Founded in 1976, Apple is one of the world's largest consumer electronics manufacturers, with instantly recognizable products like the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and MacBook. Apple has a small laptop lineup compared to other brands like Dell, HP, Lenovo, and ASUS, as they only make premium productivity-focused laptops. However, MacBooks are consistently among the most well-built and premium laptops. Since Apple started making laptops with their in-house SoC, the M1, MacBooks are among the best for performance and battery life.
The best Apple laptop we've tested is the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2021). Before we get into more details about this laptop, it's worth noting that Apple no longer sells the M1 model (at least, not in a new condition) and has replaced it with the M2 version. The newer model is identical to its predecessor in design since the changes are only internal. The upgrades include a faster SoC (Pro or Max), HDMI 2.1, Wi-Fi 6E, and increased memory support of up to 96GB. Other than that, everything else is the same. So, let's talk more about it.
The 14-inch MacBook Pro is a premium mobile workstation and the smaller of the two 'Pro' models with Apple's new design and Mini LED display. It's designed for professional workloads like video editing, 3D graphics, etc. Apple's SoC (M1 or M2) has no problem handling demanding tasks, and they're incredibly power-efficient, resulting in all-day battery life. The Mini LED display is sharp, bright enough to combat glare, and produces deep, inky blacks. Plus, it has full DCI P3 coverage and superb factory calibration, so you can fully rely on it for color work. Ports include three USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI, a full-size SD card reader, and a high-output headphone jack for difficult-to-drive cans.
If you need more screen space and don't mind a larger device, the Apple MacBook Pro 16 (2021) is the obvious choice. It's identical to its 14-inch sibling but with better-sounding speakers and longer battery life. The only downside is that it's more expensive. As mentioned, Apple no longer sells the M1 model, so it's best to go with the newer version unless you can find a good deal on an M1 model through a third-party seller, marketplace, or even Apple's refurbished section.
If you only perform light tasks like text processing, web browsing, and video playback, get the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022) instead, one of the best MacBook Airs Apple has ever made and the successor to the very popular Apple MacBook Air 13 (M1, 2020). This new model sports a new design with thinner bezels, a better 1080p webcam (up from 720p), and a faster M2 SoC with media engines to handle more demanding tasks like video editing. The display is incredibly sharp and bright enough for outdoor use in broad daylight. You get a spacious keyboard with full-size function keys and, believe it or not, an even larger touchpad than its predecessor.
As mentioned, the M2 SoC has media engines to help with tasks like video editing. However, it doesn't perform as well as the MacBook Pro 14 and 16's M1 Pro and M1 Max. It can get the job done, but due to the SoC's limited GPU compute performance and the fact that this is a fanless device, you'll likely experience stutters when editing complex, high-resolution videos. You'll also have long export times. As for the battery life, you can expect to get around nine to ten hours of light use. Port selection is sub-par, as it only has two USB-Cs, and like its predecessor, it can only output a video signal to a single external display.
Before we move on to our budget pick, we need to talk about the Apple MacBook Pro 13 (2022), the odd middle child. The latest model was released simultaneously with the M2 MacBook Air. However, aside from an SoC upgrade to the M2, it didn't get a redesign, meaning it has the same design as the M1 MacBook Pro with thicker bezels and the controversial Touch Bar. Despite having 'Pro' in its name, this model is more of a MacBook Air with active cooling (fans) than a true 'Pro' device, as it lacks the processing power and the high-end features of the MacBook Pro 14 and 16, like Apple's Mini LED ProMotion display. It's a good option if you want slightly more processing power for the occasional intensive workload; otherwise, get the M2 MacBook Air.
If you're a little put off by the price of the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022), there's good news: you can still buy the older Apple MacBook Air 13 (M1, 2020). It's also one of the best MacBook Airs that Apple has produced and the first to have an Apple-made chip inside. Although this is our budget pick, it's only considered 'budget' because it's the most affordable model in Apple's laptop lineup. There's nothing 'budget' about this laptop. It feels as premium as the picks above, so you're still getting an exceptionally well-built device that provides a great user experience.
As for performance, its M1 SoC can still go toe-to-toe with newer CPUs on the market, so even though it's nearly three years old now, it's still plenty fast for general productivity tasks. Compared to the newer M2 MacBook Air, most of the tradeoffs are pretty minor, like the design, webcam, and SoC, so unless there's a feature you want on the newer model, this is a great alternative that'll save you a good chunk of cash.
Dell and Apple are very different in their approach to laptops, as Dell makes a significantly larger number of models for various uses and price segments. In contrast, Apple only makes premium productivity laptops. Dell's high-end productivity laptops are often compared to Apple laptops in build quality and user experience. However, unlike Apple, which uses their in-house ARM-based SoC, Dell still uses x86 chips from Intel in their laptops.
Microsoft and Apple are very similar in some ways but also very different. Both companies only make productivity laptops and control the hardware and software, as they also created the operating system. However, Microsoft tends to have more budget models and experiments with other form factors like 2-in-1 tablets, while Apple only makes clamshell laptops without touch input. Both companies are among the best when it comes to build quality.
Apple and Lenovo are very different. Like many other laptop manufacturers, Lenovo produces many laptops, including mobile workstations, ultraportable, gaming laptops, 2-in-1s, and Chromebooks. In contrast, Apple only makes a few models a year and focuses exclusively on productivity laptops. Lenovo also makes a lot of budget models, whereas Apple only makes premium models. Lenovo tends to experiment more with newer form factors and features, like a secondary e-ink display, ultrawide laptops, and dual-screen laptops. See our recommendations for the best Lenovo laptops here.
Apple is one of the best laptop makers in the world. MacBooks usually feel premium and exceptionally well-built, and they have among the best performance and battery life. As Apple also makes the operating system, MacBooks also have a level of integration with other Apple products that's hard to find on devices from other manufacturers. However, MacBooks are generally expensive and aren't as ideal for gaming.
May 15, 2023: Verified accuracy of picks. No change in recommendations.
Apr 17, 2023: Verified accuracy of picks. No change in recommendations.
Mar 15, 2023: Minor text changes to provide more information about the M2 MacBook Pro 14 and 16. No change in recommendations.
Jan 17, 2023: Minor text changes to improve clarity and provide more information about the differences between the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
Nov 22, 2022: Minor structure change. Added the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2020) as the 'Best Mid-Range' pick.
If you're looking for a productivity laptop, Apple MacBooks are among the best available options, whether you're already in the Apple ecosystem or not. They feel incredibly well-built, have long battery life, and provide a premium user experience. However, if you want more versatility, like a 2-in-1 convertible or a laptop with wider game compatibility, you're better off with a Chromebook or a Windows device.