8-core processor runs apps smoothly and quickly. Wide 16” display with a gorgeous 4096x2160 resolution. 11-hour battery life. Up to 8TB of SSD storage. Features 6 stereo speakers.
It is no surprise that Apple’s best MacBook would be a pricy one.
Lifelike color range and 2560x1600 resolution. Excellent for multitasking and basic gaming. Comfortable keyboard. Fingerprint password. Available in gold, silver, and space gray.
Its battery drains quickly if you don’t rely on Apple’s ecosystem of apps.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Apple’s MacBook line of laptops is the Gold Standard of portable computing — they seamlessly blend power, versatility, and elegant designs to deliver some of the most impressive (and priciest) hardware available. Nowadays, when Apple launches a new feature or design element, you can expect other manufacturers to copy it within six months.
In Apple’s early days, their laptops were often a tough sell, because many Windows-only programs didn’t have functional equivalents in Apple’s OS X operating system. But now that most software is web-based, and most developers have Mac-friendly versions of their applications, MacBooks are for everyone.
Whether you’re new to Mac and looking for the perfect introductory MacBook, or you’re a veteran user looking for a good deal on Apple’s latest laptops, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for everything you need to know to find your perfect MacBook.
Jaime Vazquez has been writing about technology and geeking out with gadgets since 2000. He loves trying the latest electronics so that his readers don't have to, and using his inner cheapskate to find the best bargains.
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.
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.
We researched 12 different Macbook laptops before picking our top 5. We then purchased our favorite model and tested it in our lab.
There are three different kinds of MacBooks: MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
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.
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.
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.
All MacBooks run Apple’s OS X operating system. Apple provides software updates to all MacBooks for free.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Half the fun of owning Apple products is getting to pick out the accessories to go with them. Here are our must-have peripherals for MacBook laptops.
It’s no secret that newer MacBooks don’t have a ton of ports; instead, they rely on you to bring your own adapters to connect other gadgets. We prefer to use docks: stations that act as a stand and offer a variety of ports for everything from multiple 4K monitors to an external hard drive or two. The LYNSLIM USB-C Docking Station is one of our favorites because it offers every port you could need (including a gigabit network port and an SD card slot), and it’s more affordable than any other comparable model. If you want to set up your MacBook as a workstation, but you still need to be able to grab it and go, this is the dock to get.
Mouse: Apple Magic Mouse 2
Apple’s own mouse hardware has always been a cut above, and the Magic Mouse 2 definitely earns its place as one of the best models available. It’s got support for gestures, so you can swipe or scroll with ease (but you’ll never have a clunky mouse wheel to wear out). It’s gorgeous, of course, but what we like best is the battery life: it’s rechargeable, and depending on how much you use it, it can last weeks between charges.
Backpack: MOSFiATA Business Laptop Backpack
When it comes to MacBooks, you need to protect your investment, and that’s where the MOSFiATA Business Laptop Backpack comes in. It’s got a ton of padding, built-in organization for your laptop gear, and it’s even got a strap for attaching to roller suitcases—which is to say, it’s the perfect traveling companion. If you need a backpack that’s functional, affordable, but still looks good enough to belong with your Mac gear, grab this one.
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.
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.
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 macOS 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 macOS 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.
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.
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