Best Mac 2017: the best Macs to buy this year

We all know why you’re here, so let’s get straight to the point. You need a Mac. Maybe it’s for your first year in college, where you imagine that everyone around you is going to have that bright white Apple logo illuminating from the backs of their laptops. Or maybe it’s for work – you’re a creative type in dire need of the proper tools for breaking into the industry. Whatever the case, you should know that the best Mac of today isn’t the same as it was five years ago. 

Five years ago, we would have told you to buy the latest MacBook Air and be done with it, but now Apple’s focus has shifted. We’ve seen the rise of professional-grade tablets, whose touchscreens can serve just as well as monitors as they can in isolation. As this change has occurred, Apple has forever reshaped the way it treats its Macs. Now, for instance, there’s a thin and light 12-inch MacBook with a Retina display that puts the Air of yesteryear to shame.

But, that hasn’t stopped Apple from devising high-performance versions of its Macs either. While the MacBook Pro is still present and in full-force, there’s now an iMac Pro that takes everything we loved about the Mac Pro and squeezes it into a 27-inch 5K monitor. Accounting for the fact that most of our readers won’t be happy with spending $4,999 (about £3,870, AU$6,680) on a new computer, however, here are our picks of the current best Macs – all tested and reviewed before their inclusion.

1. 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2017)

More of the same in the best way

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 – 650 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, (2,560 x 1,600) IPS | Storage: 256GB – 1TB PCIe 3.0 SSD | Dimensions (H x W x D): 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.49cm

Stronger processor
Faster RAM
Subpar battery life
Keyboard learning curve

If you were expecting the 13-inch MacBook Pro of this year to rectify our complaints of late 2016, you ought to be prepared for disappointment with the latest iteration of Apple’s professional-grade laptop. However, if what you craved were updated internal specs and the same all-aluminum unibody design of yesteryear, the mid-2017 MacBook Pro will absolutely please you. Complete with the same controversial Touch Bar and some pretty beefy specs, the MacBook Pro is a marvel to behold, even if it’s still limited to Thunderbolt 3 ports alone.

Read the full review: 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2017)

27 inch iMac with 5K Retina display Best Mac 2016

2. 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display (2015)

Apple's biggest iMac puts everything on display

CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: AMD Radeon R9 M380 – R9 M395 (2GB) | RAM: 8GB – 32GB | Screen: 27-inch Retina 5K (5,120 x 2,880) IPS | Storage: 25GB – 1TB PCIe Flash; 2TB – 3TB Fusion Drive | Dimensions (H x W x D): 51.6cm x 65cm x 20.3cm

Display
Performance
Core i7 costs extra
No Target Display Mode

If you want the big screen of an iMac with the precision of a Retina display then there's only one iMac for you: the iMac with 5K Retina display. It comes with a choice between two Intel Core i5 chips as well as 1TB of HDD or Fusion Drive storage and it’s so pretty we want to marry it. For designers and video creators looking to make the move to pixel-heavy content, the 5K iMac pairs an illustrious display with a heaping deal of screen real estate to boot. It may not have the expandability of a Mac Pro, but at least you don't have to worry about buying a monitor.

Read the full review: 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display (2015)

21 5 inch iMac with 4K Retina display Best Mac 2016

3. 21.5-inch iMac (2017)

Modest strides in an economical package

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 – quad-core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 – AMD Radeon Pro 560 (4GB) | RAM: 8GB – 32GB | Screen: 21.5-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; sRGB) – 4K UHD (4,096 x 2,304; P3 wide color) Retina IPS display | Storage: 1TB HDD – 1TB Fusion Drive SSD | Dimensions (H x W x D): 20.8 x 6.9 x 17.7 inches (52.8 x 17.5 x 45cm; W x D x H)

Excellent value
Powerful, even at entry level
Poor audio performance
Baffling mouse charging method

You know you’re getting an unusually good value from an Apple product when, even at the entry-level, you can expect high performance, lots of storage and more ports than you know what to do with. The latest in Apple’s all-in-one desktop lineup, that’s the 2017, 21.5-inch iMac in a nutshell. There’s still no touchscreen, but at a fraction of the cost of Microsoft’s Surface Studio, you might be thankful that there isn’t. Instead, you’re getting a 7th-generation Intel processor and your choice of an IPS display carefully wrapped in an all-metal chassis. 

