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Best MacBook for students in 2020

15-inch MacBook Pro 2019
(Image credit: Future)

There are many reasons to get one of the best MacBook for students. For one, they’re extremely portable, which is a chief concern for students. You don't want to be lugging around a heavy computer when you're sprinting across a campus to make it your next lecture. At the same time, MacBooks also boast enough power to get you through schoolwork and post-school entertainment.

While it’s true that MacBooks aren’t exactly the cheapest laptops out there, the best MacBook for students isn’t as hard to get as you might think. Students and parents can find great deals out there to take one home, and there are quite a few refurbished units that sell for cheaper as well. That’s without mentioning the fact that there are different types of MacBooks out there, so you can pick and choose depending on your budget and needs.

We picked out the best MacBooks for students out there, ones that balance portability and power with reasonable price tag. These are the best MacBooks for students 2020 has to offer.

Best MacBook for students at a glance

  1. MacBook Air (2019)
  2. MacBook Pro 13-inch (2019)
  3. MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019)
  4. MacBook Air (2018)
  5. MacBook (2017)

MacBook Air (2019)

(Image credit: Apple)

1. MacBook Air (2019)

A solid entry with an excellent new screen

CPU: 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 617 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch (diagonal) 2,560 x 1,600 LED-backlit display with IPS technology | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD | Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56cm; W x D x H)

Screen is great
Fantastic battery life
New lower price
Lack of storage space

Apple takes the MacBook Air (2018) and refreshes it with True Tone technology on its display and an even more reliable keyboard. Unfortunately, the specs haven’t been updated, which actually leads us to think that there might be a bigger update by early 2020. However, this improved version is just a bit better, hardware-wise, and is definitely powerful enough for most schoolwork. Those two reasons already make it deserving of a spot on this list. Even better for students, this refresh is cheaper than its predecessor, so you’re definitely getting more value for less.

Read the full review: MacBook Air (2019)

MacBook Pro 13-inch (2019)

(Image credit: Apple)

2. MacBook Pro 13-inch (2019)

The same, but stronger

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – 9th-generation Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 – 655 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology; 2,560 x 1,600 | Storage: 128GB – 2TB SSD | Dimensions (H x W x D): 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.49cm

Much more powerful 
More storage
Keyboard learning curve 

If you want more power than the MacBook Air, but don’t want to pay more for the bigger MacBook Pro 15-inch to lug around school, then the MacBook Pro 13-inch (2019) is the best MacBook for you. The MacBook Pro 13-inch (2019) boasts newer internal components, making it more powerful than ever. And, though it still has the controversial Butterfly keyboard, this model also improves on it so that it’s quieter and more reliable. It’s not hard to recommend the MacBook Pro 13-inch (2019) to students for its portability and power. 

Read the full review: MacBook Pro 13-inch (2019)

MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019)

(Image credit: Apple)

3. MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019)

Apple’s productivity machine gets the latest Intel tech

CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i7 – i9 | Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 555X – 560X, Intel UHD Graphics 630 | RAM: 16GB – 32GB | Screen: 15.4-inch, 2,880 x 1,800 Retina display | Storage: 512GB – 4TB SSD | Dimensions (H x W x D): 34.93 x 24.07 x 1.55cm

Decent configuration options
Screen remains gorgeous
Lack of ports

If you're looking for more power, then check out the MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019). It's a more capable machine for almost everything you want to do, with more expensive models offering an ever-increasing amount of power for tasks like photo and video editing, app development, scientific programs, illustration, and music production. Now refreshed with hexa-core 9th-generation processors and up to 32GB of RAM, you won’t be held back by anything you throw at it – especially now that you can get Radeon Pro Vega 20 graphics. With that kind of performance, it’s no doubt that the MacBook Pro deserves a spot on our best MacBooks for students list without breaking a sweat.

Read the full review: MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

MacBook Air (2018)

(Image credit: Apple)

4. MacBook Air (2018)

Slimmer, lighter and better looking

CPU: 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 617 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 Retina display (backlit LED, IPS) | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD | Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56cm; W x D x H)

The MacBook Air (2018) finally got a Retina display, without adding any bulk. And, while it isn’t as small as the MacBook, it's almost as light at 2.75 lbs. Portability-wise, therefore, the MacBook Air (2018) is a great pick for students. It’s also slightly faster than its predecessor, so it’ll take you a long way in terms of productivity. It was a bit more expensive when it came out, but with the MacBook Air (2019) out now, you’ll find quite a few MacBook Air (2018) units out there at a bargain price. If you don’t have to have the latest MacBook and most of what you're doing is writing papers, putting together presentations, or doing research on the web, then it’s certainly worth considering.

Read the full review: MacBook Air (2018)

MacBook (2017)

(Image credit: Apple)

5. MacBook (2017)

Small and stylish

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core m3 – Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | : | Screen: 12-inch Retina (2,304 x 1,440) IPS | Storage: 256GB – 512GB PCIe SSD | Dimensions (W x D x H): 11.04 x 7.74 x 0.14~0.52in

Incredibly portable 
Long battery life 
Too expensive 

While Apple has officially taken the MacBook out of its lineup, many third parties are still carrying it and selling it at a much cheaper price. And because the 12-inch MacBook has found its niche as an ultraportable and lightweight laptop, it’s still deserving of a spot on our best MacBooks for students list. It’s low on ports, but that’s hardly a surprise in a laptop this thin. It can support basically everything under the sun with its Thunderbolt 3 port, anyway. If you’re looking for a MacBook that’s easy to take with you wherever you go, look no further.

Read the full review: MacBook (2017)