Apple Laptop Buyer's Guide

  • SVALT Cooling Dock silver with Apple MacBook Air 11-inch laptop from front
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock silver and black with Apple MacBook Air 11-inch laptop from back
  • SVALT D15 Performance Cooling Dock black and white with Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15-inch laptop from back
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock showing air flow with 2015 to 2012 MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina display
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock showing air flow with 2015 to 2013 MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina display
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock showing air flow with 2013 to 2012 MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina display
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock showing air flow with MacBook Air 13-inch display
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock showing air flow with MacBook Air 11-inch display
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock showing air flow with 2016 to 2018 MacBook Pro Touch Bar 15-inch Retina display
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock showing air flow with 2016 to 2018 MacBook Pro Touch Bar 13-inch Retina display
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock showing air flow with 2016 to 2017 MacBook Pro non-Touch Bar 13-inch Retina display
  • SVALT D2 High-Performance Cooling Dock showing air flow with 2015 to 2017 MacBook 12-inch Retina display

While smart phones and tablets are important tools, laptops are essential for handling professional applications and for maintaining productivity throughout the workday, from office meetings to coffee shops to home. Laptops have become so powerful that many have replaced dedicated desktop computers for even the most intensive computing workloads. However, when professionals, creatives, gamers and others rely on laptops to provide maximum performance and productivity for hours at a time, the laptop’s mobile ergonomics and cooling system can fall short. The SVALT Cooling Dock was created to transform Apple’s compact laptops from incredibly capable mobile computing devices into more ergonomic, productive, powerful, and professional desktop workstations. The SVALT Cooling Dock is compatible with a wide range of devices.

The following lists Apple’s current laptops from the most powerful desktop replacement laptop to the lightest, thinnest, smallest and most portable laptop. When comparing models, configurations and pricing, be sure to keep in mind that laptop components are not user upgradeable. This means that you will want to go for a configuration that not only works today, but will also work for as long as you plan on using the laptop. While external storage is always an option, it’s often less than ideal for a variety of reasons, so storage size will likely be one of the specifications that has the biggest impact on costs. Once you have figured out how much storage you need, then you can compare models to see which will provide the performance and features you require or can afford.

MacBook Pro with 15-inch Retina Display, Touch Bar / ID and 6-core CPU (2018)
For users seeking maximum performance and desktop capabilities in a thin chassis, along with the following updates over the 2016-2017 generation: 6-core Intel CPU processors, 32GB 2400MHz RAM, faster storage, True Tone display, T2 chip, and revised Butterfly keyboard. The 2018 GPU is the same as 2016-2017 for the high-end configurations, while the base configuration now has 4GB of DRAM. The 2016 and later laptop models are supported for passive cooling and thickness fit with the SVALT Cooling Dock, but not for active/direct processor cooling because the laptops lack an air intake vent along the screen hinge.

MacBook Pro with 15-inch Retina Display, Touch Bar / ID and 4-core CPU (2016-2017)
For users seeking maximum performance and desktop capabilities in a thin chassis, along with the following updates over the 2012-2015 generation: thinner and lighter, Touch Bar and Touch ID, Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C, improved screen, faster storage, and Butterfly keyboard. The 2017 update from the 2016 includes Intel’s newer Kaby Lake CPU processors that will offer a minimal to moderate increase in performance and efficiency over the 2016 Skylake processors, and a slightly revised keyboard. Since the 2016 refresh, all 15-inch models include dedicated GPUs. The 2017 GPUs are essentially rebranding of the same 455 and 460 GPUs in the 2016 models. Purchase through Apple’s refurbished, retail clearance deals and used models. The 2016 and later laptop models are supported for passive cooling and thickness fit with the SVALT Cooling Dock, but not for active/direct processor cooling because the laptops lack an air intake vent along the screen hinge.

MacBook Pro with 15-inch Retina Display and 4-core CPU (2012-2015)
For users seeking increased performance and desktop capabilities, along with a pre-2016 configuration. While the newer 2016-2018 MacBook Pro redesign offers a number of improvements, the previous 15-inch models include more built-in connections/ports (2x Thunderbolt 2 and Mini DisplayPort, 2x USB 3, HDMI, headphone jack, and SDSX card slot), MagSafe trip/drop resistant power supply connection, more traditional keyboard design without Touch Bar, more reliable keyboard with longer travel, smaller trackpad that some users find less problematic, storage upgradeability, and lower price. Purchase through Apple’s refurbished, retail clearance deals and used models. These laptop models are supported for active/direct processor cooling, passive cooling and thickness fit with the SVALT Cooling Dock to turbo charge the laptop’s cooling system and help maintain maximum performance under intensive workloads.

MacBook Pro with 13-inch Retina Display, Touch Bar / ID and 4-core CPU (2018)
For users seeking increased performance while achieving ultra portability, along with the following updates over the 2016-2017 generation: 4-core Intel CPU processors, integrated iGPU with 128MB DRAM, faster storage, True Tone display, T2 chip, and revised Butterfly keyboard. The 13-inch Pros are incredibly compact and deliver amazing performance for their size, which has never been more true than with this 2018 model that includes quad-core processors and official Apple external eGPU compatibility. The 15-inch still gets you more CPU cores, more RAM and more performance, along with dedicated GPU to handle graphic demands without an external eGPU, but the 13-inch is now in the league of desktop replacement performance. Going with 16GB is likely a good upgrade for performance and resale at this price point. The 2016 and later laptop models are supported for passive cooling and thickness fit with the SVALT Cooling Dock, but not for active/direct processor cooling because the laptops lack an air intake vent along the screen hinge.

