The Best MacBooks

The Best MacBooks

Our pick

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2020)

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2020)

A well-balanced MacBook

Apple’s best MacBook Air in years has a comfortable keyboard, good performance, and a reasonable amount of storage—all things that weren’t true of the previous model.

Buying Options

$1,100 from Apple

Recommended configuration

Processor: quad-core Intel Core i5-1030NG7 Memory: 8 GB
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Storage: 256 GB SSD

We recommend the $1,100 version of the MacBook Air, which gives you a faster quad-core Core i5 processor that will keep your computer feeling quick when you’re running multiple apps and opening a bunch of browser tabs. The 2020 Air includes a much-improved keyboard with a deeper, more satisfying feel and improved reliability compared with previous MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models. And the cheapest configuration of the Air finally includes 256 GB of storage instead of the more-limiting 128 GB of past versions.

The Air includes only two USB-C ports (which support Thunderbolt 3) plus a headphone jack—but Thunderbolt 3 docks and USB-C hubs and adapters are common enough and inexpensive enough that this isn’t as big of a problem as it used to be. The Air also omits the MacBook Pro’s (situationally useful but largely unnecessary) Touch Bar in favor of a row of physical function keys and a standalone Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

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Our pick

13-inch MacBook Pro with four Thunderbolt 3 ports

13-inch MacBook Pro with four Thunderbolt 3 ports

More ports, faster processor

If you do processor-intensive work like video editing and app development but don’t need better graphics (or you just don’t want the extra size and weight of the 16-inch Pro), the $1,800 version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is a big step up from the Air.

Buying Options

Buy from Apple

May be out of stock

$1800 $1600 from Best Buy

You save $200 (11%)

Recommended configuration

Processor: quad-core Intel Core i5-1038NG7 Memory: 16 GB
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Storage: 512 GB SSD

Encoding high-definition video and developing and compiling iOS apps are tasks that could use all the processing power you can throw at them. If you regularly do this kind of work but don’t need a fast graphics processor for 3D apps (or you don’t want to deal with the cost, size, or weight of the 16-inch MacBook Pro), the $1,800 version of the 13-inch Pro is a worthwhile upgrade over a similarly configured Air. You won’t notice the difference for everyday browsing and document editing, but in our tests the 13-inch Pro could be more than twice as fast as the Air for processor-intensive jobs. The configuration we recommend has the same improved keyboard as other recent MacBook models, uses a Touch Bar instead of typical function keys, and includes double the memory, storage, and Thunderbolt 3 ports of the MacBook Air we recommend.

We don’t recommend the $1,300 version of the 13-inch Pro, which has the improved keyboard but still uses older eighth-generation Intel processors and has only two Thunderbolt 3 ports. Save money and get the Air, or step up to the four-port version and get the extra performance.

Upgrade pick

Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

Most powerful, biggest screen

The 16-inch MacBook Pro has a larger screen, as well as the fastest, most powerful components Apple ships in a laptop plus a new scissor-switch keyboard that’s miles better than the old butterfly version. But you pay a lot for that extra speed.

Buying Options

$2,400 from Apple

Recommended configuration

Processor: six-core Intel Core i7-9750H Memory: 16 GB
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 5300M Storage: 512 GB SSD

The 16-inch MacBook Pro costs more than twice as much as the Air, and it’s worth that investment only if you’re editing huge photos and videos, connecting to multiple high-resolution 4K or 5K monitors, or working with 3D drafting software. You wouldn’t notice a huge speed boost in everyday computing tasks compared with the Air or 13-inch Pro, but our recommended configuration’s six-core Intel Core i7 processor can give it a speed boost of nearly 80% over the Air when rendering video or compiling code, and its discrete AMD Radeon GPUs provide better performance when running 3D drafting programs or games.

And if you need more power, you can get an eight-core processor, faster graphics, and as much as 64 GB of memory in this model—none of that is possible with the Air or even with the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Because you can’t upgrade Apple’s laptops later—the memory, storage, and processors are all built in—you need to make sure to buy the right configuration. We’ve listed our recommended configuration for each of our picks in the sections below.

If you’re not wedded to Apple’s ecosystem and its operating system, macOS, we have a separate guide dedicated to helping you find the right laptop.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2020)

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2020)

A well-balanced MacBook

Apple’s best MacBook Air in years has a comfortable keyboard, good performance, and a reasonable amount of storage—all things that weren’t true of the previous model.

Buying Options

$1,100 from Apple

Our pick

13-inch MacBook Pro with four Thunderbolt 3 ports

13-inch MacBook Pro with four Thunderbolt 3 ports

More ports, faster processor

If you do processor-intensive work like video editing and app development but don’t need better graphics (or you just don’t want the extra size and weight of the 16-inch Pro), the $1,800 version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is a big step up from the Air.

Buying Options

Buy from Apple

May be out of stock

$1800 $1600 from Best Buy

You save $200 (11%)

Upgrade pick

Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

Most powerful, biggest screen

The 16-inch MacBook Pro has a larger screen, as well as the fastest, most powerful components Apple ships in a laptop plus a new scissor-switch keyboard that’s miles better than the old butterfly version. But you pay a lot for that extra speed.

Buying Options

$2,400 from Apple

Source: NY Times – Wirecutter

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