Apple Laptops: A Beginners Guide to Their Specifications

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Apple Laptops: A Beginner's Guide to Their Specifications

Computers are confusing enough without adding to the mix the sleek space-age designs of the Apple Mac computer. These ultra-thin laptops look so thin and futuristic that one feels as though the specifications for any of them must be understandable only to rocket scientists and brain surgeons. Actually, while Apple laptops are always on the cutting edge of laptop technology, the technical jargon describing them is just the same as the technical jargon for any other laptop.

Even a beginner can understand enough about Apple laptops to compare them with other computers and search for one that meets his or her needs. The basic computing specifications that one needs to understand include: the CPU, GPU, RAM, display, optical drives, storage capacity, and battery specifications. By comparing the different Apple laptops available in terms of these specifications, one can easily understand exactly what Apple has to offer the market. Apple laptops can be bought at licensed Apple stores as well as online at eBay.

Apple Laptops

There are basically three new Apple laptops on the market today. These are the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro, and the MacBook Pro with retina display. The original MacBook has been discontinued, as was the 17-inch MacBook Pro. These, along with the iBook and the PowerBook, may be found in used condition, but have nowhere near the specifications of the latest models.

MacBook Air

The MacBook Air is Apple's ultra-portable laptop. It is only 1.72 cm thick at its thickest point and weighs just a hair over 1 kg. It comes in two screen sizes: 11 inches and 13 inches.

MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro is the all-purpose notebook aimed at the consumer market. It comes two sizes (13 inches and 15 inches) and is less than 2.5 cm thick. It is the heaviest of the new laptops but also the only one loaded with Apple's inbuilt SuperDrive, which can read and write to almost every kind of CD and DVD.

MacBook Pro with Retina Display

Apple's retina display is made to have a resolution that is high enough so the human eye cannot see pixelation at typical viewing distances. Apart from the HD screen, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display comes with other upgrade options that put it on the luxury side of the consumer market.

Basic Laptop Specifications

Laptop specifications are basically the same as desktop specifications, with the added factor of battery life and portability. The basic computer specifications that one should be sure to understand before shopping for a computer include: the CPU type, the graphics specifications, the RAM, the display specifications, the storage capacity, and added peripherals like optical drives, and the ports included in the laptop.


The CPU is the central processing unit. This is the chip that determines how fast the laptop can 'think'. This speed matters when running various programmes at the same time, when watching video, or when doing tasks that are complicated for the computer, such as HD video editing. The speed of the CPU is measured in Gigahertz (GHz). Fast CPUs are typically more expensive and use more power (running down the battery faster), while slower chips are more affordable and use less power. There are chips with two, four, six, or even more cores. The more cores, the faster the processor.

The MacBook Air and the smaller MacBook Pros come with an option of either dual-core Core i5 processors, or quad-core Core i7 processors. The bigger MacBook Pros have quad-core Core i7 processors that range in speed from 2.3 GHz to 3.0 GHz. The MacBook Air runs at 1.7 GHz to 2.0 GHz depending on the option chosen. A dual-core 1.7 GHz microprocessor is normal for netbooks and lightweight notebooks, while a 3 GHz quad-core chip is made for heavy-duty multitasking, HD video encoding, or gaming. In general, 2.0 GHz is considered enough for regular computing tasks.

Graphics Specifications

The GPU is the next major part of a computer to understand. GPU stands for 'Graphics Processing Unit'. The GPU is responsible for everything that shows up on the screen. Specifically, a good GPU can help videos stream seamlessly from the web. Some laptops have a second dedicated graphics processor that kicks in for graphics-heavy applications like HD video editing. The graphics processor can be integrated into the CPU or separate (discrete). Discrete or dedicated GPUs offer better performance but shorten battery life.

All the Apple laptops have an integrated graphics processor called Intel HD Graphics 4000. However, the 15-inch MacBook Pros have a secondary discrete graphics processor by NVIDIA, a well-known name in GPUs.


RAM is often confused with storage because both are related to the computer's memory and measured in megabytes, or more recently, gigabytes. However, RAM is not actually a form of memory storage. It is a temporary memory that the computer uses to manage all the applications and windows that one might have open at any point in time. A smaller amount of RAM (like 2 GB or less) means that fewer applications and windows can be open without slowing down the system. Full-size laptops usually have 4 GB or even 8 GB. Anything more than 4 GB is not strictly necessary for most uses.

This is no concern with Apple laptops. All Apple laptops, even the ultraportable MacBook Air, have an option between 4 GB and 8 GB,, except the Retina Display laptops. The 13-inch Pro with Retina has 8 GB, while the 15-inch model can have up to 16 GB in RAM.


Storage refers to the amount of memory available in the laptop for applications, videos, documents, music, and any other files. There are two kinds of storage with very different characteristics. One is the hard disk drive (HDD), and the other is the solid state drive (SSD).


Hard disk drives are actually platters on which data is inscribed. These platters have to turn at high speeds in order to be read. Of course, this is how traditional computers have worked ever since the first PC came on the market. Hard disk drives today have huge amounts of memory (often up to 1 TB). However, the downside is that they are more fragile than solid state drives, use a lot more power, and have a lifespan of about 5 years. Only the MacBook Pro still offers a HDD of up to 1 TB.