MacBook Pro with 13-inch Retina Display, Touch Bar / ID and 2-core CPU (2016-2017)
For users seeking increased performance while achieving ultra portability, along with the following updates over the 2012-2015 generation: thinner and lighter, Touch Bar and Touch ID, Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C, improved screen, faster storage, and Butterfly keyboard. The 13-inch Pros are incredibly compact and deliver amazing performance for their size, however, prior to 2018 models, they lack the 15-inch model’s quad-core CPU, and continue to lack a dedicated GPU. Going with 16GB is likely a good upgrade for performance and resale at this price point. The 2017 update includes Intel’s newer Kaby Lake CPU processors that will offer a moderate increase in performance and efficiency over the 2016 Skylake processors, and a slightly revised keyboard. Intel’s 2017 Iris Plus 640 and 650 integrated GPU processors essentially offer the same specifications as the Iris 540 and 550 GPUs in the Late-2016 models. Purchase through Apple’s refurbished, retail clearance deals and used models. The 2016 and later laptop models are supported for passive cooling and thickness fit with the SVALT Cooling Dock, but not for active/direct processor cooling because the laptops lack an air intake vent along the screen hinge.

MacBook Pro with 13-inch Retina Display and 2-core CPU (2012-2015)
For users seeking increased performance while achieving ultra portability, along with a pre-2016 configuration. While the newer 2016-2018 MacBook Pro redesign offers a number of improvements, the previous 13-inch models include more built-in connections/ports (2x Thunderbolt 2 and Mini DisplayPort, 2x USB 3, HDMI, headphone jack, and SDSX card slot), MagSafe trip/drop resistant power supply connection, more traditional keyboard design without Touch Bar, more reliable keyboard with longer travel, smaller trackpad that some users find less problematic, storage upgradeability, and lower price. Purchase through Apple’s refurbished, retail clearance deals and used models. These laptop models are supported for active/direct processor cooling, passive cooling and thickness fit with the SVALT Cooling Dock to turbo charge the laptop’s cooling system and help maintain maximum performance under intensive workloads.

MacBook Pro with 13-inch Retina Display, Non-Touch Bar and 2-core CPU (2016-2017)
For users on a budget seeking good performance while achieving ultra portability, along with the following updates over the 2012-2015 generation: thinner and lighter, Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C, improved screen, faster storage, and Butterfly keyboard. This new “Pro” model is less professional as a result of lower specifications and only including two total ports for power and connections, but it will get the job done unless you plan on regularly using professional applications. The 2017 update includes Intel’s newer Kaby Lake CPU processors that will offer a small increase in performance and efficiency over the 2016 Skylake processors, and a slightly revised keyboard. Intel’s 2017 Iris Plus 640 integrated GPU processor essentially offers the same specifications as the Iris 540 GPU in the Late-2016 model. The 2016 and later laptop models are supported for passive cooling and thickness fit with the SVALT Cooling Dock, but not for active/direct processor cooling because the laptops lack an air intake vent along the screen hinge.

MacBook Air with 13-inch / 11-inch Display and 2-core CPU (2008-2017)
For users on a budget seeking good performance and portability. The macBook Air offers all of the performance most users need in a compact, thin and light package. While the newer 2015 MacBook model offers an incredibly thin and light form factor, the MacBook Air continues to be an excellent choice with a built-in air cooling system that provide more sustained performance, as well as more built-in connections/ports (Thunderbolt 2, 2x USB 3, headphone jack, and SDSX card slot), MagSafe trip/drop resistant power supply connection, more traditional keyboard design without Touch Bar, more reliable keyboard with longer travel, smaller trackpad that some users find less problematic, storage upgradeability, and lower price, especially through Apple’s refurbished store. If performance matters then the i7 is a good upgrade. Refurbished and retailers are where you need to go to find the ultra compact 11-inch MacBook Air, that packs considerable punch for its size and cost when equipped with an i7 processor. These laptop models are supported for active/direct processor cooling, passive cooling and thickness fit with the SVALT Cooling Dock to turbo charge the laptop’s cooling system and help maintain maximum performance under intensive workloads.

MacBook with 12-inch Retina Display and 2-core CPU (2015-2017)
For users seeking ultra portability without requiring performance on a regular or sustained basis. The 12-inch Retina MacBook is an amazingly compact and light mobile computing laptop, but don’t expect to run professional applications regularly or for extended periods of time without performance throttling because the processor lacks active air cooling and ventilation. The 2017 update includes Intel’s newer Kaby Lake CPU processors that will offer a small increase in performance and efficiency over the 2016 Skylake processors, and note that the 2017 i5 and i7 designation does not mean that Apple is using higher powered processors, but that Intel has rebranded the older m5 and m7 chips as i5 and i7 for 2017. Intel’s integrated HD 615 GPU processor in 2017 models offer a small increase in specs compared to the HD 515 GPU in the 2016 models. These laptop models are supported for passive cooling and thickness fit with the SVALT Cooling Dock, but not for active/direct processor cooling because the laptops do not include an active cooling system or any air vents.

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