With Apple's introduction of the latest M2 MacBook models, it's time to take another look at which is the best MacBook to buy in 2023. Buying the newest MacBook isn't always the right decision since Apple has several tiers of performance, as well as various sizes. There are several MacBook models available, designated MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, with varying memory and storage configurations, as well as four kinds of processors, providing a wide selection to choose from.
While some retailers still have stock of the older Intel-powered models available, those devices don't make it on our list of the top MacBook laptops since they rely on outdated technology. It's not that Intel chips can't compete; however, Apple stopped building laptops that use the latest Intel chips in 2020. That means older models are slowly losing compatibility as each new version of operating system, such as MacOS Ventura, adds features that are designed exclusively for Apple silicon.
The five models that Apple currently stocks have greatly varying prices, making it easy for anyone to get started with a MacBook. The Macbook Air M1 is available for as low as $999, or you can aim for a more powerful and larger MacBook Pro 16-inch, which begins at $2,499 and reaches $6,499 with the top spec.
Apple MacBook Air M2
The MacBook Air M2 is the best budget choice
- Uses the latest Apple M2 chip
- Superthin and lightweight
- Second-lowest price for a MacBook
- Totally silent fanless design
- Larger 13.6-inch display and 500-nit brightness
- Eight-core GPU, with extra cost for 10-core
- Only passive cooling
- The screen has a notch
With a complete redesign, the MacBook Air M2 looks quite a bit like the MacBook Pro, with a uniform thickness instead of the classic taper that the original MacBook Air featured. The M2 model is thinner at the back and 0.1 pounds lighter at 2.7 pounds, despite the increased battery capacity. It uses the fanless design that sets the MacBook Air apart from other Mac laptops, yet still manages to run incredibly cool under normal workloads.
The MacBook Air M2 is a great budget option for anyone looking to update to Apple Silicon or switch to a Mac for general computing on the go. It's small and light enough to disappear in a tech bag and can easily be carried around all day. The 500-nit Liquid Retina display is bright enough for most environments, an important feature for a laptop. Equally important is the MacBook Air M2's long battery life, which lasts up to 18 hours during video playback with the Apple TV app. Apple includes a 30-watt USB-C charger (35-watt with the M2 10-core, 512GB storage model). but it's compatible with a 67-watt USB-C power adapter.
The 2022 Apple MacBook Air also features a larger screen size. Looking a bit like an iPhone 12 or 13, the MacBook Air has a thinner top bezel with a notch for the webcam, allowing the display to increase by a little over a quarter-inch to 13.6 inches diagonally. It doesn't sound like much of a change, but it is quite noticeable when the screen is open. While the slimmer bezel is welcome, the notch has been a bit controversial. Both 2023 MacBook Pro models have notches as well, so this is likely a trend that will continue.
On the topic of appearance, the MacBook Air M2 has two new color choices, Midnight and Starlight. Starlight is a pale gold tone that lacks the pink tint of the previous-generation's gold. Midnight is nearly black, which looks striking, with a hint of purplish-blue under the right lighting conditions.
The new MacBook Air M2 can be configured with up to 24GB of memory, 50% more than the older model supported, and memory is one of the best upgrades to invest in since it makes multitasking faster and more efficient, reducing the need to temporarily move data to storage when running several demanding apps at once.
The big news about the 2022 MacBook Air is the M2 processor, which provides up to an 18% improvement in CPU performance and 35% greater GPU performance. The GPU boost does use a bit more power, which is why the larger-capacity battery doesn't result in longer battery life than the M1 model. Overall, it's a big upgrade that makes this the best choice for a budget MacBook.
MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021)
The MacBook Pro 14-inch offers massive raw power
- Incredible XDR display
- Fantastic creative performance
- Extensive port selection
- Keyboard and trackpad are perfect
- Excellent speakers and webcam
- Endless battery life
- Notch is a distraction
Apple's MacBook Pro 14-inch launched at Apple's Unleashed event in 2021, but we are still impressed by the power and performance it offers. That's thanks to its two advanced chip options: the M1 Pro and the M1 Max. The M1 Pro, on the one hand, doubles the GPU cores of the M1, while the M1 Max comes with four times the graphics cores. Both chips have double the high-performance CPU cores of the M1, support more memory and Thunderbolt ports, and pack in many times more transistors. In other words, they're orders of magnitude better than the M1, which itself was already a superb Mac chip.
