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The best MacBook in 2024

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Apple MacBook Air M2

Apple 2023 MacBook Pro Laptop M3 Max chip with 14‑core CPU, 30‑core GPU: 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display, 36GB Unified Memory, 1TB SSD Storage. Works with iPhone/iPad; Silver

MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Max)

The MacBook Pro 14-inch gets supercharged by M3

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Apple MacBook Air (15-inch, M2)

MacBook Air 15-inch (M2)

A larger MacBook Air takes the laptop up a notch

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Apple MacBook Air M1

Now that Apple has started outfitting its laptops with its M3 generation of chips, it’s time to take another look at which is the best MacBook to buy in 2024. That’s not always easy, though, as buying the newest MacBook isn’t always the right decision. Apple has several tiers of performance, as well as various sizes, which can further complicate the matter.

What’s more, you can also still get M1 and M2 MacBooks, some from Apple’s own website and some from third-party retailers. For instance, while the MacBook Pro has the M3 series, the MacBook Air hasn’t made the jump yet. But if you can wait for the M3 MacBook Air (which is expected early in 2024), we think you should, and we’ll explain why shortly.

So, if you’ve been considering a MacBook but don’t have a clue as to which model to buy, give our guide a read. It’ll help you narrow down your choices and come away happy with your purchase.

Apple release a new MacBook Air M22 in 2022 with a Midnight finish.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

MacBook Air 13-inch (M2)

The MacBook for everyone

Pros

  • Uses the latest Apple M2 chip
  • Superthin and lightweight
  • Second-lowest price for a MacBook
  • Totally silent fanless design
  • Larger 13.6-inch display and 500-nit brightness

Cons

  • Eight-core GPU, with extra cost for 10-core
  • Only passive cooling
  • The screen has a notch

With a complete redesign, the 13-inch MacBook Air M2 looks a lot like the MacBook Pro, with a uniform thickness instead of the classic taper that the original MacBook Air featured. It’s now thinner at the back and 0.1 pounds lighter at 2.7 pounds, despite the increased battery capacity. It uses the fanless design that sets the MacBook Air apart from other Mac laptops, yet still manages to run incredibly cool under normal workloads.

The MacBook Air M2 is a great budget option for anyone looking to update to Apple silicon or switch to a Mac for general computing on the go. It’s small and light enough to disappear in a tech bag and can easily be carried around all day. The 500-nit Liquid Retina display is bright enough for most environments, an important feature for a laptop. Equally important is its long battery life, which lasts up to 18 hours during video playback with the Apple TV app. Apple includes a 30-watt USB-C charger (35-watt with the M2 10-core, 512GB storage model), but it’s compatible with Apple’s 67-watt USB-C power adapter.

The 2022 Apple MacBook Air also features a larger screen size. There’s a thinner top bezel with a notch for the webcam, allowing the display to increase by a little over a quarter-inch to 13.6 inches diagonally. It doesn’t sound like much of a change, but it is quite noticeable when the screen is open. While the slimmer bezel is welcome, the notch has been a bit controversial. Both 2023 MacBook Pro models have notches as well, so this is likely a trend that will continue.

On the topic of appearance, the MacBook Air M2 has two new color choices, Midnight and Starlight. Starlight is a pale gold tone that lacks the pink tint of the previous-generation’s gold. Midnight is nearly black, which looks striking, with a hint of purplish-blue under the right lighting conditions.

The new MacBook Air M2 can be configured with up to 24GB of memory, 50% more than the older model supported, and memory is one of the best upgrades to invest in since it makes multitasking faster and more efficient.

The big news about the 2022 MacBook Air was the M2 processor, which provides up to an 18% improvement in CPU performance and 35% greater GPU performance. The GPU boost does use a bit more power, which is why the larger-capacity battery doesn’t result in longer battery life than the M1 model. Overall, it’s a big upgrade that makes this the best choice for a budget MacBook.

Note that the M3 chip is expected to land in the MacBook Air in early 2024, so you might want to wait for that. We’ve already seen it in the MacBook Pro, and it’s an even bigger improvement than the M2 was over the M1.

Apple MacBook Air M2

MacBook Air 13-inch (M2)

The MacBook for everyone

apple macbook pro m3 max review 1

Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Max)

The MacBook Pro 14-inch gets supercharged by M3

Pros

  • Space Black is the new king
  • GPU performance gets big upgrade
  • XDR display is even brighter
  • Speakers are fantastic
  • Decent webcam

Cons

  • Storage and RAM is soldered on
  • M3 model only supports one external display

There was a lot of hype about the M3 series of chips before they landed, and now that they’re here, we can say a huge amount of the excitement was justified. While they’re not perfect chips, they’ve given the MacBook Pro a serious performance boost.

