Best MacBook in 2021: Find the best MacBook for you


Best MacBook: Pro vs Air

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When you consider the latest MacBooks (which switched from Intel to Apple silicon), the decision becomes even more difficult. The best MacBook for you and your needs is a difficult thing to determine, and we’re frequently asked for advice, not just by readers but also by friends and family.

Apple M1 chip is transforming the MacBook as we know it — just read our article to learn more. MacBook Air with M1 review and our MacBook Pro with M1 review to see why. 

However, a closer examination of the best MacBooks reveals that one size does not fit all. There are specific reasons why many people should pay more for the M1-based MacBook Pro, and there is still a market for those who prefer Intel-based MacBook Pros — and the 16-inch model is currently the only one with an Intel CPU.

Apple’s M1-equipped MacBook Air 2020 The new Apple M1 chip makes it faster than we expected, and its power efficiency allows for much longer battery life, with a charge lasting over 14 hours. is our top pick for the best MacBook in general.

However, if you need more than 16GB of RAM or four Thunderbolt USB-C ports (rather than two), this discussion becomes more complicated, and you’ll want to consider Intel-based MacBooks as well.

It appears that those who can wait will be rewarded. According to rumors, MacBook Pro 2021 It could even be a sign of things to come. will remove the Touch Bar and reintroduce the MagSafe and SD memory reader. return of HDMIThere’s also talk about the MacBook Pro getting a retina display. .. mini-LED display, which isn’t expected to arrive on the MacBook Air until 2022.

And then there’s the talk of the MacBook Air 2021At the very least, we can expect smaller bezels and MagSafe charging. , which appears to be a higher-end version of last year’s M1 model.

Best MacBook for going back to school

As more schools reintroduce in-person classes, it’s critical to invest in a capable laptop that’s light enough to carry all day and powerful enough to last a full day at school on a single charge. Back-to-school season is here, which means you might be looking for a new laptop that can handle the demands of a full day of classes.

It should be able to handle a full day on campus thanks to its incredible 14+ hour battery life and 2.8-pound weight, and it’s powerful enough to handle just about any school project you throw at it. The MacBook Air with M1 remains our top recommendation for the best MacBook to take back to school based on those criteria.

It doesn’t have Apple silicon yet, but it does have a killer speaker setup and, more importantly, a powerful Intel Core i9 CPU and a discrete Radeon GPU that will help you with your projects. The 16-inch MacBook Pro, on the other hand, is a great laptop for studying computationally intensive disciplines like video editing or game development. The 11-hour battery life is also impressive.

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1. MacBook Air with M1

The best MacBook for most people

Specifications
Display:
13.3 inches; 2,560 x 1,600
CPU:
Apple M1
GPU:
Integrated 8-core GPU
RAM:
8GB-16GB
Storage:
256GB-2TB SSD
Weight:
2.8 pounds

Reasons to buy

+Super-fast performance


+Incredibly long battery life


+Comfortable keyboard

Reasons to avoid

Still has thick bezels


Light on ports

Furthermore, the M1 has insanely fast performance, capable of smoothly running serious games. The MacBook Air has always been the best MacBook for most people, but it’s now better than ever for even more people. The battery life of this laptop in the Tom’s Guide battery test was 14 hours and 41 minutes, which is the best for a MacBook Air ever. Starting with the M1 chip in the MacBook Air, Apple’s decision to replace Intel processors with its own Apple Silicon is paying off handsomely.

Because of the Dolby Atmos audio support, some movies and TV shows will sound even better than they did before. It’s so good that it received our best laptop and longest-lasting laptop recommendations. The Magic Keyboard, which provides a comfortable typing experience, is still present. The webcam on the MacBook Air has also been improved, thanks to the M1 chip’s signal processing tricks that improve clarity and color accuracy. The MacBook Air is no longer just the best MacBook for the average Apple user; it’s also closer than it’s been in years to becoming the king of laptops. Tom’s Guide Awards 2021.

Read our full

MacBook Air with M1 review

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2. 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1

Best MacBook for long battery life

Specifications
Display:
13.3 inches, 2560 x 1600-pixel
CPU:
Apple M1 8-core CPU
GPU:
Apple M1 8-core GPU
RAM:
8GB to 16GB
Storage:
256GB to 2TB SSD
Weight:
3.0 pounds

Reasons to buy

+Stellar overall and gaming performance


+Excellent battery life


+Lightning-fast SSD

Reasons to avoid

Not enough ports


Thick bezels

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On the Tom’s Guide battery test, it lasted a whopping 16 hours and 32 minutes, nearly 2 hours longer than the M1 Air (14:41). The M1-based MacBook Pro takes everything we like about the M1-based MacBook Air and amps it up a notch.

Furthermore, the MacBook Pro’s 434.8-nit display outshines the Air’s 365.8-nit display. In the Handbrake video transcoding test, it converted a 4K movie to 1080p in 7 minutes and 44 seconds, beating the already quick MacBook Air’s time of 9 minutes and 15 seconds.

Dolby Atmos sound, improved webcam video quality (thanks to the M1’s new signal-processing chip), a sharp 2560×1600-pixel Retina display, and iOS and iPadOS app support are among the other features. Don’t forget about the Magic Keyboard, which is a joy to use. We love the M1 Pro so much that we named it our longest-lasting laptop. Tom’s Guide Awards 2021.

