The 4 best Apple MacBook laptops in 2021 for work, general use, and students

Macbook Air

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  • Because of its power and portability, the MacBook Air is the best choice for most people.
  • The 13-inch MacBook Pro, on the other hand, is a good compromise for those looking for a small, powerful laptop.
  • If performance, speaker quality, and screen size are your top priorities, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is the way to go.
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At a reasonable price, a good laptop should provide adequate performance, long battery life, and a comfortable keyboard and trackpad.

For Apple users, the M1-powered MacBook Air(At least in terms of Apple’s pricing) is the best at meeting this criterion. Apple’s new processor allows for the longest battery life we’ve ever seen in a laptop, as well as blazingly fast performance.

The MacBook Air isn’t for everyone, which is why we also recommend the (still Intel-based) MacBook Pro. 16-inch MacBook Pro There are a few other reasons for Apple’s success. for those who require more screen space, storage, and speakers of higher quality smaller Intel-powered MacBook Pro might be a better choice.

Popular Reviews

Apple’s new operating system, macOS Monterey, which works on both Intel and M1 Macs. Live Text, a feature that detects text in photos and allows it to be copied and pasted across apps, and Portrait Mode in FaceTime are two of them. However, certain new features are available only to M1 Macs. It will bring improved system-wide integration between Apple devices (particularly the Mac and iPad) as well as Safari, FaceTime, Notes, and Maps.

Our methodology

Each of these MacBook products has been put through its paces. Insider Reviews has established standards for the Tech & Electronics section.We also put any new features to the test, and we consider value, as well as projected longevity and hardware quality, when making our decisions. .. This includes using the product as our primary laptop for at least the time it takes to write the review, as well as battery life and general performance benchmarking for comparative purposes. Finally, we put the product to work in real-world scenarios like work and entertainment to see how effective it is in those situations.

Here are the best MacBooks you can buy

The best MacBook overall


The latest

MacBook Air

For under $1,000, you can get Apple’s M1 processor, which delivers impressively fast performance and long battery life.

Pros: Fast performance, long battery life, and a significantly improved camera

Cons: Apps for the iPhone don’t add much to the overall experience.

The MacBook AirFor the most part, it’s been the go-to MacBook and a good entry-level computer. Apple’s M1 chip, however, makes it even more powerful than its predecessor for the same price, solidifying its position as our top pick.

The M1-powered MacBook AirI was able to get more than 12 hours of use out of the MacBook Air during my testing, far more than the roughly seven hours I got out of the Intel-powered model from early 2020. The battery life alone makes it a viable option.

During my tests, it outperformed the previous Intel-powered MacBook Pro in almost every category. The M1 chip’s eight-core processor boosts performance significantly, making tasks like photo editing and large-file exporting a breeze. It also has a webcam that uses Apple’s image signal processor, so you can expect much clearer video quality on your next video call. Zoom call. 

Aside from that, it has the same sleek wedge-shaped design as the original. MacBook AirThere are two of them. Apple’s much-improved Magic Keyboard has been on the market for years. The MacBook Air offers up to 2TB of storage and 16GB of RAM in terms of storage and memory. USB-C ports on all configurations. 

Laptops like the MacBook AirApple’s own chip, which is based on the same basic architecture as the one used in the company’s smartphones, can run iPhone apps as well. While that’s a nice perk, Apple’s M1 really shines when it comes to performance and battery life.

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The best high-performance MacBook


The 16-inch MacBook ProIt’s a great choice for creative professionals because of its powerful performance, larger screen, and high-quality speakers.

Pros: Larger display, excellent keyboard, numerous configuration options, and outstanding speakers

Cons: Upgrade costs are high, and there are only four I/O ports for the size.

b The first entirely new MacBook Pro size in years arrived at the end of 2019: 16-inch version It was also the first laptop to feature Apple’s new Magic Keyboard, which is far superior to the previous model. This model replaces the previous 15.4-inch model.

Apple’s largest laptop comes with up to an eight-core Intel processor, up to 64GB of memory, up to 8TB of storage, and up to 11 hours of battery life, despite not running on Apple’s new M1 chip. When it comes to performance and configuration options, the 16-inch MacBook Pro has a lot to offer.

Those are the highest memory and storage configuration options available across Apple’s laptop lineup. In comparison to Apple’s other laptops, the 16-inch Pro has the most graphics options, with the ability to configure it with a variety of AMD Radeon Pro GPUs.

But it’s not just the larger size and more configuration options that make this the best option for professionals. ‘The’ 16-inch MacBook ProThe MacBook Pro has a three-microphone array and is Apple’s only laptop with a six-speaker audio system, making it a better choice for media professionals who need high-quality audio playback. If you’re on a lot of Zoom calls throughout the day and need a system that’s a little louder and clearer, the speakers can help.

