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The best and newest Macs compared

From the new M2 15-inch MacBook Air to the Mac Studio, these are the best, most powerful Macs you can buy right now.

Why you can trust ZDNET

ZDNET's reviewers spend weeks to months testing each laptop on this list, using it for both everyday tasks like browsing, streaming, and gaming, to more performance-intensive work like photo and video editing. We aim to give you a view into how each laptop could actually fit into your life and workflow, and the pros and cons of their various features like performance, display, and battery life.

What to Consider

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Design

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Performance

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Storage and RAM

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Purpose

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Value

MacBook Air | Best Mac laptop overall
Photo of the 15-inch MacBook Air displaying ZDNET's homescreen
MacBook Air
Best Mac laptop overall
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MacBook Pro | Best Mac for creatives
The MacBook Pro on a table.
MacBook Pro
Best Mac for creatives
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Mac Pro | Best Mac for computing power
Mac Pro at WWDC 2023
Mac Pro
Best Mac for computing power
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Mac Mini | Best compact Mac
An M2 Mac Mini on a desk with other accessories
Mac Mini
Best compact Mac
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Mac Studio | Best Mac for creators
Mac Studio at WWDC 2023
Mac Studio
Best Mac for creators
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iMac | Best all-in-one Mac
red-mac-at-apple-store
iMac
Best all-in-one Mac
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Apple rolled out notable software and hardware updates at this year's WWDC, which can make choosing the best laptop even harder. The name may stay the same, but each new generation of the Mac continues to impress with brighter and better specs that remind many users why they loved using them in the first place.

Also: The best MagSafe battery pack 

With the 2023 Mac lineup boasting improved performance across the board, it can be hard to figure out which Mac model is right for you. The MacBook Air remains Apple's most approachable Mac, without sacrificing features or functionality. What's more, it's an affordable option that is markedly lower than its sibling device, the MacBook Pro

The Air and Pro, are both more than capable machines for your creative and professional projects, but they're far from the only options. Below we break down Apple's Mac lineup to help you find the best model for your needs.

The best Macs of 2024

MacBook Air

Best Mac laptop overall

MacBook Air specs: Display: 13.3 inches, 13.6 inches, 15.3 inches | CPU: Apple M1 or M2 | Memory: 8GB up to 24GB | GPU: Up to 10-core GPU | Storage: 256GB up to 2TB  | Battery life: Up to 18 hours

Apple completely redesigned the MacBook Air in 2022, increasing the display size, adding an M2 processor, and bringing back the MagSafe charger.

And Apple's most current MacBook Air lineup consists of three options. There's the more traditional looking M1 MacBook Air, the M2 MacBook Air that ZDNET named the 2022's "Product of the year," and the brand new 15-inch MacBook Air with an M2 chip

The 2022 M2 model comes with a 13.6-inch display, complete with a notch cutout for the FaceTime camera. You can get it in midnight, space gray, starlight or silver. The base configuration comes with 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage.

The 2023 15-inch model promises enhances graphics, a bigger viewing experience, and six speakers as opposed to four. 

The M1 MacBook Air still holds it down with a 13.3-inch display and the tried and true MacBook Air design. Internally, you'll get 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage.

The MacBook Air continues to be the perfect Mac for someone who doesn't do much more than web browsing, school or enterprise work in Office apps, and/or occasional video or photo editing.

Photo of the 15-inch MacBook Air displaying ZDNET's homescreen
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MacBook Pro

Best Mac for creatives

MacBook Pro specs: Display: 13.3 inches, 14.2 inches or 16.2 inches | Processor: Apple M1, M2 Pro or M2 Max | Memory: Configurable from 8GB up to 96GB | GPU: Apple Silicon, ranging from 10 cores to 38 cores | Storage: 256GB up to 8TB

Apple sells three different models of the MacBook Pro, all of which are powered by some form of Apple Silicon processor. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is powered by the base M2 processor, while you can configure the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro with either the M2 Pro or M2 Max. The days of an Intel-powered MacBook Pro are long gone.

The base 13-inch model sticks to a design that includes a TouchBar but lacks an HDMI port or an SD Card reader. The bigger MacBook Pros, however, ditched the TouchBar in favor of dedicated function keys and a Touch ID sensor. The larger MacBook Pro models also have an HDMI 2.0 port and an SD Card reader, and MagSafe charging has made a comeback. 

The larger Pro models also get speaker and display bumps, with some of the best onboard sound systems on laptops and new 120Hz ProMotion panels for smoother visuals.

Apple promises about a 20% performance boost in the M2 Pro and M2 Max over last year's M1 Pro/Max Macbook Pros -- which, according to ZDNET's testing, rings true. 

