The best MacBooks in 2024

Despite it’s succinct laptop lineup, Apple makes an impressive MacBook for nearly every use—from casual online shopping to processor-intensive video editing.

Best overall

A 14-inch Macbook Pro on a blue and white background

MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro

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Best for video editing

The MacBook Pro 16-inch on a blue and white background

MacBook Pro 16-inch M2 Pro

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Best compact

The Macbook Air M1 on a blue and white background

MacBook Air 13-inch M1

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Choosing a MacBook has become a bit like buying a car. Picking a model seems relatively straightforward until you navigate all the trim options to find what suits your budget, needs, and wants. Apple’s MacBook models include the Air and the Pro, but several different types of the company’s custom-built M-series processors can be under the hood. Overall, the chips have boosted MacBooks’ performance and battery life, though it’s easy to buy more power than your daily tasks need. We’ve combed through the specs to help you find the best MacBook for you.

How we chose the best MacBooks

To find the best MacBooks, we’ve pulled from PopSci testing and extensive research of peer and user reviews. Apple doesn’t have the hugest laptop lineup, but the company’s options for mixing and matching processors and storage do a good job of meeting many users’ needs.

The best MacBooks: Reviews & Recommendations

After opting for an Apple laptop, the next choice pits MacBook Air versus Pro. MacBook Air models perform excellently for most users, offering a slim, ultra-portable body that’s durable and lightweight. MacBook Pro models are super-charged for more intense workloads with more powerful processors, higher resolution screens, and more ports to speed through creative projects like music production and image editing. Consider whether you want a MacBook for web surfing, emailing, writing, or more media- or code-heavy tasks.

Best overall: MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro

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Specs

  • Screen: 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
  • CPU/GPU: Apple M2 Pro chip with 10-to 12-core CPU, 16- to 19-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine
  • RAM: 16-38GB unified memory
  • Storage: 512GB-8TB SSD storage
  • Dimensions: 0.61 x 12.31 x 8.71 inches
  • Weight: 3.5 pounds
  • Ports: Three Thunderbolt 4, HDMI, SDXC card slot, headphone jack, MagSafe

Pros

  • Bright screen
  • Considerable power even at base model
  • Long-lasting battery
  • Available in two colors: space gray and silver

Cons

  • Expensive

For most people, the MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro will be more machine than they need but an excellent, future-resilient choice for anyone who tries to stretch the time out between laptop purchases as long as possible.  The 14-inch model is the middle-of-the-road option for the Pro line in size but offers a significant jump in processing power and bells and whistles over the Pro 13-inch M2 model.

While the 14-inch M2 Pro is housed in Apple’s signature aluminum body, it’s loaded with higher-end features that lead to an elegant experience. For starters, its bigger screen is Apple’s tip-top Liquid Retina XDR display, which uses mini-LED backlighting for bright, crisp images and a refresh rate that makes for smooth scrolling like on an iPad Pro. That clarity—and the six speakers with spatial audio support—make for a more immersive movie-watching experience, a solid gaming experience, or a lovely video chat. The mighty M2 Pro chip makes quick work of RAW files, video editing, and pretty much anything you can throw at it without triggering the dreaded rainbow wheel of death. The larger size also allows for more ports—including HDMI and SDXC card slots—and more room for the built-in cooling system.

The only downside is the base model will set you back about two grand, but it starts with the kind of specs we often recommend springing for to improve other models, such as a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU. For about $500 more, consider boosting the storage from 512GB to 1TB if you plan on significant video creation or explore the best external drives for Macs.

Best Air: MacBook Air 15-inch M2

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Specs

  • Screen: 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display
  • CPU/GPU: Apple M2 chip with 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine
  • RAM: 8-24GB unified memory
  • Storage: 256GB-2TB SSD storage
  • Dimensions: 0.45 x 13.4 x 9.35 inches
  • Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Ports: Two Thunderbolt 4 ports

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Larger screen
  • Snappy operations
  • Improved tools for video conferencing
  • Available in four colors: midnight, silver, space gray, starlight

Cons

  • Few ports
  • Base model starts with very little storage

The MacBook Air 15-inch M2 is a darn good laptop, one of our top picks for businesses, and a serious contender for best overall on this roundup. Apple released the 15-inch version of the Air in June 2023, and there’s a lot to like. The base M2 chip is fast off the line: The machine boots up in mere seconds, apps open nearly instantly, and the battery can easily last a workday.

