Best MacBook in 2024: Which Apple laptop should you buy?

Finding the best MacBook is harder than it seems. Since the move to Apple Silicon powering these laptops in 2020, Apple laptops are consistently among the strongest choices across multiple categories. So the challenge isn't avoiding a bad MacBook, there isn't one in Apple's lineup currently, it's a matter of ensuring that you end up with the best MacBook for your needs and budget.

We're here to help. At Laptop Mag we have reviewed and tested every current MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, so we are armed with the knowledge and hands-on experience to guide you to the right MacBook with the perfect configuration for you.

The MacBook Air M3 currently reigns atop our best laptop page, so it should come as no surprise that it is also our pick for the best MacBook overall. It’s easily portable while offering enough power and battery life to meet the needs of students, professionals, content creators, and more. However, that doesn't necessarily mean it is the best MacBook for you, so let's dig a little deeper into the Apple laptop lineup.

The Apple Silicon powering every MacBook is a key ingredient to Apple’s recipe for success with a blend of performance and efficiency that its Windows rivals look to match. From the M2 to the all-powerful M3 Max, these chips cover a wide variety of needs, meaning there is a MacBook for just about every type of user. That’s true when it comes to price as well with the MacBook Air M2 often available for as low as $849, while the Pro lineup starts at $1,599 with the MacBook Pro 14 M3 and goes all the way up to $3,499 and beyond for the most powerful 16-inch MacBook Pro with the M3 Max chip.

With the departure of the Air M1 earlier this year, all MacBooks sold by Apple now feature restored features like MagSafe charging on the Air models, while the Pro line also offers an HDMI port and an SD card reader. The MacBook Pro models were refreshed in November 2023, so the MacBook Pro M4 models are likely coming late this year with the MacBook Air M4 not expected until early 2025.

Read on for our full thoughts on each Apple laptop and we'll guide you to the MacBook that you should buy today.

Best Prime Day MacBook deal

13.6" Apple MacBook Air M3: $1,099 $849 @ Amazon

13.6" Apple MacBook Air M3: $1,099 $849 @ Amazon
Save $250 on the MacBook Air M3. In our MacBook Air M3 review, we gave it a high rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. It's the Editor's Choice best overall laptop for outstanding battery life and powerful performance. If you're looking for a portable and reliable daily driver you can't go wrong with the MacBook Air M3.

Features: 13.6-inch (2560 x 1664) 500-nit Liquid Retina display, M3 8-core processor, 8-Core GPU, 16-core neural engine, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 1080p FaceTime HD camera, three-mic array with directional beamforming, Backlit Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, quad-speakers with Spatial Audio support, macOS 

Not interested in the MacBook Air M3? Check out the rest of our picks for the best Prime Day laptop deals.

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Laptop Mag: About Us
Curated by
Sean Riley

Sean Riley has covered a wide variety of tech over his 13 years as a journalist, but found his home at Laptop Mag in 2020. As the managing editor he takes a part in every laptop review that is published on Laptop Mag, whether as reviewer or editor. Sean has used MacBooks since the unibody plastic days and most recently reviewed the MacBook Air M3 models, so he has a wide breadth of experience with Apple laptops.

The Quick List

Best MacBook Overall

Most MacBook shoppers need look no further

Specifications

CPU: Apple M3
GPU: Apple M3 GPU
RAM: 16 GB
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 13-inch, 1664p
Size: 12 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches
Weight: 2.7 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding battery life
+
Strong performance
+
Bright Liquid Retina display
+
Comfortable keyboard
+
Improved SSD speeds

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited ports
-
Display not as colorful as competitors

The MacBook Air M3 is a perfect laptop for a wide variety of users thanks to its thin and light design married with outstanding performance and battery life. While the display notch may take a moment for new users to acclimate to, rest assured it will disappear for you faster than the iPhone notch as it is effectively integrated into the OS. 

The Apple M3 chip is more than up to most tasks that you are likely to throw at it. Whether you are a professional, a student, or just someone that wants an outstanding laptop for around the house the Air 13 M3 will juggle apps and browser tabs without a stutter. Just consider bumping up to 16GB of RAM if you don't like remembering to close some of those apps or tabs.

While content creators would be better served by at least the MacBook Air 15 M3 and best served by one of the MacBook Pro models, the Air M3 can certainly do light duty there if you aren't doing photo and video editing constantly.

What else are you getting with the Air 13 M3? A bright display, a quad-speaker array and a solid 1080p webcam. These make it a great match for users that are regularly on the go as you can work in any lighting, enjoy your audio if you are watching or listening to content on the Air, and don't need to bring an external webcam. MagSafe charging keeps your two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports available for other purposes.

The biggest consideration with the Air M3 is the price if you need to upgrade much from the $1,099 base model. If you find yourself cresting the $1,500 mark for your configuration then you may want to consider the base 14-inch MacBook Pro, which I cover later in this list and starts at $1,599.

