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Apple’s line of laptops, which the company calls MacBooks, are considered to be the gold standard of portable computers.
They look great, run incredibly well for several years, and receive regular security updates to add features and boost security. If something goes wrong, you can take a MacBook to an Apple store to get serviced instead of rolling the dice at a third-party big box store. If you don’t live near an Apple store, check to see if there’s an authorized Apple repair location.
If you’re thinking about upgrading your current MacBook, or want to make the switch from a Windows machine, we’ve laid out all of your best options. Whether you need a computer for word processing and web browsing, or high resolution video and photo editing, there’s a MacBook for you.
What Are the Best Apple Laptops?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best Apple laptops; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Webcam: Every MacBook has a 720P (HD) webcam built into the lid. You’ll get better video quality from a standalone webcam, but it’s nice to use in a pinch.
Operating System: All MacBooks run MacOS, a desktop operating system designed by Apple. MacOS is updated throughout the year, with the biggest release coming in Autumn. Apple generally supports its laptops with software updates for around seven years.
Screen Size: Apple’s laptops have one of two screen sizes: 13.3 inches and 16 inches. The larger display is better if you prefer to have a lot of apps on screen at once, and don’t mind carrying a heavier computer around.
Screen Resolution: Each laptop Apple makes has a high resolution “retina” display, which makes text, images, and videos look incredibly clear. If you’ve gotten used to a clear screen on your smartphone, you’ll appreciate this immensely.
Processor: A MacBook runs either a high-end processor from Intel, or one of Apple’s new M-series chips. Apple is beginning to transition all of its computers to its own processors, which are more powerful and energy efficient. Some apps may only run on Intel processors, though.
RAM: The amount of RAM (random access memory) a computer has determines how many apps it can run at once without slowing down. The MacBooks on this list have either eight or 16GB (gigabytes), which should be more than enough for most tasks.
Storage: We’re recommending MacBooks with between 256GB and 1TB (terabyte; 1000GB) of storage. Having less storage is fine if you steam your media, and prefer to keep most of your files in the cloud. If you have a large local media library, or will be working with large files on a regular basis, you should opt for a laptop with extra space.
Inputs: A computer’s inputs (known more commonly as ports), are what allow you to connect accessories to your machine. MacBooks only have Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C compatible) ports. If you have older accessories, you’ll need to get an adapter or full-sized hub to connect them to your machine.
Battery Life: The laptops below all get between 10 and 20 hours of battery life on a single charge, which is more than enough to get you through a standard day of use.
1. Macbook Air
The MacBook Air is Apple’s most popular computer, and it’s the one we recommend to most people.
It has a 13.3-inch high resolution “retina” display, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and Apple’s new M1 processor. That new chip allows the MacBook Air to get up to 15 hours of battery life per charge — you should expect to get around 12 based on your brightness, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi settings.
The M1 chip also enables this new generation of MacBook Air to tackle high intensity tasks like audio, photo, and video editing without breaking a sweat. More impressively, the MacBook Air sustains this level of performance without a fan inside. This limits the laptop slightly (the processor will slow down a bit to avoid overheating), but not as much as earlier generations.
If you’re in the market for a high performance laptop in a thin and light frame, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the right computer for you.
2. 13-Inch MacBook Pro
We’ve had a chance to try Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Pro for ourselves, and it’s the best computer we’ve ever used.
It has the same 13.3-inch high resolution “retina” display, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and M1 processor as the MacBook Air, plus a few key extras. The biggest one is the touch bar, a touch screen that replaces the traditional function keys on the laptop. The touch bar can display different information based on the app you’re using, giving you quick access to important settings.
Its screen is slightly brighter, so you’ll be able to see it more easily if you’re using it outdoors on a sunny day, and its battery lasts up to 20 hours on a single charge. The 13-Inch MacBook Pro also has a fan, which allows it to cool down the processor if you’re doing a high intensity task.
The new 13-inch MacBook Pro is Apple’s best computer in this size class. It’s an extremely powerful machine you should have no problem taking with you anywhere.
3. 16-Inch MacBook Pro
If you need a big-screen laptop to get work done, Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro is the best choice.
It has a 16-inch high resolution “retina” display, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and runs a six-core Intel i7 processor. While the M1 has a lot going for it, third-party apps were optimized to work best on Intel, which will continue to be true for at least a year. This laptop also has Apple’s touch bar instead of traditional function keys. Apple says the 16-inch MacBook Pro can get up to 11 hours of usage per charge.
Its marquee feature is its huge screen, which can get even brighter than the one on the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The additional screen size will come in handy if you like running two apps side by side, or want to use a single more complicated application like Apple’s Logic Pro, Pro Tools, or Adobe Photoshop. The ability to see all of your tools and controls at once is huge.
The tradeoff to having a laptop with such a big screen is that it’s heavy and bulky. It’s 4.3 pounds, which means you’ll definitely be feeling it in a backpack, or when carrying it around. If the extra weight doesn’t bother you, we can’t recommend this machine highly enough.