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Best MacBook and Macs: top Apple desktops and laptops

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
One of the best MacBook and Macs against a purple TechRadar background
(Image credit: Future)

Today's best MacBook and Macs are a huge game-charger. Thanks to Apple's new line of SoCs (system on a chip), which includes the much-lauded M1, M1 Ultra, and now M2 chips, these Apple laptops and computers are once again showing up Intel-powered laptops in a big way.

With more power and better power efficiency than ever, the latest releases from Apple are proving themselves the dream devices for creative professionals – as well as regular users who appreciate the simplicity of an Apple or macOS ecosystem. The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros blew us away last year, and the compact Mac Studio that's just been released shows that Apple has what it takes to make a brilliant workstation PC for creatives.

Combine that with the way Apple delivers a smoother, more streamlined, and more stable experience than what Windows laptops can offer, and there's never been a more exciting time to buy a MacBook or a Mac. Lucky for you, we've tested and reviewed every single Mac and MacBook from Apple, which means we can tell you which model is ideal for you.

Whether you want to make the switch to the macOS environment or are upgrading from your aging one, we gathered the best MacBook or Mac for video editing, music production, and college below. For the best MacBook deals, be sure to check our included price comparison tool as well.

The best MacBook and Macs 2022

the best MacBook, MacBook Air (M2, 2022), against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)
The best MacBook overall

Specifications

CPU: Apple M2 chip with 8-core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 9-core – 10-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 24GB unified memory
Screen: 13.6-inch (diagonal) 2560-by-1664 LED-backlit display with IPS technology
Storage: up to 2TB

Reasons to buy

+
Great new design
+
Very good performance
+
Long battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Much more expensive than the previous model
-
New colors are a bit tame

While the MacBook Pros have the sheer performance suitable for power users and content creators, for the rest of us, there’s the MacBook Air (M2, 2022). That isn’t to say that it’s not powerful in its own right. On the contrary, we found its performance to be exceptional during testing, tackling 4K video editing and music production workflows fast and in silence (thanks to its fanless design). In some benchmark tests, its single-core performance is even on par with the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022).

It isn’t just its specs that saw an upgrade over its predecessor. Its battery life got a 5-hour uptick, giving it 16 hours of use on a single charge, while its screen is bigger and its design is better. We may not have gotten those full colors that the iMac 24-inch is sporting, but you’re getting a far more modern design here. It’s even thinner and smaller while offering a bigger screen size.

Read our in-depth MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review

MacBook Air (M1, 2020) against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)
The best budget MacBook

Specifications

CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 7-core – 8-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory
Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 Retina display
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD

Reasons to buy

+
macOS Big Sur is fast and responsive
+
Battery life is great
+
Silent in use

Reasons to avoid

-
Fanless design could impact performance

Apple topped last year off with a bang, rolling out their much-talked about M1 silicon chip that’s so far been a real game-changer. And, the first laptop to receive it is the company’s thinnest and lightest, putting it on the list of the most exciting Apple laptops of recent years. With this new chip, the MacBook Air is better than ever, touting excellent performance alongside its brilliant battery life – without raising the price to keep it (fairly) affordable still. This is the best MacBook for pretty much everyone.

Read our in-depth MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review

MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)
The best MacBook Pro for most professionals

Specifications

CPU: Apple M1 Pro 8-core – M1 Max 10-core
Graphics: Integrated 14-core – 32-core GPU
RAM: Up to 64GB
Screen: 14-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
Storage: Up to 8TB

Reasons to buy

+
Brilliant performance
+
Best screen on a laptop

Reasons to avoid

-
Screen may be a bit small for some

The MacBook Pro is now its truest self with the launch of the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) and its 16-inch counterpart. Armed with the new M1 Pro and M1 Max, MacBook impresses with breathtaking power and equally breathtaking battery life – just what every professional needs and deserves. Apple then rounds it all out with its XDR display with 1600 nits of peak brightness and a wide color gamut. There’s also an SD card slot, an HDMI port, and three Thunderbolt 4 ports (all of which can stay available thanks to MagSafe charging being back.) It’s among the most expensive MacBook Pros ever launched, but it’s also certainly among the best.

