The Mac lineup is in transition with the late 2020 introduction of the first Apple silicon computers. For the next few months (and perhaps into 2022), Macs will come with Apple's M1 (or later) native system on a chip (SoC), while others will still have Intel on the inside. It's under these conditions we select the best Mac of the year. When possible, we've selected the ones with Apple silicon; otherwise, you'll see the latest Intel-based version.

What are the best Macs you can buy right now?

Apple's Mac products fall into two broad categories. The MacBook lineup consists of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, while desktop models include the iMac, Mac mini, and Mac Pro. We've made recommendations based on various factors, which you can read more about below. When in doubt, choose the newest model that best fits your needs (laptop or desktop) and price range. Then check out the best Mac accessories to make your setup complete.

VPN Deals: Lifetime license for $16, monthly plans at $1 & more

Macbook Air M1Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

1. MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

The best Mac for most users

Bottom line: Economically (for Apple) priced, the current MacBook Air includes those features important to most users in an easy-to-carry case.

Specs MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
Display 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology
Processor Apple M1 chip
RAM 8GB or 16GB
Storage Up to 2TB
Camera 720p FaceTime HD camera
Battery Built-in 49.9 watt-hour lithium‑polymer battery
Battery life Up to 15 hours wireless web, up to 18 hours Apple TV app movie playback
Dimensions 0.41–1.61 cm x 30.41 cm x 21.24 cm
Weight 1.29 kg (2.8 pounds)

Pros:

  • Great price
  • Long battery life
  • Three color choices

Cons:

  • Limited configurations
  • Is 13-inches enough?

The well-reviewed MacBook Air with M1 is an amazing beast that's lightweight and built with the Apple M1 SoC inside. The M1, which is also found on the 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020) and Mac mini (2020) (see below), is a variant of the A14 Bionic chip that's found on the iPhone 12 series. The difference here is the inclusion of two additional high-performance "Firestorm" cores that work with the four existing "Icestorm" cores found on the iPad Air (2020) and iPhone 12 series.

As Daniel Bader explained in our MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review, the M1 can burst to 3.2Ghz in single-core and 3Ghz in multi-core environments. It does so while retaining the same unified architecture that lowers latency compared to discrete components inside most laptops. The Air also offers faster LPDDR4 RAM and SSD that's 5-10% faster than previous models. The combination means the RAM overall can before better with less of a performance hit.

Perhaps the current MacBook Air's biggest surprise is that it doesn't come with a fan. Without one, this is probably the quietest MacBook to date. Combined with its impressive battery life, which is a little less than the 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020), the MacBook Air lets you work all day comfortably and into the night without requiring a charge.

The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is the best Mac of the year. However, not because it's the most feature-packed Mac on the market.

With the same 13-inch display found on the smaller MacBook Pro and the same internals, you might wonder why this is the one we recommend the most. One word: price. The least expensive MacBook Air is $200 cheaper than the entry-level MacBook Pro. The savings means Touch ID over Touch Bar and slightly less battery life. And yet, the MacBook Air is lighter, and again, has the same parts inside as the Pro model. It's also the only Mac that comes in gold (and space gray and silver).

Like the similar-sized Pro model, the Air doesn't offer many choices when it comes to configuration. You get 8GB or 16GB of unified memory, and 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB of storage. Those are the only choices you can make. Another negative: both 2020 M1 MacBook models come with only two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports. Because of this, a dock is one of the must-have accessories for new Mac owners.

Put together, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is the best Mac of the year. However, not because it's the most feature-packed Mac on the market. Rather, it offers the features most important to most would-be buyers without the extras many might find unnecessary. For this, you'll spend less money.

The best Mac overall

MacBook Air M1 2020 Space Gray

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Apple's newest MacBook Air is silent but deadly, a potent combination of class design and a new, ultra-fast M1 system-on-chip.

Apple New Imac Spring21 Lifestyle02Source: Apple

2. 24-inch M1 iMac (2021)

The best all-in-one desktop with M1

Bottom line: The new iMac boasts a gorgeous 24-inch 4.5K Retina display, packs in an 8-core M1 chip with up to 16GB unified memory, and can go up to 2TB in storage. It's also the thinnest iMac yet, boasts a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, and comes in seven fun colors.

