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The best MacBook to buy in 2024

MacBook Air 13-inch (M3)
The best MacBook you can buy
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MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Max)
The MacBook Pro 14-inch gets supercharged by M3
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MacBook Air 15-inch (M3)
Larger than life with plenty of screen space
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MacBook Air 13-inch (M2)
The MacBook for everyone
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MacBook Air 15-inch (M2)
A larger MacBook Air takes the laptop up a notch
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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. But are they still worth your money? Our guide should help you decide.

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.

Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

MacBook Air 13-inch (M3)

The best MacBook you can buy

Pros
  • The M3 chip is superb
  • Keeps cool and silent in operation
  • Excellent display
  • Apple's signature build quality
  • A lot of MacBook for your money
Cons
  • Not powerful enough for heavy-duty tasks
  • Passive cooling means it can throttle

We had to wait a little while, but the MacBook Air has been updated to have the M3 chip, and it's absolutely worth your money. Apple's fan-favorite laptop has the best of all worlds: it's thin and light, it's affordable, and it still has enough power to satisfy most users. Going for it is a no-brainer.

The differences between the M3 and M2 MacBook Air are all about quality, not quantity. While very little changed between the generations, the updates have helped the M3 model really stand out.

The main divergence is with the chip. Apple's M3 is built using a next-gen 3nm process, which to you and me means that it improves both performance and efficiency. We've already seen that in our testing: its gaming performance is impressive for a laptop that is absolutely not intended as a gaming beast, while its temperature never rises to uncomfortable levels. That's a win in our books.

The other major change of note is that you can now connect two external displays to the MacBook Air (as long as you keep its lid closed), something Apple silicon laptops have never been able to do. That's a welcome boost for productivity.

Put together, the M3 update takes what was already a great laptop and elevates it to newfound heights. If you're in the market for a new Apple laptop and aren't looking for a professional-grade workstation, the M3 MacBook Air should be top of your list.

MacBook Air 13-inch (M3)
The best MacBook you can buy
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 one of the best MacBooks money can buy.

MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Max)
The MacBook Pro 14-inch gets supercharged by M3
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends / Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

MacBook Air 15-inch (M3)

Larger than life with plenty of screen space

Pros
  • Beautiful large display
  • Impoved gaming performance
  • Now supports two displays
  • Rock-solid build quality
Cons
  • Fairly niche target audience

Apple's 15-inch MacBook Air with M2 chip was something of a revelation when it landed in 2023: a laptop for a small group of users, but one that hit a whole heap of targets that left us rather impressed. Now that Apple has switched out its M2 chip for the new M3, it's able to offer an even more compelling package.

The most striking aspect of this laptop is its Liquid Retina display. This hits 500 nits of brightness and supports the P3 wide color gamut, and images look fantastic on its expansive dimensions. It's ideal for editing photos or watching content from your favorite streaming service.

But now that it comes with the M3 chip, it's good for something else: gaming. Apple tuned up its chips' graphical performance in the M3 generation, and that means the 15-inch MacBook Air should perform surprisingly well in this regard. When you pair it with its larger display, it's an excellent machine for a spot of light gaming.

Add in Apple's famous build quality, a comfortable keyboard and sizeable trackpad, plus a totally silent operation that doesn't rely on fans to keep cool, and the 15-inch MacBook Air with M3 chip has a lot going for it. It's more expensive and its bulk negates a little of the MacBook Air's trademark portability, but there's still a lot to like about it.

MacBook Air 15-inch (M3)
Larger than life with plenty of screen space
Image used with permission by copyright holder

MacBook Air 13-inch (M2)

The MacBook for everyone

Pros
  • Excellent M2 chip
  • Superthin and lightweight
  • Low 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

The M2 MacBook Air may not be the newest MacBook you can buy, but now that Apple has cut its price, it's still a compelling option. 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 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 a solid choice for a budget MacBook.

MacBook Air 13-inch (M2)
The MacBook for everyone
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.

MacBook Air 15-inch (M2)
A larger MacBook Air takes the laptop up a notch

Frequently Asked Questions

Which MacBook should you buy?

Right now, we recommend you buy the 13-inch MacBook Air with Apple's M3 chip. It's the best overall package of any MacBook, offering brilliant performance and battery life without costing the Earth. Throw in the attractive display and quiet operation and it's hard to resist.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro is a close second. It's ideal 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.

What about the M2 MacBook Air? It's no longer the latest and greatest MacBook Air, but there's a lot going for it. 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. Apple dropped its price when the M3 version launched, so now is a good time to shop around for a bargain.

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.

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. Yet you shouldn’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 chips 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 a second 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.

With the entire MacBook range now running on the M3 series of chips, the next update we'll see will likely be in fall 2024. We're expecting Apple to upgrade the MacBook Pro to the M4 generation around that time, which should bring another sizeable performance uptick. The MacBook Air won't see another update for a while now, however.

Editors' Recommendations

In ancient times, people like Alex would have been shunned for their nerdy ways and strange opinions on cheese. Today, he fits right in at Digital Trends, where he writes about all things Apple, from the latest devices to ongoing developments and everything in between. He’s loved tech ever since he realized video games were about as fun as real people, but easier to manage and much cheaper.

He was first drawn to Apple thanks to its combination of beautiful design and aspirational price tags that helped remind him of his place somewhere between grunt and serf. He’s written for brands like TechRadar, GamesRadar and MacFormat, and runs a popular blog dedicated to EA’s FIFA series. They say that if the wind’s just right and you really listen hard enough, you can hear him ranting about FIFA’s career mode from anywhere in the world.

Computing Writer

Alan is a Computing Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is new and what is next. With over 30 years experience in computer, video and photo equipment, you can expect useful tips and insights in his writing. Alan has a degree in programming, many years focused on design, editing, and animation. A period of managing logistics and e-commerce operations for a mobile accessories company rounds out a diverse background. Alan is a true jack of all digital trades in this ever-changing computer-enriched world. To stay flexible in mind and in body, he practices yoga, light cardio, and eats a whole food diet, based on minimally processed plants.

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