macbook slightly open to shine light on keyboard and table
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Update, 08/03/2022: We’ve reviewed our recommendations and are confident these are still the best MacBooks you can buy.

What to Look For in a MacBook in 2022

The second generation of Apple Silicon has finally arrived in the form of the M2, improving the M1 in overall speed, GPU core count, and video editing operations. Even though the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips seen in the MacBook Pro are more capable, the base M1 and M2 chips are more than enough for most use cases.

Newer Apple Silicon-based Macs can still run older software written for Intel Macs using a “transpiler” called Rosetta 2. The new chips perform better when running software optimized for M1 Macs, however. More developers and projects are making their apps Silicon native, including open source projects like emulators and source ports. You can still install iPhone and iPad apps on an M1 Mac too.

MacBook models with an Intel chip still perform and should work for years to come, but we don’t recommend buying into a processor architecture that’s on the way out. You can save money buying second-hand or refurbished, but the benefits of Apple Silicon usually outweigh the modest discount for all but the tightest budgets.

There are many benefits to the new Apple M1 chip architecture beyond big performance gains in optimized software. These include vastly improved power and heat efficiency for longer battery life and lower core temperatures, fast unified RAM, and integrated GPU cores that outpace older AMD mobile GPUs.

All MacBooks run Apple’s macOS instead of Windows. Modern MacBooks with an M1 or M2 variant no longer support Boot Camp, so you won’t be able to dual-boot Windows and macOS anymore. To run Windows on your Mac, you’ll need to do it using virtualization and an app like Parallels running Windows 11 for ARM.

But if you go this route, you’ll need to know that the ARM version of Windows 11 has additional limitations you should be aware of. If you want to run Windows 11, you may be better off getting a Windows-based laptop instead.

Mac support for creative apps and productivity mainstays like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop is good. Still, if you’re considering switching from a PC, it’s worth checking whether the software you rely on will work on a Mac first. For example, most PC games only run on Windows and won’t work on a Mac, meaning your purchases may go to waste.

With all that out of the way, you’re likely wondering—which is the best Macbook to buy? Let’s get to the best ones on the market today.

Best MacBook Overall: MacBook Air (M2, 2022)

Apple MacBook Air 2022 on blue and purple background
Apple

Pros

  • New M2 chip delivers around 20% faster performance than the M1
  • Base model now features 8 GPU cores
  • Configurable up to 24GB of RAM
  • Brighter display. MagSafe 3, better speakers, improved webcam

Cons

  • $200 more than the M1 model
  • You might not be fond of the notch
  • 256GB model has slower SSD speeds than the M1 version
  • Lovers of the "wedge" chassis might be disappointed

If you’re thinking about buying a MacBook because you want a reliable laptop that runs Apple’s operating system and you don’t have some high-end use case in mind, buy the 2022 M2 MacBook Air. This is the first major redesign in the MacBook Air’s history, with Apple electing to ditch the iconic “wedge” shape introduced at its launch in 2008.

As such, the new-look MacBook Air is flat and incredibly slim. It sports a new M2 system-on-chip, which delivers around 20% better performance than its predecessor and now comes with an 8-core GPU as standard. You can also bump the M2 models up to 24GB of RAM, in case you need a lightweight machine that can handle a heavy tab habit.

New for 2022 is a brighter Liquid Retina display with noticeably slimmer bezels, for a more modern look and feel. Apple has also incorporated the controversial “notch” design from the 2021 MacBook Pro (it’s not that bad, honest), complete with an upgraded 1080p webcam that delivers a less grainy image, especially in low light.

Apple revived MagSafe 3 in its 2021 MacBook Pro refresh, and the same quick-release charger has been used here. You can still use the USB-C ports to charge your MacBook Air—ideal if you have a monitor that supports USB Power Delivery—but now you can choose to use MagSafe to prevent your laptop from flying off the desk if you happen to catch the charging cord.

On top of these improvements are a set of louder speakers and a new dark Midnight color option. Opting for the M2 MacBook Air will cost you an additional $200 over the previous model, starting at $1,199 and moving up as you add more storage space.

Unfortunately, there are reports that the M2 model has SSD downgrades compared to the M1 that roughly halve the read and write speeds when opting for the 256GB model. You’ll also need to shell out for Apple’s 67w USB-C charger if you want to use fast charging.

But while it’s not perfect, this new MacBook Air gets pretty close for most people.

Best MacBook Overall

MacBook Air (M2, 2022)

The first MacBook Air redesign since the product was introduced in 2008 features a fast new M2 processor, slim new chassis, MagSafe 3 charger, and a tempting dark color option.

