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The Mac price crash of 2021

Macs hold their value. Where I live it’s not uncommon to see 10-, 12-, even 20-year-old Macs for sale. But the new M1 Macs have cratered MacBook resale values. The carnage is just beginning.

The impressive performance and battery life gains of the new M1 MacBooks have created a historic discontinuity in the normally placid resale market. Should you spend $800 for a one year old MacBook Air when for $200 more you could get a MacBook Air with several times the performance and 50 percent better battery life? 

That's a question savvy buyers are asking themselves. Not surprisingly, the most common answer seems to be "Nope!"

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Savvy sellers and naïve buyers

I check Craigslist fairly regularly to keep track of what's for sale. I've seen an unusual bifurcation in the pricing for MacBooks.

There are more late-model Intel MacBooks showing up for sale. Some of those are showing context sensitive pricing, i.e. almost new MacBook Airs for $600 rather than the $800-$900 that some think their Intel-based machine is still worth.

But most seem to be hoping that good news travels slow. And why not?

Unless buyers check out a site like Everymac they won't know what they're missing. The bottom-of-the-line M1 MacBook Air has a Geekbench 5 multiprocessor score that is almost 2.5x that of the early 2020, top-of-the-line quad-core I7. For 80 percent of the price. And most users won't need to spend the extra cash for the 16GB version since the memory management and page swapping is so efficient.

The contrast is even more striking when comparing MacBook Pros. Not only is the 13" MacBook Pro faster on the Geekbench 5 single and multiprocessor benchmarks than the top-of-the-line 16" MacBook Pro Intel I9, it less than half the price.

And it isn't just a single benchmark. Search on "M1 MacBook Pro vs 16 MacBook Pro" on YouTube to see multiple videos testing real world workloads on both machines.

To be fair, not everyone is impressed, often because the software critical to their workflow isn't optimized for the new M1 processor. But those corner cases don't reflect average users needs. In the meantime, most of those specialized apps are being recompiled to be M1 native over the next year.

The Take

The days when Intel produced startling performance gains with every new generation of x86 processors are, sadly, decades behind us. The industry hasn't seen this level of price/performance discontinuity since the jump from the Intel 8008 to the 8080.

The good news: the best deals on Intel 'Books are yet to come, assuming Apple offers retailers price protection. There seems to be a large inventory of Intel based MacBooks and they have to clear them out before the end of 2021. Taking off even more than the $250 cut that Costco, for one, is offering.

The serious used Mac carnage is still ahead. What happens when your $20,000 Mac Pro gets beat by  -- and I'm guesstimating here -- an $8,000 Mx Mac Pro? 

If you have an Intel MacBook Air or MacBook Pro and are thinking of trading up, you're likely to get more for your current 'Book by moving sooner rather than later. The Apple Silicon story is only going to get better. And the resale value of older Macs only worse.

Comments welcome. I'll be publishing my medium-term M1 MacBook Air review soon. It's not all rainbows and unicorns, but not bad for a first effort.