Given the way that Apple Silicon closes the gap between consumer and professional Macs, the answer to the question “Which Mac should I buy?” is perhaps less straightforward than ever before. But however you decided to tackle it, don’t ask ChatGPT for advice …
Macworld’s Roman Loyola decided to do just that, to find out how good it was at answering the question.
Now that ChatGPT is going to be used a lot more thanks to its official iPhone app, I wanted to see how well it can do with one of the most common questions: Which Mac should I buy? Will it draw from its extensive knowledge to provide helpful insight and information? Will it know the differences between the lines and processors? And most importantly, will it be accurate?
ChatGPT does get off to a good start. Just as you or I would want to understand how a friend will use their Mac in order to make a recommendation, the chatbot too needs as much context as possible. It therefore starts by listing four factors it says need to be taken into account.
1. Purpose: What do you plan to use the Mac for? If you need a computer for basic tasks like web browsing, email, and word processing, you may not need the most powerful or expensive model. If you plan to do more demanding tasks like video editing, programming, or gaming, you may want to look at higher-end models.
2. Size: Macs come in a range of sizes, from the compact MacBook Air to the larger iMac and Mac Pro. Consider where you’ll be using your Mac and how much screen space you need.
3. Portability: If you plan to use your Mac on the go, a laptop like the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro may be a better choice than a desktop model like the iMac or Mac Pro.
4. Budget: Macs can be expensive, so consider how much you’re willing to spend. The MacBook Air is the most affordable option, while the iMac and Mac Pro are the most expensive.
That’s actually very similar to the questions I would ask someone, in order to guide my recommendations.
But once we get into specific recommendations, it all goes rather awry. The biggest limitation is one noted in the chatbots disclaimers: It has “limited knowledge of world and events after 2021,” hence not recommending any M2 machines.
Its generic advice also says that if you want the most powerful machine, and don’t need portability, you should consider the Mac Pro. Even in 2021, that would be terrible advice.
Once Loyola got more specific about his needs, then it started by recommending an M1 Max MacBook Pro, which is not only overkill for his stated needs, but also a discontinued model. It failed to mention any desktop models, and ended up with a rather random recommendation for the M1 MacBook Air.
The bad news, then, is that you and I aren’t off the hook: Our friends should still ask us which Mac to buy, not ChatGPT.
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