Category 24-inch M1 iMac (2021)
Display 24-inch (diagonal) Retina 4.5K display
Processor 8-core Apple M1 chip
RAM Configurable up to 16GB unified memory
Storage Configurable up to 2TB SSD
Cameras 1080p FaceTime HD camera with M1 ISP
Dimensions 46.1 cm x 54.7 cm x 14.7 cm
Weight 4.46 kg (9.83 pounds) for base model or 4.48 kg (9.88 pounds) for higher end model

Pros:

  • 24-inch 4.5K Retina display with Wide Color and True Tone
  • 8-core Apple M1 chip
  • Up to 16GB unified memory and 2TB SSD storage
  • Comes in up to seven new colors
  • Includes color-matching Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard with Touch ID

Cons:

  • Reasonable price, but configurations add up
  • No 27-inch version yet
  • Only has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports (high-end version has another two USB 3 ports)

The updated entry-level iMac (2021) now sports a beautiful 24-inch 4.5K Retina display, which is a big step up from the 21.5-inch before it. You now get 4480-by-2520 resolution at 218 pixels per inch with support for one billion colors, and it has up to 500 nits brightness, Wide Color, and True Tone support. It's also incredibly thin at only 11.5mm, so it basically vanishes from the sides. The overall volume of Apple's new iMac is 50% less than its predecessors, and the power cable now attaches magnetically to the back of the display with a highly durable and braided 2-meter cable. Since there is no ethernet port on the back (it's too thin), ethernet cables now plug into the power adapter.

But another huge change with the new iMac lineup is that it now comes in seven shiny new dual-tone colors: Blue, Green, Pink, Silver, Yellow, Orange, and Purple. However, if you want the last three colors, you'll have to opt for the mid or high-end models, as the base version only has four colors to pick from.

The 24-inch iMac packs in power and performance with the M1 chip. It also comes in flashy new shades to give you a splash of color to your setup.

The front of the iMac, along with the base, has a light pastel hue, while the edges and display back are a darker tone (except Silver, which is just one shade). No matter which colorful iMac you choose, it will be sure to add a splash of color to your setup and turn heads in the office. Not to mention these new iMacs are equipped with a color-matching Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse. There is also the option to upgrade to a Magic Keyboard with an integrated Touch ID, allowing you to finally use your fingerprint for biometrics and security on Apple's desktop computer.

Apple has finally ditched Intel processors on its main desktop computer, replacing it with its own M1 chip. This means you get 8-cores, four for performance and the other four for efficiency. The base model also starts with a 7-core GPU on the M1, while the mid and high levels are 8-core GPUs. Those who want the base model will also only be able to choose the 256GB SSD, which is configurable up to 512GB or 1TB. The mid and high-level models start with either 256GB or 512GB SSDs and can be configured to 1TB or 2TB, though the price will increase significantly. And like the other M1 Macs, the iMac starts with 8GB of unified memory but can be configured up to 16GB. Since the memory is in the M1 chip itself, it cannot be configured beyond that.

It also seems that Apple is finally moving on to putting in better FaceTime HD cameras into its computer lineup. The M1 iMac boasts a 1080p FaceTime HD camera with an M1 image signal processor (ISP). This means that it gives you high-quality video and images, even in low light situations. Thanks to the M1 ISP, the image quality is improved with better noise reduction, greater dynamic range, and improved auto exposure and white balance. No more grainy video for you in those precious work meetings. The iMac also has a studio-quality three-microphone setup for clearer calls and voice recordings. This new microphone array is positioned to also reduce feedback and background noise. But of course, it's still probably best to get one of the best USB microphones if you want serious audio quality.

As far as ports, the base level iMac comes equipped with two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, but you can get two more USB 3 ports with the mid and high-tier versions. The Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports support DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3 up to 40Gb/s, USB 4 up to 40Gb/s, and USB 3.1 Gen 2 up to 10Gb/s. You will need adapters, sold separately, for Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, DVI, and VGA. The base model is configurable with Gigabit Ethernet, but the mid and high-level models come standard with Gigabit Ethernet.

Best M1 all-in-one

Imac 2021

24-inch M1 iMac (2021)

Flashy new colors, super thin, M1, 24-inch 4.5K Retina display, and a brand new magnetic power cable — this iMac has it all.

