How to choose the best Apple MacBook for your needs

Apple MacBook Air

There’s a certain beauty and simplicity to Apple MacBook laptop computers. They have an aesthetically pleasing, aluminum-body design. And there’s a simplicity to the model line, too: Unlike competitors who offer a stream of laptop models with different components and features, there are only three basic MacBook models.

Still, even with just three models to choose from, it can be tricky to decide. Is there really much of a difference between the 13.3-inch MacBook Air and the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro? Are the extras you get with the more expensive MacBook Pro worth the bump in price? And just who should consider buying the luxe and powerful 16-inch MacBook Pro model?

To answer all these questions and help you choose the best Apple MacBook for your needs, CBS Essentials has rounded up the newest MacBook models for comparison.

Apple MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Air

The entry-level MacBook, the Apple MacBook Air, is a great option for a basic, every-day laptop computer. With a 13.3-inch Retina display and a weight of 2.8 pounds, it’s the lightest and most portable of the MacBooks. Yet it still retains a premium feel, with an aluminum body (in silver and space gray) and backlit keyboard.

Though it’s powered by Apple’s snappy M1 chip, the MacBook Air is not a high-performance machine. But if you’re mainly using a laptop to browse the web, edit spreadsheets, take notes in class, watch YouTube or communicate on Zoom, it’s likely more than enough to meet your needs.

Though you can customize your MacBook Air to higher specs, the base model includes 8GB of memory and 256GB of SSD storage. Its battery lasts up to 18 hours.

Apple also sells an upgraded version of the MacBook Air with an 8-Core GPU (as opposed to a 7-Core GPU) and 512GB of SSD storage. It’s slightly better suited for more graphics-intensive tasks such as gaming, but if you’re considering it, know you’ll likely be better off upgrading to the identically priced MacBook Pro 13″.

MacBook Pro 13″

Apple MacBook Pro 13

A step up from the MacBook Air, the slightly weightier (3.0 pound) MacBook Pro 13″ comes with some nice additional features. A powerful active cooling system helps keep the 8-Core GPU running fast, a slightly better battery that offers 20 hours of life, and a brighter, 13.3-inch Retina display. And instead of physical function keys at the top of the backlit keyboard, the MacBook Pro instead has a dynamic Touch Bar that changes based on what program you’re using.

Like the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro comes with 8GB of memory and 256GB SSD storage. It’s a more powerful machine than the MacBook Air, so it’s better suited for photo and video editing and some light gaming.

If you need a MacBook Pro with a little bit more storage space, Apple also sells a version with a 512GB SSD drive for $200 more.

MacBook Pro 16″

MacBook Pro 16

Obviously, the biggest difference between the MacBook Pro 13″ and the MacBook Pro 16″ is the Retina screen’s size — it’s a much larger and heavier (4.3 pounds) machine. You get a lot more power, too: This premium MacBook has a 2.6GHz 6-core Intel i7 processor, AMD Radeon Pro 5300M graphics with 4GB of GDDR6 memory, 16GB of DDR4 memory and 512GB of SSD storage. You also get four Thunderbolt ports, two more than the MacBook Pro 13″ — another benefit of its larger size.

The MacBook Pro 16″, with its larger screen and more powerful guts, is aimed at professionals who need a seriously powerful laptop that can handle graphics-intensive applications such as video rendering and CAD with ease. It has a professional-level price tag, too: Starting at $2,199, the larger MacBook costs twice as much as the 13-inch model.

If you want an even more premium MacBook experience, you can upgrade to a 2.3GHz 8-core Intel i9 processor, AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics with 4GB of GDDR6 memory and 1TB of SSD storage for a few hundred more.

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