Reader mail: Is now a good time to buy a new MacBook?Gail writes: My ancient Dell has finally bit the dust and I’m shopping for a new laptop, and I’m thinking of going ahead and getting a MacBook (my first). Here’s my question: is now a good time to get one? I’m afraid of buying one and then reading the next day that it’s already obsolete. Help!

Hello Gail, and thanks for reading! First, a quick reality check. As a rule, Apple tends to unveil “refreshed” MacBooks once every 12 months or so—meaning that no matter when you buy a MacBook, you’re looking at less than a year before your particular model becomes yesterday’s news. That’s just the nature of the beast (and it holds true for every other PC manufacturer, as well).

The trick, of course, is knowing when the new MacBooks are arriving—a feat that requires a bit of guesswork, since Apple isn’t given to telegraphing its new products in advance.

My favorite crystal ball for all things Mac is the aptly named MacRumors, which maintains a buyers guide detailing each and every major Apple product—including MacBooks—complete with dates that tick off the last time specific models have been updated.

Taking a look at the MacBooks category, MacRumors notes that the latest wave of MacBook Pros arrived last February, and the MacBook Pro product “cycle” has lasted anywhere between 317 and 231 days in recent years.

Based on those dates, MacRumors concludes that we’re probably “mid-cycle” as far as MacBook Pros are concerned. The site’s buying advice: “Neutral.”

Apple’s razor-thin MacBook Air, meanwhile, hasn’t seen a refresh since last October—a good 250 days, according to MacRumors’ count—and appears due for a revamp any day now. (Indeed, a flurry of rumors and chatter of low inventories seems to bolster the prediction.) That means MacBook Air shoppers would do well to hold their horses for at least a few weeks.

Last but not least is Apple’s $999 white MacBook, which hasn’t been updated in more than a year. The word from MacRumors: “Don’t buy,” as it looks like a new version of the bargain-priced MacBook may be imminent.

So, Gail, back to your question: Should you buy a new MacBook Pro right now? Well, there’s a good chance it will be outdated before the year is out.

Then again, when it comes to gadgets, there’s always a better version right around the corner, and at some point, you might as well take the leap.

And believe me, the difference between the current MacBook Pro and your old, broken-down Dell will be far more dramatic than any incremental improvements in the next MacBook Pro model.

Hope that helps—and if you have more questions about MacBook Pros or laptops in general, post ’em below or send me an email.

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