The MacBook Pro line has always filled the role of a portable laptop that provides extra power and, now, extended battery life. If you're in need of a laptop that will allow you to edit videos and photos or dive into CAD programs on the go, then the MacBook Pro is for you.

Review: Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro (M2 Max 2023): A content creator's dream machine 

The MacBook Pro on a table.
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Mac Pro

Best Mac for computing power

Mac Pro specs: Display: N/A | Processor: M2 Ultra | Memory: 192GB | GPU: 76-core | Storage: 512GB SSD  | Ports: 8 Thunderbolt 4, 2 HDMI, Dual 10Gb Ethernet | Connectivity: Wi-FI 6E; Bluetooth 5.3 

Announced at WWDC 2023, the new Mac Pro houses the powerful M2 Ultra chip and is said to support video transcoding and 3D simulation at a rate three times faster than its predecessor. It's also Apple's most powerful computer to date, besting what the Mac Studio and highest-end MacBook Pros are capable of.

Also: All the Mac news from WWDC 2203

Additionally, the Pro has eight Thunderbolt ports, two HDMI ports, and a 23-core Neural Engine capable of 31.6 trillion operations per second. The model starts at a steep $6,999. 

For all that power, and that astronomical price, the Mac Pro's audience is the most niche of the niche; You'll need to be involved in big-budget movie production, graphic-intensive animations, and other power-hungry workflows to take advantage of the Mac Pro. Otherwise, you're better off with one of Apple's other M2-equipped systems.

Mac Pro at WWDC 2023
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Mac Mini

Best compact Mac

Mac Mini specs: Display: N/A | Processor: Apple M2 or M2 Pro | Memory: Configurable from 8GB up to 32GB | GPU: 10 to 16-core | Storage: 256GB up to 8TB | Dimensions: 7.75x7.75x1.41 inches 

The Mac Mini has gone Intel-free, using only Apple's M2 or M2 Pro processor. It's the first time the Mini lineup hasn't had an Intel offering.

The Mac Mini comes as the M2 model with 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage, or you can choose the high-end base configuration for the M2 Pro processor, 16GB of memory and 512GB of storage. 

Remember, with any of Apple's M-series chips, you can't upgrade the RAM or storage on your own. What you select at the time of purchase is what you're stuck with. Granted, you can add external storage. 

The Mac Mini is a strong desktop option if you don't need anything portable, and now it's more affordable than it's ever been. And with the recent upgrade to the M2 chips in the Mini, you're gaining a lot of performance. 

The only major downside of the Mac Mini is the need to supply your own display, keyboard, and mouse.

Review: Mac Mini

An M2 Mac Mini on a desk with other accessories
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Mac Studio

Best Mac for creators

Mac Studio specs: Display: N/A | Processor: Apple M1 Max, M1 Ultra, M2 Max or M2 ultra  | Memory: 32GB- 192GB | GPU: 24-core or 76-core | Storage: 32GB, 1TB, or 
800 GB/s memory bandwidth

Apple's Mac Studio looks essentially like an elongated Mac Mini. The added height is for the cooling system Apple has engineered to keep the internals cool. Speaking of internals, you can choose between putting Apple's M1 Max processor, the M1 Ultra processor, or even its newest additions -- the M2 Max and all-powerful M2 ultra-- inside the Mac Studio.

The base model Mac Studio has an M1 Max processor with a 10-core CPU, a 24-core GPU, a 16-core Neural Engine, 32GB of memory, and 512GB of storage. When you upgrade you can get the Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra processor that has a 20-core CPU, a 48-core GPU, a 32-core Neural Engine, 64GB of memory, and 1TB of storage. And the most recent addition (second generation Mac Studio) announced at WWDC, has an M2 Max or M2 Ultra processor with a 24-core CPU, 76-core GPU, and up to 800GB/s memory bandwidth. 

If you need plenty of performance and price isn't a factor the Mac Studio (original) is exactly what you want. Heck, even the base Mac Studio build is more than enough power for nearly every user I know. 

Also: Comparing the best Macs: Is a MacBook or Mac Studio right for you? 

Mac Studio at WWDC 2023
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iMac

Best all-in-one Mac

iMac specs: Display: 24.5t inches | Processor: Apple Silicon M1 | Memory: 8GB or 16GB | GPU: 7-core or 8-core Apple Silicon GPU | Storage: 256GB up to 2TB

You no longer have two size options when it comes to iMac. After announced the new Mac Studio and accompanying Studio Display, the 27-inch iMac was removed from the Mac lineup. That means you're left with the 24-inch iMac as your lone option, but hey, it comes in some really cool colors. 

The 24-inch iMac has an M1 processor with a 7-core or 8-core GPU configuration. Reviews of the 24-inch iMac have been on par with other M1 Macs. It has plenty of power and is capable for everyday computing and then some. Keep in mind you can connect an extra monitor to the iMac to add more screen space. 

