The best MacBook for you is a tricky thing to figure out. Not only does Apple have 2021's MacBook Pros sporting the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, but it also has two brand-new MacBooks packing the Apple M2 chip. On top of that, MacBooks with the M1 chip are still viable machines.
Once you take a closer look at the best MacBooks, you can see that one size doesn't fit all. There are specific reasons why you should opt for the M1-powered MacBook Air and entry-level MacBook Pro M1, or spend more on the 14- and 16-inch systems, where you have a choice between the M1 Pro and M1 Max.
And now that Apple has released a new 13-inch MacBook Pro 2022 and MacBook Air 2022, we have some new Apple laptops powered by the M2 chip vying for a spot on this list. Also, make sure to check out the best MacBooks for college students if you or someone you love is headed to school!
It seems likely that if the much-rumored new MacBook Pro with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips launch this year, they'll do so during the Apple October event. With November right around the corner we're already rounding up the best Black Friday deals, but we expect the Amazon Early Access sale to bring big price drops on MacBooks even sooner.
What's the best MacBook right now?
Apple's M1-equipped $999 MacBook Air has long held the top spot on this list but it has just been dethroned by its successor, the MacBook Air M2 (2022). This new laptop is more expensive, but it packs considerable power over the previous model. Not only that, but it also features a new design that's akin to 2021's MacBook Pros.
With that said, the MacBook Air with M1 is still a solid machine. The Apple M1 chip makes it faster than we ever expected the Air to get, and its power efficiency enables much longer battery life, lasting over 14 hours on a charge.
The $1,299 MacBook Pro M1 is a bit more powerful and lasts even longer on a charge. However, the new MacBook Pro 2022 demolishes it in terms of performance and battery life — the latter of which is the longest of any laptop on the market.
But if you want more power, consider upgrading to the 2021 MacBook Pros. Available in either 14-inch ($1,999) or 16-inch ($2,499) versions, these beefy MacBooks deliver unprecedented power with remarkable power efficiency thanks to Apple's new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. They're the best MacBook Pros Apple has released in years, and a good investment if you can afford the asking prices.
Regardless of which model you pick, be sure to read our guide on how to clean a MacBook screen to keep it looking its best.
The best MacBooks you can buy today
The MacBook Air M2 feels truly worthy of the Air name. And we're not saying that the previous MacBook Air M1 wasn’t good — it helped introduce the world to the power of Apple silicon. It’s just that cramming revolutionary performance in the same old chassis didn’t feel (or look) like a leap forward.
The new MacBook Air is a breath of fresh you-know-what, and that’s because Apple paired an even faster M2 chip with a design that’s markedly thinner and lighter. Carrying this 2.7-pound notebook around and using it, this is a laptop that reminds us of the iconic original Air that Steve Jobs pulled out of a manilla envelope 14 years ago. Something this light can’t be that powerful — can it? Yes it can.
The MacBook Air M2 is simply the best laptop for the money based on our testing. You get stellar performance, a vibrant display and superb battery life all wrapped up in a design that is delightfully portable. Yes, $1,119 is a steep price, but we would easily recommend this system over the $999 MacBook Air M1 staying in the lineup because of its better performance and display, along with sharper webcam and MagSafe charging.
Read our full MacBook Air M2 (2022) review.
The MacBook Air was always the best MacBook for most people, but now it's better for even more people than ever before. Apple's decision to replace its Intel processors with its own Apple Silicon, starting with the M1 chip in the MacBook Air, is reaping serious rewards. This laptop's 14 hours and 41 minutes of battery life n the Tom's Guide battery test is the best for a MacBook Air ever. Plus, the M1 delivers crazy-fast performance, so much so that it can run serious games smoothly.
The MacBook Air's webcam has also been upgraded, as the M1 chip provides signal processing tricks to improve clarity and color accuracy. And, of course, the Magic Keyboard is still here, which provides a comfy typing experience. Dolby Atmos audio support means that some movies and TV shows will sound even better than before. The MacBook Air is now not just the best MacBook for your average Apple user, but it's closer to the title of the king of the laptops than it's been in years.
Read our full MacBook Air with M1 review.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro 2022 (from $1,299) is the first M2-powered Apple laptop to hit the market. While the design hasn't changed, Apple promises a big leap in performance, whether you're editing photos or videos or running multiple applications at once.
And based on our tests, the M2 chip delivers, offering performance that destroys competing Windows laptops. The M2 also beats the M1 chip by a significant margin in various benchmarks. Plus, the new MacBook Pro 2022 delivers among the longest battery life we've seen from a modern laptop, surpassing 18 hours of runtime.
However, while this notebook sports a new slice of Apple silicon, the design shows its age. You get the same form factor, same ports, same display and same webcam. Meanwhile, the new MacBook Air 2022 offers a larger display with thinner bezels, a 1080p webcam and a thinner, lighter design.
It would be easy to say the new MacBook Pro isn’t worthwhile and that it’s better to wait for its modern cousin, the MacBook Air. There’s some truth to that sentiment, but it wouldn’t be wise to dismiss this product, which is still one of the best laptops for power users.
Read our full MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) review.
