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Want an Apple laptop? Here are the best you can buy right now
If you consider yourself an Apple die-hard, you’re probably not interested in Windows laptops. To that end, you might be saving up for a shiny new MacBook as your next computer. There aren’t too many models to pick from, but there are quite a few specs to weigh out. Here’s our list of the best Apple laptops available right now.
See also: The best MacBook deals
Apple keeps things simple with just two lines of laptops: the lighter MacBook Air and the heavy-duty MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro comes in 13-inch, 14-inch, and 16-inch versions as well, and we’ll touch on all three configurations.
Buying the best Apple laptops
Apple’s laptop offerings aren’t nearly as fragmented as those of many other PC makers, but there are still a few things to keep in mind while buying one. The budget and purpose of the machine are the first things to keep in mind, as that helps narrow the purchase decision rather quickly.
The next thing to consider is the spec sheet, especially the CPU. Apple has switched over to its own line of chips in the M1 family, from the Intel chips it used to put into Macs up until a few years ago. But what’s the big deal with M1? Well, it’s custom-designed silicon, and it is highly efficient. It’s helped Apple to squeeze in so much performance per watt, that the new MacBook Pros are outperforming full-fledged Intel-based Mac Pro desktop machines of the past. As such, you shouldn’t buy an Apple laptop with an Intel chip anymore.
You get three options with the CPU now. The base M1 is plenty powerful for most users. Then there’s the M1 Pro, which is a solid middle-ground for professionals and casual users. The M1 Max is the top-of-the-line chip for MacBooks right now, packing in the most performance you can get from Apple on the go. You’ll find Intel CPUs in the older MacBook models only, which have very little appeal now with the Apple Silicon models out there.
Other things to keep in mind are the size and the ports. MacBooks are available in very limited sizes — 13-inch, 14-inch, and 16-inch. The 13 and 14-inch options have very similar footprints, as the 14-inch design extends the screen to minimize the bezels, and adds a notch instead. So you can either pick the very portable 13/14-inch size or pick the 16-inch design if power and battery life are more important than that extra portability.
As far as ports go, you’ll get two USB-C ports as standard on these machines, which isn’t the most convenient option, but sufficient. You can grab a USB-C dock to get the expandability you need. Additionally, the new MacBook Pros have some more ports onboard, so you may not need to shell out as much for dongles as you previously needed to.
More buying advice: Which MacBook Pro should you buy?
The best Apple laptops
- The 16-inch MacBook Pro is the most powerful Apple laptop you can get, with the 2021 refresh making it a no-brainer purchase.
- The 14-inch MacBook Pro is the best balanced Apple laptop offering, carrying the goodness of the new Pro lineup in a smaller profile and a lower price tag.
- The 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1 Processor) is the cheapest Pro Apple laptop, powered by the M1 chip, and a solid value for money.
- The MacBook Air (M1 Processor) is the cheapest Apple laptop out there, with a slim fanless design and great battery life.
- The iPad Pro M1 with Magic Keyboard is our honorable mention on this list, being the closest thing to a touchscreen Apple laptop.
Editor’s note: We will regularly update this list of the best Apple laptops as new devices launch.
1. MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2021): The most powerful Apple laptop
Apple’s best and biggest laptop got a major refresh in 2021, bringing back some much-needed features that had gone missing from the MacBook Pro for a while. These include more ports, including a full HDMI port, and an SD Card reader. The MacBook Pro 16 is now the most powerful laptop you can buy from Apple, and the most powerful Mac overall, barring the newly introduced Mac Studio.
Our full take: Apple MacBook Pro (2021) review
We reviewed this machine when it arrived in 2021. Here’s what we had to say about it.
The 2021 MacBook Pro makes a triumphant return to targeting actual professionals. Almost all of the complaints of recent years have been addressed. Combined with the excellent performance of the new M1 Pro and M1 Max, the MacBook Pro once again lives up to its Pro name… and its Pro price tag.
The MacBook Pro 16 comes with either the M1 Pro or the M1 Max powering it. The M1 Pro offers a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, and up to 32GB of unified memory. The M1 Max will get you a 10-core CPU and a 24-core or 32-core GPU, and up to 64GB of unified memory. You can configure this laptop with up to 8TB of SSD storage.
The price starts at $2,499. The fully loaded model comes in at $6,099.
2. MacBook Pro (14-inch, 2021): The best balanced Apple laptop
While the 16-inch MacBook Pro refresh takes the prize for being the beefiest machine on offer, the 14-inch MacBook Pro makes for the perfect balance for most folks. It carries a lot of the goodness of the 16-inch model. On top of that, you even get options between M1 Pro and M1 Max, despite this one being the cheaper, smaller machine. Other than the screen and thus body size, the major difference comes in with the battery size, which is expectedly smaller.