Best Budget MacBook: MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

macbook air on blue background
Apple

Pros

  • Fast, efficient performance thanks to the M1 chip
  • The smallest, most lightweight Apple notebook
  • Beautiful Retina display
  • Excellent 18-hour battery life

Cons

  • Lack of cooling means thermal throttling happens quicker than on the MacBook Pro
  • Only two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports

The 13-inch MacBook Air with an M1 chip starts at $999 for the base model, so you can save over the best overall pick if you’re looking for an entry-level MacBook. The M1 MacBook Air retains its iconic wedge-shaped form factor, but now it’s completely silent on account of not having a fan inside it.

The base M1 MacBook Air has the same 8 CPU cores found on higher-end models but only 7 GPU cores. This is a great way of saving money if you don’t think you’ll be using visually demanding applications like video editors or games. If you want a more powerful version of the MacBook Air with an 8-core GPU you’ll need to opt for 2022’s revised edition.

Not having a fan means that the MacBook Air can’t run under load for as long as the MacBook Pro before thermal throttling sets in. Granted, if you’re looking for a budget laptop, you’re probably only looking for light productivity and web browsing, so this isn’t a huge concern.

The MacBook Air still has stellar battery life, with Apple rating it for 18 hours on a single charge. The 13.3-inch Retina display covers the full P3 wide color gamut, though it doesn’t get quite as bright as the newer M2 model MacBook, and there’s no MacBook Pro-style Touch Bar above the keyboard. Touch ID is present and allows you to log in or authorize changes and payments using your fingerprint (you can also use your Apple Watch if you have one).

RELATED: How to Run Your Retina Display at its Native Resolution

Best Budget MacBook

2020 Apple MacBook Air Laptop: Apple M1 Chip, 13” Retina Display, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage, Backlit Keyboard, FaceTime HD Camera, Touch ID. Works with iPhone/iPad; Space Gray

The 13-in MacBook Air with M1 chip is silent and mighty with great battery life and a gorgeous display. It's a bit cheaper than comparable MacBook Pro models and is better suited to light use.

Best MacBook for Students: MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Mackbook Air slightly open against black background
Apple

Pros

  • M1 chip is fast and efficient
  • Perfect for most college-related tasks like word processing and web browsing
  • All-day battery life
  • Perfect weight and thickness for carrying around campus

Cons

  • A lack of cooling makes the MacBook Air M1 less suited to demanding tasks
  • MacBook Pro may be better for video editing, music creation, 3D applications

For most students who use their computers to write papers, research assignments, and stay in touch with classmates and tutors, the 13-inch MacBook Air with an M1 chip is perfect.

It’s smaller and lighter than the comparably-sized MacBook Pro by 0.2lb (which makes more of a difference than you’d think), and it still manages all-day battery life. The high pixel density screen is beautiful to look at, with crisp text and colors that pop.

Not to mention it’s cheaper than an M2 MacBook Air by $200! You can also use a higher education discount at the Apple Store for bigger savings.

Conversely, if you think you’ll be using your computer for more advanced video or photo editing, then you might find the MacBook Air limiting. Instead, the M1 MacBook Pro will net you an additional GPU core and better cooling so that you can run your computer under load for longer without suffering a thermal penalty. Whether the Pro is worth the upgrade is dependent on your major and extra-curricular activities, but if you need a little more processing power, you’ll want to go Pro.

Either MacBook can be made more useful and productive with the right accessories. If you want more space to view multiple documents or web pages at a time, a decent budget monitor can make a world of difference. Something like the Dell S2721QS will provide 4K real estate for less than $300.

If you’re going to be typing a lot, you may also want to invest in a mechanical keyboard. These peripherals have higher durability, are more comfortable to type on, and may make you a better typist.

Best MacBook for Students

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

If you're using your MacBook to primarily write and research assignments, the MacBook Air with M1 has everything you need to succeed.

Best MacBook for Gaming: MacBook Pro 16-inch (M1 Max, 2021)

16 inch MacBook Pro on yellow background
Apple

Pros

  • M1 Max is the fastest MacBook chip you can buy
  • Take advantage of a 32-core GPU and 32GB of RAM
  • Incredible battery life
  • Native games and apps are lightning quick

Cons

  • macOS games aren't as prevalent as Windows games
  • No Boot Camp to run Windows games
  • Much pricier than Windows gaming laptops

It’s an interesting time for gaming on Apple computers, and if you want power to spare and you’re all-in on Apple, the MacBook Pro 16-inch with an M1 Max chip is your best bet.