Compared to the newer M2 processor, Apple's latest entry-level Mac chip raises the bar slightly in one respect. Early benchmarks show the M2 outperforms even the M1 Ultra, Apple's most powerful chip, in single-core tests. The chips designed for heavy workloads make it up quickly in multi-core scores, and the M1 Pro is significantly faster in that regard. When processing demanding jobs, a MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro or M1 Max processor will easily blast past a MacBook with an M2 chip.
Buying a MacBook is about more than just the chip powering it, though. The good news here is that the MacBook Pro 14-inch offers a lot more than just blistering performance. Its external chassis is a little thicker than the MacBook Pro 13, but that allows it to fit a chunky HDMI port into the side of the machine. You'll also find an SD card slot and an old favorite in the form of MagSafe, in addition to three Thunderbolt 4 ports. That port variety is great news for anyone who is sick of the dongle nightmare that USB-C MacBooks have faced in the past.
At the top of the keyboard, the Touch Bar has been replaced by a row of full-height function keys. The Touch Bar was divisive during its five-year tenure, and while it always seemed to have a lot of potential, it never turned into the killer feature that Apple imagined it would be. Now, the MacBook Pro 13 is the only Mac laptop that contains it.
The display has also had an upgrade and now boasts a mini-LED panel (dubbed Liquid Retina XDR by Apple) that brings 1,000 nits of sustained brightness (and a frankly ridiculous 1,600 nits of peak brightness), better HDR performance with deeper blacks, and more vivid colors and improved contrast. It also includes ProMotion, which dynamically adjusts the screen refresh rate up to 120Hz, depending on what you're doing.
Around the display, the bezels have been massively shrunk down, giving a much more immersive view of your work on-screen. Interestingly, the webcam cutout still exists, meaning the MacBook Pro 14-inch has a notch, increasing the display size to 14.2 inches. On a large screen like this, the notch probably won't be as noticeable for you as it might be on an iPhone, but it's something to consider. The webcam itself has been upgraded to 1080p.
Not everything is great, though. For one thing, the MacBook Pro 14-inch is a pricey machine. Although Apple has stopped selling it, its original starting price of $1,999 means that, even with a discount, it's still expensive. Keep an eye out for price cuts at third-party retailers, though, and you might be able to snag a bargain. In return, you'll get a laptop that will absolutely steamroll almost any task.
The other drawback is the battery life -- sort of. The M1 completely revolutionized the MacBook Pro's battery performance because it was so efficient, and the M1 Pro and M1 Max still hold a lot of water here. But you'll actually get slightly less juice out of the MacBook Pro 14-inch than the MacBook Pro 13. While the latter offers 17 hours of web browsing and 20 hours of video playback (or 16 hours and 21 hours in our review), Apple says the MacBook Pro 14-inch can "only" manage 11 hours of web browsing and 17 hours of video watching. That's still good, but it's a shame that the battery can't keep up with the extra performance of the new chips.
MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021)
What about the MacBook Pro 16-inch?
- Incredible XDR display
- Fantastic creative performance
- Extensive port selection
- Keyboard and trackpad are perfect
- Excellent speakers and webcam
- Endless battery life
- Notch is a distraction
The Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch got the same treatment as the MacBook Pro 14-inch at Apple's Unleashed show in 2021, meaning it saw a big overhaul inside and out. Like its smaller Mac sibling, you'll get a redesigned chassis with HDMI, an SD card, and MagSafe ports. There's no Touch Bar, but you do get slimline bezels (complete with a notch) and an expansive 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display that is one of the best on the market.
The 2021 MacBook Pro 16-inch has the same chip options as the 2021 MacBook Pro 14-inch: the M1 Pro and the M1 Max. There's no distinction in the number of cores on offer in either machine. The MacBook Pro 16-inch does show marginal performance gains in user tests. That's likely because of the larger chassis, which allows for a greater cooling system that keeps the incredibly performant chips under control and running at peak performance. You can read our review of the MacBook Pro 16-inch, as well as our comparison between the Pro 14 and 16.
