They are far from just a status symbol: these are computers with crisp displays, smooth software, and they’re known to last years without showing signs of slowing. Sure, they may command a higher price compared to some Windows computers, but we reckon it’s worth it for some of the most capable and compact laptops money can buy.
Still, while they're impressive machines, Apple is 90% of the way through its transition to making its own chips for its laptops and we’re not about to pretend the current lineup isn’t a bit of a chaotic mess.
Shopping for one quickly becomes headache-inducing as there are (at least at a glance) a wide range of variations and a lot of similarities in sizes and designs. Often, it’s not always a case of the newest model being the ideal option for your needs. Much like the latest iPhone 15 series of smartphones, all of them are very impressive, but that buying decision often comes down to portability vs power.
We’ve been using MacBooks for years, and have been hands-on to find the best models for every type of use, whether you're connecting it to a portable projector, popping it in your backpack when going on holiday, or need a big screen desktop alternative for lengthy video editing sessions. Our picks for this list are based on tests and rigorous research—so you can be confident that you’ve made the right choice.
Our favourite MacBook to buy in 2023? That would be the Air M2. During our tests, we had so few complaints that we can see it working as most people’s ideal daily-use computer for many years. The Air series was overdue a refresh, and this 2022 model ditches the retro tapered frame of the older models in favour of a more boxy design that you could mistake for a MacBook Pro. It feels fantastic to use: the keyboard and trackpad are clicky and responsive, the 13.6-inch display is bright and colourful and the latest M2 processor is superfast when opening apps and loading up 42 tabs at once (we all do it). This is a companion for work, travel and entertainment. We used it for all three in our tests—and we love typing on it just as much as watching streaming shows. While it won’t handle intensive editing, it’s great for normal day-to-day use. No matter what we throw at it, it just works.
Display: 13.6 inch
Resolution: 2560 x 1664 pixels
Battery Life: Up to 18 hours
Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
Connectivity: USB-C x2, 3.5mm jack
Processor: Apple M2
Apple didn't make any drastic changes to its Air lineup this year, but it did release a version of its M2 Air with a 15.inch screen. Everything about it remains excellent, from the comfy keyboard to the smooth performance to the responsive trackpad. Buy this model if you want that same slimline Mac with a more expansive display.
Resolution: 2880 x 1864 pixels
Battery Life: Up to 18 hours
Connectivity: USB-C x2, 3.5mm
Starting up a new YouTube channel or editing some feed-worthy photographs? You’ll need more computing power and storage than the base models can provide. Your best option is the 2023 Pro, which comes in 14-inch or 16-inches and some house the most powerful “Pro” version of the latest chip. We like this smaller model for the portability, plus you get solid connectivity—two USB-C ports, one HDMI, one SD card slot and a 3.5mm jack—plus a chunkier body that adds to the feeling of it having a sturdier build. Yes, there are more affordable MacBooks out there—such as last year's Pro model with a 13-inch display—but that has a standard M2 chip (not as powerful as the M2 Pro), an old design with a touch bar, fewer ports, a lower-resolution webcam and fewer storage options. This 2023 series has a 120Hz display and tons of storage—more than enough for large video projects.
Resolution: 3024 x 1964 pixels
Battery Life: Up to 22 hours
Storage: 512GB or 1TB
Connectivity: USB-C x2, 3.5mm, HDMI, SD card
The 16-inch MacBook Pro M3 Pro (2023) is your best choice if a big screen is your priority—and it will shine when used for editing photos or videos. What you lose in portability you gain in power—and this is a brilliant option if you plan on keeping it on your desk most of the time. Of course, that extra display size means it’s also a fantastic choice for multitasking, and it gives you the space to have several tabs showing at once. It’s got everything that makes the 14-inch above special, just in a bigger package and a slightly better chip. It’s notable for offering the longest battery life of any MacBook right now. This is really the best laptop alternative to a full-blown Mac desktop computer that you’ll find, although we admit that it may actually be too much power if you're just a casual user who only wants a laptop for browsing your socials and watching a few hours of Apple TV+.
Resolution: 3456 x 2234 pixels
Battery Life: Up to 22 hours
Storage: 512GB (up to 8TB)
Connectivity: USB-C x3, SD card, 3.5mm, HDMI
Processor: M3 Pro
It’s always tempting to want the latest specs and designs, but you’d be wrong if you think the M1 MacBook Air from 2020 is unworthy of attention. It may not have the new M-series processors or the design of the Air M2 from last year, but this still has more than enough power for most people—and it’s fantastic value these days as you can pick one up for well under £900 brand new. That’s the most affordable MacBook you’ll find outside of the refurbished models. The M1 chip is still a beast compared to most other laptops—and if all you use it for is streaming movies, typing documents, looking at social media or light editing, you won’t have any problems with its speed or efficiency. You get the exact same Retina display as the MacBook Pro M2 (2022) and the same battery as the recent Air M2, and while the design is still closer to the older tapered shape—this remains a thin and attractive option.
Resolution: 2560 x 1600 pixels
Battery Life: Up to 18 hours
Connectivity: USB-C x2
Apple laptops hold their value for years, and it’s rare to see massive discounts or deals. But if you're shopping on a budget we advise checking out older refurbished models via websites like Back Market and Amazon Renewed. On Back Market, we regularly see older MacBook Air laptops for around £400. If you don’t mind not having the latest specs and designs, you can currently get a 13-inch 2017 MacBook Air graded “excellent” (so the screen and keyboard are in great condition) for around £340. These models have been tested and come with a year's warranty, covering manufacturing faults. If you don’t like the device, you can get a refund within 30 days.
Resolution: 1440 x 900 pixels
Battery Life: Up to 12 hours
Connectivity: USB-A x2
Processor: Intel i5
Buying the right Apple MacBook can be surprisingly complex. Here's what you need to consider:
MacBooks are expensive, there’s no way around it. You will usually pay at least £800 to £1,000 for an entry-level model, and that can easily reach £2,000 if you want a top-spec laptop with the best performance and heaps of storage for photo and video editing, or for using power-hungry graphic design software. Luckily, if you don’t mind getting an older model you can buy MacBooks refurbished—those are even sold by Apple itself.
When it comes to portability, size matters. The MacBooks on our list go from 13-inch to 16-inch in screen size, and while all will fit in a backpack it should be noted that the bigger models are significantly heavier. If you need a laptop for throwing in a bag on the way to work, we recommend the Air M2, which weighs 1.24kg. For comparison, the upcoming MacBook Pro M2 Max is 2.2kg.
Any new MacBook you buy these days is powered by Apple’s own M-series chips: the base M1 and M2, plus two powerful options: the M2 Pro and the M2 Pro Max. The differences are in speed and efficiency. What does that mean for you? With the Pro and Pro Max, everything is faster—from opening files or apps to processing video files. Apple says the M2 Pro and M2 Max are up to 40% faster than the prior chips, but if you have an M1 or base M2 don’t worry—they’re more than good enough.
Catching a lengthy flight? Commuting to work? How about checking your emails over a quiet beer? You’ll need your MacBook to last. The more battery life, the better. All of the models on our list have loads of juice, with the lowest having up to 15 hours of continuous internet use. We find the MacBook Air M2 lasts for multiple days at a time without needing a top-up—based on moderate use such as using streaming platforms, listening to music and looking at websites. Some of the more powerful MacBooks drain faster—with the Pro 14-inch offering up to 12 hours of continuous internet use. If you need extra reserves, invest in a power bank.
Built-in storage is used to save files, photos, videos, software and documents. On MacBooks, this ranges from 256 gigabytes (GB) to 8 terabytes (TB). The more space, the more room you have on the computer. We advise aiming for 256GB at a minimum if possible. Memory—RAM—is what your laptop uses to load documents, browse the web and open tabs. The more you have, the faster the laptop handles tasks. You want to aim for at least 8GB of RAM, but we advise 16GB or 32GB if possible. The MacBooks on our list range from 8GB of RAM to 96GB on the new M3 Pro.
MacBooks aren’t known for giving you lots of ports for connecting wired peripherals like a mouse, keyboard or headphones. The MacBook Air gives you the fewest slots—just two USB-C ports—while the higher-end Pro models add on a third USB-C port, plus give you an HDMI port for pairing your favourite projector and an SD card slot. Luckily, all of the MacBooks on our list have reliable Bluetooth connectivity, so pairing wireless accessories, like some of the best speakers, isn’t an issue.