Hardware recommendations?

My wife (who’s in the Apple ecosystem) is thinking about finally replacing her old MacBook Air (4GB of RAM is definitely not enough!) and I might be tempted to get one to put Asahi on it at the same time.

Main criteria are:

  • Not overly big (so 13"-14" is ideal)
  • Comfortable keyboard (the MBP M1 14" keyboard is atrocious, the MBA M2 15" seems equally bad from trying it on a store visit)
  • Enough RAM for packaging work (looks like the MBA M2 maxes out at 24GB - which is the same as what I get with Oracle Cloud’s always-free tier, so that’s the bare minimum)
  • Obviously, decent support with Asahi (I’m fine hooking up external speakers / bluetooth headphones, and won’t be gaming on it, and as long as the battery life exceeds Linux-on-x86_64 I’m good to go too)

So… MBA or MBP?

Thanks!

Are you specifically interested only in laptop products (or as I like to call them “computers with a built-in UPS”)?

The reason I ask is because there is more complete support right now for the Mac Mini and Mac Studio (M1 variants for both), you get more specs for your $$, and you can use whatever keyboard / mouse / webcam / speakers you want with it.

From what you’ve described, that may fit your use-case better. I’ve used a Mac Mini and later a Mac Studio as my daily driver with Asahi Linux since 2022 (dev workstation). The only downside is that the battery life is dismal (as soon as I unplug my Mac Studio, it turns off :wink: ).

That being said, only the 13" M2-based Macbook Air and Pro have a supported installer right now. And between those two options, I’d recommend the Air (best price/performance). If you can still score an M1-based Macbook Air, that’d be even better price/performance IMO.

Mostly laptop products - I have an Asus PN50 that currently has 64GB RAM (and I can put more) that I use as my regular x86_64 build machine and/or casual gaming rig, and I don’t really like having multiple desktop machines plugged in at the same time.

And my work-supplied MBP M1 14" has … an atrocious keyboard, so unless the M2 model has an improved keyboard… that rules it out. Given what you said about price/performance… then yeah, MBA might be a better choice. Esp since I plan to use Asahi instead of running Linux VM on top of macOS, meaning I don’t need the extra RAM to support two OSes running concurrently!

Only if the keyboard is not too much of a downgrade from the Framework laptop though, otherwise… I might just plug in that work MBP Mac and pretend it’s a desktop so I never have to use its keyboard again.

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IMO, I don’t think the M2 Macbooks have a better keyboard than the M1 Macbooks, and like you, I’ve never liked the keyboard on Macbooks - I’ve always used a Lenovo TrackPoint II keyboard with them (my favourite keyboard of all time).

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One thing I want to point out from my experience as a long-time Mac owner: the 2021 14" MacBook Pro is heavier than my 2014 15" MacBook Pro.

From that angle, you may want to go MacBook Air, because I found the MacBook Pro to be somewhat uncomfortable with its weight compared to the predecessor I was used to.

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You may want to stop by a physical store and check the laptops out in person. I agree with @ngompa that the MacBook Pro weight is surprising and would make it non-viable for a daily carry for me. I also never found MacBook keyboards particularly usable, and I can’t really type on the one on my MacBook Pro M1 for more than a minute without physical pain. The TrackPoint keyboard @jasoneckert suggested works great and is what I use as well. It fits very nicely on top of the laptop body over the builtin keyboard and makes the machine a lot more usable.

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One of the reasons I got a laptop shell with a keyboard cover for my 2014 MacBook Pro was to reduce the pain from typing on it. It improves the “feel” of it for me and makes it slightly less painful. It’s still bad, though. :frowning_face:

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Yeah, the 14" M1 is ridiculously heavy! Thanks, I forgot to take weight into account

Time to finally train myself to use my Atreus!

It’s almost like a “Happy Hacking Keyboard”. :-))

oh man, I had that and love it. Must have lost it during a move, and IIRC mine still had a PS/2 connector anyway.

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I think all the Mx keyboards so far are basically the same build-wise (which is already an improvement over the old Mac keyboards which were atrocious). I personally find them OK, but it takes some getting used to as you’d expect. Definitely no match for my full size mechanical keyboard though :wink:

Support-wise it’s all going to be roughly the same soon, just avoid the Touch Bar models (we will support that but it’s unlikely it’ll ever be a full blown ecosystem like on macOS, so it’s kind of a waste if you’re just going to get virtual keys instead of physical ones, unless you want to mess around with the screen yourself). If you want something that works right now, the 13" M2 Air is definitely a nice machine.

Also, given current sleep mode limitations, the base model SoCs get better sleep/idle battery life than the Pro/Max ones, so if you don’t need the extra CPU/GPU oomph those are certainly a good choice for that reason too.

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Good to know, thanks marcan! And I hate touch bars with a passion, ever since a work laptop died on me and got replaced by the first touch bar model and I swear the keyboard got much worse (and this was before they brought back Esc)

Either an Air, or a desktop then.

The horrid Apple butterfly keyboard they used in late 2010s-era Macbooks :grimacing:
I think I blocked that keyboard out of my memory until you mentioned it just now. It was arguably the worst keyboard ever made for a computer (not that Apple hasn’t made some other bad mice and other strange design decisions:

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Oh, if not for the Silicon processors I would never even contemplate Apple hardware. Very bad ergonomics.

When You intend to be both a great tech company and a leading fashion brand, strange things come out. :slight_smile: Just wait for new fashion show, maybe the classical style will be in again.

That mouse from the pic should not be named in vernacular. :rofl: