Tue. Mar 5th, 2024


Is it time for a new MacBook, but not sure which model is right for you? Do you need power, affordability, or something in between? We have some recommendations for the best MacBooks you can purchase today.


UPDATE: 01/22/2024

We’ve updated our buying guide with all of the latest and greatest MacBooks. Take a look!

What to Look For in a MacBook in 2024

The second generation of Apple Silicon has finally arrived in the form of the M2, improving the M1 in overall speed, GPU core count, and video editing operations. Even though the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips seen in the MacBook Pro are more capable, the base M1 and M2 chips are more than enough for most use cases.

Newer Apple Silicon-based Macs can still run older software written for Intel Macs using a “transpiler” called Rosetta 2. The new chips perform better when running software optimized for M1 Macs, however. More developers and projects are making their apps Silicon native, including open source projects like emulators and source ports. You can still install iPhone and iPad apps on an M1 Mac too.

MacBook models with an Intel chip still perform and should work for years to come, but we don’t recommend buying into a processor architecture that’s on the way out. You can save money buying second-hand or refurbished, but the benefits of Apple Silicon usually outweigh the modest discount for all but the tightest budgets.

There are many benefits to the new Apple M1 chip architecture beyond big performance gains in optimized software. These include vastly improved power and heat efficiency for longer battery life and lower core temperatures, fast unified RAM, and integrated GPU cores that outpace older AMD mobile GPUs.

All MacBooks run Apple’s macOS instead of Windows. Modern MacBooks with an M1 or M2 variant no longer support Boot Camp, so you won’t be able to dual-boot Windows and macOS anymore. To run Windows on your Mac, you’ll need to do it using virtualization and an app like Parallels running Windows 11 for ARM.

But if you go this route, you’ll need to know that the ARM version of Windows 11 has additional limitations you should be aware of. If you want to run Windows 11, you may be better off getting a Windows-based laptop instead.

Mac support for creative apps and productivity mainstays like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop is good. Still, if you’re considering switching from a PC, it’s worth checking whether the software you rely on will work on a Mac first. For example, most PC games only run on Windows and won’t work on a Mac, meaning your purchases may go to waste.

With all that out of the way, you’re likely wondering—which is the best Macbook to buy? Let’s get to the best ones on the market today.

How Did We Research

Models Evaluated

Hours Researched

Reviews Analyzed

7

9

13

How-To Geek’s product recommendations come from the same team of experts that have helped people fix their gadgets over one billion times. We only recommend the best products based on our research and expertise. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product. Read More »

MacBook Air (M2, 2023)

Pros

Cons

✓ M2 performance remains impressive

✗ Port selection is lacking

✓ Configurable to 24GB unified memory and 2TB SSD

✗ Display isn’t as impressive is Pro models

✓ Available in 13-inch and 15-inch models

✓ MagSafe charging port is a life saver

Apple’s M3-powered MacBook Pro laptops are great computers, but it is overkill for many people, both in terms of power and price. The M2-powered MacBook Air is speedy, portable, and perhaps more importantly, much more affordable than even the base-level M3 MacBook Pro.

The M2 processor powering this model may not be the latest and greatest, but it’s no slouch, offering a 20% performance increase over the older M1 chips. The base model offers an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 256GB SSD, and 8GB of unified memory. Optionally, you can upgrade to either 16GB or 24GB of unified memory, and up to a 2TB SSD.

While the older M1-powered MacBook Air is only available in a 13-inch size, the M2 model is available in 13-inch or 15-inch models. These are largely similar in terms of power, with the larger model simply offering a larger display and higher resolution. Both models feature a Liquid Retina display with True Tone, Apple’s feature to automatically adjust the white balance to your lighting conditions.

Unlike the newer MacBook Pro models that have added extra ports, the MacBook Air is still limited to a pair of Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports. The good news is that these are joined by a MagSafe power connector, which reappeared on Apple laptops in 2021.

While the color choices aren’t especially bold, you can find the 2023 M2-powered MacBook Air in four color choices: Silver, Space Gray, Midnight, and Starlight.

MacBook Air (M2, 2023)

MacBook Air M2

Best MacBook Overall

$1099 $1299 Save $200

The 2023 M2 MacBook air offers a perfect combination of performance and portability, with plenty of configurations and both 13-inch and 15-inch models available.

MacBook Air M1 with apps open
Apple

Pros

Cons

✓ Fast, efficient performance thanks to the M1 chip

✗ Lack of cooling means thermal throttling happens quicker than on the MacBook Pro

✓ The smallest, most lightweight Apple notebook

✗ Only two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports

✓ Beautiful Retina display

✓ Excellent 18-hour battery life

The 13-inch MacBook Air with an M1 chip starts at $999 for the base model, so you can save over the best overall pick if you’re looking for an entry-level MacBook. The M1 MacBook Air retains its iconic wedge-shaped form factor, but now it’s completely silent on account of not having a fan inside it, and it remains one of the best bargains on Apple hardware.

The base M1 MacBook Air has the same 8 CPU cores found on higher-end models but only 7 GPU cores. This is a great way of saving money if you don’t think you’ll be using visually demanding applications like video editors or games. If you want a more powerful version of the MacBook Air with an 8-core GPU you’ll need to opt for 2023’s revised edition.

Not having a fan means that the MacBook Air can’t run under load for as long as the MacBook Pro before thermal throttling sets in. Granted, if you’re looking for a budget laptop, you’re probably only looking for light productivity and web browsing, so this isn’t a huge concern. This also means that the 8GB of RAM won’t be an issue, as long as you’re not attempting heavy video editing or similar workloads.

The MacBook Air still has stellar battery life, with Apple rating it for 18 hours on a single charge. The 13.3-inch Retina display covers the full P3 wide color gamut, though it doesn’t get quite as bright as the newer M2 model MacBook, and there’s no MacBook Pro-style Touch Bar above the keyboard. Touch ID is present and allows you to log in or authorize changes and payments using your fingerprint (you can also use your Apple Watch if you have one).

macbook air M1

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Best Budget MacBook

$750 $999 Save $249

The 13-inch MacBook Air with M1 chip is silent and mighty with great battery life and a gorgeous display. It’s a bit cheaper than comparable MacBook Pro models and is better suited to light use.

MacBook Air 15 inch (M2, 2023)

Pros

Cons

✓ M2 chip offers improved performance over the M1

✗ Not as good for video as a MacBook Pro

✓ Impressive battery life

✓ 15-inch display is great for creative apps and media

✓ Still small and light enough to toss in a backpack

School work isn’t the same now as it was even 10 years ago. While it wasn’t that long ago that nearly any laptop would work, students are doing much more with photos and video than ever. That means that, at least in many cases, you want a larger screen, which is why we chose the MacBook Air 15-inch (M2, 2023).

To start, everything that always made the MacBook Air such a great laptop is still here: it’s thin, light at just over three pounds, and it easily fits in a backpack, so you can take it anywhere. The battery will best nearly any Windows laptop, meaning you don’t need to worry about running out in the middle of a class or important project.

While the M2 MacBook Air lacks the sheer power of an M3 Pro or Max-powered MacBook Pro, it’s still got more power than you may expect. Editing photos, creating images, and even editing video will work fine, even on the base 8GB of unified memory, but the $200 upgrade to 16GB of memory is a key upgrade if you’re heavily into video.

That bigger display isn’t just good for classwork and side projects, either. When you’ve got some downtime, the bigger display will be nicer for watching a YouTube video or a few episodes of your latest Netflix fixation. The MagSafe port is also handy to keep your laptop from flying off your desk if someone walks by too closely.

The 2023 M2 15-inch MacBook Pro is available in Midnight, Starlight, Space Gray, and Silver options. Apple offers special pricing for students, bringing the cost down considerably, so be sure to keep this in mind.

MacBook Air 15 inch (M2, 2023)

Apple MacBook Air M2 15 in.

Best MacBook for Students

The 15-inch M2 MacBook Pro, released in 2023, offers a large Liquid Retina display, impressive performance in a slim package, and battery life that needs to be seen to be believed.

MacBook Pro 16 inch (M3 Max, 2023)

Pros

Cons

✓ Fantastic performance for gaming and creative apps

✗ Gaming options are limited compared to Windows

✓ Impressive Liquid Retina XDR display

✗ Space Black model is a fingerprint magnet

✓ Integrated GPU outshines Intel and AMD options

✓ Incredible battery life considering the performance

Apple isn’t exactly known for its gaming powerhouse computers, but perhaps more than ever before, the company seems like it is seriously aiming to change that. Not only is the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023) incredibly powerful in general, but its integrated graphics are far more powerful than you’d get from Intel or AMD.

Even the lowest-spec model of the M3 Max 16-inch MacBook Pro seems almost ridiculously powerful, with a 14-core CPU, 30-core GPU, and 16-core Neutral Engine. For even more graphics power, you can bump those specs up to a 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU, but it’ll cost you an extra $300. Out of the box, you get 36GB of unified memory, upgradeable to either 96GB or 128GB with the higher-spec chip.