See our full MacBook Air (M3, 2024) review

Cheapest MacBook

The cheapest MacBook is still a phenomenal choice

Specifications

CPU: Apple M2
GPU: Apple M2
RAM: 8GB/16GB/24GB
Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
Display: 13.6-inches, 2560 x 1600 pixels
Size: 11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches
Weight: 2.7 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Elegant redesign
+
Good performance
+
Bright, colorful screen
+
Comfortable keyboard
+
Excellent battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
SSD somewhat slower than M1 Air

While the MacBook Air M3 is the new hotness, budget-conscious buyers shouldn't ignore the MacBook Air M2, which remains available at a more affordable $999 price point. It features the same design as the M3 including MagSafe charging freeing up those two Thunderbolt 4 ports for other purposes, so you are just trading a little performance and battery life for a more palatable price.

And with that said, it's not a slouch in either regard, the Air M2 will handle most workloads including photo or video editing and it lasted for 14 hours and 6 minutes in our battery life test. The fact that it does all this while staying whisper quiet and cool without fans is astounding.

The list of upgrades over the M1 model from 2020 also includes a brighter display, a quad-speaker array, and a new 1080p webcam. That first will be particularly welcome to those who are using the Air M2 on the go and may be faced with less-than-optimal lighting conditions. These factors should all keep you from picking up a deeply discounted MacBook Air M1 instead in 2024, the M2 Air will give you a superior experience and last much longer.

If you need a lot of storage or extra RAM the M2 is a great way to save versus the comparable M3 Air as well. Given the now discounted pricing, you can find an M2 Air with 16GB of RAM or 512GB of storage for the price of a base M3 Air.

See our full MacBook Air M2 review

Affordable big-screen MacBook

A big screen MacBook doesn't have to break the bank

Specifications

CPU: Apple M3
GPU: Apple M3
RAM: 8GB/16GB/24GB
Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
Display: 13.6-inches, 2560 x 1600 pixels
Size: 13.4 x 9.35 x 0.45 inches
Weight: 3.3 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Thin-and-light chassis
+
Bright Liquid Retina display
+
Over 15 hours of battery life!
+
Strong performance
+
Well-priced

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited ports
-
Display could be more vibrant

On one level, yes it is just a bigger MacBook Air M3, but that alone wouldn't be a bad thing and the reality is that it does get a couple of additional boosts due to its larger size.

The larger screen makes the Air 15 M3 a better option for those who need to work with data or any content that benefits from a little more screen real estate. The larger size also gives the Air 15 M3 slightly better sustained performance due to superior thermal management, so sustained tasks like photo or video editing will go much quicker on the 15-inch Air.

While battery life is roughly flat with the smaller model, at just over 15 hours no one is going to be complaining. Apple also isn't taxing you too hard for the larger display with the Air 15 M3 starting at $1,299 compared to $1,099 for the 13-inch model.

That's a solid value, particularly when you consider getting a MacBook with a 15-inch+ display has historically cost you $2,500 or more. While it's still not cheap, it's affordable by Apple standards while delivering all of the performance the average user needs for work, school, or general use. 

See our full Apple MacBook Air 15 (M3, 2024) review.

Cheapest MacBook Pro

Outstanding battery life and performance for pros on the go

Specifications

CPU: Apple M3/M3 Pro/M3 Max
GPU: Apple M3/M3 Pro/M3 Max
RAM: 16GB/32GB/64GB/96GB/128GB
Storage: 512GB/1TB/2TB/4TB/8TB
Display: 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display (3024x1964 pixels)
Size: 12.3 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 3.4

Reasons to buy

+
Impressive performance
+
Over 17 hours of battery life
+
Great port selection
+
Beautifully vibrant display with crisp detail
+
Excellent audio

Reasons to avoid

-
Off-putting notch
-
Still no Face ID

Apple's 14-inch MacBook Pro M3 arrived in late 2023 and finally gave MacBook Pro fans a more affordable option with the current MacBook design, for $1,599 this is every inch a MacBook Pro. 

That base M3 offers plenty of performance for most users and the laptop still boasts incredible longevity with 17 hours and 16 minutes of battery life in our testing. , the hardware is otherwise largely the same excellent laptop we got 2 years ago. Now if you are a content creator, a power user, or dare we say it even a gamer then the M3 Pro or M3 Max models may be calling to you. While Apple still isn't challenging the best gaming laptops, it is making a meaningful plunge into gaming after just dipping its toe in for years.

Our complaints with the 14-inch MacBook Pro are nothing new, the notch still isn't our favorite design choice and it still stings that they are using up all that display real estate without giving us Face ID. However, these are minor quibbles regarding an outstanding laptop that is now available for a more affordable price.