The 15-inch M2 base model starts at $1,299 with an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU, offering a step up in processing power for only a couple hundred more than the 13-inch version. The bigger body accommodates an improved video conferencing setup with a higher resolution camera, a three-mic array, and six speakers instead of four. The larger Liquid Retina display is enough to functionally use two windows side by side. And yet, the Air is still less than a half-inch thick and weighs just over 3 pounds.

The Air line has some potential drawbacks, so we gave the best overall MacBook to a Pro model. Apple opted for a fanless cooling system for Air models, which is how they can be so light and essentially silent. For most day-to-day tasks, that’s not a problem. Many of us don’t push our machines to their limits. Anyone who doesn’t have processor-taxing jobs could safely save some cash by opting for an Air instead of a Pro. However, the Air line storage starts at 256GB, which is just too tiny for a laptop these days. Upgrade the storage and unified memory if your budget allows—they aren’t upgradable later. 

Best for college: MacBook Air 13-inch M2

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Specs

  • Screen: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display
  • CPU/GPU: Apple M2 chip with 8-core CPU, 8-core or 10-core GPU, 16-core Neural engine
  • RAM: 8-24GB unified memory
  • Storage: 256GB-2TB SSD storage
  • Dimensions: 0.44 x 11.97 x 8.46 inches
  • Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Ports: MagSafe charging port, two Thunderbolt ports, and a headphone jack

Pros

  • Lightest MacBook
  • Good all-around performer
  • Sturdy body
  • Available four colors: silver, midnight, space gray starlight

Cons

  • Few ports
  • Base model starts with very little storage

If treated with a little TLC, the MacBook Air 13-inch M2 can easily last an entire (and perhaps even prolonged) college career. In our MacBook Air M2 review, we called it “one of the best laptops you can buy right now, bar none,” and it topped our best MacBook for college roundup. So what makes it so great?

The Air M2 is durable, portable, powerful, and generally an excellent value for a Mac. Average classwork like emails, video conferencing, and web research pose no challenge for the processors. They can also handle some gaming and basic video and photo editing but can start stuttering as the machine gets warm. The M2 edition features noticeable upgrades from its predecessor, such as improved webcams and microphones, a larger screen (13.6 inches, up from 13.3), and a brighter, sharper Liquid Retina display. It’s a solid performer whether hitting the books, procrastinating with your favorite streaming service, or delighting mom by FaceTiming home. (Seriously, moms love that. Call your mom.)

Upgrading from the base model to the 10-core GPU and 512GB SSD storage configurations will set you back about $500, but is worth it to avoid storage headaches and laggy transfers. (An even newer model, powered by the M3 chip, has now been released, but the jump in power is modest, so an M2 with bumped specs for the same price as the newer version is still your best value.)

Best for video editing: MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Max

MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Max

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Specs

  • Screen: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
  • CPU/GPU: Apple M2 M3 Max chip with up to 16‑core CPU, 40‑core GPU, 16‑core Neural Engine
  • RAM: 36GB-128GB unified memory
  • Storage: 1TB-8TB SSD storage
  • Dimensions: 0.66 x 14.01 x 9.77 inches
  • Weight: 4.7 pounds
  • Ports: 3 Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI port, SDXC card slot, headphone jack, MagSafe 3 port

Pros

  • Large display supports P3 color standard
  • Unique architecture makes for super-efficient operation
  • Built-in SD card reader
  • Lots of ports
  • Longest battery life for a MacBook

Cons

  • Pricey for base model
  • Upgrades for high-end video add up quickly
  • Heavy for a laptop

If your video ambitions lean more toward films than TikToks, check out the MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Max. We chose this 16-inch monster as the best laptop for video editing because of its large, sharp display and ability to speed through rendering multiple layers of high-resolution video.

