Road Apples & Second Class Macs

Second Class Macs are Macs you should buy with your eyes wide open – if you buy them at all. The only ones I would put on the “avoid at all costs” list are those with three or four apples. The Macs with only one or two apples can be very nice computers as long as you are aware of their limitations.

Apple has produced a few computers that could have provided more performance – and should have, based on the CPU they used. However, they were hobbled by other design considerations, usually keeping costs down.

The 10 Worst Macs – 1984 through 2006

  1. Macintosh TV5200-53xx, 6200-6320 four road apples
  2. Performa 600 three road apples
  3. Macintosh TV three road apples
  4. PowerBook G3/233, no cache three road apples
  5. Mac LC two road apples
  6. Classic II two road apples
  7. Mac LC II two road apples
  8. Color Classic two road apples
  9. PowerBook 5300 two road apples
  10. Core Solo Mac mini two road apples

These are Apple’s more compromised hardware designs. For the most part, they’re not really bad – simply designs unable to work as well as they should have. We divide these models into three categories:

  1. Limited Macs. These are generally the best of the Second Class Macs and usually have only one or two areas that limit their potential. They usually rate one apple.
  2. Compromised Macs. These are usually descent Macs where performance has been compromised to keep costs down, prevent competition with a more expensive model, or to meet other design goals. 1-2 apples.
  3. Road Apples. These are the worst, rating 3 and 4 apples.

The Full List

The number of apples ranks Second Class Macs from somewhat limited (one road apple) to those you should avoid at all costs (four road apples).

For the best in used Macs, visit our Best Buys page. Models are listed in the order of their introduction.

Other Mac Hardware

If you would like to nominate another model as a Second Class Mac, please post in the comments and explaining why. Thanks!

For another perspective, see The 10 Worst Macs Ever Built written by Remy Davison on Insanely Great Mac in 2001 – and What Were the 10 Worst Macs of All Time?, a response by Charles W. Moore on Applelinks. For more recent perspectives, see The 10 Worst Macs Ever, published on Low End Mac in 2007, and Apple’s 10 Worst Products, published in 2010.

Second Class Macs is intended as a good natured look at Macintosh bloopers, not as an indictment of Apple, Inc. I’d rather have the worst of these than a Windows machines.

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2 thoughts on “Road Apples & Second Class Macs

  1. I think the entire series of Macbook and Mac Minis from 2006 – 2008, should be road apples, or at least “buy with your eyes wide open” Macs. Why is that?

    1. Slow running Intel programs. These machines have integrated graphics, as well as slow processors, resulting in slow performance.
    2. Slow running Power PC programs. It appears Rosetta uses the graphics card to speed up the running of Power PC programs. Without a graphics card, these machines lag when using Rosetta, especially under Snow Leopard.

    I know this is an anecdotal story, but I have a 2008 Macbook 2.16. This machine lags running Word 2004 to the point where I type faster then it displays. Same for Dreamweaver CS2, and Photoshop, and Acrobat – all the programs I use on a regular basis.

    I recently purchased a used Powerbook G4 12″ 1.5 for $80. That machine flys. Word, Photoshop, Excel, and everything else opens quickly, there’s no lag, and I can throw whatever I want on it, and opens without lag.

    Be careful buying those machines. As of right now, a Powerbook is far cheaper then a Macbook, and is far faster.

    • I am writing this on a 2007 Mac mini with GMA 950 graphics using OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on a 1600 x 1200 pixel display, and I have no complaints. AppleWorks runs beautifully with Rosetta; Word and Excel have always been dogs in my opinion. Most of my software is Intel, and these machines handle native software very handily – assuming enough system memory. Now if you want to run PowerPC applications, a PowerPC Mac may well be your best bet. For basic tasks like writing and email, you really can’t beat the economy of PPC hardware with OS X 10.4 Tiger or 10.5 Leopard.

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