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 (2023), a premium mobile workstation and the smaller of the two 'Pro' models with Apple's new design. You can get this 2023 model with an M2 Pro/Max SoC; both are blazingly fast and can easily handle professional workloads like video editing, 3D animation, etc. These SoCs are also incredibly power-efficient, resulting in all-day battery life. Memory and storage max out at 96GB and 8TB, respectively; just remember that they aren't user-replaceable, so get enough for your needs upfront. Also, the base storage configuration (512GB) only has one NAND chip instead of two, meaning it has noticeably slower speeds than the larger-capacity drives.
One of the best features of the MacBook Pro is its Mini LED display. It looks sharp, gets 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-critical work. The keyboard feels spacious and tactile, and the large, haptic touchpad is among the best on the market. Ports include three USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI 2.1, 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, there's the Apple MacBook Pro 16 (2023). 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.
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 popular Apple MacBook Air 13 (M1, 2020). This model sports a new design, a slightly larger and brighter display, a better 1080p webcam, and a faster M2 SoC. Like most MacBooks, it has a spacious keyboard and a gigantic haptic touchpad. Battery life is excellent at around 10 to 11 hours of light use.
Another addition to this M2 model is Apple's MagSafe charging port, which connects magnetically and detaches easily to prevent the laptop from getting pulled off a table if you trip on the cable. The main downside is that it's still limited to two USB-C ports with support for a single external display. Consider the new Apple MacBook Air 15 (2023) for a bigger screen. It's the same device as the 13-inch model but with a 15.3-inch display and better speakers. Performance is also near-identical, although its battery life is slightly shorter at around eight hours of light use. It costs $200 USD more than the 13-inch model.
Before moving on to our budget pick, we must discuss the Apple MacBook Pro 13 (2022). 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 display. It might be a good option if you're into the Touch Bar; otherwise, get the M2 MacBook Air.
If you want to spend as little as possible, 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 we consider this our budget pick, we only do so because it's the most affordable model in Apple's laptop lineup. 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.
What makes the buying decision a bit more complicated is that Apple lowered the price of the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air when the 15-inch model launched, bringing it to only $100 USD more than the M1 model. If you can afford to spend more, it's worth going with the M2 model. You get a nicer design, a larger and brighter display, a better webcam, better performance, and a MagSafe charging port. However, the M1 MacBook Air is still a great choice if you're on a tight budget.
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.
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.