPro16,1
CPUCore i7 (I7-1060NG7)Core i5 (I5-1030NG7)i9 (I99900K) 9th generationCore i5 (I5-9600K)Core i9 (I9-9980HK)Core i9 (I9-9880H)
CPU frequency1.2 GHz1.1 GHz3.6 GHz3.7 GHz2.4 GHz2.3 GHz
Topology1 CPU 4 core1 CPU 4 core1 CPU 8 core1 CPU 6 core1 CPU 8 core1 CPU 8 core
L3 Cache512k x4, 8 MB (on-chip)512k x4, 6 MB (on-chip)256k X 8/16 MB256k x6, 9 MB256k x8, 16 MB*256k x8, 16 MB*
Single-Core Performance5516 (1116 GB 5)5168 (1073 GB 5)616657755508 (1103 – GB 5)5330 (1064 – GB 5)
Multi-Core Performance15867 (2861 GB 5)14450 (2735 GB 5)322002266429753 (6982 – GB 5)28264 (6576 – GB 5)
Turbo Boost3.8 GHz3.5 GHz5.0 GHz4.6 GHz5.0 GHz4.8 GHz

CPU Frequency and Turbo Boost

As explained above, GHz is the number of clock cycles per second. This means a processor with 2.4 GHz CPU frequency will beat 2.4 billion times per second. Since all Mac machines vary on GHz speed just by looking at the GHz, you cannot decide which is the better Mac. To determine accurately, you also need to look at cores. More the number of cores, the better is the device.

Another thing worth noticing in term GHz is Turbo Boost. Turbo Boost, in simple terms, is a safe overclocking of cores on the processor. It gives a hint of how one generation processor is better than another.

Turbo Booster controller, while monitoring the demand made by the software, maintains temperature and power consumption. This means if power is available and the temperature is under control, overclocking can be done to speed up processing.

For example – A 8 core MacBook Pro with 2.4 GHz CPU frequency, if need be, can be pushed to 5.0 GHz. Whereas a MacBook Air with 1.1 GHz frequency can be pushed to 3.5 GHz.

So, you understand how Turbo Boost plays an important role.

Tip: i3 processor found in Quad-Core iMac and Quad-Core Mac mini does not include TurboBoost. This means you cannot ever overclock their speed. However, if you think you don’t need overclocking, then Turbo Boost won’t matter to you, and you can go for an i3 machine.

What is the Need for Turbo Boost?

When the application you are running doesn’t need multiple cores to increase the clock speed of the available cores, Turbo Boost is required.

However, if you are using a laptop, Turbo Boost might not sound interesting because it will consume more power.

CPU Cache

The cache is on-board memory, and it helps processors to deal with repetitive tasks. More the cache, the better is the processing power because the information can be stored in memory, and you can multitask.

By keeping these pointers in mind, you can easily decide which is the best Mac for you. Also, if you want to boost performance, a processor with Turbo Booster is best for you. But remember it will consume more power. It entirely depends on you and your budget, which machine is best, but you should invest in something that works in the long run.

We hope you find the information useful. If you think anything is missing, do let us know.

Students preparing to head back to school or even embark on a new college journey can benefit from having the right technology at their fingertips. Between desktop Macs, MacBook Pro laptops, and even iPads, choosing the perfect device for school can mean sorting through hundreds of different configurations.

AppleInsider is breaking down your list of options to find the best Mac for students, whether you're a college student heading off to campus this fall or the parent of a child in elementary school needing a budget-friendly Apple computer for remote learning. From the longest battery life to the lowest Apple prices on machines that offer best-in-class performance, we've got you covered.

Students who need a bit more power, such as artists and designers, can easily find it here. The large, 16-inch screen provides ample working space at a 3072-by-1920 native resolution, perfect for working in programs like Photoshop and Final Cut Pro. The option to upgrade to a Core i9 processor means you'll always have power to spare, regardless of the project.

Depending on what programs students will be running, they have several memory and graphics options available to them. For general use, the base 16 gigabytes of memory will be more than enough for most students and has the added benefit of saving them money. If a student plans on doing extensive video editing or 3D modeling, they can upgrade to either 32 or 64 gigabytes of RAM at an additional cost.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro has a variety of options when it comes to graphics, as well. The base model features an AMD Radeon Pro 5300M card with 4GB of GDDR6 memory, which is sufficient for most users. However, power users may find that upgrading to the AMD Radeon Pro 5600M option gives them better results when working in programs like Maya or AutoCad.