All told, the 16-inch MacBook ProThe is ideal for those looking for something that isn’t quite as large and powerful as a desktop, but is closer to the desktop experience than any of Apple’s other laptops thanks to its larger size, variety of configuration options, and high-quality speakers.

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The best middle of the road MacBook


Anyone who requires as much processing power as Apple is willing to cram into a 13-inch laptop should consider the MacBook Pro. MacBook Pro with M1 is worth a look. 

The MacBook Air is capable of handling everyday tasks. However, the 13-inch MacBook ProThe M1 is better for those who require more power in a laptop that isn’t as large as the 16-inch. It has many similarities to the MacBook Air, including nearly identical configuration options, the same number of ports, and nearly identical screens.

But since the MacBook ProIt also has a slightly longer battery life than the Air powered by the M1. Unlike the Air, it uses a fan-powered cooling system, so it should be able to maintain high performance for longer periods of time. If you frequently run heavy workloads that require crunching large amounts of data, for example, the Pro is likely to be a better choice.

Its screen is also slightly brighter, and its speakers, unlike the Air’s, support high dynamic range. The M1-powered Pro and Air have the most significant differences, but the former’s processor also has an extra core in its GPU at the base level compared to the Air.

The Pro has two USB-C ports, a 720 camera with Apple’s image signal processor, Touch ID, and the Magic Keyboard, just like the Air.

The 13-inch M1 MacBook ProIt lacks features like a six-speaker audio system and flexible configuration options that distinguish the 16-inch Pro. In Apple’s lineup, it occupies an unusual position. However, there isn’t enough to set it apart from the Air to justify the $300 difference in price.

It’s an excellent choice for those who want a little more than the Air has to offer, as well as the advantages of Apple’s M1 chip. Nonetheless, that is precisely what makes it the best option for buyers in the middle.

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The best college MacBook


The best MacBook for college packs powerful performance into a compact 13-inch laptop, but adds four USB-C ports instead of two to increase connectivity options.

Pros: More memory and storage, two additional USB-C ports for connectivity, and a fantastic keyboard

Cons: Battery life is shorter than the M1 MacBook Pro and Air.

Apple’s Intel-powered versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro When compared to the M1 model, this model fills in the gaps in terms of storage, memory, and connectivity.

It’s ideal for those who require more connectivity and storage than the M1-powered MacBook Pro offers, but don’t want to spend as much money on a laptop as the 16-inch model. In comparison, the M1 model has 16GB of RAM, 2TB of storage, and two USB-C ports. Unlike the M1-equipped 13-inch MacBook Pro, the Intel model has up to 32GB of RAM, 4TB of storage, and four USB-C ports.

For college students who may need to charge their laptop, plug in their iPhone, and connect a hard drive containing large video projects for class all at the same time, the extra ports may be worth it. Furthermore, because Apple’s M1 architecture is still new and app makers are still updating their programs for it, the Intel-powered MacBook Pro may be a safer option if you rely on specific software for classwork.

The Intel-powered 13-inch MacBook ProIt has Apple’s Magic Keyboard and the same Retina display as Apple’s M1 laptops. Models with a Core i5 or Core i7 processor are available, and should be more than capable of handling heavy workloads. The Intel-based 13-inch Pro, like its M1-powered sibling, has high-dynamic-range speakers.

Although the Intel-powered 13-inch MacBook Pro There are reasons why students should consider Apple’s M1 laptops, which offer the right balance of performance, portability, and flexible options that make it ideal for the college experience.

If you only need a laptop for writing papers and value long battery life and portability over additional configuration options, the M1 MacBook Air might be a better fit.

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How to buy a MacBook

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These are the most important things to think about when buying a new MacBook.


The MacBook Pro is a better choice if you need a powerful machine for processing images, editing video, or handling complex data. It’s crucial to know what you want to do with your MacBook before deciding which one is right for you.

Apple’s MacBook Pro models, especially the 13-inch Intel-powered MacBook Pro with four ports and the 16-inch MacBook Pro, can be upgraded to 32GB of memory, whereas the M1 MacBook Pro, Intel-powered MacBook Pro with two ports, and M1-powered MacBook Air can only be upgraded to 16GB.

If performance is your top priority, even if you don’t require that much memory, a MacBook Pro model is still the best choice. Although the M1 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are very similar, the MacBook Pro has a slight performance advantage due to its fan-powered cooling system and an extra graphics core in the base level processor.

Battery life

Apple’s Intel-powered laptops, on the other hand, are only expected to last 10-12 hours on a charge. Choose the M1 MacBook Pro or MacBook Air if battery life is the most important factor. Apple’s custom chip gives its laptops unprecedented battery life, with the MacBook Air lasting up to 18 hours and the MacBook Pro up to 20 hours, according to Apple’s estimates.