Gaming laptops might be powerful, but some PC gaming laptops feel like the battery life should be measured in minutes. Even with as powerful as they are, the M3 Max-powered MacBook Pro models offer incredible battery life, to the point that you could leave the charger at home for a day or two and not notice, depending on your workload.

While this model will be great for video editing, 3D rendering, and other GPU-crunching tasks, native gaming performance is better than expected. Games like Baldur’s Gate 3 run surprisingly well, even on Ultra settings, something you likely wouldn’t have read about an Intel-powered Mac just a few years ago.

You can even get the sleek black finish that adorns so many gaming laptops, though here Apple refers to it as Space Black. If you prefer a more traditional look, you can also get the M3 Max-powered MacBook Air in a Silver finish.

MacBook Pro 16 inch (M3 Max, 2023)

MacBook Pro M3 Max 16-inch

Best MacBook for Gaming

The M3 Max-powered 16-inch MacBook Pro is an incredibly powerful laptop, with an integrated GPU that offers impressive gaming performance and all-day battery life.

MacBook Pro 14 inch (2023, M3 Pro)

Pros

Cons

✓ Noticeably more powerful than MacBook Air models

✗ Pricy compared to base-level 14-inch MacBook Pro

✓ M3 Pro offers better performance and port selection over M3

✗ Smaller footprint makes it look chunky compared to 16-inch

✓ Can upgrade to an absolute powerhouse

✓ Impressive sound given the small size

Judging by the “Pro” in the name, it makes sense that a MacBook Pro would be the best option for professionals. That said, if you’re going to be throwing heavy workloads at your laptop, the base M3 model may not have the horsepower you’re looking for. The MacBook Pro 14-inch (2023, M3 Pro), on the other hand, will easily handle anything you ask of it.

The M3 Pro model of the 14-inch MacBook Pro features up to a 12-core CPU and 18-core GPU, and up to 36GB of unified memory. Storage ranges from a 512GB SSD all the way up to a 4TB model. Upgrading to an M3 Max-powered model unlocks even higher numbers for both memory and storage, but that won’t be necessary for most professionals.

The Liquid Retina XDR display is a key feature here, as not only is the display bright and crisp, but accurate as well. If you plan on using your MacBook for plenty of photo or video work, this display, combined with the power of the M3 Pro, will make your life much easier.

You also don’t need to worry about leaving your charger behind. Ever since Apple switched to its own chipsets, battery life has gotten a major boost, and that’s certainly the case with this model. You also get plenty of ports, with three Thunderbolt 4 ports, a full-size HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, a high-impedance headphone jack, and a MagSafe charging port.

Colors are limited compared to the MacBook Air line, with just two options: Space Black and Silver. Both are quite nice looking, though it’s worth mentioning that the Space Black is a bit more of a fingerprint magnet than the Silver finish.

MacBook Pro 14 inch (2023, M3 Pro)

MacBook Pro 14 inch (2023, M3 Pro)

Best MacBook for Professionals

$1849 $1999 Save $150

The M3 Pro 14-inch MacBook Pro offers several advantages over the base M3 model, like Thunderbolt 4, better overall performance, and better support for external monitors.

FAQ

How do I factory reset my MacBook?

Whether you’re trading your Mac away or it’s effectively bricked, a factory reset can rewind the clock to a like-new MacBook. Check out our guide on factory resetting your Mac for a step-by-step walkthrough, no matter what model you have.

How do I connect my AirPods to my MacBook?

The Apple ecosystem makes your life much easier—if you know how it works. Connecting your AirPods to your Mac is usually pretty painless on the first go around, and even simpler every time thereafter, thanks to automatic ear detection.

How do I clean my MacBook screen and keyboard?

Cleaning your MacBook screen safely and effectively takes just a few swipes from a soft (preferably microfiber) cloth with the help of some 70% isopropyl alcohol solution (which you can get at just about any grocery store). Cleaning the dust and debris out of your Mac’s keyboard is a bit more time-consuming, but you’ll be so glad you did it once it’s finished.

How do I take a screenshot on my MacBook?

Screenshots are a keyboard shortcut away; check out our full guide on taking Mac screenshots.

How do I copy and paste on a MacBook?

If you’ve ever used the copy-and-paste shortcuts on a Windows machine, you’ll recognize the Mac variant of this useful function. Command + C copies text or images to your clipboard, while Command + V pastes the elements currently in the clipboard.

How do I update my MacBook?

Updating your MacBook is easy enough, especially when you use the automatic update functionality to keep your laptop tip-top. Follow along with our guide on updating your MacBook for detailed instructions.



Source link

By John P.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *