To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Best MacBook 2023: Which Apple laptop is right for you?

Apple MacBook Air 15in (M2) on a table, at an angle

With the recent switch to in-house processors, the Californian tech giant’s line of computers grows ever more enticing

Apple might be best known for its iPhones these days but it made its name in computers, first with desktop machines way back in the 1980s and later with the colourful iMac and PowerBook laptops. Apple has come a long way since then and its latest, best laptops are the MacBook range of machines, and for many they represent the very peak of desirability when it comes to portable computing.

The main appeal of Apple’s MacBook laptops, certainly since the relatively recent move to Apple’s own CPU and away from Intel, is battery life. Put simply, if you value being able to work for long periods without having to plug in your laptop for a top up from the mains, Apple’s MacBooks are for you. Pretty much every modern, non-Intel laptop will let you work on them for a full day (assuming a fairly lightweight workload). This is in addition to the traditional Apple strengths of attractive industrial design, solid build quality and top quality displays.

You will always pay a little extra over a Windows laptop, admittedly, but buying a MacBook does guarantee a solid all-round product with excellent ergonomics, battery life, build quality and good looks.

Best MacBook: At a glance

How to buy the best MacBook for you

Why should I buy a MacBook instead of a Windows laptop?

There’s nothing particularly special about MacOS as an operating system or MacBooks as laptop, objectively speaking, other than the way each one performs. However, Apple’s laptops do stand out in a few key ways.  The main one is the battery life we’ve already mentioned – thanks to Apple’s ability to control the demands put upon the hardware more closely and the more efficient Apple silicon, they just last longer away from the mains than their Windows rivals.

However, there are other things that may appeal to you about macOS over Windows. MacOS has a sleeker, cleaner interface that tends to appeal to professionals in the creative industries. Software updates are a lot less intrusive by default. And, in our opinion, macOS’ selection of bundled apps and utilities is more valuable than Windows’.

READ NEXT: Apple MacBook Pro 14in (M3, 2023) review

Apple gives you not only a full productivity suite that inclues Pages (word processor), Numbers (spreadsheet) and Keynote (presentation tool) all freely downloadable from the App Store, it also has superior movie and photo editors in iMovie and Apple Photos.

What is the best MacBook to buy right now?

This question comes down entirely to preference. If you’re buying a MacBook to use as your everyday workhorse machine then a MacBook Air should suit your needs. However, if you work in the creative industries, or spend a lot of time using processor-intensive applications such as video-editing software, then a Pro model with its increased specs and performance will be better.

How much should I expect to spend?

If there’s one thing you should know about Apple products it’s that they certainly don’t come cheap. You can expect to pay a premium when buying an Apple device, be that a phone, tablet or laptop, and the current MacBook line is no exception.

READ NEXT: Apple MacBook Pro 16in review

You can expect to spend upwards of £1,049 for the 2023 MacBook Air 13.6in, with MacBook Pro models starting at £1,699 and rising astronomically high, depending on the amount of RAM you want or the size of the SSD. If an increased form factor is what you’re looking for, and you’re more comfortable working on a conventional laptop system, the 16in MacBook Pro starts at around £2,599, depending on the retailer.

This is not to say they’re poor value, though – far from it. In fact, the M2 MacBook Air is just as fast as many of its Windows rivals at the price and delivers far superior battery life. It’s just that Apple doesn’t sell budget machines.

What is Apple Silicon and why is it important?

The move to the new M-series of Apple chips as opposed to the Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 CPUs of old, means that Apple now controls all of the hardware from top to bottom AND the software. Although there were software compatibility issues at first, most major Apple software is now native to Apple Silicon and works as fast as, if not faster, than on the old Intel-based architecture.

The advantages don’t stop at raw performance, though. The M-series chips have proven not only fast but also much more efficient than the previous Intel-based MacBooks, with performance cores kicking in when needed, but more efficient, low-power CPU cores used during most day-to-day tasks. Intel is working hard at catching up, and introduced a similar architecture in its 12th, 13th and 14th Gen CPUs but has thus far failed to come up with a solution that delivers battery life as good as on Apple’s MacBooks.

The best MacBooks to buy in 2023

1. Apple MacBook Air 13.6in (M2, 2022): The best overall MacBook

Price: From £1,149 | Check price at Amazon

The M2 MacBook Air takes everything that made the M1 so good and improves it across the board. There’s a new chassis design that does away with the famous wedge-shaped profile a new M2 chip that bumps performance up a notch, a larger screen and – incredibly – even better battery life than last time. The price has risen, unfortunately, to a base of £1,149 but this laptop is worth every penny.

It’s stylish, light, robust and hugely practical. Better still, with no fan, the M2 MacBook Air runs completely silently. It remains the best MacBook for most people and it’s also our favourite ultraportable across all laptop types.