27-inch iMac 2020Source: iMore

3. 27-inch iMac (2020)

The biggest Mac desktop

Bottom line: Probably the last Intel-based iMac ever produced, this beauty is packed full of terrific features. Families and anyone who wants an all-in-one Mac solution will appreciate this model.

Category 27-inch iMac (2020)
Display 27-inch (diagonal) Retina 5K display
Processor Starting at 3.1GHz 6‑core 10th-generation Intel Core i5
RAM Configurable up to 128GB
Storage Configurable up to 8TB SSD
Cameras 1080p FaceTime HD camera
Dimensions 51.6 cm x 65.0 cm x 20.3 cm
Weight 8.92 kg (19.7 pounds)

Pros:

  • Retina 5K 5120-by-2880 P3 display with True Tone
  • 1080p FaceTime HD Camera

Cons:

  • Price can rise quickly with add-ons
  • Apple silicon version could arrive in '21

Featuring an aluminum and glass enclosure with a five millimeter-thin profile, the "best iMac ever" ships with a matching Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2. It's our best Mac desktop of the year and naturally one of our favorites overall. Introduced in August 2020, this is probably the last Intel-based iMac Cupertino will ever produce.

Apple currently offers three 27-inch iMac versions, each with better internals, but with the same impressive Retina 5K display with a 5120‑by‑2880 resolution with support for one billion colors, 500 nits brightness, Wide color (P3), and True Tone technology. Each also includes a T2 Security chip, 1080p camera, studio-quality microphone, and the option to purchase the nano-textured glass. This unique matte option is ideally suited for uncontrolled lighting environments.

The entry-level model includes a 3.1GHz 6-Core 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz, 8GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory, configurable up to 128GB, Radeon Pro 5300 with 4GB of GDDR6 memory, and 256GB SSD storage. The mid-priced model comes with a 3.3GHz 6‑core 10th-generation Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz configurable to 3.6GHz 10-core 10th-generation Intel Core i9, Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz. The top-of-the-line version comes with a 3.8GHz 8‑core 10th-generation Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz that's configurable to 3.6GHz 10-core 10th-generation Intel Core i9, Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz.

This is probably the last Intel-based iMac ever to be produced.

Each model offers up to 128GB of RAM, and, depending on the model, you can purchase up to 8TB SSD. Graphics card options begin with the Radeon Pro 5300 with 4GB of GDDR6 memory configurable to Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16GB of GDDR6 memory.

On the outside, you'll find plenty of ports to match your needs. These include a 3.5 mm headphone jack, SDXC card slot (UHS-II), four USB-A ports, and two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports with support for DisplayPort, Thunderbolt (up to 40Gb/s), USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gb/s), Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, DVI, and VGA supported using adapters (sold separately). There's also a 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45 connector) configurable to 10Gb Ethernet with support for 1GB, 2.5GB, 5GB, and 10GB Ethernet. There's also a Kensington lock slot for security.

If there's one negative about this (and all) iMacs, it's that they could soon get replaced by Apple silicon models. Regardless, Apple plans on supporting Intel-based models for many years to come.

Biggest desktop

2020 27-inch iMac

27-inch iMac (2020)

Forget 4K, when you can have 5K. Great internals and a robust display in one package.

Macbook Pro With M1 ChipSource: iMore

4. 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020)

The best MacBook Pro this year ... so far

Bottom line: When you want a Touch Bar and more battery life, this is the Apple M1 laptop to get.

Category 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020)
Display 3.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology
Processor Apple M1 chip
RAM 8GB or 16GB
Storage Up to 2TB
Cameras 720p FaceTime HD camera
Battery Built-in 58.2-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
Battery life Up to 17 hours wireless web, up to 20 hours Apple TV app movie playback
Dimensions 1.56 cm x 30.41 cm x 21.34 cm
Weight 1.4 kg (3 pounds)

Pros:

  • Has Apple M1 SoC
  • Touch Bar with Touch ID
  • 20-hour battery life

Cons:

  • Not much different from MacBook Air
  • Maxes out at 16GB RAM
  • Only has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports

Here's the first MacBook Pro that features an 8-core Apple M1 chip. Like with the MacBook Air (M1, 2020), you get a 2560-by-1600 resolution Retina display and up to 16GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage.