The new 14-inch MacBook Pro is the Mac to get if you have 1) the budget and 2) the need for more ports. That's simply because its new Liquid Retina XDR display with a 120Hz refresh rate is gorgeous. Your favorite movies, and everything else, will simply look better. Oh, and the new M1 Pro (and pricier M1 Max) chips deliver even more speed than ever before, while still enabling all-day battery life.
On top of that, Apple's brought MagSafe charging, HDMI-out and a SD memory reader back to the MacBook Pro. This means you won't need to bring a USB-C dongle to connect to a display or use external memory. That said, there's still no USB-A, which is something we're starting to realize Apple has no plans of bringing back. Other notable changes include the death of the Touch Bar (which never proved its worth), which has been swapped out for physical F1-F12 keys. Apple's also bumped up the internal webcam to 1080p, from 720p. The MacBook Pro definitely feels like a Pro-level laptop again.
Read our full MacBook Pro (14-inch) review.
Want it all? Then you may be looking for the beastly 16-inch MacBook Pro, which sports either M1 Pro or M1 Max chips, that deliver shocking amounts of performance. An upgrade over the previous intel-based model, this model features thinner bezels to give more space to the gorgeous mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR displays. Once you get over the notch, you'll be wowed by its contrast and smoothness, especially with its 120Hz refresh rate.
On top of that, you get the return of the ports that pros demand. That's not just the safety-focused MagSafe 3 charging port, but HDMI-out for connecting to displays and an SD memory reader for connecting memory cards for real-deal cameras. Oh, and don't think MagSafe will take USB-C charging out of the picture: the MacBook Pro's trio of Thunderbolt 4/USB4 ports also draw power. On top of that, you've got a 1080p webcam, a trio of improved microphones and a stellar six-point speaker system.
Read our full MacBook Pro (16-inch) review.
The MacBook Pro with M1 takes everything we like about the M1-based MacBook Air, and then kicks it up a notch or two. For example, it lasted a whopping 16 hours and 32 minutes on the Tom's Guide battery test, beating the M1 Air (14:41) by nearly 2 whole hours.
On top of that, the MacBook Pro's 434.8-nit display is brighter than the Air's 365.8-nit panel. And on the Handbrake video transcoding test, it converted a 4K movie to 1080p in 7 minutes and 44 seconds, beating the already speedy MacBook Air's 9:15.
Other perks include Dolby Atmos sound, improved webcam video quality (thanks to the M1's new signal-processing chip), the sharp 2560x1600-pixel Retina display and iOS and iPadOS app support. And don't forget the Magic Keyboard, which is an actual joy to type on.
Even with Apple adding M1 Pro- and M1 Max-powered 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros to its lineup, this 13-inch model remains available.
Read our full MacBook Pro with M1 review.
How to choose the best MacBook for you
Performance: If you know you don't push your laptops to their limits, get the MacBook Air and get the entry-level model. Its 8-core M1 chip and 8GB of RAM are going to surprise you with their speed. Upgrade that RAM to 16GB if you keep a lot of applications open at once. Those who work with more demanding applications will either want to get the M1 MacBook Pro (check with your favorite applications to see if they're updated for Apple silicon) with 16GB of RAM, or consider getting an Intel-based MacBook with 32GB of RAM. Storage is fast up and down the lineup. The new M2-powered MacBooks provide somewhat of a middle-ground between the original M1 MacBooks and the M1 Pro and M1 Max laptops.
Graphics and gaming: For M1-based MacBooks, you either get a 7-core or 8-core integrated GPU, and we've seen amazing results on the 8-core version. The M2-powered MacBook Pro comes with 10 GPU cores as standard. So upgrade if you want to game on your Mac. Yes, you can play serious video games on the Mac now. It's impressive.
Size and weight: The 13-inch MacBook Air and Pro are only distinguished by the Air's wedge shape and slightly lighter weight. The MacBook Pro (3.0 pounds for M1, 3.1 pounds for Intel) is 0.2 – 0.3 pounds heavier than the 2.8-pound MacBook Air. Unsurprisingly, the 16-inch MacBook Pro — which is a heavier 4.3 pounds — is best for those who either don't mind the heft in their bag or don't move around as often.
Battery life: The 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro is the longest-lasting MacBook there is, posting a Tom's Guide battery test time of 18:20. This beats the M1 Air (14:41) and the 16-inch MacBook Pro 2021 (15:31) by a solid margin.
How we test the best MacBooks
To find the best MacBook, we run each through our gauntlet of benchmarks and real-world tests, and then use them as our main computer for as well. Only then are we comfortable recommending them (or not) for your purchase.
We use a Klein K-10A colorimeter to test each MacBook's screen to find its average brightness and color quality (so we don't just assume Apple's ratings are correct). When it comes to general performance, we use the Geekbench 5 (CPU performance) benchmark, and time how long the Macs will take to transcode a 4K video to 1080p.
We also run the BlackMagic storage speeds test to see how fast these MacBooks' SSDs are (spoiler alert: they're all pretty fast). Then, we run our custom battery test to see how long each MacBook (at 150 nits of brightness) can last browsing the web over Wi-Fi until it runs out of juice.
We've also tested various computer games on MacBooks, with Civilization VI: Gathering Storm being one of our current favorites to run because it runs well on both macOS and Windows, giving us a good point of comparison.
Next: Here's how to install Rosetta on Mac so you can run apps created for Intel chips on computers with Apple Silicon inside.