Read our in-depth MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) review

iMac (24-inch, 2021) against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)
The best all-in-one Mac for most users

Specifications

CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 7-core – 8-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory
Screen: 24-inch 4.5K Retina display
Storage: up to 2TB

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent screen
+
Striking new design
+
Fantastic webcam

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of ports remains
-
Mac mini may offer better value for some

If you think that the new iMacs couldn’t possibly be as good as they look, you’d be wrong. They are not just an improvement over their 21.5-inch predecessor externally, touting a fresh new face that comes in several different colors. They also come with fresh new specs, rocking Apple’s new M1 chip that makes it much more powerful than the previous Intel iMacs. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that the new iMac (24-inch, 2021) is the best all-in-one PC we’ve ever tested, and has certainly earned its place in our best Macs list. You’ll also be happy to know that you’re getting great value here, as you’re getting the Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse included – in matching colors, we might add.

Read our in-depth iMac (24-inch, 2021) review

MacBook Pro 16-Inch (2021) against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)
The best MacBook for those who want a lot of power

Specifications

CPU: Apple M1 Pro 10-core – M1 Max 10-core
Graphics: Integrated 16-core – 32-core GPU
RAM: Up to 64GB
Screen: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
Storage: Up to 8TB

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely long battery life
+
Plenty of ports

Reasons to avoid

-
On the bigger side

Regardless of what you’re looking for in a computer, the MacBook Pro 16-Inch (2021) can probably handle it. That’s thanks to Apple’s impressive in-house M1 Pro and M1 Max (if you choose to upgrade) that can blaze through any application you can think of. The Pro also comes with an incredible display, as well as plenty of ports including next-gen Thunderbolt 4 ports and the return of the MagSafe charging port. All that performance does come at a price, as even the base model costs a lot. But, considering how powerful this laptop is, it’s worth the price of entry. 

Read our in-depth MacBook Pro 16-Inch (2021) review 

Mac Studio computer on white background

(Image credit: Apple)
A compact Mac for creative professionals

Specifications

CPU: Apple 10-core M1 Max or 20-core M1 Ultra
Graphics: Integrated 24-core - 32-core (M1 Max) or 48-core - 64-core (M1 Ultra) GPU
RAM: 32GB – 128GB unified memory
Storage: 512GB – 8TB SSD
Dimensions (H x W x D): 9.5 x 19.7 x 19.7 cm

Reasons to buy

+
Compact
+
Powerful

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey
-
Non-upgradable

The Mac Studio is like a super-charged Mac mini for creative professionals. Apple's newest Mac, this is an impressively compact computer that comes packing some serious power thanks to a choice of the M1 Max chip, or the brand-new uber-powerful M1 Ultra. The level of performance on offer here will be overkill for many people, but if you're looking for a workstation PC for heavy creative workloads, such as editing 8K footage or rendering complex 3D scenes and animations, then the Mac Studio will be a great choice. It's expensive, but worth the investment.

Read the in-depth Mac Studio review

MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)
Apple’s most affordable MacBook Pro with powerful internals

Specifications

CPU: Apple M2 with 8-core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 10-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 24GB
Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 display with P3 and True Tone technology
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Dimensions (H x W x D): 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56 cm

Reasons to buy

+
M2 chip is a brilliant performer
+
Excellent battery life
+
Almost silent in use

Reasons to avoid

-
No new design
-
Still only two Thunderbolt ports

The Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) might not come with a new design update, which makes it look and feel a bit redundant, especially because the M1 version is pretty impressive in its own right. However, while there's nothing exciting about its outside, Apple’s brand-new M2 chip certainly makes up for it in a massive way.