Read our full M2 MacBook Air review for more details

Key specs – Display size: 13.6in; Resolution: 2,560 x 1,664 pixels; Chipset: Apple M2; Battery life: up to 18 hours (8-core or 10-core); RAM: 8GB standard (manufacturer upgradable to 24GB); Colours available: Midnight, Starlight, Space Grey, Silver

2. Apple MacBook Air 13in (M1, 202): The best cheap MacBook

Price: From £798 | Check price at Amazon

M1 Apple MacBook Air on a patterned background

The M1 MacBook Air was revolutionary when it was first introduced and although it is no longer the cream of the crop when it comes to Apple’s MacBooks, it is still a highly competent and desirable machine. The M1 chip is still going strong, the chassis of the laptop is still as stiff, well made and desirable as ever and the IPS display, while not quite as good as the OLED screens we’re increasingly seeing on Windows rivals, is still superb.

This laptop’s biggest strength, however, is its incredible battery life. It will just keep on trucking for as long as you need it, lasting an impressive 14hrs 40mins in our benchmarks. There is no other Windows machine you can buy at this price with the same combination of battery life and performance.

Read our full M1 Apple MacBook Pro 13 review for more details

Key specs – Display size: 13.3in; Resolution: 2,560 x 1,600 pixels; Chipset: Apple M1; Battery life: 14hrs 40mins (tested); RAM: 8GB or 16GB; Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB or 2TB SSS; Colours available: Space Grey

3. Apple MacBook Air 51in (M2, 2023): Best affordable big-screen MacBook

Price: From £1,299 | Buy now from John Lewis

Apple MacBook Air 15in (M2) on a table, at an angle

The largest MacBook Air ever made, this laptop model is a real beauty. It comes with a big, 15.3in screen, Apple’s superlative M2 processor and the lowest price model has 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. And despite its screen size, it’s remarkably thin and light, at 1.51kg and a mere 11.5mm thick.

The 15in MacBook Air’s biggest strength, however, isn’t the way it looks or how portable it is but its battery life and all-round performance. Put succinctly, it will outlast any Windows laptop of this class and size and it will do so silently (the laptop is completely fanless) and without any fuss at all. There are faster, more powerful, more capable gaming machines among Windows laptops, but if you need a big-screened laptop that’s easy to carry around with you, this is hard to beat.

Read our full 15in M2 Apple MacBook Air review for details

Key Specs – Display size: 15.3in; Resolution: 2880 x 1864; Chipset: Apple M2; Battery life: 18 hours; RAM: 8-24GB; Colours available: Space Grey, Silver, Starlight, Midnight

Buy now from John Lewis

4. Apple MacBook Pro 14in (M3, 2023): The best portable MacBook for power users

Price: From £1,699 | Check price at Amazon

Apple M3 MacBook Pro 14in from the front at a low angle

We weren’t too keen on the base model M3 Apple MacBook Pro, simply because we didn’t think it offered enough of a performance/battery boost versus the M2 MacBook Air laptops, despite the fact that it has a better Mini-LED display, superior speakers and microphone, and a more expansive selection of ports.

However, the M3 Pro and M3 Max based models are different. Performance takes a further leap forward and although the price does increase, the differential between the M3 Pro and the M3 models isn’t as large as that between the base M3 and 13.6in M2 MacBook Air. This is one for the workstation aficionados.

Key specs – Display size: 14.2in; Resolution: 3,024 x 1,964; Chipset: Apple M3, M3 Pro or M3 Max; Battery life: 15hrs 43mins (tested); RAM: 8GB, 18GB or 36GB; Storage: 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB or 8TB; Colours: Space grey, Silver, Space Black

5. Apple MacBook Air 13in (2017): The best budget MacBook

Price: £380 | Check price on BackMarket

Apple MacBook Air 2017

While it may not benefit from the newer technology found in the above entries, the 2017 refresh of the MacBook Air is still a solid and very stylish laptop. You can’t buy it new any more, but you can pick up a refurbished model from BackMarket for less than half the cost of an M1 MacBook Air, and with a decent amount of RAM at 8GB and storage capacity (128GB), too.

It has decent IPS display with a resolution of 1,440 x 900 and not much has changed when it comes to portability. It’s as light and portable – at 1.35kg and 17mm thick when closed – as much more recent machines.

A great perk of buying refurbished through BackMarket is the one-year guarantee, which promises a replacement or repair if the product has any kind of technical defect during the first year. You also get free no-quibble returns for the first month or so as well.

Read our full MacBook Air (2017) review for more details

Key specs – Display size: 13in; Resolution: 1,440 x 900 pixels; Chipset: 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-5250U; Battery life: up to 11 hours; RAM: 8GB; Storage: 128GB; Colours available: Silver

Check price at BackMarket

Read more

Best Buys