Read our full

MacBook Pro with M1 review

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3. 16-inch MacBook Pro

Best MacBook for editing video

Specifications
Display:
16 inches, 3072 x 1920 pixels
CPU:
Intel Core i7 or i9
GPU:
AMD Radeon 5300M or 5500M
RAM:
8GB – 32GB
Storage:
512GB – 2TB SSD
Weight:
4.3 pounds

Reasons to buy

+Magic Keyboard feels great


+Best sound ever in a laptop


+Epic battery life of nearly 11 hours

Reasons to avoid

Display not 4K


Heavier than 15-inch MacBook Pro

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Adobe Premiere Pro, arguably the industry’s most popular application, is still an Intel-based application that would be run through Rosetta 2, Apple’s backwards compatibility technology. The largest MacBook, the 16-inch MacBook Pro, has yet to be converted to Apple’s M1 chip, which is a good reason for many a video editor and streamer to wait. While Apple’s Final Cut Pro has been updated for use with Apple hardware, it isn’t the only video editing program available.

Not only is this the fastest MacBook for demanding professionals, but its 16-inch panel is ideal for reviewing projects, with a 429-nit display that produces a bright and colorful image. Add in nearly 11 hours of battery life, and you’re good to go wherever you need to get work done. This is why we recommend the Intel-based 16-inch MacBook Pro to creators who require rock-solid, dependable performance, which the Intel Core i9 processor excels at. Furthermore, the speakers are so good that we named it the best-sounding laptop in our review. Tom’s Guide Awards 2021.

Read our full

MacBook Pro (16-inch) review

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4. 13-inch MacBook Pro (Intel, 2020)

Best MacBook for native applications

Specifications
Display:
13 inch Retina Display (2560 x 1600)
CPU:
Core i7 processors range in speed from 1.4GHz quad core 8th generation to 2.3GHz 10th generation.
GPU:
Intel Iris Plus 645, Intel Iris Plus
RAM:
8GB to 32GB
Storage:
256GB to 4TB SSD
Weight:
3.1 pounds

Reasons to buy

+Great performance


+Fantastic Magic Keyboard


+Long battery life

Reasons to avoid

Bezels too thick


Pricey to get 10th gen power

While most of those apps will likely get Universal versions in the future, not all of them are available yet. The remaining Intel-based 13-inch MacBook Pro is the most difficult MacBook to recommend right now, but some people will still choose it. Maybe you’re running demanding apps (like video editing suites) and aren’t sure if it’s time to upgrade to M1-based hardware just yet because you want to make sure they’re running smoothly.

Do you have a lot of extras? Furthermore, the 13-inch Intel MacBook Pro is the only model that can be customized with 32GB of memory or 4TB of storage, and the 13-inch M1 MacBook Air’s 16GB RAM limit may be a source of frustration for those who use high-end applications. You can only go Intel right now if you want four Thunderbolt 3 ports (rather than the two that come with M1 MacBooks).

Expect a raw performance that isn’t the fastest. While the Intel-based MacBook Pro took 12 minutes and 43 seconds to transcode a 4K video, the M1-based MacBook Pro (7:44) finished almost 5 minutes faster. The Intel MacBook Pro’s Geekbench 5 score of 4,399 falls short of the 5,882 score achieved by the newer MacBook Pro.

Read our full

MacBook Pro 13-inch (Intel, 2020) review

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How to choose the best MacBook for you

Performance: If you use a lot of applications at once, consider upgrading to 16GB of RAM. Its 8-core M1 processor and 8GB of RAM will astound you with their speed. Those who use more demanding applications should opt for the M1 MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM (check with your favorite apps to see if they’ve been updated for Apple silicon) or an Intel-based MacBook with 32GB of RAM. Up and down the lineup, storage is quick. Get the MacBook Air and the entry-level model if you know you won’t be pushing your laptops to their limits.

Graphics and gaming:It’s really impressive. You can choose between a 7-core or an 8-core integrated GPU for M1-based MacBooks, and we’ve seen incredible results with the 8-core version — so upgrade if you want to game on your Mac. Yes, serious video games can now be played on the Mac.

Size and weight: The MacBook Pro is 0.2–0.3 pounds heavier than the 2.8-pound MacBook Air (3.0 pounds for M1, 3.1 pounds for Intel). The 16-inch MacBook Pro, which weighs 4.3 pounds, is best for those who don’t mind the extra weight in their bag or don’t move around as much. The only difference between the 13-inch MacBook Air and Pro is the Air’s wedge shape and slightly lighter weight.

Battery life: The M1 Air (14:41), the Intel-based 13-inch Pro (10:21), and the 16-inch Pro (10:55) are all faster. The M1 MacBook Pro has the longest battery life of any MacBook, clocking in at 16:32 on Tom’s Guide’s battery test.

How we test the best MacBooks

Only then can we confidently recommend (or not) them for your purchase. To find the best MacBook, we put them through a series of benchmarks and real-world tests before using them as our primary computer.

We test each MacBook’s screen with a Klein K-10A colorimeter to determine its average brightness and color quality (rather than relying on Apple’s ratings). When it comes to general performance, we time how long it takes the Macs to transcode a 4K video to 1080p using the Geekbench 5 (CPU performance) benchmark.

Then we put each MacBook through our custom battery test to see how long it can last browsing the web over Wi-Fi (at 150 nits of brightness). We also put these MacBooks through the BlackMagic storage speeds test to see how fast their SSDs are (spoiler: they’re all pretty fast).

On MacBooks, we’ve played a variety of computer games, with Civilization VI being one of our current favorites.

He is currently a senior editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covers everything from laptops and desktop computers to keyboards and mice. Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast who has covered both for publications such as Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine for over a decade.

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