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Best MacBook Laptops

Updated December 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 12 Models Considered
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 145 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best MacBook laptops

    Last Updated December 2018

    Apple’s MacBook laptops have been fan favorites and industry leaders since they were first introduced in 2006. Whether it’s their ultra-clean design, game-changing connectivity options, or the usability of their OS X operating system, MacBooks have set the standards of how fast, light, and usable laptops can be.

    At BestReviews, we believe in providing honest, unbiased reviews of the products our readers care about. We take our credibility seriously – we never accept any compensation or free products from manufacturers, and we buy every item we review ourselves, with our own money.

    As you’re shopping for a MacBook, use our guide to understand the differences between each model.

    Then, check out the MacBooks we’ve reviewed above to see which is best for your lifestyle and budget.

    When Apple’s MacBook line was first introduced, it replaced their popular iBook laptops.

    Apple’s product ecosystem

    One of the pinnacles of Apple’s success as a company lies in how Apple products seamlessly integrate with one another.

    Individually, almost all Apple products are best-in-class devices that set design and usability standards for the rest of the technology industry. But when used together, these products create a user experience that’s more than the sum of its parts.

    As you’re deciding which MacBook to buy – or if you’re not sure about buying a Mac at all – consider the benefits of Apple’s connected experience. A MacBook can answer phone calls if connected to an iPhone; it can cast video to or remotely control an Apple TV; and day-to-day tasks like transferring files back and forth between Apple devices are a snap.

    The bottom line: If you already own one or more Apple devices, a MacBook can unlock functionality that you wouldn’t get with a Windows, Chrome, or Linux laptop.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Apple’s “Find my iPhone” service is also available for their MacBook laptops, so when properly configured, you can track down your MacBook’s location if it’s ever lost or stolen.

    Standard, Pro, or Air?

    There are three different kinds of MacBooks: MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

    MacBook

    The standard MacBook is Apple’s most affordable model, and it strikes a healthy balance between the power of the MacBook Pro and the portability of the MacBook Air. MacBooks tend to be the best option for students or those who need a durable laptop.

    If you’re strongly considering a MacBook, double-check the screen size; some people find smaller screens limiting and prefer the larger displays found on Apple’s other models.

    If your MacBook has a spare USB port, you can expand the available storage by using a USB flash drive. Most newer MacBooks feature USB-C ports, which are capable of transferring both data and power.

    MacBook Pro

    The MacBook Pro line of laptops is exactly what it sounds like: a series of powerful machines designed for professionals. MacBook Pros are where you’ll find the fastest processors, best upgrade options, and larger screens.

    If you need a machine that’s dependable enough to count on for your job and fast enough to never make you wait, the MacBook Pro is your best option.

    MacBook Air

    Apple’s most portable laptop is the MacBook Air, a laptop that sacrifices a few bells and whistles (and is feather-light as a result).

    MacBook Airs are great for anyone who travels a lot; the ultra-thin profile fits easily in just about any bag or purse.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    All MacBooks run Apple’s OS X operating system. Apple provides software updates to all MacBooks for free.

    MacBook screen sizes

    One of the key differentiators between the different available MacBooks is how big their screens are – and MacBook screens can range between 11 and 15.6 inches.

    With laptops, the screen size defines the entire machine’s footprint, so as you’re thinking about which MacBook is right for you, consider that you’re also deciding how large of a computer you’re willing to buy.

    • MacBooks with 11-inch and 12-inch screens feel almost impossibly thin and small, and that means that while they’re easy to carry around, their keyboards can feel tiny and cramped.

    • Macbooks with 13.3-inch screens are the most popular, most likely because they offer both a larger display and a standard-size keyboard.
       

    MacBooks with 15.6-inch screens feature Apple’s largest, highest-resolution laptop screens, and they’re ideal for anyone who needs a lot of desktop space and ample room for their wrists to rest. If you plan on using your laptop for using Photoshop, watching Netflix, or any task in which detailed visuals matter, you’ll likely want to get a 15.6-inch model.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some MacBooks are made with monitor panels that support higher resolutions for an even more gorgeous screen – a feature Apple has dubbed “retina display.” MacBooks with retina displays are more expensive, but the added pixels make them much easier to work with.

