Apple: 2019 Brand Report Card
Apple keeps falling further from the head of the pack, ranking 10th out of 12 places this year after being 7th out of 10 last year. This past year saw the company face a lot of scrutiny over its keyboards, and while it delivered the Retina display MacBook Air most everyone wanted, all of its laptops felt too iterative, with little to truly boast about.
However, Apple's fantastic tech support and dedication to making sleek-looking laptops are keeping hope alive for those who stay loyal to its ecosystem.
Apple's Key Strengths
- The best tech support: Friendly, efficient and well-informed agents are rare, and Apple knows how to train its crew to impress.
- Increasingly impressive performance: Record-breaking SSD speeds and Core i9 CPUs helped Apple's MacBook Pros impress at the testing bench.
Apple's Key Weaknesses
- Aging designs: Sure, Apple set the standards, but it's staying within the lines it set years ago, with limited colorways, and weights that are staying the same while everyone's shredding pounds.
- High prices: Apple's reluctance to make a laptop that's less than $800 keeps its tech out of the hands of many budget-focused shoppers.
- No new tricks: The MacBook Air got a bunch of hand-me-downs from the Pro, but the MacBook Pro's missing facial recognition and the 12-inch MacBook and Non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro have gone ignored.
Top-Rated Apple Laptops
- Best MacBook for Most People: MacBook Air (2018)
- Most Powerful MacBook: Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro (2018)
Apple's keyboard woes continue and the few MacBooks we reviewed this year aren't as groundbreaking as we'd hoped. As a result, the Cupertino giant's average laptop score sits at 3.7 stars, with only one entry receiving an Editor's Choice award. It's not all bad news for macOS users, however: Apple finally released a new version of the MacBook Air, bringing long-awaited features to its mainstream consumer notebook. But the 12-inch MacBook is still in desperate need of some attention, and Apple continues to sell the 13-inch MacBook Pro with outdated components.
For all its shortcomings in the laptop space, Apple still sells some great products. Armed with an incomprehensibly fast SSD, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is a great choice in spite of its exorbitant price. Offering workstation-class productivity in a mobile package, the MacBook Pro has a sleek chassis, vivid display and long battery life.
No one can ever say that Apple laptops aren't simultaneously sturdy and sleek. They can, however, say that the design has gotten rather stale over the years. Since it's become the de facto laptop of coffee shops and workspaces, Apple's gotten a bit too comfortable in the design area.
Outside of shaving off a few ounces and inches, like the 2018 MacBook Air, the look hasn't changed much. And in the case of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, it hasn't changed at all. In fact, the Pro is heavier than the competition and still offering the same two colors, Space Gray and Silver, while competing laptop makers are dabbling in blues, whites and rose gold.
However, there's a reason for the term "MacBook clone." Apple's iconic look is still parroted by laptop manufacturers to this day.
Support and Warranty (18/20)
The tech-support folks who work Apple's phone lines, live chat and social media continue to give the company a good name, providing accurate answers promptly, with a fun, jovial attitude. The only wall we hit with the company's service was how its online knowledge base doesn't handle synonyms well for some queries, making it difficult to find answers because you don't think of a "webcam" as a "camera."
After a price-jump to its AppleCare+ extended tech support package in 2017, Apple's kept its warranties the same over the last period of our reporting. Laptops come with a one-year hardware warranty and 90 days of phone support, and you can extend those allotments to three years for $249 (MacBook Air and 12-inch MacBook), $269 for the 13-inch MacBook Pro and $379 for the 15-inch MacBook Pro.
The past year was not very notable for MacBook innovation, as the only step forward was the revamped MacBook Air. It's nice that Apple finally delivered a Retina Display, Touch ID and a Force Touch trackpad for a relatively affordable price, but there's nothing really exciting or new here.
Value and Selection (7/15)
Apple has a small selection of laptops that all start at a premium price and only get more premium. The most "affordable" laptop that Apple sells is the MacBook Air, which starts at $1,099 and is outfitted with a Core i5 Y-series chip, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. It has a quality aluminum design along with a great pair of speakers, but its display is dim and its performance is subpar compared to the competition.
MORE: Best Apple Laptops
A step up from that is the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which starts at $1,299 but can go up to $3,499, which gets you a Core i7, 16GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD. But with that exorbitant price, the graphics performance and battery life could've been better. One ace up the system's sleeve, however, is its SSD, which is among the fastest ever in a laptop. It's outmatched only by its big brother, the 15-inch MacBook Pro (starting at $2,399; up to $6,949). The 15-inch version is our favorite, as it boasts incredibly powerful performance.
However, compared to any Windows laptop, Apple's pricing is generally much higher. The only truly unique feature that Apple has to offer is macOS, which many users simply prefer. We'd like to see one Apple laptop in the sub-$800 range, but we don't see that happening.