There are other reasons to consider the MacBook Pro 16-inch. While the MacBook Pro 14-inch's battery performance decreased slightly compared to the MacBook Pro 13, the MacBook Pro 16-inch's battery life has actually seen a huge increase. When we reviewed the 2019 model, its battery lasted for five-and-a-half hours of normal usage, which included web browsing, Spotify, and Slack. That's not great, and far from the 11 hours Apple said you should get (for both web browsing and video playback). The 2021 MacBook Pro 16-inch, on the other hand, will give you 14 hours of web browsing and 21 hours of video watching, according to Apple. That's much more than the previous generation, and more still than the MacBook Pro 14-inch, thanks to the chunkier chassis holding larger batteries.
Apple has stopped selling the 2021 MacBook Pro 16-inch, replacing it with the 2023 model that comes outfitted with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips. If you want the 2021 model, it's still going to cut a hole in your wallet because of its original $2,499 starting price. Look around for discounts on third-party retailer websites, though, and you might be able to score a decent amount of money off.
Apple MacBook Air M1
The lowest-price option and a great MacBook
- Apple's M1 blows Intel away
- Phenomenal battery life
- Excellent keyboard and touchpad
- Rock-solid build quality
- Simple good looks
- Supports only one external display
Apple’s MacBook Air has always been the laptop to go for if you want a lightweight, portable machine. That used to mean you had to sacrifice performance for portability, but the M1 chip changed that and set the stage for further improvements with the more powerful M1 variants and Apple's new M2 processor.
Apple introduced a new model MacBook Air M2 this year, but still sells the MacBook Air M1, which was released in 2020 as an under-$1,000 option. That's a $200 savings off the starting price of the 2022 MacBook Air and makes it easier to get into the Mac ecosystem.
Who is the MacBook Air M1 right for? Well, it still offers strong performance and has all of the benefits that come with an Apple silicon-based system. When we reviewed the M1 MacBook Air, we found its performance was on par with the MacBook Pro 13-inch (also outfitted with the M1). In HandBrake, it was 12 seconds behind the Pro, while still posting a very speedy score in its own right. It finished slightly behind the Pro in the Cinebench R23 benchmark, but beat it in our Geekbench 5 test -- in fact, the MacBook Air’s single-core score was one of the highest Geekbench 5 results we have ever seen, with only the M1 Mac Mini and the 24-inch iMac pushing ahead at the time.
What is even more remarkable is that the MacBook Air does all this without a fan. The M1 chip is so power-efficient that Apple has been able to cool this Mac entirely passively, while still enabling it to post some truly beefy performance numbers. If you love your laptops to be absolutely silent, this is a major draw. All that extra power efficiency means the Air lasted 18.5 hours in our video-playback test and 15.5 hours with light web usage. That is incredible longevity.
Elsewhere, you get the classic Apple design with the MacBook Air, including a rock-solid aluminum body and top-notch build quality. The keyboard is Apple’s Magic Keyboard, which boasts improved travel and reliability over the butterfly keyboard. There is no Touch Bar -- you instead get a row of function keys and a Touch ID button on the right-hand side for logging in and confirming purchases.
As for the Air’s Retina display, Apple rates it for 400 nits (although our testing set it slightly lower at 389 nits). It has strong ratings for both color accuracy and contrast (1.39 and 1130:1, respectively, both of which are better than average). It hits 100% of the sRGB gamut and 79% of Adobe RGB -- that is a little higher than most Windows laptops, but below the MacBook Pro’s rating. If you need a laptop for color-sensitive work, you should consider the Pro over the Air.
What about storage? And how much does the MacBook Air cost? You will get 256GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage in the $999 entry-level MacBook Air. The 512GB model is $1,199, the 1TB version costs $1,399, and the model with 2TB of SSD storage is $1,799. You can choose between 8GB or 16GB of memory, although this uses a unified memory architecture (UMA), which makes it much more efficient than standard laptops at using its onboard RAM. In almost all consumer use cases, 8GB of UMA memory will be plenty.
With M2 Pro and M2 Max chips available, the MacBook Air can't hope to top the Mac performance charts. But its M1 chip is still brilliant for all but the most heavy-duty work, and for most people, it's more than enough.
MacBook Pro 14-inch (2023)
The MacBook Pro 14-inch is still a great laptop
- M2 Max boosts graphics
- Incredible XDR display
- Really impressive speakers
- Good 1080p webcam
- Battery life is even better
- Runs hotter and louder
Although an updated MacBook Pro 14-inch was expected in late 2022, it didn't arrive until January 2023. When it did, the update was relatively minor, but enough to ensure it was still one of the best MacBook Pro models you can buy.