Read the full review: Apple iMac (2017) 

best mac

4. 12-inch MacBook (2016)

Small, but perfectly formed

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core m3 – Core m7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 12-inch Retina (2,304 x 1,440) IPS | Storage: 256GB – 512GB PCIe Flash | Dimensions (W x D x H): 28.05cm x 19.65cm x 1.31cm

Design
Display
Underpowered
Keyboard

Apple's 2015 MacBook refresh wasn't for everyone and, despite being rosier and "goldier" than ever, that contention didn’t change in 2016. Most notably, Apple’s replacement of our favorite ports with the brand-new USB-C remains controversial.There's also the keyboard, wherein Apple has re-engineered every key to be thinner and far less springy to the touch. Even though its Intel Core M processor has nowhere near the power of the Pro or even the Air, the laptop is more than capable of running iMovie, Photos, and even Photoshop with ease.

Read the full review: 12-inch MacBook (2016)

15 inch MacBook Pro with Retina

5. 15-inch MacBook Pro (2016)

Still the most capable MacBook there is

CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 530; AMD Radeon Pro 450 – 455 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 15.4-inch Retina (2,880 x 1,800) IPS | Storage: 256GB – 2TB PCIe Flash | Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.49cm x 30.41cm x 21.24cm

Touch Bar smartly designed
Loads of USB-C ports
Touch Bar needs more app support
Direct light washes out Touch Bar

After some much-needed patience, we finally have the MacBook Pro overhaul we deserve. Complete with a thinner, lighter design, a Space Gray color option and an OLED Touch Bar in lieu of the function keys, this MacBook Pro introduces the big changes we’ve been waiting for. Although you may be turned off by the lack of conventional ports, there’s a lot to love about the 15-inch MacBook Pro, including lots of RAM, fast storage and a massive trackpad. Sure, you'll be shelling out an extra wad of cash, but it's the best MacBook Pro money can buy. 

Read our full review: 15-inch MacBook Pro (2016)

13 inch MacBook Air Best Mac 2016

6. 13-inch MacBook Air (2015)

The Ultrabook before Ultrabooks

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 6000 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch HD (1,440 x 900) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB PCIe Flash | Dimensions (W x D x H): 19.7cm x 19.7cm x 3.6cm

Battery life
Nippy storage
Dated design
Display

The MacBook Air is in an interesting spot. While it's still one of the most popular and well-known notebooks around, the iPad Pro and 12-inch MacBook have stolen much of its thunder. That is, unless you need the legacy USB 3, Thunderbolt 2 and SDXC card connectivity. Even without a Retina display or Force Touch trackpad, the 13-inch MacBook Air is a very capable machine, even if the 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage leave a lot to be desired. Plus it still has the beloved MagSafe 2 charger onboard as well as an impeccable battery life. 

Read the full review: 13-inch MacBook Air (2015)

Mac mini Best Mac 2016

7. Mac mini (2014)

Apple's most affordable Mac

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Storage: 500GB HDD; 256GB – 1TB PCIe Flash; 1TB – 2TB Fusion Drive | Dimensions (W x D x H): 19.7cm x 19.7cm x 3.6cm

Design
Ports
Impossible to upgrade
No monitor

The Mac Mini is Apple's cheapest computer and has, for a long time, been its least powerful. Fortunately, Intel's processor technology allows the desktop to be used for heavier tasks and Apple has brought the low-end model up to a decent specification. Available in three different variants – from a $499 (£399, AU$699) version with a 1.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM to a $999 (£949, AU$1,499) model with a 2.8GHz CPU and 8GB of memory – Apple’s smallest Mac is also one of its most resilient.

Read the full review: Mac mini (2014)

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Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article