If you don't care about the Touch Bar and can live with two hours less battery life, it's probably wise to save some money and go with our top choice instead.

There are few differences between the 13-inch Pro and Air, but just enough that could sway your decision. With the more expensive model, you'll receive a Touch Bar with Touch ID and better battery life (around 20 hours versus 18 hours for the Air). Though both models have a similar display, the Pro provides 500 nits brightness instead of the Air's 400 nits brightness.

In terms of audio, the 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with stereo speakers with high dynamic range, support for Dolby Atmos playback, and a studio-quality three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming. Finally, the Pro weighs 1.4 kg (3 pounds) versus the Air's 1.29 kg (2.8 pounds).

If you don't care about the Touch Bar and can live with two hours less battery life, it's probably wise to save some money and go with our top choice instead.

For more information, check out our 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020) review.

What about the 16-inch MacBook Pro?

First introduced in 2019, the 16-inch MacBook Pro remains on the market and is the most configurable Pro you can purchase. If you need the largest display possible on a MacBook Pro, this is your choice, of course. However, because this model is almost certainly receiving an Apple silicon update later this year, it doesn't come recommended. Our best advice is to wait.

What about a 14-inch MacBook Pro?

There are also rumors Apple is working on an all-new 14-inch MacBook Pro that will also feature Apple silicon. Both it and the 2021 16-inch Macbook Pro are expected to feature an all-new body and bring back the popular MagSafe found on previous-generation models. These two newbies could also bring to the table more ports, such as an SD card slot and HDMI. Whether the 14-inch MacBook Pro will replace the 13-inch lineup remains to be seen.

Best MacBook Pro

13 Inch Macbook Pro M1

13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020)

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 is just like the Air, except it has a Touch Bar with Touch ID and better battery life.

Apple M1 Chip Mac Mini Lg Display Gaming ScreenSource: Apple

5. Mac mini (2020)

The best for networking

Bottom line: The compact Mac mini packs a lot inside and matches very nicely with your existing monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

Category Mac mini (2020)
Processor Apple M1 chip
RAM 8GB or 16GB
Storage Up to 2TB
Dimensions 3.6 cm x 19.7 cm x 19.7 cm
Weight 1.2 kg (2.6 pounds)

Pros:

  • Least expensive solution among desktops
  • Works great with all types of monitors

Cons:

  • Remember, no monitor or accessories
  • Can get expensive quickly

The latest Mac mini is the first Apple desktop to feature Apple silicon. It launched in late 2020 alongside Apple silicon versions of the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro. A more expensive Mac mini featuring an Intel-based processor remains on the market for those looking to add more memory or storage than the M1 version currently provides. We're not recommending that model since it could get replaced soon.

The Apple M1 Mac mini version comes with an Apple M1 chip with an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, 8GB unified memory, 256GB SSD storage, and Gigabit Ethernet. Memory (up to 16GB) and storage (up to 2TB) are upgradeable. The Mac mini offers support for one display up to 6K and one display up to 4K; both are sold separately.

Ports include a 3.5 mm headphone jack, HDMI 2.0 port that supports multichannel audio output, two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, two USB-A ports, and Gigabit Ethernet.

If you're looking at a Mac mini, you are already aware that you need to add a monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

Best for Networking

Mac Mini 2020 M1 Top

Mac mini (2020)

Mac minis are a great solution if you already have a terrific monitor and other accessories. Otherwise, stick with iMac if you're looking for a desktop Mac.

2019 Mac ProSource: Rene Ritchie / iMore

6. Mac Pro (2019)

The best for professionals

Bottom line: Heavily customizable and very expensive, the Mac Pro is the desktop solution for creatives, industry tycoons, and anyone else who needs the flexibility maximum customization provides.

Category Mac Pro (2019)
Processor Configure from an 8‑core to 28‑core Intel Xeon W processor
RAM Configure up to 1.5TB
Storage Configure up to 8TB of SSD
Dimensions 52.9 cm x 45 cm x 21.8 cm (tower)
Various sizes (rack)
Weight 18 kg (39.7 pounds) (tower)
17.6 kg (38.8 pounds) (rack)

Pros:

  • Workstation-class Xeon processors up to 28 cores
  • High-performance memory system with a massive 1.5TB capacity
  • Apple Afterburner accelerator card

Cons:

  • Recommended Pro Display XDR monitor adds to the price
  • Overkill for most folks
  • Could an Apple silicon version arrive soon?

