Welcome to the best MacBook for students, written specifically for those studying and looking for an ideal Mac laptop. If you're thinking of buying a new MacBook for school, college or university, this guide will help you choose the best one for you.
Apple definitely makes some of the best student laptops (opens in new tab) on the market, which double as some of the best lightweight laptops (opens in new tab) too – something that students will always appreciate as you're dragging your laptop to and from classrooms. A MacBook might sound like an expensive choice but it's guaranteed to get you through your next study years and beyond, and you can setup your halls or bedroom with one of the best monitors for MacBook Pro if you need too.
Price is of course important, which is why we've got dedicated guides to the best cheap MacBook Air deals (opens in new tab) and best cheap MacBook Pro deals (opens in new tab). And make sure you read the student discount section at the bottom of this guide, because Apple also awards money-off for student purchases.
Best MacBooks for students 2023: The top 3
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We think the best MacBook for most students is still the M1 MacBook Air (2020). It's older and a touch slower than the newer M2 version, but it still flies along – and it's the most affordable option on this list.
Our pick for the best premium MacBook for students is the M2 MacBook Air (2022). The newer Air model has an updated design, more power, and a 1080p webcam, but it's 25 per cent pricier than the outgoing model.
The best pro-spec MacBook for students is the 14-inch MacBook Pro (M2 Pro/Max 2023). This is a laptop that's absolutely packed with power, and even high-end 4K or 8K video editing projects aren't going to slow it down. It's pricier and less portable though.
It's now the older of the two MacBook Air models, but we still think the M1 MacBook Air that launched in 2020 remains the best choice for the vast majority of students, which is down to one key factor – price.
The M1 chipset that Apple launched with this laptop was such a step forward in terms of power and efficiency that it'll still comfortably cope with everyday computing tasks for years to come. If you don't believe us, ask anyone who already owns one of these machines.
It can handle 4K video editing, complex music production, raw photo editing and so on, with 8GB of RAM as standard (creative students should opt for 16GB). It packs all this power into a very thin, fanless design, which means it's perfect for using in the library. And, like all Apple laptops, it has huge battery life – around 15 hours in typical web browsing use.
The downsides to the MacBook Air are that the screen isn't as good as the MacBook Pro for creative work, it only has two USB-C ports (and a 3.5mm audio jack) as its total connectivity, and there's now a more powerful M2 version of this laptop available. However, for a lot of people those won't be major issues on balance to the price.
For a large chunk of people this is going to be the best Apple MacBook for their student life: it's lightweight, it's relatively affordable, and it looks fantastic. However, it's a fair bit pricier than the 2020 Air model, which is why we consider this a more premium purchase option right now.
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, and it's clear that 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 then 4K video editing is no problem – just not to the same level as the fan-assisted cooling of the MacBook Pro options (the Air is fanless and therefore silent, but also hotter and Apple throttles it somewhat too).
The M2 MacBook Air is cheaper than the Pro models, hence it still making great sense for students, but you do miss out on some features: there's no HDMI slot and no SDXC card reader, for example. However, everything considered it's a phenomenal product that will be a great daily driver if you don't need the utmost power for, say, engineering modelling projects.
The 14-inch MacBook Pro offers a huge number of positives for students looking for a MacBook: it's packed with power, it has a superb display, the battery will run and run, and then there's the stylish and compact design. If you buy one of these, you won't be disappointed. The 2021 model is now on its way out, replaced by the even more powerful (and expensive) M2 Pro/Max-powered version for 2023.
Perhaps the only downside really is that this Pro model will cost you a substantial amount of money, but if you think about it as an investment then it's still good value – this is a laptop that will last you a long time. Even the smaller touches are clever ones, including the removal of the Touch Bar (that's still in the 13-inch model) and the upgraded webcam that now features 1080p quality.
The larger size of this laptop compared with the MacBook Air means it offers plenty of ports and connection options for all your peripherals, but at the same time it's not going to weigh your bag down excessively. It's just about the best laptop that Apple has ever made, and it's very customisable too. If you need even more power, however, then the 16-inch model is more customisable – but even pricier still.