Much of that improvement concerns graphics. In our testing, the 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3 Max chip was 13% faster in Cinebench R24’s single-core test versus the M2 Max, and 32% faster in multi-core. In HandBrake, the difference was 38%.

While that’s not completely earth-shattering, the real gains are to be found in the GPU. Here, we found the M3 Max was a step above what came before, with a 56% performance uplift over the M2 Max in Cinebench R24’s graphics test. Everything from exporting videos to 3D rendering feels snappier and more performant. If you work with graphics and need a chip that can handle whatever you throw at it, the 14-inch MacBook Pro can deliver.

That extends to gaming, too. The M3 Max is so good here, in fact, that it outperforms every RTX 4070 laptop chip we’ve reviewed. That kind of performance would have been unthinkable just a couple years ago, but now the 14-inch MacBook Pro has the hardware to be considered a gaming contender.

Once you pair that power with the dazzling mini-LED display with 120Hz refresh rate, you’ve got a gamer’s dream come true. That’s not forgetting its speakers (the best you’ll find on any laptop) and comfy keyboard, too.

While the M3 Max is the real deal, you might want to think again before buying the M3 Pro version of this MacBook Pro. Its default configuration comes with 8GB of memory, which really isn’t enough for a pro-level laptop, and its memory bandwidth has been reduced compared to the M2 Pro. Instead, it’s better to spend a little more for the M3 Max version. Get that and you’ll have the best MacBook money can buy.

Apple 2023 MacBook Pro Laptop M3 Max chip with 14‑core CPU, 30‑core GPU: 14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display, 36GB Unified Memory, 1TB SSD Storage. Works with iPhone/iPad; Silver

MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Max)

The MacBook Pro 14-inch gets supercharged by M3

apple macbook air 15 inch review macbookair15 05

Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

MacBook Air 15-inch (M2)

A larger MacBook Air takes the laptop up a notch

Pros

  • More screen!
  • Excellent speakers
  • Long lasting battery
  • Shockingly thin
  • Extra performance is welcome

Cons

  • Only supports one external display

Apple has only offered the MacBook Air in one size for years, but in 2023 it switched things up by introducing a 15-inch model. It’s only really for a small demographic of users — people who want the lightness and quietness of the MacBook Air and don’t need the power of the MacBook Pro — but for those people, it’s fantastic.

It retains a lot of the familiar features of the 13-inch MacBook Air, including its slimline chassis, long-lived battery and excellent speakers. If you are just looking for an ultra-portable Apple laptop, the 13-inch MacBook Air might be better suited to your needs. But if the extra screen space is more important, the 15-inch MacBook Air is a superb choice.

Unsurprisingly, its display is one of its standout features. It’s bright and beautiful, with Apple’s Liquid Retina display offering 500 nits of peak brightness and hitting 90% of the Adobe RGB color gamut, making it a strong performer for color-accurate work. As we said in our review, “It’s among the best IPS laptop displays you’ll find.”

On the inside is Apple’s M2 chip, with all of its improvements over the M1 series found in the previous generation of MacBook Air. It’s not going to break any records, but it’s a solid performer for the money. Where the M2 chip really stands out is efficiency, where it helped the 15-inch MacBook Air last almost 19 hours in our testing. That’s even more than the 18 hours Apple says you’ll get.

Sure, the extra screen space means this laptop loses a little of the MacBook Air’s portability. But if you’re looking for a larger MacBook Air that still has almost everything you love about Apple’s lightest laptops, this model is a great option.

Apple MacBook Air (15-inch, M2)

MacBook Air 15-inch (M2)

A larger MacBook Air takes the laptop up a notch

Macbook Air M1 logo.

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

MacBook Air 13-inch (M1)

The best budget MacBook

Pros

  • Apple’s M1 blows Intel away
  • Phenomenal battery life
  • Excellent keyboard and touchpad
  • Rock-solid build quality
  • Simple good looks

Cons

  • Supports only one external display

Despite updating the MacBook Air to the M2 chip (and being on the brink of launching the M3 MacBook Air), Apple still sells the MacBook Air with M1 chip. The key question, then, is whether you should buy it.