Its top-of-the-line screen supports Hollywood’s P3 color standard or can be tuned to other configurations for TV or other projects. It’s powered by the most sizeable battery in a MacBook, complete with a 140W MagSafe power adapter for fast charging for times you want to leave your workspace, like editing vacation videos while still on vacation. But video editors are often desk-bound, with multiple monitors and tons of external drives, which the 16-inch M3 Max can handle with a decent amount of ports.

The M3 Max chip drives the swift performance, making it one of the best MacBooks for creatives. For the most challenging workloads, you can go to Apple directly to upgrade the M3 Max chip and the Unified Memory for high-end production work, but it’s going to add thousands more onto the M3 Max’s entry price of about $3,899. Then, of course, there’s the cost of an amazing mic for voiceovers—you could be the Alec Baldwin to the next Wes Anderson.

If you’re looking for a lighter option that can still crunch through RAW photos and videos, Apple offers the MacBook Pro 14-inch M3 Max, which trades some screen space to weigh in at 3.5 pounds but still “smoked every single test we threw at it” in our full review.

Best for on-the-go music producers: MacBook Pro 13-inch M2

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Specs

  • Screen: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display
  • CPU/GPU: Apple M2 chip with 8-core CPU, 8-core or 10-core GPU, 16-core Neural engine
  • RAM: 8-24GB unified memory
  • Storage: 256GB-2TB SSD storage
  • Dimensions: 0.44 x 11.97 x 8.46 inches
  • Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Ports: Two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack

Pros

  • Lightest MacBook
  • Good all-around performer
  • Sturdy body
  • Available in two colors: space gray, silver

Cons

  • Few ports
  • Base model starts with very little storage

If you’re building a permanent studio space and have plans to track musicians, use lots of outboard gear, and/or really layer on the virtual instruments, just go ahead and buy the M3 Max above. If you’re more looking for something to slip in your carry-on for smaller edits and organizing tracks, DJs often bask in the glow of MacBook Pro 13-inch M2’s Liquid Retina screen, and for good reason. Its aluminum body looks good in stickers and, more importantly, is extremely lightweight with a long-lasting battery for carrying from studio to stage. 

We chose its predecessor, the MacBook Pro 13-inch M1, as our initial best laptop for music editing, but the M2 version ups the processing power and drops the not-so-loved Touch Bar. We recommend upping storage to at least 1TB to ensure you have enough room for the best DJ software and/or best beat-making software and your library of carefully curated tracks. Just add headphones and you’ve got a very capable gig rig.

Best compact: MacBook Air 13-inch M1

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Specs

  • Screen: 13.3-inch Retina display
  • CPU/GPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU, 7‑core GPU, 16‑core Neural Engine
  • RAM: 8-16GB unified memory
  • Storage: 256GB-2TB SSD storage
  • Dimensions: 0.63 inches tall by 11.97 inches wide by 8.36 inches deep
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Fast to switch between tasks and open apps
  • Available in three colors: space gray, silver, gold

Cons

  • Lower resolution webcam
  • Few ports
  • USB-C charger occupies one port when charging
  • Base model starts with very little storage

The MacBook Air 13-inch M1 kicked off the new generation of Apple’s laptops with the highly efficient M1 system-on-a-chip series in 2020 and is one MacBook you can usually find for under a grand.

Unlike the squared-off, mini-Pro shapes the new Airs have, Air M1 rocks the wedge-shape Airs were locked into for years. It relies on a fanless calling system, which keeps it cool during demanding tasks while keeping it a slim 2.8 pounds. Only tablets are more compact than this MacBook.

When it first debuted, we called it one of the best overall laptops in our review, and it’s still great. It’s a snappy machine for people who spend most of their time on websites and emailing. The base model starts with an 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU, 8GB of unified memory, and 256GB solid-state drive storage, but again, we recommend at least upping the amount of storage to 512GB. The screen also isn’t as sharp as other Apple displays, the webcam is a lower resolution of 720 pixels, and it only has two Thunderbolt ports, one of which it needs to charge.