The best MacBooks for students 2023: The best of the rest
The older-designed MacBook Pro is the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro, powered by Apple's M2 chipset (it was the first MacBook to get this!), it gives you an appealing option if you want a Pro-level of power but think the 14-inch and 16-inch models are a bit too unwieldy (and way too expensive, for that matter).
While this laptop can do more than the MacBook Air, as it's fan-cooled, you don't get the higher-end configuration options that you do on the bigger Pro models (the M2 Pro and M2 Max are serious powerhouses). However, you do get the Touch Bar touch interface, which has since been sacked off from all other MacBook models, so that's a unique sell point if that's your thing.
If you need more CPU/GPU power on tap more often then this MacBook's fan cooling puts it a step above the MacBook Air options, while its fairer price sees it as a more logical buy than the 14-inch or 16-inch Pro models – unless you need a significant chunk of more power.
And so to the 16-inch MacBook Pro: in a lot of ways this is similar to the 14-inch model, because you get the same choice of internal configuration options. The 2021 model with the M1 Pro or M1 Max processor has been phased out, though, replaced by the 2023 model with all-powerful (and all-expensive) M2 Pro and M2 Max configs. This is a phenomenally powerful computer (probably too powerful for most people's needs) that will do everything you need.
The key difference is the extra two inches of diagonal measure you get from the display, which means more pixels as well of course. It makes the laptop bigger, heavier and more expensive than the 14-inch equivalent. It's up to you whether you'd rather have a bigger screen or something more portable; many people will use this 16-incher as a desktop replacement.
There is another advantage to the 16-inch MacBook Pro, and that's battery life: up to 22-hours on this 2023 model versus the 17-hours on the 14-inch edition from 2021. You can spend more time with it away from your desk, but then that's balanced out by the fact that it's a larger laptop to lug around from one place to another.
The extra size also means the speaker system has a bit more room to breathe, though it's the same six speakers here as you get in the smaller model. As with the 14-inch MacBook Pro, this computer can get very expensive once you start ramping up the unified memory and the storage and everything else. However, if you've got the budget for it, it's the biggest and the best MacBook that Apple makes right now and ideal if you're doing VFX or videography studies.
Do students get discounts on MacBooks?
Yes they do! The exact level of discount depends on the model you choose, and it's not anything as simple as saying that it's 10% around the whole world – but Apple has a specific section of its online store for education buyers, so you can see what discounts you qualify for there when you look at the products.
You can also get 20% off AppleCare+ as a student, the extended three-year warranty that also includes accidental damage protection. For students, who can struggle to get genuinely good contents insurance that covers laptops when out of the house, this can be an excellent buy. It doesn't cover theft, though.
In the UK, even browsing the Apple Education store online requires you to prove that you're a student using the UNiDAYS system.
• Visit the Apple Education Store UK (opens in new tab)
In the US, you can simply browse the models and see all prices, and you generally don't need to show any proof of being a student when buying.
• Visit the Apple Education Store US (opens in new tab)
In Australia, it's the same as the US – you can just browse all the prices.
• Visit the Apple Education Store Australia (opens in new tab)
Are MacBooks worth it for students?
Apple products have long had a reputation for being high-priced, and while they're certainly not cheap, they're also not overpriced – a PC laptop that's similarly thin and light while also offering high performance and specs would cost just as much, or often more.
However, there is a hidden cost to consider: most of Apple's current laptops only use USB-C ports, which means you often need to buy adapters to attach regular USB hard drives or accessories. So that's an extra purchase – you'll need to factor in another £30/$30 to £100/$100 depending on how many ports you want this adapter to have (though students will generally be fine with a basic one).
Furthermore there are different charging speeds based on the power of the plug combination you buy. Check out our MacBook plug options explained feature to gather an understanding of what comes with which machine and whether you can upgrade.
On the flip side, though, there's something that adds a huge amount of value to Apple's machines: they're extremely reliable and easy to get repaired if anything does go wrong. Apple is the only big laptop maker with widespread stores that all have a repair presence, where you can literally take the laptop in a talk to someone employed by the same people who made the machine. In terms of speeds of repairs and peace of mind when deadlines are looming, the importance of this can't be overstated.