The answer depends on the price you can get it for. If you can pick it up for $700 or less, you’ll be getting a superb bargain. If, however, prices are higher than that, we’d say you’re better off getting the M2 version instead.

Why is that? Well, Apple is only charging $100 more for the M2 MacBook Air compared to the M1 model. In return, you get thinner bezels, the MagSafe 3 port, a slimmer design, better speakers, a better webcam and updated wireless connectivity. That’s a lot of extra MacBook for your money.

None of that is to say the M1 MacBook Air is bad — it’s still a good option today. Even three years after its launch, it remains a strong device, and its chip will offer plenty of power for most people. It’s so efficient, in fact, that the M1 MacBook Air doesn’t even need a fan to keep itself cool, meaning you get to work in complete silence.

So, there’s a lot to like about the M1 MacBook Air. Just wait until you find it on sale before pulling the trigger.

Apple MacBook Air M1

MacBook Air 13-inch (M1)

The best budget MacBook

Frequently Asked Questions

Which MacBook should you buy?

Right now, we recommend you buy the 14-inch MacBook Pro if you need to do any heavy-duty work, plan on playing a lot of games, or simply want a device that offers more power than the standard MacBook Air. Yes, it’s more expensive, but its stunning mini-LED display, beefy M3-series chips and incredible build quality make it worth the outlay.

The M2 MacBook Air is a close second. It’s far more affordable than the M3 Max MacBook Pro, yet still offers powerful performance that will be more than enough for most people. We’d like to see it with an M3 chip, but we know that’s coming later this year. When it arrives, it might even take the top spot in our list.

The 15-inch MacBook Air and the 16-inch MacBook Pro are also worth considering, especially if you are looking for a more expansive display. In this regard, the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s mini-LED screen comes out on top, but both devices are great options.

There’s also the M1 MacBook Air to consider. While these days we recommend the M2 MacBook Air instead, it’s worth a look if you can get it for $700 or under.

Should you buy a refurbished MacBook?

As we’ve seen so far, there are plenty of fantastic MacBooks out there for you to choose from. But there’s no doubt that while Apple’s laptops offer excellent performance and features, they don’t come cheap. But don’t let that put you off getting one — there’s another way to buy a MacBook without breaking the bank.

That’s to go for a refurbished model. Doing so can save you a huge amount of money without landing you with a dud of a computer. If you get a refurbished MacBook from a reputable outlet, you can get all that Apple goodness, like strong performance, quiet operation, and premium build quality, without any of the sticker shock.

If you decide to get a refurbished MacBook, make sure you get it from a well-regarded source that has a proven track record of happy customers. Apple has its own network of “authorized resellers” that often offer revamped laptops. Having this authorized reseller status means the company has access to genuine Apple parts, so you know that any refurbished MacBook it sells is full of high-quality parts rather than cheap knockoffs.

Apple itself often sells refurbished MacBooks, and this is the route to take if you want the best quality available. The company (obviously) uses genuine parts if anything needs to be replaced, and it then cleans up the laptop and repackages it in a brand-new box with fresh cables and accessories. You essentially get a like-new product with a reduced price tag. Refurbished MacBooks sold by Apple usually cost a little more than refreshed devices from other sellers, but in return, you get the best quality on the market. It’s also worth regularly checking Apple’s stock, as it occasionally increases the discounts it puts on these models.

Finally, you can also look on secondhand marketplaces like eBay or Back Market. There’s much less of a quality guarantee than you get when you buy from Apple or an authorized reseller, but you’ll likely be able to save more money. Be sure to check the seller’s history and reviews before making a purchase.

Will Apple make another MacBook with an Intel chip?

Simply put, no. Apple has gained everything it wants from its chips by going its own route: great power and incredible efficiency. While Intel chips can match (or outperform) Apple’s chip when it comes to power, they can’t come close to Apple’s efficiency. That means hot, noisy laptops — the very antithesis of the current MacBook lineup.

But Apple’s switch to its own chips is important for another reason: it gives Apple control of another part of its products. Apple loves bringing things in-house and retaining control over them in this way. Now that it’s done that with its laptop chips, it’s highly unlikely it’ll ever go back to the old way of doing things.

Next on Apple’s plate is the process of following the MacBook Pro and outfitting its entire laptop range with chips from the M3 series. With the MacBook Air expected to make the leap in early 2024, Apple’s entire MacBook lineup will be on the latest generation of chips. Keep your eyes peeled for news and reviews to see which best suits your needs.

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