What to consider when buying the best MacBooks

Several important factors must be considered to ensure you get the right model for your needs. Here’s a list of things to keep in mind:

Purpose and usage

Give a good think to how you use your MacBook. Is it largely online shopping and social media? Are you composing an audio or visual masterpiece? For the former, the slim Air line will likely fit your needs and then some. Creatives should opt for Pro models and consider higher-level M-series chips, like the Pro or Max.

The price tag of a MacBook isn’t cheap, but businesses should consider both upfront costs and maintenance. According to a Forrester study, Macs can be less expensive for IT teams to support over their lifecycle because of fewer user complaints and tickets to resolve. They also come with free productivity software, though Page, Numbers, and Keynote are hardly the sector-leading programs. The company is also well-known for its customer service and support. 

Processing power, storage capacity, and memory

Say it with me: You can’t upgrade Apple chips after purchase. Whatever specs you purchase are what you commit to for the life of the MacBook. It’s one of the downsides of the company’s bespoke M-series system-on-a-chip, which houses most essential functions like the central processing unit, graphic processing unit, security enclave, neural engine, and shared memory. While we don’t suggest maxing out everything for every model, weigh where your money gives extra value.

Apple’s M1 and M2 chips deliver faster processing than the previous Intel chips Macs used to have. The base models easily handle general computing needs. Anyone who spends a lot of time photo and video editing, video processing and rendering, 3D rendering, or code compiling should consider upgrading to Pro, Max, or Ultra chips.

A lot of MacBooks start with a paltry 256GB solid-state drive that will fill up quickly. Choose at least 512GB, though 1TB feels more reasonable for a modern laptop. Storage upgrades through Apple get pricey fast, so weigh what you need built-in against what can easily be supplemented by cloud storage or external drives.

You will rarely regret maxing out shared memory as much as your budget will allow. Think of Apple’s shared memory like random access memory in PC-based machines, but it operates more efficiently (hence the lower number).

Portability

MacBooks all have a durable aluminum body, a premium feature compared to most plastic-loving laptops. They range in size from 13- to 16-inch screens and weigh between 2.7 pounds and 4.7. While lugging 5 pounds around town is pushing a comfortable weight, MacBooks have some of the longest-lasting batteries around. While Apple advertises 18- and 22-hour battery lives, that depends on what kind of applications you’re running and how bright displays are set. Still, most MacBooks easily make it through an 8-hour workday.

Ports

We’re obsessed with ports because Macs often have limited options, preferring to push their own proprietary versions. Most of the Air MacBooks have only two ports and a headphone jack. The Pro line offers more options, like HDMI and card readers. Consider your many accessories—like wired and wireless mice and external monitors—and whether you’ll need adapters or a USB-C hub.

FAQs

Q: How Which MacBook model is best for everyday use and web browsing?

The MacBook Air is a popular choice due to its portability and performance, and you can avoid paying for processing power you might not need from the Pro line or higher-power M1 and M2 chips.

Q: Is the MacBook Pro worth the extra cost compared to the MacBook Air?

It depends. The MacBook Pro offers better performance and a more versatile set of features, making it worth investing in for specific tasks like video editing or software development. The line has better screens and more ports … but do you need that? Maybe not, but as more of us create more content, the extra power may be a good investment. We’d also argue that opting for Pro models can help future-proof your laptop, tiding you a new chipset or seriously disruptive tech changes shake up the laptop market.

Q: Do I need to buy additional accessories, like adapters, for my MacBook?

Probably. Newer MacBook models typically feature USB-C or Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 ports, so you may require adapters or dongles to connect older peripherals. Even USB-A cords will need a go-between.

Final thoughts on the best MacBooks

MacBooks start at higher prices than other laptops but come chock full of premium and market-leading features like day-long battery life. We recommend the MacBook Pro 14-inch M2 Pro or M3 Max—powerful, media-consuming and creating machines that have the specs to last an average user for many years, as the best overall MacBook. But make no mistake, every MacBook on this list is an outstanding laptop, whether you’re looking for lightweight, portable options like the Air or more powerful Pro models for making music or films.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.