See also: The best Apple MacBook accessories
You get more configurations, though. The M1 Pro models come in three trims: 8-core CPU/14-core GPU, 10-core CPU/14-core GPU, and 10-core CPU/16-core GPU. Memory is limited to 16 or 32GB. The M1 Max has two versions — 10-core CPU/24-core GPU and 10-core CPU/32-core GPU. Memory options for the M1 Max configurations are limited to 32 or 64GB.
The pricing for the 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,999. You can get the decked-out 14-inch model for $5,899.
3. 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1 Processor): The cheapest MacBook Pro laptop
The 13-inch MacBook Pro is probably the best Apple laptop for most people, especially now that it’s bid Intel adieu. The design itself hasn’t changed much at all, though — you still get the Magic Keyboard, Retina display, and three classy finishes to choose from. The 14-inch model is more or less a replacement for this one, but this 13-inch model is still alive and kicking.
Read more: Apple M1 tested
The M1 chip powering this laptop is a stellar offering from the company. Here’s what our own Gary Sims thinks about it.
“The M1 is fast. Is it the fastest chip on the planet? No, but it isn’t designed to be. Is it the fastest processor ever used in a Mac laptop? Absolutely. Will it handle your workloads? Almost certainly.”
This version of the MacBook Pro comes standard with 8 or 16GB of RAM and up to 2TB of storage. You get just the one chipset configuration, running an Apple M1, with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU. Apple also boasts up to 20 hours of battery life thanks to its new chip and nearly three times faster processing and five times faster graphic performance.
You can buy one starting at $1,149. The top-spec version of this laptop comes to $2,299.
4. MacBook Air (M1 Processor): The cheapest Apple laptop
The MacBook Pro steals much of the thunder, but the Air is also ready for action with the Apple M1 chip. Apple just packed Intel hardware into each version of the Air before this. The new M1 chip, however, is an entirely different beast. There are plenty of reasons to choose a MacBook Air — the slim wedge design, leaving the temperamental Touch Bar in the dust, and even the 100% recycled aluminum body.
See also: Apple MacBook Air (M1) review
The M1 MacBook Air impressed us when we reviewed it as well, and many of us even use it as our daily driver. Here’s what our own Jared Wilder had to say about the machine.
The M1 MacBook Air is the perfect Apple laptop for anyone who loves the Apple ecosystem and isn’t a “power user”. I’ve been using it 8-10 hours a day for over a year and haven’t seen as much as a hiccup. The battery lasts all day, and MacOS is as sleek as ever. I can participate in Zoom meetings with 18 Chrome tabs open without the device catching fire. Unless you truly need the beefed-up specs of the MacBook Pro, the M1 MacBook Air is everything you need and then some.
The M1 MacBook Air relies on 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD at the base configuration, along with the lovable Magic Keyboard. If you’re looking to splurge but don’t want to go for the Pro, you can boost both the storage and RAM. Although, there’s no alternative to the M1 chip for performance. Apple’s new design is fanless as well, so you can work through tasks in blissful silence.
The MacBook Air starts at $999. You can spec it up to cost as much as $2,049.
5. Honorable mention: iPad Pro M1 with Magic Keyboard (11 or 12.9-inch)
Unfortunately, our previous honorable mention, the 12-inch MacBook, is no longer available. However, if none of the MacBooks in this list caught your fancy, you may want to take a look at the iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard combination. Granted, the limitations of iPad OS still cripple this combination. However, with the Magic Keyboard and the M1 powering the iPad Pro, this is the closest an iPad has come to being an Apple laptop.
Also see: The best iPads you can buy
We believe this combination deserves consideration, especially if you find an iPad sufficient for your regular workloads. This is also the only touchscreen option you get that’s close to having a touchscreen Apple laptop, not to forget in-built cellular connectivity. You get storage options ranging from 128GB to 2TB. The 11-inch model ranges between $799 to $2,099, with $299 for the Magic Keyboard. The 12-inch model starts at $1,099 and goes up to $2,399, with the Magic Keyboard coming in at $349.
Frequently asked questions
Q: What are the best cases for MacBook Air/Pro?
A: There are some great cases for the MacBook Air and Pro, but our pick is the AmazonBasics Felt Laptop Sleeve, which blends utility with style.
Q: Which SSD is best for MacBook Pro?
A: MacBooks come with non-user-replaceable SSD storage now, which means you cannot replace it yourself. If you’re looking for an external SSD, our top pick is the Samsung T7 Touch. You can find more options in our best SSDs list.
Q: What is the best monitor to use with a MacBook Pro?
A: There are a few options out there, but the best monitor for the MacBook Pro is the Dell UltraSharp U2720Q. You can check more recommendations in our best monitors list.
Q: Is an Apple laptop worth buying?
A: Apple laptops generally offer a solid value for money. They’re worth buying and you will be able to get your work done well with one. Apple’s repair policy is less than ideal, though. So you might want to get an AppleCare Plus plan with your purchase.
Q: Does Apple make a rugged laptop?
A: Apple currently does not make a rugged laptop.