Best Apple MacBook 2023: Jump Menu
00. The list in brief ↴
01. Best overall: MacBook Air M2
02. Best affordable: MacBook Air M1
03. Best premium: MacBook Pro 14in
04. Best big screen: MacBook Air 15in
05. Best maxed out: MacBook Pro 16in
06. Best budget Pro: MacBook Pro 13in
07. How to choose the best for you
08. How we test Apple MacBooks
If you're on the hunt for the best MacBook, you're in the right place. There are quite a few models to pick from, so we've done some detailed review work to bring you our list of the best Apple laptops on the market right now, rated and ranked. No matter your needs or budget, you'll be able to find the best MacBook for you right here.
All of the below MacBooks can be customised and configured to better suit your budget and the sort of power you're looking for – that's something to remember when you're shopping, that the spec you see listed doesn't have to be the final one that you order (you'll need extra cash to amp it up though).
For those thinking about school, college or university, check out our best MacBook for students guide, as student discount applies and we've prioritised the more budget purchases. We've also got carefully curated guides to the best laptop overall, should you not be 100 per cent fixed to Apple and its macOS operating system just yet.
I've been using Mac laptops for many years, handling every model in this guide in person, so while I know the pros and cons, I'm also always on the lookout for a great deal. Amazon Prime Day 2, known as Big Deal Days is just around the corner, on 10th and 11th October, and well worth marking in your calendars!
As we begin to approach the end of the year all eyes then move to Black Friday. The run-up to Friday 24 November will host deals galore, through to Cyber Monday on 27 November. Myself and the T3 team will be bringing you all the greatest MacBook picks, collected into our best Black Friday deals page.
T3's Top 3
Best overall MacBook
Best MacBook overall
Apple does make even more premium MacBooks in its Pro line, but the M2-powered Air will be the best fit for most people. It runs silently, offers heaps of power, and although it costs a little more its design is more up-to-date than the older M1-powered model. If you want to do significant CPU/GPU-demanding projects, however, then consider a MacBook Pro instead.
Best budget MacBook
Best budget MacBook
It's not the newest, granted, but the M1-powered and older-design MacBook Air is still a really savvy purchase. Just like its newer replacement it runs silently, it's still really powerful, while the design is small and lightweight enough to carry around. But, really, it's the smaller price compared to the rest of the current range that will make this MacBook the winning option for many people.
Best premium MacBook
Best premium MacBook
If it's raw power that you're seeking then a MacBook Pro is the way to go. It won't be silent like its Air cousins, and the design is thicker to allow for heat dissipation and cooling, but you'll have more oomph to work with for more serious tasks. The 14-inch Pro is a great option for portability, but if you want yet more than a 16-inch model ups the scale and power (and price!) yet further.
The best student MacBooks we recommend in 2023
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The second MacBook to bring Apple's M2 silicon to the fore (after the 13-inch Pro, further below), except in a fanless design for silent operation. There's also all-new looks and a 13.6-inch form-factor, making this the best Apple laptop for most people.
As said in T3's full MacBook Air M2 review: "the all-new Air with M2 silicon is a revelation: redesigned, reinvigorated, revolutionary. It's super powerful, has excellent battery life, and aside from some heat due to no fan cooling and the inclusion of a notch on that new screen, it's a laptop that's hard to fault."
We're pleased to see that the webcam has been given an upgrade to 1080p, which is important to more people than you might think, while macOS absolutely flies along on this Mac. If you don't do much beyond everyday computing tasks, we'd wholeheartedly recommend it, but even if you do it's capable at 4K video editing tasks without bother.
The M2 MacBook Air is much cheaper than the larger 14- and 16-inch Pro models, but you do miss out on some features: there's no HDMI slot and no SDXC card reader, for example, while throttling means you'll get higher performance from the Pro models. However, most aren't going to need that, so we think the Air M2 is the ideal balance.
There isn't really a budget MacBook, per se, but the 2020 MacBook Air is now the only Mac laptop you can buy for under the four-figure asking price. That'll be really important for a number of people who can't fork out the extra cash. You may be able to find one for even less refurbished if you're lucky.
Either way, the 2020 MacBook Air may feature the older design, but it's still perfectly capable thanks to the decent M1 processor under its hood, and while the webcam is only 720p (annoying) there's no notch on the screen to get in the way (preferable).
The MacBook Air is certainly no slouch even on older hardware, able to cope with the majority of day-to-day computing tasks with ease, as we cite in our MacBook Air M1 2020 review. It really is an impressive bit of kit from Apple.
Replacing the excellent 2021 14-inch MacBook Pro, the 2023 model delivers M2 Pro and M2 Max chipsets – and the performance is simply incredible. If you are a creative professional then nothing else has this kind of memory bandwidth and power.
There were aesthetic changes in 2021, and while the 2023 model doesn't change anything visually speaking, it's still a great laptop with superb battery life, plus small new additions such as HDMI 2.1 (for 4K/240Hz output) and Wi-Fi 6E speeds. Gone is the Touch Bar (it still lives on in the 13-inch 2022 Pro model though), and while the display still has a notch (just like the MacBook Air M2 featured above), we think it's hard not to fall in love with its bright Mini LED charms.
We think the 14-inch model here slightly edges out the 16-inch model in terms of the balance between power and portability – it's a little lighter and a little smaller if you need something that you can carry around. But the 16-inch model is also a five-star product, with even better battery life, but a higher cost. You can go wrong either way, unless you don't need this level of performance, in which case look elsewhere on this list.
