in 2020, Apple MacBooks have entered a new era. The company announced its move far from Intel chips he had been using it since 2006 and deployed the first Macs with the M1 designed by Apple. Until 2023, the company now offers the choice between 11 custom processors, the latest of which is the M3 line, which powers the new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros and the 24-inch iMac.
Just like Apple’s iPhones, the chips run on ARM architecture and give the company greater control of its hardware and software. These processors make Apple laptops both more powerful and more energy efficient, which means significantly improved performance and battery life. You get other benefits, like the ability to run mobile apps originally designed for iOS. Despite all these advances, choosing a MacBook still remains difficult. Here’s what you should spend your hard-earned money on.
Updated November 2023: We’ve added details about the new M3 chips and the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros. We’ve also added a section for honorable mentions.
Special offer for Gear readers: Get CABLE for only $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to CABLE.com, comprehensive Gear coverage, and subscriber-only newsletters. Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.
Is now a good time to buy?
If you need a new 14- or 16-inch MacBook Pro or a 24-inch iMac, now is a great time to buy it, as they feature the latest M3 chipset. The 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air with M2 are perfectly capable machines, but they’re next in line to get the M3 treatment. According to to a report Since BloombergApple plans to refresh the MacBook Air with the M3 chip between spring and summer 2024.
Best for most people
Apple’s MacBook Air (7/10, WIRED recommends) delivered with a ton of upgrades both inside and out. The company has officially ditched the iconic wedge design for a squarer chassis. It comes in two newer colors – midnight and starlight – in addition to the traditional space gray and silver options. The screen is also larger and comes with an updated webcam. Measuring 13.6 inches (compared to 13.3 inches on its predecessor), the screen has thinner bezels, 500 nits brightness and a notch housing a 1080p camera.
Apple didn’t add any extra ports, but the MacBook Air has the same thing MagSafe processing like the high-end MacBook Pro models. You can now magnetically connect the power cable to the laptop for charging, freeing up the two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports. Speaking of which, fast charging is supported if you purchase the USB power adapter -C of 67 watts, which Apple claims can power the laptop up to 57% in 30 minutes. I only have to recharge it after about eight hours of use. When working outdoors with the screen at full brightness, the battery typically lasts around six hours.
Under the hood is Apple’s M2 chip, which offers a decent performance boost over the original M1 processor. You get an 8-core CPU with the option to choose between an 8- or 10-core GPU. I tested the model with an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and 8 GB of unified memory. The MacBook Air ran smoothly on standard work days when I had apps like Slack, Spotify, Telegram, and Messages running simultaneously with 10-15 tabs open on Google Chrome. However, I noticed its limitations on busy days when I increased the number of tabs to 30. Whether I was switching tabs, scrolling, or minimizing and maximizing windows, the experience felt sluggish. I even triggered the dreaded rainbow wheel a few times. My recommendation? Upgrade the unified memory to 16GB for a smoother experience.