Best student MacBook 2023: Jump Menu
00. The list in brief ↴
01. Best overall: MacBook Air M1
02. Best premium: MacBook Air M2
03. Best pro: MacBook Pro 14in
04. Best big screen: MacBook Air 15in
05. Best cheap power: MacBook Pro 13in
06. Best maxed out: MacBook Pro 16in
07. Is there student discount?
08. Are MacBooks worth it for students?
Welcome to our best MacBook for students guide, 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 on the market, which double as some of the best lightweight laptops 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 and best cheap MacBook Pro deals. Also make sure you read the student discount section at the bottom of this guide, because Apple awards money-off for student purchases!
I've been using Mac laptops for as long as I can remember, so I'm always looking out for a great deal on my next one. We've had Amazon Prime Day but all eyes are now on 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, collated into our best Black Friday deals page.
T3's Top 3
Best for most students
Best overall student MacBook
It's not the newest, granted, but the previous-gen MacBook Air is the master of all things: it's powerful, it runs silently, it's small and lightweight enough to carry around, and while it doesn't bring the next-gen design and more power of its follow-up model, it does cost a chunk less – which is why it's still number one!
Best premium option
Best premium MacBook for students
Apple does make even more premium MacBooks, but in terms of the best fit for students? It's this M2-powered Air that wins that ticket. Heaps of power, ease of portability, superb battery life, plus an updated design with better screen than its predecessor – this is an ideal option if you can afford a little extra.
Best pro option
Best pro student MacBook
If you don't need silent operation but do need extra power for processing tasks – data crunching, computer modelling, and so on – then the MacBook Pro line is a step up. It's also a lot more expensive, with the 14-inch model here being the best balance of modern design without the giant 16-inch model's price tag.
The best student MacBooks we recommend in 2023
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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 even more powerful (and expensive) 2023 options – the first with M2 Pro/Max launched in January only to be quickly replaced by (thankfully more affordable) M3 versions in November of the same year!
Even so, the most obvious downside is that the Pro models will cost you a substantial amount of money, especially if you upgrade the specification. 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 upgraded webcam that now features 1080p quality.
The larger size of this laptop compared with the 13-inch 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 one of the best laptops 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.
Best big screen
For some students the prospect of a larger screen MacBook, but without the associated cost of the Pro-grade models, will be the most appealing of them all. And that's exactly what the 15-inch MacBook Air delivers in a powerful yet silently operating package.
That bigger scale doesn't cost it to excess in the small-and-light category, though, as Apple has somehow made the 15-inch MacBook Air barely much thicker or heavier than its 13-inch equivalent model. It'll cost you a touch more, though, so it's that balance of whether the additional screen real-estate will be worth that extra few hundred from your bank account.
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 cheap power
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), which has now been discontinued but you may still be able to find some stock on select third-party retailers. The main reason to want one is for the lower price and inclusion of the now dead and buried Touch Bar interface.
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 (with M2 or M3 Pro/Max options making them serious powerhouses). However, you do get that Touch Bar touch interface, which has since been sacked off from all other MacBooks, 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.
Best maxed out
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 M3 or Pro/Max configs (the M2 Pro/Max models from January 2023 were very quickly replaced just nine months later, but you may still be able to find them for a bargain buy).
The key difference in the 16-inch model 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 – but it also delivers better battery life. 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.
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.
Is there student discount?
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.
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.
In Australia, it's the same as the US – you can just browse all the prices.
Are MacBooks worth it
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.
I've been using Mac laptops for as long as I can remember, since their inception in 2006. I've used, reviewed and ranked every model tested on this page, too, so know the pros and cons regarding which one students should pick for their specific needs – whatever the budget.