For students in creative majors, such as digital arts and design, we suggest upgrading storage to at least 1TB, if not more. That assures that you won't be butting up against storage caps during finals week. For multi-device users, an iCloud account is recommended, especially for students who like to split between working on a MacBook Pro and an iPad.

Best Mac Processor

As always, it's suggested that prospective students speak to their academic advisors about what sort of computer may best suit their needs.

  • High performance
  • Long battery life
  • Big screen
  • Expensive
  • Heavy
  • Huge footprint

What the MacBook Air lacks in power it makes up for it in portability and price. You can get a new baseline MacBook Air for $899 with a student discount. The 13.3-inch retina display will display your notes and video in brilliant colors at a high 2560-by-1600 resolution.

There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the side, which means you can charge your device and connect an external drive or peripheral at the same time. Higher-end MacBooks have more ports, though, so having only a two-port option might be a deal-breaker.

Best Mac Processor For Photoshop

Because it weighs in at only 2.8 pounds, your back will thank you as you move about the campus during the day. The base model comes with a 1.1GHz Core i3 processor with 256GB of storage. This configuration works great for most use cases related to studying and note-taking. If you need more processing power, you can upgrade to an i5 or i7 chipset, or double your RAM to 16GB for a premium.

The mid-tier MacBook Air retails for $1,299 with the i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Upgrading the memory or processor past this configuration leads you into 13-inch MacBook Pro pricing territory, but only upgrade to that machine if graphic processing for design apps and games are important to you.

  • Low price
  • Lightweight
  • Small form factor
  • Low performance
  • Upgrades are expensive
  • Only two ports
The 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro is a portable Mac for students

Whether you're a commuter, living in a dorm, or simply want the option to take your MacBook Pro to class, the best all-around choice is the new 13-inch MacBook Pro. It combines portability with enough power for nearly any project most students will encounter.

Apple macintosh ad. You can expand the capabilities of your Mac computer when you buy Mac accessories and add-ons. The Apple mouse makes it easy to navigate with smooth scrolling, and the Magic mouse features a multitouch surface with gesture support.

The small size means it fits easily into most backpacks and laptop bags, but the 2560-by-1600 native resolution allows for ample working space. This makes it ideal for writing papers or working in your college's course management system, and the gorgeous retina display is ideal for streaming your favorite Apple TV+ shows.

This MacBook has several different storage options to choose from. We suggest that students upgrade to the one terabyte storage option, which allows them to store papers, projects, and pictures without fear of butting up against the storage capacity. For users who save a lot of music or video files, we suggest at least two terabytes to be safe.

For the average college student, the base 16 gigabytes of memory should be plenty. Users who do more intense programs, or those looking to future-proof their MacBook for a bit may want to upgrade to the 32-gigabyte option, but it comes at an additional cost.

Again, for most students, the 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor will be more than enough. For students who plan on dabbling in video editing or 3D modeling software, upgrading to the Intel Core i7 option may be ideal.

If you're not sure what upgrades you should pick, your academic advisor or a professor in your major should be able to help point you in the right direction.

  • Smaller size
  • Faster processor in base model
  • Plenty of upgrade options
  • High starting price when compared to similar MacBook Air
  • Must upgrade to more expensive option for more ports
  • No discrete GPU options

We might all want a MacBook Pro, but if you can live without the portability, then invariably –– invariably –– a desktop computer will give you more performance, more power, and more storage than a laptop for the same price. Plus, no MacBook Pro can match the screen of a 27-inch iMac.

That clearly makes this machine a perfect buy for arts, graphics, or media students. However, you don't need to be running Photoshop or Final Cut Pro X to appreciate the benefits of an exceptional screen.

Plus, the way the 27-inch iMac 5K is effectively a slim screen with a computer hidden inside it, means that it's a great buy for a small dorm. You could do with a good lock on that dorm, but you couldn't do better than this iMac.

The same iMac range does include a 21-inch model, with a screen that is optionally 4K, but it isn't recommended. The 27-inch version doesn't just come with six more inches of screen diagonally, it comes with higher resolution, and processors up to 8-core Intel Core i9.

