Best Mac 2018: the best Macs to buy this year

Best Mac guide

We may not have seen any new hardware at WWDC 2018, but the best Macs have a lot of life left in them. When you’re thinking about picking up one of the best Macs, keep in mind that performance, specs and design are far more important in the way they interact with macOS than with each of them separately. That’s why it doesn’t make much sense to pit the best Macs and Windows 10 PCs against each other. Thanks to macOS High Sierra – soon to be macOS Mojave – we can confidently stand behind our benchmarks. 

These days, the best Macs are incredibly varied. We might not know what the future holds, but there are still plenty of Macs that are worth your hard-earned money. You’ve got high-end notebooks like the MacBook Pro, with its OLED Touch Bar where the function keys used to be. Then you have something like the iMac Pro, which has become even more powerful with an up to 18-core Intel Xeon processor. So, which Mac is best for you?

Well, you’ll be glad to know that we’ve come up with an ordered list that includes the most up-to-date MacBooks, iMacs and Mac minis that you can buy in 2018. The only Macs you won’t find on this list are the ones we’ve yet to have the chance to review, or those that frankly didn’t make the cut following their consideration. Without further ado: on your mark, get set, let’s take a look at the best Mac desktops and laptops you can spend your money on today.

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

While it doesn’t do anything necessarily groundbreaking, the 2017 MacBook Pro takes the 2016 redesign and beefs it up with more powerful internals, while keeping the same general build. It still has the controversial Touch Bar and Butterfly Switched keyboard, but at least Apple is fixing faulty keyboards for free now. And, flaws aside, the MacBook Pro is still a gorgeous laptop, even if it has limited port selection. 

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 place. While it’s still one of the most popular and well-known laptops 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 still a great little machine, even if the 8GB of RAM and base 128GB of storage leave a lot to be desired. Plus, it still has the beloved MagSafe 2 charger onboard, as well as fantastic 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

While we desperately wait for Apple to announce the Mac Mini 2018, the 2014 Mac Mini is still Apple’s cheapest computer by a long shot. Luckily the Intel processor found within allows it to be used for heavier tasks and Apple has brought the low-end model up to a decent spec. Available in three different variants – from a $499 (£399, AU$699) model with a 1.4GHz Intel Core i5 CPU and 4GB of RAM to a $999 (£949, AU$1,499) version with a 2.8GHz CPU and 8GB of memory – Apple’s smallest Mac is still competent. We just wish we could get one with more modern hardware.  

Read the full review: Mac mini (2014)

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article