Which MacBook should you buy this holiday? Here’s your cheat sheet

MacBook Pro M3 + MacBook Air 15-inch comp
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Deciding on which MacBook to get isn’t easy. While your choices ultimately come down to a MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air, each type of Apple laptop has several available options. For that reason, trying to find a MacBook for yourself or a loved one this holiday could be overwhelming.

MacBook Air options include the MacBook Air M1, the 13-inch MacBook Air M2 and MacBook Air 15-inch. For MacBook Pros, you can buy the MacBook Pro M3, MacBook Pro 14-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch — with the latter two featuring options with M3 Pro and M3 Max chips. Like I said, that’s a lot of MacBooks!

Choosing a MacBook depends on your needs. Are you a college student looking for an affordable and portable laptop, or a professional video editor who needs a notebook with serious power? Below, I’ve listed the best MacBooks for specific needs.

MacBook Air

MacBook Air M1: The best budget MacBook

Tom’s Guide’s favorite tech of 2020

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The MacBook Air with M1 is a little more than three years old, but it’s still one of the best laptops — especially at $999 (or lower if you find deals from vendors like Amazon and Best Buy). This laptop features the old wedge aesthetic, but its M1 processor makes it as powerful and capable as even some Intel CPUs. Because of that, it’s still one of the best 13-inch laptops out there. If you don’t mind using an older notebook, you can’t go wrong with the MacBook Air M1.

MacBook Air (M1) 256GB: was $999 now $749 @ Amazon
Lowest price!Price check: $749 @ Best Buy

MacBook Air (M1) 256GB: was $999 now $749 @ Amazon
Lowest price!
The M1 MacBook Air offers fantastic performance thanks to its Apple Silicon. The M1 CPU also helped the MacBook Air reach over 14 hours on our battery test. For a limited time, Amazon has it on sale for $749, which is its cheapest price ever. It features a 13.3-inch Liquid Retina display, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage.
Price check: $749 @ Best Buy

MacBook Air M2: The best MacBook for most 

MacBook Air M2 2022

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If you’re willing to spend a bit more on a great laptop, the $1,099 MacBook Air M2 is arguably the best laptop for most people interested in a MacBook. As we said in our MacBook Air M2 review, this notebook delivers top-notch performance, more than 14 hours of battery life and a bright and colorful display all in a svelte portable design. If you want a larger version of this laptop, the $1,299 MacBook Air 15-inch is possibly the best 15-inch laptop for the money. Both are currently on sale at discounted prices.

MacBook Air 13 (M2/256GB): was $1,099 now $949 @ Best BuyPrice check: $899 @ B&H Photo | sold out @ Amazon

MacBook Air 13 (M2/256GB): was $1,099 now $949 @ Best Buy
The MacBook Air M2 is one of our most recommended laptops because it's remarkably light and thin yet sports a 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display, a speedy Apple M2 CPU w/ 8-core GPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, and a great 1080p FaceTime camera. In our review we lauded this Editor's Choice laptop for its versatility and battery life, so don't miss your chance to get one at a great discount.
Price check: $899 @ B&H Photo | sold out @ Amazon

MacBook Air 15-inch M2: was $1,299 now $1,049 @Amazon

MacBook Air 15-inch M2: was $1,299 now $1,049 @Amazon
If you'd rather get the latest and greatest, you can save $250 on the 15-inch MacBook Air. This particular version comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. The deal applies to every color the latest Air currently comes in, so you have your pick of Midnight, Silver, Space Gray or the Starlight versions of this amazing MacBook. 

MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro M3: The cheapest MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro 14-inch M3 on marble bench

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The MacBook Pro 14-inch with M3 chip delivers excellent performance, a larger display than the 13-inch MacBook Pro M2, surprisingly robust graphics and extra long battery life. Though it costs $1,599, it’s more affordable than the next two options I’ll discuss. Though the best Windows laptops are better for gaming at this price range, the MacBook Pro M3 delivers when it comes to video editing and overall usability.

MacBook Pro 14 (M3/512GB): was $1,999 now $1,749 @ Amazon

MacBook Pro 14 (M3/512GB): was $1,999 now $1,749 @ Amazon
The new M3 MacBook Pro features the vanilla M3 chip, which has an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU, 16GB of RAM and a beautiful 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display. Right now, this is the most affordable MacBook Pro.

Price check: $1,799 @ B&H

MacBook Pro with M3 Pro and M3 Max: The most powerful MacBooks 

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 2023)

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For those wanting the most powerful MacBooks available, look no further than the MacBook Pro 14- and 16-inch packing either an M3 Pro or M3 Max chip. Starting at $1,999 and $3,499, espectively, these powerful laptops are ideal not only for professional video and audio editors, but also for playing graphically-demanding video games like Baldur’s Gate 3 and Lies of P. You also get a gorgeous mini-LED display, plenty of ports (including MagSafe) and the same sleek and sturdy designs of all modern MacBooks.

Though pricey, you’re getting your money’s worth since these M3-driven MacBook Pros will no doubt meet your needs for years to come. 

MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Pro, 512GB):

MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Pro, 512GB): was $1,999 now $1,799 @ B&H Photo
The beefy M3 Pro MacBook Pro features a super fast M3 Pro chip with an 11-core CPU and 14-core GPU to help it power through the most demanding tasks. This model also features 18GB of RAM and an eye-pleasing 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display.

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 1TB):

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max, 1TB): was $3,499 now $3,299 @ B&H Photo
If you want the biggest and most powerful MacBook Pro ever, look no further than the MacBook Pro 16-inch with an M3 Max processor. This behemoth features a sharp 16-inch mini-LED display, a monstrous M3 Max chip featuring a 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU, 36GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

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Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.