Confused about what MacBook you should buy? Fear not — we have all the info you need right here.
In November, Apple finally released the MacBook Pro 16 after many months of speculation, phasing out the MacBook Pro 15 in the process. But with the MacBook Pro 13 still out there and the MacBook Air completely redesigned, it’s harder than ever to know which MacBook is right for you. Meanwhile, the laptop market is swimming in solid competition. This guide should help you sift through the sea of similar-looking Macs to find the gems.
Interested in other laptops too? We have a guide to the best laptops (including our favorite MacBook) as well.
Here are the three models of MacBook currently available, counting different display sizes as distinct models.
- — $1,099 from Best Buy
- — $1,000 from Amazon
- — $2,199 from Amazon
That’s a pretty succinct selection compared to prolific brands like Dell or HP. Let’s run them down one by one.
The MacBook Air
Apple refreshed the 13-inch Retina model, which we now consider a strong candidate for a first-time Mac buyer. At 2.7 pounds and 0.16 to 0.61 inches in thickness, the new MacBook Air comes in a familiar thin and light design but outfitted with new gold, silver and space gray colors. It also picks up the same butterfly keyboard, USB-C ports, and larger trackpad as the MacBook Pro 13.lineup in 2018 with a new
Apple even cut out the thick, silver borders from the MacBook Air for a new edge-to-edge Retina display, which modernizes it a bit. It’s still not as thin and light as the 12-inch MacBook was, but it’s a bit slimmer than the MacBook Pro. The onboard Retina display also keeps the same resolution as the MacBook Pro, at 2,560 x 1,600, but in our testing it only goes up to 291 nits of brightness. That might not be that bright, but it still produces really accurate colors, which makes it a good choice for photographers and graphic designers.
On the inside, the new 2018 MacBook Air got a significant update, too. It comes with the newer eighth-generation 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 Y-series processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz. Though that’s not super fast and it is not quad-core, it still packs some decent processing power, especially for an entry-level Mac. When we tested it, the MacBook Air was good enough for watching videos, working in Photoshop, word processing, and web browsing — it even had the best battery life of any MacBook. We couldn’t push it too far, though, and noticed some slowdowns when we had lots of tabs open while multi-tasking with multiple media apps at the same time.
Wondering about the 12-inch MacBook? You’re out of luck, as Apple killed it off in July. While it was super portable, it seems Apple felt it was just too similar to the redesigned Air, which now takes its place as Apple’s most mobile laptop.
What if you’re thinking of going Pro?
The updated the 13-inch MacBook Pro, giving every model a Touch Bar and an eighth-generation Intel processor. Before that, in May, Apple updated the rest of its Pro range to come with faster eighth- and ninth-generation Intel Core processors, meaning better performance and more bang for your buck. In addition, there’s now an option to kit your MacBook Pro out with an eight-core Intel Core i9 beast of a chip — the first time in this range of Apple’s notebooks, and a key differentiator from Apple’s more affordable options.is your best bet if you need serious power. In July, Apple
So, which MacBook Pro model should you choose? There are two main choices: 13-inch and 16-inch. Let’s start with the entry-level 13-inch Touch Bar model, which has had a serious upgrade. While in the past it lagged behind Apple’s other MacBook Pro models due to its 7th-gen dual-core Intel chip, that’s now had a hefty upgrade to an 8th-gen quad-core processor. That makes it much more capable, and even outdoes the high-end MacBook Air in a number of ways: It’s got a better chip, a better screen, more Thunderbolt 3 ports, and better graphics options, all for exactly the same price when you buy direct from Apple. Not bad!
The notable update to the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro makes it a little harder to justify the more powerful 13-inch options. The entry-level device is now capable enough that if you want a proper boost in performance, you really need to start looking at the 16-inch models.
So, what’s on offer if you decide to go for theThere are two options here, and both come with the Touch Bar, four Thunderbolt 3 ports and 16GB of memory as standard. The main differences lie in the processors, storage and graphics chips. While the entry-level 16-inch MacBook Pro comes with a 2.6GHz 6-core 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, a 512GB SSD and AMD Radeon Pro 5300M graphics card, the high-end model has a 2.3GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, a 1TB SSD and an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M GPU with 4GB of video RAM.
The 16-inch also comes with a few design changes, including a more conventional keyboard, smaller bezels, and a new thermal system.
Both models can be upgraded to have up to a 2.4GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, 64GB of memory, a whopping 8TB SSD, and an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics card with 8GB of video RAM. Starting at $2,399 and $2,799 respectively, there’s no doubting these MacBook Pro models are expensive, but they’re the ones to go for if you need true power.
And the winner is…
If you’re looking on the lower end of the spectrum, the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro now gets our recommendation. You get more bang for your buck compared to the high-end MacBook Air, and its new quad-core processor will make a noticeable difference compared to its previous dual-core chip. While the entry-level MacBook Air is $200 cheaper, we’d recommend stretching for the Pro if you can afford it.
For more professional Mac fans, we recommend the 16-inch MacBook Pro. It’s the only option that has enough power to handle more intense applications and heavier workflows. Unless there’s a very specific feature that catches your eye, stay away from the others.
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