Apple has developed color-matching keyboards for the new iMac, which have built-in Touch ID sensors. Meaning, you can log into your Mac on the included keyboard using your fingerprint. Right now, these keyboards are only available with the new iMac and can't be purchased on their own. 

The 24-inch iMac comes with two Thunderbolt 4 USB 4 ports and two USB 3 ports, and the power adapter now has an Ethernet port built into it. 

If you're looking for an all-in-one desktop that looks great and has enough power for you to get basic and some pro-level tasks done, then the 24-inch iMac is worth considering. 

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What is the best Mac?

The best Mac is the MacBook Air. It is approachable and user-friendly with a considerate price tag. You can even choose between an Apple M1 and M2 chip. 

To see how it compares, these are the best Macs you can buy. 

Best Mac

Starting price

Display

Processor

MacBook Air

$999

13.3-inch, 13.6-inch, or 15 inch

Apple M1 or M2

MacBook Pro

$1,799

13.3-inch, 14.2-inch, or 16.2-inch 

Apple M2, M2 Pro or M2 Max

Mac Pro

$6,999

N/A

Apple M2 Ultra

Mac Mini

$599

N/A

Apple M2 or M2 Pro

Mac Studio

$1,999

N/A

Apple M1 Max, M1 Ultra M2 Mac, M2 Ultra

iMac

$1,299

24-inch

Apple M1

Which Mac is right for you?

Before spending your hard-earned cash on an expensive computer from Apple, you need to consider what you'll use it for and the specs you need. 

For example, if you are a lightweight user who merely browses the web, then perhaps the MacBook Air is best for you. If you are a video producer who needs a lot of power, then consider one of Apple's more brawny machines such as the Mac Studio, which you can get with the external Studio Display. 

Here are our expert recommendations.

Choose this best Mac...

If you want...

MacBook Air

An easily portable laptop that is perfect for your day-to-day needs.

MacBook Pro

A heavy-duty laptop that is packed with power and features upgraded graphics. 

Mac Pro

A desktop armed to handle your more demanding projects. 

Mac Mini

A compact Mac armed with the M2 chip for a powerful, portable desktop. 

Mac Studio

The best Mac for content creation with a powerful build befitting today's professionals.

iMac

The best Mac desktop for work with the M1 chip and a24-inch 4.5K Retina display.

How did we choose these Macs?

We've tested and owned several Mac models over the years and therefore know Apple's computer range like the back of our hands. But we're also familiar with the specs and hardware powering each model and are aware of how old they are, whether an update is incoming, and just know in general which ones are worth buying. We pass that information along to you. 

There are several factors to keep in mind when choosing the best Mac for you. These are some of the ones we considered that can also help you in your search.

  • Type: From laptops to desktops, Apple Macs are available in all different shapes and sizes. Before you begin shopping, consider whether you will be best suited by a laptop or a desktop. While a desktop is perfect for the office, a laptop can be a better choice when you prioritize portability. 

  • Generation: Each Apple laptop is subject to new updates every so often, with each version being referred to as a generation. Newer generations feature the latest and greatest technology, but there will come at a higher price. If you do not care about the newest features, an older-generation Mac could be a more affordable option for you. 

  • Connectivity: Another important consideration is the number of ports that a Mac can offer. Think about the number of devices that you will want to connect to your computer, and double-check the Mac specs to ensure that you will have all the connectivity you need.

  • Price: Speaking of price, the cost of Macs can vary significantly, depending on the type of computer you need. In our search, we found that the best Macs range from about $800 to $7,000 based on the model and version that you choose. 

Which Mac is best for photography?

The original (13-inch) M1 MacBook was solid, but with a maximum 16GB of RAM, it could never be an effective image-editing machine. However, with the latest 2023 MacBook Pro, Apple has corrected that mistake. It has the M2 Pro/Max chip and up to 96GB RAM. It also comes with a 16-inch screen size, which is better than a 13-inch panel for viewing edits.

What is the best Mac for students?

The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models offer a huge number of features for students. They're packed with power, boast bright displays, have batteries that last a long time between charges, and they're stylish. If you buy one of these for the student in your life, they won't be disappointed.

Why are Macs so expensive?

If it seems like Macs are more expensive than your average computer, it's because they are—but there are reasons for that. Macs are made out of aluminum, which is an expensive material. Macs also boast some of the best security out of any computer and are less susceptible to malware and virus assaults. You're also paying for the Apple brand name, not to mention the company's high-end hardware. 

What is the best antivirus software for Mac?

Are there alternatives worth considering?

If you're not sold on spending a ton of money on a Mac but still want the benefits of iOS, it's worth looking into iPads since you can add attachments like keyboards that make them useable for work. 

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