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It's been a fast and furious few years for Apple and its Mac lineup. The company kicked off a transition away from Intel processors to its own Apple Silicon line of chips at the end of 2020 with the M1. Since then, we've seen Apple release newer and more powerful processors, including the M2 Max and M2 Pro at the beginning of 2023.
Alongside its own processors, Apple has taken the chance to update the design of its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air line, and even release a completely new desktop-style Mac in the Mac Studio.
Apple's nearly done with Intel, with the latest round of announcements leaving the Mac Pro as the lone Mac in its lineup that still uses an Intel chip.
Also: The best iPhone models
With the Mac lineup boasting improved performance nearly across the board, it can be hard to figure out which Mac is right for you. Below I'll break down Apple's current Mac lineup as well as detail who each model is best suited for.
Display: N/A | Processor: Apple M1 Max or M1 Ultra | Memory: 32GB up to 128GB | GPU: 24-core or 48-core GPU | Storage: 512GB up to 8TB | Dimensions: 7.7x7.7x3.7 inches | Weight: 5.9, 7.9 pounds
Apple's Mac Studio looks like a very tall 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 or the brand new M1 Ultra processor inside the Mac Studio. The M1 Ultra is effectively two M1 Max processors that combine to create a powerhouse of computing performance.
The base model Mac Studio is priced at $1,999 and 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 for $1,999.
For $3,999 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. A fully maxed out Mac Studio will set you back $7,999. But the good news is, according to Apple, the M1 Ultra in a Mac Studio is more powerful than the Mac Pro.
If you need plenty of performance and price isn't a factor the Mac Studio is exactly what you want. Heck, even the base Mac Studio build is more than enough power for nearly every user I know. Unless you spend your day doing 3D animations or editing 8K video, the high-end Mac Studio is overkill.
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 | Webcam: 720p or 1080p | Colors: Silver, space gray
Apple sells three different models of the MacBook Pro, all of which are powered by some form of an Apple Silicon processor. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is powered by the base M2 processor, while you can configure the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro with either the M2 Pro or M2 Max Apple Silicon processor. 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 has made a comeback.
Apple promises about a 20% performance boost in the M2 Pro and M2 Max over last year's M1 Pro/Max Macbook Pros. Additionally, the M2-powered MacBook Pros promise 22 hours of battery life on a single charge.
You're going to pay for that extra performance, though. The base 14-inch model starts at $1,999 and goes up to $6,299 when maxed out. The 16-inch version starts at $2,499 and goes up to $6,499. Yeah, they're pricey.
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.
Display: N/A | Processor: 3.5GHz Intel Xeon W | Memory: 32GB | GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 580X | Storage: 256GB SSD | Webcam: N/A | Ports: 2 x USB 3 ports, 6 x Thunderbolt 3 ports, 2 x Ethernet 10Gb ports, 3.5mm headphone jack, | Dimensions: 20.8x17.7x8.58 | Weight: 39.7 pounds | Colors: Silver
The current Mac Pro was released in June of 2019, so its internal hardware is somewhat outdated at this point. For example, all of the USB-C/Thunderbolt ports are Thunderbolt 3, while Apple is nearly done transitioning its Mac lineup to Thunderbolt 4.
That said, it's the most expensive Mac money can buy, but after the Mac Studio announcement, Apple's claiming its no longer the most powerful. Pricing starts at $5,999 for the specs you see listed above, but you can max out the Mac Pro for a total cost of $51,948 -- and that even includes a set of wheels that go on the bottom of the Pro's housing. It doesn't, however, include a display.
The Mac Pro is a niche product for people who need a lot of computing power -- even more than what the Mac Studio offers. Someone who does a lot of 3D, CAD and 4K/8K video editing, for example, will benefit from building the Mac Pro to fit their use case with more memory, a faster processor, or more storage.
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 | Weight: 2.6 or 2.8 pounds
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 now starts at $599 for the M2 model with 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage, with the high-end base configuration priced at $1,299 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 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 biggest downside to the Mac Mini I can think of is that you still need to supply your own display, keyboard, and mouse.
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 | Webcam: 1080p | Colors: Blue, green, pink, silver, yellow, orange, purple
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.
Display: 13.3 inches or 13.6 inches | Processor: Apple M1 or M2 | Memory: 8GB up to 24GB | GPU: Up to 10-core GPU | Storage: 256GB up to 2TB | Webcam:720p or 1080p | Ports: 2 x Thunderbolt 4 ports | Dimensions: 11.97x8.46x0.44 inches | Weight: 2.7 pounds | Colors: Varies by model
Apple completely redesigned the MacBook Air in 2022, increasing the display size, adding an M2 processor, and bringing back the MagSafe charger.
Apple's current MacBook Air lineup consists of two options. There's the more traditional looking M1 MacBook Air that starts at $999, or the M2 MacBook Air that's priced at $1,199.
The 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 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 for $999.
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.
The best Mac is the Mac studio M1 Ultra. This Mac proved to be the most capable and highest performing Mac ever, with a very impressive processor and features.
Here is a breakdown of all the Macs mentioned above and their key specs:
Apple M1 Max or M1 Ultra
32GB up to 128GB
13.3-inch, 14.2-inch, or 16.2-inch
Apple M2, M2 Pro or M2 Max
8GB, up to 96GB
3.5 GHz Intel Xeon W
Apple M2 or M2 Pro
8GB up to 32GB
Apple Silicon M1
8GB or 16GB
13.3-inch or 13.6-inch
Apple M1 or M2
8GB up to 24GB
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. 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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.