The most important update lies with the processor powering the machine. You can now outfit the MacBook Pro 14-inch with an M2 Pro chip, which is an improvement over the M1 Pro. The base model now has a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, up from a 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU. At the top end, there are now also options for the M2 Max chip, which will give you 12 CPU cores and 30 GPU cores in the starting version.
In our review, we tested the M2 Max model of the MacBook Pro 14-inch and found it offered modest improvements over the M1 Max. That chip was already extremely performant, so while we would have liked to see greater generational improvements, you're still getting an excellent chip in the M2 Max. When it comes to the M2 Pro, it's a similar story -- better performance, but not a quantum leap.
Elsewhere, the 2023 MacBook Pro 14-inch has HDMI 2.1 connectivity, Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3 -- all improvements over the previous model. Apple has also squeezed even more juice out of the battery, and it's the now the longest-lasting laptop we've ever tested. For creators who regularly work on the go, that's great news.
Also impressive are this laptop's build quality and Liquid Retina XDR display. The former comprises an all-aluminum enclosure that exudes quality, while the latter's 1,600 nits of brightness is practically untouched in the world of laptop screens.
There are some drawbacks to the 2023 MacBook Pro 14-inch, though, the most notable of which concerns the SSD. For one reason or another, Apple has decided to equip every entry-level model of the MacBook Pro with half the number of NAND storage chips as in past years. In practice, this means noticeably slower read and write times. The problem is only present in the base models, so if SSD speed is crucial to you, make sure you increase the amount of storage when purchasing the laptop.
The starting price remains at $1,999, the same as the previous-generation MacBook Pro. That's expensive for sure, but you definitely get what you pay for. Apple's laptops are solidly build, offer great performance, and last for ages. However, we'd recommend looking out for discounts on the M1 version of the MacBook Pro 14-inch before you splurge for the 2023 model. Since performance in the latest model is not massively better, the previous model is still a great purchase.
MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023)
The 2023 MacBook Pro is good, but not perfect
- The most powerful MacBook
- Superb display
- Solid build quality
- Fantastic speakers
- Battery life is improved
- Small improvement over 2021 model
While the MacBook Pro 14-inch marries power and portability, the MacBook Pro 16-inch is much more focused on the former. It packs in the most powerful laptop chips Apple makes, and its larger size means better cooling and battery life compared to its smaller sibling.
With the 2023 model, Apple introduced the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips. The starting version packs a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU, while the top-end version comes with the same 12-core CPU, but doubles the GPU core count up to 38 cores. That's six more cores than you can get in the most expensive M1 Max chip.
That improvement in GPU cores means the MacBook Pro 16-inch excels in graphically intensive tasks. It's not a gaming laptop (although you'll still get very respectable frame rates from it). Instead, its key strengths lie in tasks like video rendering, where the large graphics core count will make a big difference.
The 2023 model improved a few other areas over the 2021 version. You now get Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi 6E and HDMI 2.1, neither of which were present in the previous generation. The battery life has also been bumped up, stepping up what was already one of the MacBook Pro's key strengths.
Some elements have remained the same, including the rock-solid all-aluminum chassis and the superb display. The mini-LED panel in this laptop is hard to beat, and few laptops can match its incredible brightness. If color accuracy means a lot to you, you'll love this screen.
It's not a perfect laptop, of course. You need to be very careful when choosing how much storage you need, as reports have indicated that the MacBook Pro 16-inch's 512GB SSD is noticeably slower than the storage in the 2021 model. If SSD speed is important to your work, make sure you get 1TB or more.
Another drawback is the price. Starting at $2,499, this is not a cheap laptop by any means. But you definitely get what you pay for, and the MacBook Pro 16-inch's combination of performance, battery life and display tech is hard to beat. Just make sure your wallet is ready before you pull the trigger.
Apple MacBook Pro M2
The MacBook Pro M2 is the only Touch Bar model
- Newest M2 processor with 10-core GPU
- Fan cooling means no speed throttling
- 20-hour battery life for video playback
- The only current model with a Touch Bar
- Not as fast as larger MacBook Pro models
- No physical function keys, only the Touch Bar
Compared to the MacBook Air M2, Apple added a larger battery and fan cooling to the MacBook Pro M2, allowing the M2 chip to sustain the highest possible performance for an extended period of time. The base model of the MacBook Pro M2 comes standard with a 10-core GPU as well, which is an extra cost when ordering the MacBook Air M2.