See our full 14-inch MacBook Pro (M3, 2023) review.

Best Video Editing MacBook

Unbeatable battery life and performance if you can handle the sticker shock

Specifications

CPU: Apple M3 Pro/Apple M3 Max
GPU: Apple M3 Pro/M3 Max
RAM: 16GB/32GB/64GB/96GB
Storage: 512GB/1TB/2TB/4TB/8GB
Display: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display (3024 x 1964 pixels)
Size: 14 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 4.8 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful overall and gaming performance
+
First-in-class battery life
+
Excellent audio
+
Beautiful display

Reasons to avoid

-
$2,499 starting price

We called the 16-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Max the "new king of MacBooks" and while you might think that means it belongs at the top of this list, the price makes it a choice you need to carefully consider despite how phenomenal it is.

Starting at $2,499 for the M3 Pro model and $3,499 for the M3 Max model, the 16-inch MacBook Pro isn't for everyone. However, if you are a creative professional or someone who just wants the biggest and best without concern over cost this belongs on your short list.

The notebook’s design is still virtually identical to the 2021 and early 2023 models, but that's not a complaint just yet. That means the new model retains the blessedly returned full HDMI and SDXC card reader. Battery life is mind-boggling for a laptop this powerful at just over 18 hours on a charge in our test, it also delivers that show-stopping Super Retina XDR mini-LED display, a super comfortable keyboard, and an excellent audio system. 

I still would recommend a gaming laptop with a discrete GPU for those who want the best overall gaming experience, but the 16-inch MacBook Pro is finally good enough to meet the needs of more casual gamers and there is evidence that things are only going to improve.

Overall, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is one of the best laptops on the market and the only real hurdle a buyer needs to clear is that price.

See our full 16-inch MacBook Pro (M3 Max, 2023) review

MacBook Pro 14 M3 vs M2

(Image credit: Future/Apple)

How to Choose the Best MacBook for You

The MacBook Air 13 M3 is an easy choice for most people. It comes in at $1,099 (on the rare occasions when it isn't on sale) while offering a blend of performance, efficiency and portability that are on the envy of most of its Windows counterparts in this price range. The 13.6-inch display strikes a nice balance of screen real estate while retaining a form factor that will fit in almost any laptop bag. If you need a larger display, just look to the Air 15 which wraps all of that same goodness in a slightly larger package.

If you need either more endurance or sustained performance for tasks like video editing, graphic design, etc, consider the 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3. It lasted for a remarkable 17 hours and 16 minutes on a charge in our Laptop Mag battery test and scored benchmark numbers that blow away much of the competition. It also gives you an SD card reader and HDMI output, which could save you from having to invest in or carry a MacBook USB-C hub or docking station.

Those three options should cover at least 90% of users. However, if you need either a larger screen or vastly more power for professional apps then the 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro with either the M3 Pro or M3 Max are outstanding, if expensive, options. 

(Image credit: Future)

How We Test MacBooks

We put MacBooks through extensive benchmark testing — both synthetic and real-world — before they end up in the hands of our reviewers. We evaluate everything from speed and battery life to display brightness, speaker volume, and system heat.

We use a Klein K10 colorimeter to detect the brightness and DCI-P3 color gamut of a laptop's display. For performance benchmarking, we run the laptop through a gauntlet of benchmarks, including Geekbench 6 and 3DMark professional graphics tests. 

To determine real-world performance, we task the laptop to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution and to duplicate a 25GB multimedia file. Our real-world graphics tests include Borderlands 3, Sid Meier's Civilization VI, Total War: Warhammer III and Shadow of the Tomb Raider with 1080p or higher resolution when the display supports it. 

We also run heat tests by playing a 15-minute full-screen video and our battery test consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. We consider everything over roughly 10 hours to be a good result. All of these tests are complemented with hands-on testing from our reviewers.

Why Trust Laptop Mag

Laptop Mag reviews over a hundred different laptops every year, from paperweight ultralights to everyday workhorses to lumbering gaming notebooks that scorch the frame rates of even the hottest AAA games. We're not just experts in the laptop field, as we go one step further by meticulously testing smartphones, tablets, headphones, PC accessories, software, and even the latest in gaming. 

We are 100% independent and have decades of experience to help you buy with confidence. In fact, Laptop Mag has been testing and reviewing products for three decades, and we continue to deliver trustworthy reviews you can rely on. 

Our experienced team of writers and editors scour the available information about the laptop and put it through its paces to determine which is best for you. But before they start, the testing team subjects each system to a rigorous regimen of synthetic and real-world tests to see how a system handles the type of work and games you’re most likely to throw at it. 

Our editorial trustworthiness is enforced by one of the world's largest technology publishers, Future Publishing. As a company, we have unrivaled experience across every tech sector — and we're the group's specialist for all things mobile tech.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.