Solid state drives are flash drives just like the common and portable USB flash drive. There are no moving parts and therefore, they consume very little power. However, they are much more expensive per MB than HDDs. This means the price of a 1 TB hard disk drive fetches a SSD of half that size, if even that much. However, their durability, and the option to add external hard drives in order to expand storage, make SSDs a good choice for many people. The MacBook Air has a 512 GB flash drive,, and the luxury Pros with Retina Displays have 768 GB of flash memory. The SSD option on the regular Pro is 512 GB.

Display Specifications

The most basic display specification is the screen size. Screen size is actually a diagonal measurement of the screen, and the width and height depend on the screen's proportions. The proportions can be understood by the pixel measurements that give the resolution. Other features of the display are LED backlighting, and the glossy or matte coating options.

Screen Resolution

Resolution is measured in pixels. Fewer pixels means text and icons are bigger, but photos lack definition or detail. High resolution means text is smaller and photos and videos can be seen in high-definition quality. The best resolution really depends on the screen size. A resolution of 1280 x 800 is enough for regular computing on most screens from 10 inches to 15 inches, but the biggest screens (17- to 20-inch screens) offer high definition at 1920 x 1200. This level of resolution is really for HD videos and games.

LED Backlighting

The screen can be backlit by LCD or LED lights. LED lights last longer and use less power. They also offer better contrast and can really make the difference in terms of visual display.

Taking the time to understand the many different resolutions of each of the Apple laptops currently on the market is always a wise decision.

Laptop Model

Native Resolution

MacBook Air, 11-inch

1366 x 768

MacBook Air, 13-inch

1440 x 900

MacBook Pro, 13-inch

1280 x 800

MacBook Pro, 15-inch

1440 x 900

MacBook Pro with Retina, 13-inch

2560 x 1600

MacBook Pro with Retina, 15-inch

2880 x 1800

While every laptop can put out a lower resolution, the native resolution is the one that looks the clearest and sharpest. Apple screens are also widescreen and all are glossy. Only the MacBook Pro 15-inch model has an anti-glare option. The retina display is supposed to be much less glossy than the other models, but Apple received criticism because it was still glossier than a matte screen.

Battery Life

Battery life is one area in which Apple tends to face some sort of criticism. All models of Apple laptops have integrated batteries, meaning that they are not removable and replaceable by the user. Instead, they have to be taken or shipped in to Apple service centers where owners have to pay sometimes hefty charges to have the battery replaced. On the positive side, Apple uses the latest lithium-polymer technology and offers the longest-lasting battery to date with the highest number of recharge cycles. According to Apple, the battery can be recharged 1,000 times before the charge capacity drops to 80 per cent of its original charge.

One charge of the MacBook Air gives 35 watt-hours, while the longest-lasting battery is the MacBook Pro Retina model, offering 95 watt-hours. All other models fall somewhere in between. In real life situations, that equates to 5-7 hours of wireless web, and more time for other applications. For example, the 95 watt-hour battery would last for 10 hours at 9.5 watts or 19 hours at 5 watts. Apple estimates that the battery lasts for around 5 years.

Connectivity and Other Peripherals

The MacBook Pro is the only one which still has an inbuilt CD/DVD drive called the SuperDrive. The SuperDrive has now become an external accessory which has to be purchased separately. However, apart from an optical drive, Apple laptops have the latest connections and ports, leaving nothing to be desired as far as connectivity. All have 2 USB 3.0 ports, Thunderbolt ports, and the latest standard of WiFi (802.11n). Bluetooth 4.0 is also standard on all machines. The Pro with retina display has an HDMI port for connecting to a HDTV, and all Pros have an SDXC card slot instead of the SD card slot on the MacBook Air 13-inch. The smaller Air has no card slot. All models have an HD FaceTime camera, but only the MacBook Pro has a Firewire 800 port and a Gigabit Ethernet port.

How to Buy an Apple Laptop on eBay

Buying an Apple laptop online is easy and convenient with an online marketplace like eBay. Since eBay makes it simple to find a reputable and established online Apple dealer, and offers the widest possible selection of Apple laptops, learning how to shop on eBay can be of great help in buying an Apple laptop quickly and affordable.

To find an Apple laptop on eBay, just enter the model you want in the search box on any eBay page. If you are not sure about the model you want, you can also enter a more general term like 'Mac laptop&'. You can then refine the search by price, screen size, processor, or one of a number of search criteria that can help you find what you want.

Every eBay seller has a feedback score, which is an excellent indication of the level of quality and customer service offered. Choosing one of eBay's Top-rated sellers is an easy way to find a seller with a long history of excellent service and fast shipping. These sellers are identified by an award icon next to their names.


Apple is consistently at the forefront of consumer electronics, and Apple laptops are no exception. All the models of the MacBook are at the leading edge of technology, with super-fast processors and sleek designs. The MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro with retina display are aimed at specific sectors of the consumer market. The Air is lighter, thinner, and relatively low on impressive specifications, although it still beats most similarly-sized laptops on the market.

The MacBook Pro is a serious workstation that could replace a desktop, while the MacBook Pro with retina display is made for those who have the money to splurge on extra features that make videos and gaming truly a delight. While it would take a technical wizard to explain how Apple packs so many features into something less than 2.5 cm thick, it does not take a genius to understand the specifications of each of these laptops. By understanding a little about basic computer specifications, anyone can understand the potency and attraction of Apple laptops, and learn to shop for one online at eBay.

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