No doubt, the Mac Pro (2019) is the best professional-graded computer Apple has ever created. Made in the United States, the Mac Pro has been designed for maximum performance and expansion. It features Xeon processors, an Earth-shattering high-performance memory system, eight PCIe expansion slots, and graphics architecture that supports what Apple calls the world's most powerful graphics card. There's also the all-new Apple Afterburner accelerator card that lets you playback as many as three streams of 8K ProRes RAW video simultaneously.

The Mac Pro comes in tower or rack configurations. Both models ship with a Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, Magic Mouse 2, USB-C to Lightning Cable, and power cord.

There's no denying, the Mac Pro is the most powerful Mac to date. And yet, it's certainly a niche product, and that's fine. Starting with its price, this Mac isn't for everyone. And yet, it's probably worth every dime.

Best for Professionals

Mac Pro

Mac Pro (2019)

Get this Mac if you want everything and have the resources to build the best machine to suit your needs. Otherwise, stick with iMac as your desktop app.

How to pick the best Mac for you

We've selected the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) as the overall best Mac of the year. It's the one packed with the features most users need yet omits the ones they do not. Better still, it's priced right and is easy to carry across the room or back and forth on campus. However, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) isn't the most powerful Mac around, nor does it offer the broadest customization options.

1. Price

There's no denying Macs are among the most expensive computers on the market. This fact has been in Apple's DNA since the first Macintosh was introduced to the world in 1984. And yet, in 2021, the price breakdown is extensive, with the cheapest option available for less than $700 and the most expensive for more than $10,000, depending on the extras. Luckily, the wide price range extends to both the MacBook and Mac desktop lineup.

2. Apple silicon or Intel?

Buying a new Mac at the beginning of 2021 can be confusing because Cupertino decided to switch from Intel to Apple silicon over the coming years. We at iMore are forward thinkers, and that's why we're recommending Apple silicon-based options when available. Though Apple has promised to support Intel-based models for years to come (and they will), we know Intel isn't in the company's future, and this is a point no one can deny.

Our decision to embrace Apple silicon over Intel is the reason, for example, we're recommending the M1-based 13-inch MacBook Pro over the 13-inch and 16-inch Intel version. Arguably the latter is better than the M1 version. And yet, it's not as future-proof. Besides, it will almost certainly get replaced by an Apple silicon version before the end of the year.

Over on the iMac side, the 24-inch version is newer than the 27-inch model, which is the central reason for our recommendation, and the 24-inch iMac packs in Apple's M1 chip. We also kept the Mac Pro on here because it's insanely powerful for those who require it, but it's definitely a niche product and not a mainstream consumer computer. We also predict that it will get the M1 chip at some point, but when exactly remains to be seen.


The Mac lineup features a diverse lineup of laptop and desktop computers with models offering both Apple silicon and Intel chips. Our top choices are the MacBook Air (M1, 2020), 24-inch iMac with M1, and 27-inch iMac (2020). These are great choices that target different types of users. The 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020), Mac mini (2020), and Mac Pro (2019) are also awesome choices for those who need some more power.

If you're in the market now for a new computer, stick with one of our choices. Otherwise, wait a few months to see what changes Apple brings to the lineup this year. New products could include Apple silicon versions of the 16-inch MacBook Pro and Mac Pro. We could also see the first 14-inch MacBook Pro (also with Apple silicon) make its debut.

When changes get made to the Mac lineup, circle back to this post to see our updated recommendations. In the meantime, happy shopping.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Author: Bryan

Bryan M. Wolfe is a dad who loves technology, especially anything new from Apple. In 2021, he wants to see all-new MacBook Pro versions that feature Apple silicon. Thanks for reading. You can find me on Twitter @bryanmwolfe.

Author: Christine Romero-Chan

Christine Romero-Chan has been using Macs for over a decade after ditching Windows. She knows a thing or two about how Macs work and who they're made for.

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.