If you already have the M1 MacBook Pro 13-inch, this might not be worth an upgrade – unless, of course, you need a bit more power. In our tests, this 2022 model achieved better performance in both single and multi-core CPU tests. That means a noticeable boost in its multitasking capabilities, allowing users to open and utilize various applications open at once. It also scored around twice as much as the Intel Core i7-1185G7-powered Surface Laptop 4, and lasted almost two hours longer than the M1 MacBook Pro 13-inch in our battery life test. That's while keeping the same price tag as before.

Read our in-depth MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) review

Mac mini (M1, 2020) against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)
Small, but with big ambitions

Specifications

CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 8-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 64GB unified memory
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Dimensions (W x D x H): 19.7 x 19.7 x 3.6 cm

Reasons to buy

+
Same lovely design
+
Very good performance
+
New M1 hardware has potential

Reasons to avoid

-
Can't use eGPUs

One of Apple’s biggest surprises of the year is the update to its smallest Mac. The brand-new Mac mini now touts Apple’s M1 chip, while keeping things the same in its much-loved design. It’s more powerful than ever – with more than decent video editing performance, even at 8K, and can now run iOS apps and games, thanks to this new chip, but it still keeps its title as the cheapest Mac ever – terrific news for budget-minded Apple fans. 

Read the in-depth Mac mini (M1, 2020) review

iMac (27-inch, 2020) against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)
A formidable upgrade

Specifications

CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5 – i9
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5300 - Radeon Pro 5700 XT
RAM: 8GB – 128GB 2666MHz DDR4
Screen: 27-inch (diagonal) 5120 x 2880 Retina 5K display
Storage: 256GB – 8TB SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Improved internals
+
Can be configured to be very powerful

Reasons to avoid

-
Design is getting old
-
Just two Thunderbolt ports

Even though the iMac 27-inch’s last update was only last year, Apple couldn’t help but step up in the upgrades department with its 2020 follow-up. Specs-wise, this model sports some massive improvements while also upgrading its webcam and microphones for a felicitous update. More people are working from home these days, and this seems like the best all-in-one PC to invest in without being forced to make some considerable space in your existing area. Sure, its overall design hasn’t seen so much as a tweak, making it look a bit tired, but if power is at the top of your list, this one’s the best Mac for you.

Read the in-depth iMac (27-inch, 2020) review

What to look for in the best Macs and MacBooks

Whether it’s the new 16-inch MacBook Pro that just came out or the Mac Pro 2019 that’s also just released, it’s not hard to see why the best Mac and MacBooks are the weapons of choice of creative professionals.

And, even if you don’t go for the newest releases, there’s already a few excellent options to choose from, especially with Apple recently giving its MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and 15-inch MacBook Pro that much-needed update.

The best part is that the best Mac and MacBooks come in different shapes, sizes and price so that whether you want the cheapest MacBook you could find, a professional workhorse that breezes through all your extensive workloads like a pro, or an all-in-one that saves you space, there’s a Mac on the market for you.

How we test the best MacBook

Testing the best MacBooks and Macs is more intensive than you might think, especially because most of these devices are meant to be used by creative professionals with more taxing workloads. Aside from putting its build, display, keyboard, trackpad, and webcam through their paces, we also perform creative benchmark tests like Handbrake as well as run demanding workflows like editing an 8K video in Final Cut Pro and doing real-time 3D modeling and animation to see how every device would fare in real-world situations. We also test its battery life and take a look at its heat management performance when running such intensive tasks.

Matt Hanson
Matt Hanson


Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Computing and Entertainment, looking after two of the best, and most exciting, channels on the site. Having written for a number of publications such as PC Plus, PC Format, T3 and Linux Format, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially computing and PC gaming. Ever since he got an Amiga A500+ for Christmas in 1991, he's loved using (and playing on) computers, and will talk endlessly about how The Secret of Monkey Island is the best game ever made. He's also a huge film and TV fan and Marvel geek, and his favorite recent film is Dune.

With contributions from