Macbook Air M1Source: Daniel Bader / iMore

Best MacBook iMore 2022

Last year, Apple introduced two all-new MacBooks. And yet, our favorite MacBook for most people remains a model first introduced in 2020, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020). It's lightweight, powerful, has all-day battery life, and a price you can't beat. However, the MacBook model that's right for you might differ significantly, depending on your needs. Whether you're just a casual user who needs to browse the web and check email, or if you're a power user who requires a lot of horsepower, we know which MacBook suits your needs. Here are our favorites of the year.

Best overall: MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Macbook Air M1Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

The MacBook Air with M1 features Apple's M1 system-on-a-chip (SoC), which has the CPU, GPU, RAM, and T2 combined into a single processor chip. The base model MacBook Air features an 8-core M1 chip with four performance cores and four efficiency cores.

The M1 MacBook Air has excellent battery life over its predecessors, with Apple promising at least 15 hours of web usage and 18 hours of video playback. Of course, your mileage will vary, but it's a significant improvement over previous Intel-based MacBook Airs.

Speaking of performance, the M1 chip is nothing to sneeze at, that's for sure. And because it's so much more power-efficient, the MacBook Air doesn't even need fans — there are zero fans inside the machine, so it's going to be super quiet while being able to handle anything you throw at it. However, if things are too resource-intensive, the MacBook Air will begin to throttle since there are no fans to prevent overheating.

The base model MacBook Air features an 8-core M1 chip with four performance and efficiency cores.

And even though the MacBook Air is the cheapest MacBook, you aren't missing out on any features. The MacBook Air with M1 still has a Retina display at 2560x1600 resolution at 227 pixels per inch (PPI) and Touch ID (for unlocking your computer and using Apple Pay online). It also includes the much-improved scissor-switch keyboard, and it's still thin enough to fit inside a manila envelope.

Though you don't get the much-loved MagSafe charging port found on the 2021 MacBook Pro models (see below), you get two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports and the 3.5mm headphone jack. That means 40Gbps high-speed data transfer so you can move photos, videos, and huge documents between hard drives or other computers lickety-split. The base model of the MacBook Air now starts with a 256GB SSD, and you can configure it up to 2TB. The RAM on the M1 SoC begins at 8GB, but you can bump it up to 16GB if needed. Unfortunately, the M1 can not go beyond 16GB, and you can't add RAM later on this or any other MacBook.

Although it remains our favorite MacBook for most people, the MacBook Air is starting to get a bit long in the tooth and is likely to get replaced sometime in 2022. Therefore, if you want a MacBook Air and are willing to wait, you should. The next model is expected to include an "M2" SoC and come in multiple colors like the 24-inch iMac and current iPad mini and iPad Air.

Pros:

  • Most affordable MacBook
  • Uses Apple's blazingly fast M1 SoC
  • Long-lasting battery life
  • Retina display with Touch ID
  • Has scissor-switch keyboard

Cons:

  • Only two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
  • RAM caps out at 16GB
  • A 2022 model is almost certainly coming

Best overall

Macbook Air Gold Select

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

The perfect Mac laptop for most people

The MacBook Air has the perfect balance of features and affordability with the new M1 SoC, Retina display, and great software.

Best for portable power: 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1

M1 Macbook Pro 2020 Source: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore

The 13-inch MacBook Pro also received a significant upgrade in 2020, alongside the MacBook Air. It features Apple's M1 SoC as well, and it starts with the 8-core M1 chip, which means four cores are for performance, and the rest are for power efficiency.

And unlike the MacBook Air with M1, it starts with an 8-core GPU. You get a 2560x1600 resolution Retina display, up to 16GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage.

The only significant difference between the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air is that the Pro has the Touch Bar with Touch ID, and battery life is around 20 hours (versus 18 hours with the Air). So, if you don't necessarily care for the Touch Bar or think that two hours of battery life makes that much difference, you can honestly save some money and get a MacBook Air with M1 instead. Keep in mind that the Pro also has fans to prevent overheating (the Air is fanless), which is helpful if you plan to do resource-intensive work.