The idea is that this is a professional-grade laptop with all the power that's needed to get through a serious day of work, even when that involves more intensive graphics tasks. For only $100 more, the MacBook Pro M2 opens up more potential. Longer video processing or more intensive graphics projects won't see any performance loss from throttling that might happen on the fanless MacBook Air. Battery life is better as well on the MacBook Pro M2, with up to 20 hours of video playback.
Apple no longer sells the MacBook Pro M1, and that's just as well. It would have been overshadowed by the upgraded MacBook Air M2. Apple's M2 chip adds ProRes encoding and decoding hardware, which greatly speeds the processing of professional-quality, low-compression video. The 2022 MacBook Pro M2 retains most of the features of the older 13.3-inch model, matching the screen size, 20-hour battery life, up to 2 terabytes of storage, and the Touch Bar. In fact, this is the only current model to include a Touch Bar.
Once a distinguishing feature of the MacBook Pro, Apple removed the touch-sensitive function keys from the 2021 MacBook Pro. This was a controversial feature from the beginning, but for fans of the Touch Bar, this might be a deciding factor in favor of the MacBook Pro M2.
However, it's hard to recommend the MacBook Pro 13-inch. The M2 MacBook Air offers similar performance, yet costs less, while the MacBook Pro 14-inch is far more performant. The 13-inch model occupies an awkward spot in Apple's lineup. Unless you can find a great discount, it's probably best to pass on it.
This one is a real toss-up between two top competitors representing newer laptops at opposite ends of the spectrum — the MacBook Air M2 and MacBook Pro 14-inch. The MacBook Air M2 offers an all-new design with a 13.6-inch display and the latest Apple chip technology. As a thin, light laptop with incredible battery life and great performance, it's hard to beat even before checking out the price. At $1,199, it's a tempting product for anyone. As a budget pick, it's important to keep in mind that this model isn't designed to sustain maximum speed for extended periods of time. Browsing the internet, watching videos, editing documents, and light video editing will experience no slowdowns. For heavier workloads, a MacBook Pro will always be more appropriate.
Theoffers incredible power and a brilliant 14.2-inch XDR display with more than double the brightness of the MacBook Air M2. It's an absolutely stunning machine if you need huge amounts of performance in a compact form. It is quite expensive, though, at $800 more than a MacBook Air M2.
The MacBook Pro 16-inch is undoubtedly a top-end machine and will be ideal if there's a need for a larger built-in display; it also makes easy work of the most demanding workloads. It prices itself out of contention for most people, though, adding $500 to the cost of the 14-inch model. It's more than just a few more inches, however. The MacBook Pro 16-inch increases screen resolution from 3024 by 1964 pixels to 3456 by 2234 pixels, and adds 30% more pixels to expand the working canvas while keeping more toolbar and timeline options on-screen when editing photos and videos.
While the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are outperformed by the new M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, the differences are not night and day. The M1 Pro and M1 Max are still competitive, and could be a good option if you can find a discount. But if performance is vital to you, the M2 Pro and M2 Max versions of the MacBook Pro should be your first port of call.
A less-obvious choice like theis still valid in 2022. Its M1 chip might be older and doesn't hold a candle to the M1 Pro or M1 Max, but for most people, it brings more than enough power. You also get the benefit of $200 in your pocket to spend on apps and accessories. On a tight budget, the 2020 model might be the best choice.
Given the surge in Mac popularity since Apple Silicon was released, it's highly unlikely that Apple will return to Intel chips unless there is a big performance leap. Intel is reportedly investing heavily to try to regain dominance in the chip industry after slowly slipping over the last few years. It's newest chips have performance that challenges Apple's best, but have a trade-off of drawing significantly more power and generating a large amount of heat in the process. Apple is enjoying a resurgence of the Mac platform and seems to be quite happy to have control over its own future by designing the Mac and MacBook from the core silicon right up to the operating system and app level, integrating the system more than ever before.
With the MacBook Pro updated to the M2 Pro and M2 Max, the next device likely to be updated by Apple is the MacBook Air. There are rumors afoot that Apple plans to launch a MacBook Air 15-inch later in 2023, which would be the first time in years Apple has offered more than one size of MacBook Air. The 13-inch model probably won't get a new version until 2024, though. We will update this list regularly to keep it up to date with the latest and greatest MacBook devices.
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