Finding the best MacBook is increasingly challenging, but it's the abundance of options that makes it hard to say which is the best Apple laptop. MacBooks have earned their surging popularity - the best MacBook is often arguably the best laptop in its year.
In 2020, we got the first wave of Apple's M1 chips, which was a transformational leap for MacBooks, and in late 2023, we got the latest and greatest chips from Apple with the M3. The company has brought massive performance and battery life improvements to the entire MacBook range during this time. With the departure of the MacBook Pro M2 from the lineup, the one questionable MacBook (from a design standpoint) is now gone, so you are left with nothing but good choices. Our challenge then is to find the best MacBook for you.
Apple's currently active chip lineup covers a broad spectrum, it includes the M1, M2, M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max. Yes, you can find excellent Black Friday MacBook deals on some of the older models, but for this page, we are sticking to the current lineup.
So let's dig a little deeper and find the best MacBook for you.
The Quick List
Best for most people
The best MacBook for most people
The MacBook Air M2 gives you Apple's updated design with 14 hours of battery life, outstanding performance, a comfortable keyboard, and the always popular MagSafe charging.
M1 Power for under $1,000
The MacBook Air M1 remains the best MacBook for most people thanks to its blend of performance, battery life, and value as the only Apple laptop available for under $1,000.
Affordable big screen
The best affordable big-screen MacBook
The MacBook Air 15 fills a gap in Apple's laptop lineup, a big screen that doesn't cost you $2,500+. Sure it's just an M2 Air with a bigger display, but that's a perfect laptop for many people.
Pros on the go
Best MacBook for pros on the go
Whether you’re editing photos or videos, creating music, or just working on a massive spreadsheet, the MacBook Pro 14 is the way to go. The M3's power and endurance are off the charts.
Best MacBook for Most People
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
While most will be happy with the MacBook Air M1, there's no denying the appeal of the new design and of course chip inside the MacBook Air M2. The notch in the display isn't my favorite design choice, but the rest of the changes are great with the addition of MagSafe charging freeing up those two Thunderbolt 4 ports for other purposes.
You also get a nice performance bump and it still delivered 14 hours and 6 minutes in our battery life test, placing it easily ahead of the Windows competition and ridiculously so when factoring in performance. The fact that it does all this while staying whisper quiet and cool without fans remains astounding.
The list of upgrades also includes a brighter display, a quad-speaker array and the new 1080p webcam. That first will be particularly welcome to those that are using the Air M2 on the go and may be faced with less than optimal lighting conditions.
The biggest consideration with the Air M2 is the price if you need to upgrade much from the $1,199 base model. As I mentioned the Air M1 stuck around at $999, so you are paying a premium for the M2 model. If you find yourself cresting the $1,499 mark for your configuration then you may want to consider the base 14-inch MacBook Pro, which I cover later in this list and can now be regularly found for $1,799.
See our full MacBook Air M2 review
M1 Power for Under $1,000
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The MacBook Air M1 remains the best MacBook for most people. What about the MacBook Air M2? It's a fantastic laptop that we'll cover next on this list, but the reality is that for the majority of users the upgrades aren't necessary and Apple is keeping it around in order to maintain that sub-$1,000 starting price. Best of all you can often find it for $899 or less.
The performance still outclasses every comparably priced thin-and-light Windows laptop and it manages to deliver 14 hours and 41 minutes of battery life in our testing. For any typical computing tasks, the MacBook Air M1 is more than equal to the challenge and will outlast most competitors too.
So why buy the MacBook Air instead of the Pro? While the Pro has better-sustained performance, the MacBook Air is cheaper and is pin-drop silent because it doesn't have a fan. And, of course, Apple's least expensive 13.3-inch model is the most portable, coming in at only 0.6 inches thick and 2.8 pounds.
As long as you don't mind the older design, the MacBook Air M1 remains one of the best laptop deals even when it's not discounted and should draw strong consideration from anyone considering a new MacBook.
See our full MacBook Air with M1 (2020) review
Best affordable big screen
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
It's just a bigger MacBook Air M2 is a perfectly reasonable complaint about the MacBook Air 15, other than a slightly larger battery and of course the 15.3-inch display, Apple didn't change anything for the first larger Air.
However, the good news is that Apple didn't slam you with a significant price bump either. The MacBook Air 15 delivers everything that was excellent about the MacBook Air 13 M2 while giving you almost an extra hour of battery life and a 1.7-inch larger display, starting at $1,299.
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. Finally we have an affordable big-screen MacBook that delivers all of the performance that the average user needs for work, school, or general use.
See our full Apple MacBook Air 15 M2 review.
Best for Pros on the Go
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
After rumors abounded that the M3 MacBooks weren't coming until 2024, Apple surprised us all with a new round of MacBook Pros to close out 2023 with the 14-inch MacBook Pro the most notable as it got a new base M3 option starting at $1,599.
That base M3 is going to offer 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 (2023, M3) review.
Best MacBook for Performance and Battery Life
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
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 M2 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 (2023) review
How to Choose the Best MacBook for You
For us, the MacBook Air is an easy choice. It comes in at $999 (on the rare occasions when it isn't on sale) yet sports solid performance and incredible endurance thanks to its M1 processor. It's also the most portable of the bunch, and the improved 13.3-inch display is great for watching TV shows or movies. If you want a little more power, screen real estate, and a fresh design the MacBook Air M2 is your answer.
However, those looking for endurance and better performance over longer periods should consider the 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3. It lasts for a remarkable 17 hours and 16 minutes on a charge and scored benchmark numbers that blow away much of the competition.
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.
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 5.4 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 Assasin's Creed Valhalla, Far Cry New Dawn, Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm 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. Of course, 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.
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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.