    MacBook upgrades

    When purchasing a MacBook, you’ll have the opportunity to pay more for certain upgrades. Because most MacBooks can’t be upgraded after purchase, it’s important to pick the best upgrades upfront. There are two typical upgrades worth investing in if you can afford to do so: RAM and SSD.

    RAM

    Random Access Memory, better known as RAM, is the memory that controls how many tasks can run at the same time. Upgrade the RAM as much as you can afford to; laptops with more RAM generally feel much faster. Typically, 8GB of RAM is the minimum amount you should consider.

    SSD

    Some MacBooks use traditional, platter-based hard disk drives (HDDs), which have moving parts that eventually wear out; higher-end MacBooks are built with solid-state hard drives (SSDs), which use flash-based memory that is much faster and more durable. Buying a MacBook with an SSD will help it last longer and provide a noticeable performance upgrade.

    EXPERT TIP

    The actual amount of available space on a MacBook’s hard drive will be less than the full advertised capacity, as the operating system and related files take up disk space.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    MacBook prices

    When compared to the rest of the laptop market, MacBooks are among the priciest options available. However, it’s important to remember that MacBooks typically last significantly longer than other laptops, and perhaps just as importantly, they hold their resale value quite well.

    Consider the following price ranges when budgeting for a new MacBook.

    • In the $1,000 to $1,500 range, you’ll find entry-level and mid-range MacBooks in their base configurations. Keep in mind that crucial upgrades can drive prices up quickly, so when you’re window-shopping, be sure to mentally tack on the cost of upgrades like additional RAM.

    • In the $1,500 to $3,000 range, you’ll find Apple’s most powerful MacBooks that are more than competent, even at their base configurations. And while it may be hard to imagine spending $3,000 on a laptop, a fully loaded MacBook will be one of the fastest laptops available and should remain technically relevant for at least three to five years.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Apple’s online store has a refurbished section where you can often find deeply discounted Apple products that have been professionally restored. Apple typically offers the same warranty for refurbished products as it does for retail products.

    Tips

    Before purchasing a MacBook, consider these tips.

    • If you plan to use your MacBook with peripherals like a mouse or speakers, invest in a dock. Because space is limited on a laptop, every MacBook makes some sacrifices when it comes to the quantity and type of ports it offers. Many users purchase third-party docks, which connect to one port on the laptop and then provide additional ports for networking, storage, additional monitors, and SD cards.

    • When you run your MacBook for the first time, update the operating system before you do anything else. Apple updates their OS X operating system regularly to keep it optimized and secure. When you first power on your MacBook, you’ll be asked a few account setup questions. Once you’re done with that, you can check the App Store for any available OS X updates.

    • If you plan on traveling a lot with your MacBook, buy the right adapters. Many people who travel for work never know when they’re going to need to connect a MacBook to a projector, an iPad, or a power outlet in a foreign country, so buying the right adapters ahead of time is key.

    MacBooks are durable but not indestructible. If you expect to travel frequently with your MacBook, consider getting a case for it to protect it from damage along the way.

    FAQ

    Q. Can I run Windows applications on a MacBook?

    A. Many applications have separate versions for both Windows and Mac, but to run Windows-only applications, you’ll need to download or purchase a virtual machine application for OS X such as VirtualBox or Parallels. Note that in order to run a virtual Windows machine using a third-party application, you’ll still need a valid Windows license key, which can be purchased from many online retailers.

    Q. Do all MacBooks have headphone jacks?

    A. Most, but not all, MacBooks have built-in headphone jacks for connecting your favorite pair of earbuds. However, recently Apple has begun phasing out headphone jacks on their products, requiring users to purchase and use wireless Bluetooth headphones.

    Q. How can I determine how much hard drive storage I need?

    A. Everyone’s storage needs are different, but a good place to start is by looking at your current computer and how much space you’re using. Also, consider what you’ll be using the MacBook for. If you need it to store all of your photos, movies, TV shows, and music files, buy the biggest hard drive you can afford. If you mostly store your digital content online in the cloud, you may be able to save money by buying a model with a smaller capacity.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alvina
      Alvina
      Photographer
    • Amos
      Amos
      Director of Photography
    • Branson
      Branson
      Videographer
    • Ciera
      Ciera
      Production Assistant
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      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jaime
      Jaime
      Writer
    • Laura
      Laura
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor
    • Steph
      Steph
      Web Producer

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