If you need the most storage space in a MacBook, Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro, which can be configured up to 8TB, is a good option. When it comes to purchasing a new laptop, storage is also crucial. The 13-inch Intel-powered MacBook Pro with four ports, which can be ordered with up to 4TB of storage, is a close second.

Apple’s other current laptops, such as the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, have storage options of up to 2TB.


Your best bet is a 16-inch MacBook Pro. It’s the only Apple laptop that’s larger than 13 inches, so it’s the best choice if you want a laptop that’s more suited to a desktop-like setup than portability. Looking for a larger laptop to help you get more work done?

The Air, like the majority of Apple’s MacBook Pro laptops, has a 13-inch screen. Check out the MacBook Air if you’re looking for the smallest Apple laptop. It is, however, slightly lighter at 2.8 pounds, compared to the 3 pounds or more of the MacBook Pros.

When will Apple release new MacBooks?

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If you don’t have an urgent need for a new computer, it’s probably best to put off upgrading your MacBook laptop. That’s because, according to reports, Apple will release new laptops this year, with the new MacBook Pros being the first to hit the market. Bloomberg.

Apple has already announced macOS MontereyAmong the new features in the software update are Safari enhancements, the ability to control both an iPad and a Mac with your Mac’s keyboard and mouse, and the inclusion of the Shortcuts automation application. , which is set to debut this autumn.

Here’s everything we know so far about the new MacBook laptops that will be released later this year.

MacBook Pro (14-inch and 16-inch)According to Bloomberg, Apple was planning to release redesigned MacBook Pros as early as this summer, but a fall release is now more likely. These MacBook Pros would be available in 14-inch and 16-inch sizes, marking the first time Apple has released its smaller MacBook Pro in those sizes. A MagSafe charging system, more ports such as an HDMI connector and an SD card slot, and new Apple processors that are more powerful than the current M1 processor are also expected.

In the future, this distinction will help distinguish the MacBook Pro from the Air. In comparison to today’s M1, which has an 8-core central processing unit and an 8-core graphics processing unit, the new processors in the upcoming MacBook Pros are said to have a new 10-core design and 16 or 32 graphics cores.

MacBook Air: This new model will reportedly feature a new M-series processor that will be a direct successor to the current M1 with more graphics cores but the same number of computing cores. According to Bloomberg, the MacBook Air will be the next to get an upgrade, with a release date set for the end of 2021.

MacBook Pro (13-inch): It’s also unclear where this new 13-inch MacBook Pro will fit into Apple’s lineup, as it doesn’t appear to differ significantly from the next MacBook Air. The report did not specify a release date for the new MacBook Pro. According to Bloomberg, Apple is also planning to release a new low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro that will use the same processor as the new MacBook Air.

Should I get an iPad Pro or a MacBook Air?

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It comes with software that is far more productivity-oriented than iPadOS, as well as a typing experience that is superior to keyboard cases and longer battery life. For most people, especially students, the MacBook Air is still the best choice for getting real work done. The iPad Pro has a lot of extra features, but the MacBook Air still outperforms the iPad Pro in every way that matters in a work machine.

The iPad Pro is Apple’s most powerful tablet to date, but it will always be first and foremost a tablet. It has powerful cameras, a sharp edge-to-edge screen, and Face ID, which the MacBook Air lacks.

The iPad’s software, on the other hand, isn’t designed for multitasking and will most likely require a steep learning curve for those who are used to working on a laptop. To turn the iPad Pro into a laptop replacement, you’ll have to spend a lot of money. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $1,099 without a keyboard case, while the base MacBook Air starts at $999.

For more information on how the iPad Pro compares to the MacBook Air, see our full comparison..

The best deals on Macbooks from this guide

Apple raises the bar for modern, fully functional computers, albeit at a high cost. However, there is good news: Apple products are frequently discounted. Every year, we see record lows for our picks during the holidays. Black Friday,
Cyber Monday, and Amazon; the 16-inch Macbook Pro, for example, was discounted by $150 for these events last year.

Here are the best bargains we could find. If you know where to look, you can find nearly everything on Amazon at a discount, from MacBook Airs to Pros.

Learn more about how the Insider Reviews team evaluates deals and why you should trust us by reading this article.


Take a look at our list of the best USB-C hubs for your Mac.


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Joe Osborne

Senior Technology Editor

Joe is the Senior Technology Editor for Insider Reviews, and he has over a decade of gaming and tech media experience. TechRadar, PC Magazine, Laptop Magazine, Tom’s Guide, AOL’s, and other publications have published his work. His areas of expertise include computing and gaming products that use a wide range of operating systems and interfaces, as well as extensive benchmarking experience. Joe has also appeared as a technology expert on shows like Cheddar from the New York Stock Exchange floor, as well as on expert panels for events like the Consumer Electronic Show.

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