Buying a new laptop can be a confusing experience, especially if you choose the Windows OS. Things are a little simpler with Macs although finding the best Macbook can still give you headaches if you’re new to the scene. That’s because of yearly upgrades and variants although there are a few more things you’ll need to keep in mind as well.
Last update on 2021-10-18 // The links above are affiliate // Images from Amazon
How to Choose the Best MacBook for Your Needs
While you may think choosing a new MacBook is as simple as looking at the latest Pro or Air, it’s not quite that easy. You won’t have to wade through dozens of 2-in-1 laptops or dig into the pixel density of 4K displays, but you will need to think about why you’re buying one, so you can find the right fit.
To keep it simple, the MacBook Pro is the company’s flagship laptop and their answer to all those high-spec’d Windows machines. While it can certainly deliver on most fronts and is ideal for professionals, it’s also not cheap if you want the top model with the Touch Bar and a big solid-state drive.
The newest versions of the MacBook Air are not far behind the Pro now, but are lighter and built for portability and speed. They come with many of the same bells & whistles found on flagship models while the regular MacBook falls somewhere between those two styles.
In a nutshell, the Pro is geared towards professionals and power-hungry consumers while the Air is ideal for students. There are also older models to consider along with a half-dozen configurations for each device.
There’s not a lot to say when it comes to specs as Apple does things a bit differently. That means there are no exotic GPU to choose from and only a handful of components across the board. Every year those parts get refreshed, but the entire lineup primarily consists of the Intel Core-i5 and i7 processors for the most part which is backed by 8GB of RAM in the mid-range. On the high-end, you’ll get 16GB and most models allow you to “boost” the machine in key areas from Apple but it comes at a premium.
While that’s not exciting, every modern machine will have a fast solid-state hard drive and a colorful display. Their Retina display is your best bet although it can’t hold a candle to the best 4K panels on the market. As for the ports, we’re not going to spend much time there as you won’t get many. It’s a common complaint with Mac users along with the keyboard so be prepared to buy an adapter or two.
Most laptops don’t have great warranties, and even the best Apple laptops are no different. The standard warranty is 1-year, but you might luck up and pick up a model being sold with Apple Care. If not, an extended warranty is always an option and highly recommended if available. Macs are built to run forever and be crash-free machines, but they aren’t something casual consumers can work on. That means it pays to buy right the first time as they are not upgrade-friendly either.
Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch with Touch Bar
The Best MacBook Pro
With some products, the most expensive isn’t necessarily the best, but that isn’t the case this time around. The Apple MacBook Pro is our choice for the best MacBook overall, and while it’s expensive, it’s worth every penny if you’re a power user or pro.
The MacBook Pro is Apple’s flagship laptop, so you’re getting their top model with all the bells & whistles. That includes a Touch Bar along with Touch ID and four Thunderbolt 3 ports. While not in the Air class, it’s still light at 4.3 pounds and has a “good” battery life with around 11 hours depending on your usage. If you’re using high-end editing programs or other intensive apps on the go, you can definitely expect that number to drop.
When a laptop carries a “Pro” moniker, it needs to have some pop, and this one doesn’t disappoint. We went for the Core i7 variant with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB solid-state drive as it provides a good value for the price. There are other options available however including the Intel Core i9 with 1TB if you need more power. Other tech specs of interest include a DisplayPort, Bluetooth 5.0, and Dual-band Wi-Fi.
Graphics come courtesy of the Radeon Pro 5300M with automatic graphics switching to Intel UHD Graphics 630, but the display is arguably the star of the show. It’s a 16.0-inch retina display with True Tone tech and a resolution of 3072 x 1920.
There are no big surprises here as the best MacBook is usually the Pro model each year. It’s quicker than other machines with better specifications, and the operating system ensures you won’t hit nearly as many snags. That makes an excellent laptop for video editing or almost any professional need. On the downside, it’s expensive, and we still don’t have 4K or a touchscreen display. The MacBook Pro is available in Space Gray or Silver with a 1-year warranty.
- It’s quick and reliable
- Touch ID & Touch Bar
- 16GB of RAM
- x4 Thunderbolt 3 ports
- The keyboard could be better
- The price
Apple MacBook Air with Apple M1 Chip
Same, But Different
The Apple MacBook Air is one of the best Apple laptops out there, and the most important thing about this model is arguably the M1 chip, which is a game changer. The M1 chip is really impressive, as it allows you to run both legacy apps, new M1-optimized apps and iOS apps.