The 21.5-inch iMac can have up to six cores and Intel Core i7. The non-Retina edition has only two cores and an Intel Core i5 processor. The 27-inch model easily beats both of these with its graphics processor options, too.

Best Mac Processor For Video Editing

  • Large high-resolution displays
  • Highly configurable and upgradable
  • Choose your own mouse and keyboard
  • Not portable
  • Still ships with slow HDD or Fusion Drives in lower-tier models
  • Old design that might be changed in next update
The budget-friendly Mac mini is a great option for college students

The Mac mini is officially a desktop, but it's small enough that you could move it around easily. You wouldn't take it to class, and you couldn't do much with it once you got there, but when you need to move where you set up your work, its small size is convenient. And it belies just how powerful the tiny Mac for students can be.

You do have to buy a separate screen, keyboard, and mouse or trackpad, however. And while the entry-level version now comes with 256GB of SSD storage, that's still not excessive. When it came with 128GB SSD, it was essential to pay extra to get more and that's no longer true, but buying 512GB will make for a better, longer-lasting machine.

  • Semi-portable in small casing
  • Choose your own monitor, keyboard, and mouse
  • Many ports
  • High base model price while still needing all the peripherals
  • 256GB at entry model is untenable
  • Low powered processor options and no discrete graphics

Best Mac Processor For Photography

If your coursework can be accomplished via a web app or you do not need any specific desktop-based applications, you may want to try an iPad for school. If you're using an iPad for schoolwork, you'll likely want a keyboard and trackpad as well, which does add to the overall cost.

Of course, there is also the option of buying the iPad as an add-on device and use it as a small note-taking tablet with Apple Pencil or as an extended display for your Mac with SideCar. However, should you decide to take advantage of the iPad, the device can significantly enhance any workflow.

As a reminder, the iPad can only run apps from the App Store, so you'll need to ensure you can perform your classwork from the iPad before purchasing the device.

The 10.2-inch iPad has a retina display and lacks some of the more pro-level features to drive the price down. It supports the first-generation Apple Pencil and Apple's Smart Keyboard. The current iPad has an A10 Fusion chip that is still supported by iPadOS and can easily run modern applications.

This is the perfect device for a young student just starting out, and Apple pushes this device for education markets. The base model has 32GB of storage for $329, but it is recommended you upgrade to the 128GB option for $100 more.

The iPad Air is Apple's best iPad that still has Touch ID. It has a laminated 10.5-inch display and supports the first-generation Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. Its A12 Bionic chip delivers a similar experience to what is found on the pro models, but in an older design.

You'll likely want the iPad Air if you don't want to spend more on the pro models or just want to use it as a secondary computer. The iPad Air starts at $499 with 64GB of storage, but as with the base iPad, it might be wise to upgrade the memory to the next tier. The 256GB model is $649.

The iPad mini is essentially the iPad Air crammed into a 7.9-inch display. There is no Smart Keyboard, but the first-generation Apple Pencil is compatible. The $399 price gets you 64GB, and upgrade to 256GB for $549. The A12 Bionic is used in this model and excels in the smaller display.

The iPad mini is a versatile device. You can attach a keyboard and use it as a miniature computer, or carry it in your pocket with the Pencil and have a portable-digital notepad.

The iPad Pro is Apple's flagship tablet, and the company promotes it as a fully capable Mac alternative. You could use it as a second display or notepad like with the other models, but as these devices cost as much as a MacBook Air or Mac mini, you'll likely want it for more.

The A12Z Bionic, LiDAR camera and full-screen 120Hz display set the iPad Pro apart. Apple also offers a unique keyboard called the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, and it features scissor-switch keys and a trackpad on a thin-designed case. Combine this with the second-generation Apple Pencil, and you'll have a laptop/tablet combo that takes whatever shape you need on the fly.

New Mac Pro Processor

The 11-inch iPad Pro is $799, and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is $999 for 128GB of storage. This can be increased up to 1TB of storage in either for a $500 increase.

All iPad models can be configured with cellular for a $150 price increase at purchase.

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Ultimately, the best Mac for students is dependent on each person's particular needs, including grade level, college major, learning environment (remote vs in-person) and budget. To all the students out there, we wish you the best of luck as you hit the books for the 2020-2021 school year.