Best big screen
For some the larger 15.3-inch display of this MacBook Air will make it the very best option on the market. Otherwise, generally speaking, this 2023 M2 model is an echo of the 2022 13-inch M2 equivalent – only physically larger.
That bigger scale doesn't cost it to excess in the small-and-light category, though, as Apple has somehow made the 15-inch Air barely much thicker or heavier than the 13-inch model.
As said in our review: "The 15-inch MacBook Air's sell is simple: it's a MacBook Air, embodying everything typically slim, light and portable about that, only it's got a bigger screen (and bigger sound as an added bonus). There are no significant compromises in opting for the 15.3-inch screen, except it'll inevitably cost you a little more and add some additional mass. For many that'll make it the big-screen MacBook of your dreams... except now it's a reality."
Best maxed out
For some people this final entry on our list will actually make sense turned on its head as the number one option to buy. But then it's also the most expensive, given it's the biggest and most powerful MacBook going. It's also the most powerful, and if you've got super-high demands then the 96GB unified memory model is untouchable compared to what the competition can offer.
If you really want to go all-out on a MacBook Pro then the 16-inch top-spec model fits the bill: as you can tell from our 2023 16-inch MacBook Pro review, it's a stunner in terms of both its looks and its performance, though bear in mind that this larger version is not as easy to carry around as the 14-inch edition.
The price rises steeply as you start to configure the 16-inch model though – it maxes out at 96GB unified memory with a huge 8TB of internal storage on SSD in the 2023 configuration with all-new M2 Max processor. Despite all of this power, the laptop stays impressively quiet and cool even when faced with more demanding tasks, while battery life is still decent too.
The 16.2-inch 3456 x 2234 pixel resolution display is absolutely gorgeous from any angle too – and just like the 14-inch model, the brightest you'll find in the MacBook line-up. External monitors and other peripherals can be connected through one of the three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports. There's also HDMI 2.1 out (with 4L/240Hz monitor support), an SDXC card slot, and a 1080p webcam to ensure all your comms and connectivity are on point.
Best budget Pro
The 2022 13-inch MacBook Pro was the one to introduce Apple's M2 silicon, which seemed like a bit of a strange choice. So although it reads a lot like the 13-inch MacBook Air on paper, thanks to the cooling fan installed inside, it can push this M2 chip harder for longer. It's also slightly heavier than the MacBook Air, a little more expensive, and with slightly better battery life. Plus, it's still got the Touch Bar that's been cut from the other MacBooks.
Taking all of that into consideration, this is perhaps the MacBook to get if you want the best performance in the smallest possible form factor (or are a Touch Bar lover). While it's a little on the dated side in visual terms, it can still hold its own with the best laptops in the business when it comes to demanding tasks like video editing – see our M2 Pro MacBook Pro review for more details.
The screen might be smaller than the other Pro or 15-inch Air models, but it's still a fantastic display (without a notch!), and of course that smaller screen makes it easier to carry around. Like the MacBook Air, you get just two Thunderbolt 4 / USB 4 connections on the side with the now ubiquitous USB-C shape – so to connect up lots of peripherals you'll need to invest in a dock or hub as well.
How to choose the best MacBook for you
When it comes to selecting a MacBook there's a couple of major pointers to consider: screen size and portability, power requirements, silent operation, and of course the price.
Apple makes MacBooks in all kinds of screen sizes now. The 11-inch and 12-inch models of old no longer exist. Instead there's the 13-inch standard, as per MacBook Air models, which grows to 15-inch for the larger model in that range. The Pro line-up, meanwhile, is 14- or 16-inch only.
Regarding power, Apple now uses its own silicon in all of its current MacBook models, ranging from the original M1 through to the latest M2, including M2 Pro, M2 Max and M2 Ultra options. The higher up the grade you go the more shared memory there is, with up to 96GB RAM (unified memory as Apple calls it) available at the top-end. You can only acquire the utmost power from a MacBook Pro model, though.
There's no point in overpaying for excess power if your needs simply won't demand it. The Air is great for all manner of tasks, including use of decent editing programmes, but the Pro models really turn things up a notch. As a result the latter range needs more cooling, which means fans, which in turn means more noise and less battery life.
The biggest factor for many people, however, will simply come down to price. If you're looking to spend under four-figures then you're going to be buying an older model rather than the very latest on offer. That's not always a bad thing, though, as you'll still get years of use. At the other end of the scale a MacBook Pro can cost several thousand, so be sure to spec for your specific needs and don't over-spec for no due purpose.
How we test Apple MacBooks
Just as we test any of the best laptops here at T3, a key part of our testing the best MacBooks is living with each Apple product and treating it as if our own – that gives the best real-world experience and understanding of the important factors such as design, portability, battery life, software highs and lows, and so on.
The team at T3 has many years of experience in reviewing the best MacBooks, so we're able to contextualise and understand how one model relates to another, generation on generation, using that knowledge to point you to the best buys – even if they're the older models.
In addition to a true lived-with approach, we do of course use benchmarking tests to gauge how a MacBook sits on the map in terms of CPU and GPU performance, so you can get an understanding of how certain operations may fit your workflow best. This is good to show year-on-year upgrades, plus how the latest MacBook might compare to, say, a gaming laptop or Windows laptop competitor.
Then and only then, following many days if not weeks of use, we bring the final verdict – including areas to improve upon, in addition to highlighting the positives – including a score out of five, with the 5-star award being the highest accolade offered on T3.com and by T3 magazine.
I've been using Mac laptops for many years. I've handled every model in this guide, too, so I know the pros and cons regarding each one and which will be the best pick for your needs – whatever your budget or power demands.