Moreover, battery life is stellar, and overall performance does not disappoint. So, if you can afford it, stop reading this short review and go for it.
Here’s the deal: the MacBook Air M1 is Apple’s slimmest laptop to date, and makes for a huge leap forward for the company, as the new M1 ARM based processor is replacing older Intel-centric models. Also, there’s a new macOS 11 available, which is kind of cool.
The new chip and the latest OS deliver like never before in terms of battery life, power efficiency and performance, and amazingly enough, the price tag remained more or less the same as its predecessor. Basically, the new MacBook Air M1 offers upgraded hardware/software for no extra costs, and that’s strange from Apple.
Speaking of strange things, the new MacBook Air M1 is also competitive compared to other premium Windows 10 based laptops, of which some are actually more expensive than the MacBook Air M1, like the Dell XPS 13 or the HP Spectre x360, i.e. Apple really nailed it this time price-wise, which is kind of rare.
So, to sum it up, this laptop offers everything: fabulous (fanless) design, a gorgeous display, premium build quality, fantastic battery life, solid hardware/software combo, and top-notch performance.
What else do you want?
- Affordable MacBook
- macOS Big Sure is great
- Stellar battery life
- Very good keyboard
- Dead silent in use
- High-end performance
Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina Display
An Excellent Mid-Range Mac
We’ll admit, the newest version of the MacBook Pro is a sweet machine. That said, it’s not the only Pro around as the prices on previous generations drop when new laptops arrive. That makes this 13-inch PC a bargain if you want to get your hands on their flagship model but don’t require as much horsepower.
This laptop gets its power from an 8th gen 1.4 or 2.0GHz quad-core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. An Intel Iris Plus 645 lends a hand when it comes to graphics and gaming while a solid-state drive takes care of the storage. We chose the 515GB edition considering Apple and upgrades aren’t two things that go together, but 256GB and 1TB variants are available as well.
Regardless of the hard drive, you’ll get the company’s famous Retina display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 which clocks in at 13-inches. All the usual boxes are ticked in the connectivity department along with two Thunderbolt 3 ports and Bluetooth 5.0. There are Touch ID and a Touch Bar, and the battery life is excellent at around 10 hours per charge.
There’s not much to stay from a design standpoint. It looks like a MacBook, is well-built and likely to outlast other PCs by a decade. It weighs a little over 3 pounds and measures 0.61”H x 11.97”W x 8.36”D.
It has the same standard Apple warranty as the rest of our options and is available in Silver or Space Gray.
- 13-inch Retina display
- Iris Plus 645 Graphics
- 256GB/512GB/1TB SSD
- Battery life
- Touch ID
- Nothing really
Apple MacBook Pro with Apple M1 Chip
Big Refresh for the Little MacBook Pro
Even if we’re not fanboys of any brand, we must confess that the MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 is one of the most exciting machines released by Apple in years. The new ARM-based M1 processor replaces old Intel hardware and offers incredible battery life, as well as exceptional performance and versatility in the Apple ecosystem, i.e. it allows you to run both legacy apps, new M1-optimized apps and iOS apps.
The new MacBook Pro M1 is not just a facelift/refresh of the smallest laptop in Apple’s Pro line, but a huge leap forward in terms of hardware and overall performance. If you’re shopping for something nothing short of revolutionary, the MacBook Pro M1 will meet all your expectations, and then some, as it’s 2.8 times faster compared to its Intel-powered predecessor, and battery life is better.
Compared to equivalent Windows based laptops, the MacBook Pro M1 is 3 times faster, due to the new M1 SoC’s 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU. To make a long story short, this machine is absolutely incredible in terms of speed, looks, weight/size, display, and battery life, and it doesn’t have any real competitor for the asking price in the Windows-Linux world, both in terms of overall performance and autonomy at a similar price.
Build quality is flawless, as usual, and if you’re looking for a work-horse, you must learn that the laptop doesn’t get hot even when pushed hard with intensive tasks/gaming.
The display is great as usual, more precisely a Retina variant with 2560 x 1600, and speaking of performance, the new M1 SoC can beat powerful Intel 11th gen chips (7, 768 points in Cinebench R23 benchmark).
Battery life is rated at 17 hours, but in real life you’ll get maybe 12-13, which is impressive, and bottom line, if you’re shopping for a small yet powerful MacBook for heavy duty tasks like editing UHD videos,, this one is the best yet.
- Perfect design
- Flawless performance
- Stellar battery life
- Excellent Retina display
- Can run iOS apps
- Great keyboard
- Just 2 USB C Ports