The announcement of the M1 Pro and M1 Max chipsets for MacBook Pro models made a lot of waves. For every article claiming that the new laptops were reclaiming the “Pro” in the MacBook Pro name, another claimed that these models still aren’t for gaming.

The fact is that Apple doesn’t sell new Mac laptops with Intel chipsets anymore. The future, as far as Apple sees it, is in its chips. On one hand, this means you can’t buy a new Intel MacBook Pro and install Windows, but on the other hand this could free up developers to focus on games designed for Apple’s chipsets.

Developers have been making games for Apple Silicon in the form of iPhone and iPad games for years. This means that even if your favorite big-name developer isn’t shipping a Mac game this year, there’s a likelihood that we’ll start seeing more games taking advantage of Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, making this a worthwhile upgrade.

As far as specs go, the M1 Max-powered 16-inch MacBook Pro will handle anything you can throw at it, with a 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU, plus 32GB RAM. A 1TB SSD is included in the $3,499 price, and you can upgrade to 8TB at checkout if you have the spare cash.

If you’re also a creative professional or you crave all the power you can get, the M1 Max will handle video editing, 3D rendering, and data analysis with ease.

Best MacBook for Gaming

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M1 Max, 2021)

The M1 Max-powered 16-inch MacBook Pro is one of the most powerful laptops that you can buy right now, period.

Best MacBook for Professionals: MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021, M1 Pro)

A 2021 MacBook Pro (14-inch) laptop.
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

Pros

  • More power than the MacBook Air for those who need it
  • Not as expensive as the 16-inch MacBook Pro or M1 Max variants
  • Upgradeable if you want power in a small package
  • An all-round excellent Mac experience thanks to the display, keyboard, speakers and more

Cons

  • More expensive than a MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro
  • You'll need to spend more for RAM and storage upgrades

Which size you choose in a high-end MacBook is highly subjective and depends largely on personal preference, but the 14-inch M1 Pro MacBook Pro is not likely to disappoint. If you’re looking for a powerful Mac that you can use on the go, the 14-inch form factor is lighter and more compact than its 16-inch sibling and delivers almost identical performance on a desk while plugged into a monitor.

You can upgrade to an M1 Max chip at checkout when configuring your 14-inch MacBook Pro, but the M1 Pro is a good choice for many professionals. Opting for an M1 Max will give you up to 24 or 32 GPU cores, an additional video encode and ProRes encode and decode engines in the higher-spec chips.

If you don’t need that graphical power and are simply looking for an upgrade over an older MacBook, the M1 Pro 14-inch model is a solid buy. You get twice the GPU core count compared with an M2 chip and 512GB of storage out of the gate, with up to 8TB available for those with deep pockets.

The 2021 MacBook Pro features an active cooling solution that can handle higher loads than its MacBook Air counterparts before thermal throttling. They also sport a stunning 120Hz Liquid Retina XDR display that does HDR content justice and delivers silky-smooth desktop performance.

You’ll also get four Thunderbolt/USB ports for plugging in monitors, docks, and other peripherals and an HDMI 2.0 port for driving TVs and monitors (up to 4K 60Hz). Apple also added an SDXC slot, which will delight photographers, videographers, and anyone who regularly needs to transfer data to or from a memory card. You can also use this slot to expand your storage with a JetDrive Lite 330 that sits flush with your MacBook chassis.

Finally, the MacBook Pro experience wouldn’t be completed without a set of six stellar speakers, an enormous trackpad, and an improved Magic Keyboard (farewell Butterfly Keyboard, you shall not be missed).

Best MacBook for Professionals

MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021, M1 Pro)

Apple’s M1 Pro MacBook Pro lacks the additional GPU cores of its M1 Max counterparts but delivers high-end performance for professionals who aren’t necessarily editing video or creating renders.

The Best Linux Laptops of 2022

Best Linux Laptop Overall
Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition
Best Budget Linux Laptop
Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Best Premium Linux Laptop
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 With Linux
Purism Librem 14
Best Linux Laptop for Gamers
System76 Oryx Pro
Profile Photo for Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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Profile Photo for Kris Wouk Kris Wouk
Kris Wouk is a freelance tech writer and musician with over 10 years of experience as a writer and a lifetime of experience as a gadget fan. He has also written for Digital Trends, MakeUseOf, Android Authority, and Sound Guys. At MakeUseOf, he was Section Editor in charge of the site's Mac coverage.
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