Every year for Black Friday, optimistic MacBook buyers get suckered into purchasing a laptop they should never have bought. It’s understandable enough — Apple’s products rarely go on sale, so when you see a Black Friday MacBook deal for under $500, it’s hard not to get excited.
But let me promise you something: If you buy one of these highly discounted and very old MacBooks, you will be sorely disappointed by what you get.
Take this deal on a 13-inch MacBook Air for $532, for example. You might look at the photos and think it looks fairly modern. And you’d be right. The M1 MacBook Air that’s currently sold by Apple still uses this same chassis. Set them on a table side by side, and you couldn’t tell the difference.
You’d likely maintain that opinion as you open the box and pull off the plastic, excited by the sleek design of Apple’s marketing materials. But once you actually start using this thing, you’ll notice some major problems with this three-year old MacBook.
This MacBook Air was a low point in the line — the last models before the M1 landed. Performance was pretty awful, using Intel’s two-core Y-series chip. It’s a fanless system, and when I reviewed it, the device even had problems doing basic multitasking such as being on a video call and running Chrome simultaneously. That’s not to mention that with only 128GB of storage, you’ll probably need to pick up an external SSD too.
But wait, it gets worse. Amazon is even selling MacBook Airs from 2017 and earlier. Yes, a five-year old laptop with a crusty old Intel processor. You might think that for just $249, it’s worth it — but combine this ancient-looking design and some really poor performance, and you’ll be regretting your decision almost immediately. Don’t you dare buy this for your kid going off to college either.
On top of all of that, Apple no longer supports MacBook Airs before 2017. That means you can’t even get the latest macOS Ventura software update, along with all future updates to come.
That can sound deflating, I get it — money’s tight right now, and everyone’s on a budget. So, what do you do?
Well, there’s actually a really solid discount right now on the 2020 M1 MacBook Air. And even though this one is two years old, it’s still an incredible laptop. In fact, for most people, I tend to recommend this even over the M2 MacBook Air. It uses an older chassis, yes, but the M1 transforms this otherwise standard MacBook into the ultimate work or college laptop. Battery life is off the charts, and you’ll be shocked by how good the performance is.
This MacBook is still sold by Apple for $999, so the fact that you’re getting a $200 discount is pretty incredible.
If you really need to stick closer to $500, though, that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with an old, outdated laptop. There are lots of good options for this price — they’re just not MacBooks.
Take, for example, this deal for a Surface Laptop Go 2 for $599. This compact, 12.4-inch laptop comes with the latest 12th-gen Core i5 processor from Intel — and in an overall package that looks remarkably modern. You can even double the storage up to a more manageable 256GB for just $100.
But if you really want value in a laptop, you’re far better off opting for a Chromebook than an updated MacBook. So long as you can do all your work in a browser, a Chromebook will feel much faster and last longer than a 2017 MacBook Air. This deal for a Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i is the best example I could find for Black Friday. For just $269, you’re getting a modern-looking thin and light laptop — and the 11th-gen Core i3 processor will be supremely fast in the context of ChromeOS.
Whether you opt for a non-MacBook or splurge for the M1 MacBook Air, there’s really no reason to buy a highly outdated MacBook. When it comes right down to it, if it doesn’t have an M1, it’s just not worth it.
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