OPINION: The iPhone 15 event is inbound but a new MacBook rumour emerged this week. The suggestion was a “low-cost” MacBook to rival Chromebooks in the education sector. I say, dream on.
Whether it’s Macs, MacBooks, iPhones or Apple Watch models, there isn’t a year goes by where Apple onlookers don’t hope for a cheaper device.
But, a huge part of Apple’s value proposition is the luxury it offers, and how it is able to persuade consumers to pay that little bit extra for luxury and quality design. So, I get the desire for a “low-cost” MacBook.
Now, there is often no smoke without fire, especially when it comes to rumours through sources that have some history of finding true information ahead of time.
In this case, the rumour comes from DigiTimes. It states “Apple is reportedly developing a low-cost MacBook series to compete with Chromebook models in the education sector that could be released as early as the second half of 2024.”
I feel like there is some wiggle room in this report, which could lead to something viable, but any belief that we could get a MacBook to rival the sub-£400 models you find across the Chromebook offerings in the education sector should be quashed immediately. Apple’s cheapest current-generation iPad starts at £499/$449. There is not going to be a MacBook starting cheaper than that coming onto the market.
But, if the base M2 13-inch MacBook Air is beyond your budget – that’s £1149/$1049, and even cheaper through Apple’s education scheme – then there could be some hope for you in this rumour. Just not sub-£400 MacBook-flavoured hope.
Apple has shown a desire to offer cheaper versions of its devices in two different ways. Currently, across the iPad and MacBook lines, it has kept older generations around on its site – clearly recognising a need for consumers to have access to something cheaper than its latest options.
More poignant for this particular rumour is the SE models in Apple’s Watch and iPhone ranges. These are the true “low-cost” devices that Apple offers and a MacBook SE would be the closest thing we could expect to a cheap MacBook. Apple could, of course, just revert to using the simple “MacBook” moniker for such a device but the name is much of a muchness.
So, what would such a device be? Murmurings of a “MacBook SE”-style device are nothing new (via Tom’s Guide), with think pieces preceding the launch of Apple Silicon with some believing using an Arm chip would surely equate to lower cost and lower power MacBooks. Now, these musings have largely died down as Apple has shown its own chips to be nigh-on complete replacements for what went before – not low-performance equivalents.
If a cheaper MacBook were to launch sometime in the near future, I’d expect it to be a completely stripped-back MacBook Air with no more than two or three ports and components to support simple productivity needs. Basically, an Apple version of the excellent Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2, which would be pretty exciting.
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However, I think it is very unlikely that this device would be any cheaper than £850/$800 at the very least. If you’re at all familiar with how Apple prices its products, you’ll know models across iPhone, iPad, MacBooks are all priced in a way to encourage you to steadily consider the pricier option.
Often, if you decide you’d like a regular iPhone but with more storage then you’ll next realise it’s close to the price of the base Pro model so then maybe you’ll consider that – this runs across Apple’s devices. As such, a cheaper MacBook is not going to be priced remarkably lower than the entry-level M2 MacBook Air – and certainly not the price of a low-cost education sector Chromebook.
A cheaper MacBook would certainly provide fierce competition for many laptops in the £700-£1000 price bracket, including Chromebooks in that range, but a MacBook for under £500/$500? Not a chance.
Ctrl+Alt+Del is our weekly computing-focused opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.