Help Me, Laptop: How Should I Configure My MacBook Pro?

Reader geekyhobo321 wants a MacBook Pro for school. There are tons of reasons to want one: macOS, great design or even Apple's great tech support. But just because you want a Mac doesn't mean you know how to best configure one for yourself.

In this case, geekyhobo321 is looking for a 13-inch model but doesn't know whether to focus on getting a more powerful processor or getting more RAM. What they should know before buying is that the MacBook Pro, without Intel's latest 8th Gen Core processors, are a bit out-of-date. Here's what we're expecting in the next model. But if you can't wait to buy one for the fall 2018 school year, here's what you need to know.

Our reader is wavering between a model with a 3.1-GHz, 7th Gen Intel Core i5 processor and 16GB of RAM, which retails for $1,999 on Apple's website, and a model with a 3.5-GHz, 7th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and 8GB of RAM, which costs $2,099. Both of those prices feature a 256GB SSD.

Here's the rub for both models: Apple's MacBook Pro isn't upgradable. The RAM, SSD and CPU are soldered to the motherboard. This is your one chance to get it right. Geekyhobo321 suggests the laptop will be used for Microsoft Office and AutoCAD.

The Autodesk system recommended requirements for AutoCAD for Mac 2018 are 4GB of RAM and a 2-GHz or faster CPU. Both configurations smash these requirements out of the park.

MORE: Which GPU is Right For You?

Both laptops have the same GPU — Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650 — so it's kind of a toss-up there. While researching the program and talking with my colleagues, I spoke with one of our web producers, whose father is an architect. The inability to increase the RAM to 32GB has been a sticking point. So, in that case, I suggest getting as much RAM as you can. And since you can't go back, I'd say get 16GB (and you still save $100).

The Core i7 may be faster at some processes. But the 16GB of RAM will help not only in AutoCAD but also with any other tasks you may run, including Office work and web browsing. And the Core i5's turbo boost up to 3.5 GHz does come within spitting distance of Core i7 levels (though, of course, the Core i7 could boost further).

A quad-core processor would help even more. The 15-inch MacBook Pros have these, but the 13-inchers use dual-core CPUs.

So, I say to go with RAM, which will likely be better for you for a wider range of tasks and will also help significantly in AutoCAD. In an ideal world, you'd get both, but when you can't, make the choice that will deliver better overall performance.

Credit: Laptop Mag