Pros:

  • Has Apple M1 SoC
  • Touch Bar with Touch ID
  • 20-hour battery life
  • Retina display
  • Scissor-switch keyboard

Cons:

  • Not much different from MacBook Air with M1
  • Maxes out at 16GB RAM
  • Only has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports

Best for portable power

13-inch MacBook Pro (2020)

13-inch MacBook Pro with M1

Affordable power

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

Best for pros: 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)

2021 Macbook Pro Hero AppleSource: Apple

For the pro on the go, there's nothing better than the second-generation 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021), which was significantly improved over the first-generation model. Like the all-new 14-inch MacBook Pro (mentioned below), this model offers either an M1 Pro or M1 Max SoC with up to 64GB of unified memory and 8TB of SSD storage. Altogether, you can get up to a 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU.

But there's oh-so-much more! This year's 16-inch MacBook Pro comes with an impressive Liquid Retina XDR display (3456 by 2234 pixels) with ProMotion technology for adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz. It's also packed with up to 21 hours of battery life between charges and comes with an all-new 1080p FaceTime HD camera with an advanced image signal processor with computational video.

Do you want even more? The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook models (2021) also see the return of MagSafe, HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, besides its three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports.

If you're looking for any negatives, understand this is the heaviest MacBook Pro in many years (4.7 pounds). It's also costly, even at the base level.

Pros:

  • Latest and greatest
  • M1 Pro or M1 Max, you decide
  • 16GB to 64GB of unified memory
  • 512GB to 8TB of storage
  • A Liquid Retina XDR display

Cons:

  • Most expensive model
  • Heavy (4.7 lbs)

Best for pros

16 Inch Mbp 2021 Small

16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)

A pro laptop for the pro user

The 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro gives you the most power and performance, though mobility is limited, and the price tag is high.

Best for versatility: 14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)

MacBook Pro 2021 Review Source: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore

If you want everything on the 16-inch MacBook Pro except a smaller display, this is the laptop for you. It offers the same configurations as the larger model for less. However, not that much less. It's still a costly laptop, even at the base level.

For those looking for a MacBook Pro and on a budget, you might want to consider the 13-inch model instead. It's a year older and offers a slightly smaller display. And yet, it still comes with Apple silicon. It's also the final MacBook Pro to provide a Touch Bar.

Pros:

  • Portable
  • Touch Bar
  • Liquid Retina XDR display
  • Same great features as the 16-inch model

Cons:

  • Still expensive

Best for versatility

14-inch MacBook Pro in Silver

14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)

Versatility at a lower price

The 14-inch MacBook Pro is nearly identical to the 16-inch model except for the smaller display and price.

The best for most is the MacBook Air with M1

The MacBook Air (M1,2020) is the best overall MacBook for most people. Thanks to Apple's M1 SoC, you are getting the blazing fast performance of Apple silicon that's optimized for performance and efficiency. Additionally, Apple even took out the fan, so you're getting nothing but pure silence with the MacBook Air.

Add in the fact that you get 18 hours of battery life and a sharp Retina display with Touch ID, the latest MacBook Air can undoubtedly go a very long way, and it's the most affordable MacBook right now. It's also incredibly thin (so it can fit pretty much any of the best cases or great sleeves out there, making it the perfect travel companion!

Just keep in mind the latest MacBook Air is almost certainly going to get replaced sometime this year. So it's something to keep in mind if you can wait a few months to get the latest and greatest.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Author: Christine Romero-Chan

Christine Romero-Chan has been using Macs for over a decade and has a pretty good idea of how computers work. While she doesn't have every MacBook there is, she has quite a few of them and knows how to maximize every one.

Author: Bryan M Wolfe

Bryan M. Wolfe is a dad who loves technology, especially anything new from Apple. Penn State (go Nittany Lions) graduate here, also a huge fan of the New England Patriots. Here's currently using a 14-inch MacBook Pro. @bryanmwolfe

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