Battery efficiency has improved significantly over the years. Because of this, there's not a big difference between battery life expectations across the MacBook lineup. The most efficient, by a nose, is the MacBook Air (2020), which offers up to 11 hours of wireless web and 12 hours of Apple TV app movie playback between charges. There are other models worth considering, however, depending on your needs.
Best Overall: MacBook Air (2020)
Introduced in March 2020, the latest 13-inch MacBook Air is available in space gray, gold, and silver, and begins at $999, making it the cheapest MacBook on the market. The least expensive option offers a 1.1GHz dual-core 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz, 256GB Storage, Touch ID, Retina display with True Tone, Intel Iris Plus Graphics, and 8GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X memory. This year's MacBook Air is the first to include the Magic Keyboard, which was first introduced on the 16-inch MacBook Pro (see below).
With the MacBook Air (2020), Apple says you should expect 11 hours of wireless web and 12 hours of movie playback between battery charges. However, battery life varies by use and configuration, and cycle counts also play a role as the laptop ages.
If you want a 13-inch display, but are worried the MacBook Air doesn't offer enough processor speed or RAM, consider the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Otherwise, this is the MacBook we recommend for most folks.
- Least expensive MacBook
- Magic Keyboard!
- Best battery life in 2020
- Is 13-inch enough for your needs?
- Better internals are available on MPB
Forget the charging cable longer
The best all-around option for most users, the MacBook Air is a great looking device that will provide you with years of fun and productivity.
Best Alternative: 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019)
Naturally, the 16-inch MacBook Pro model packs a punch, offering, at the minimum, a 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz. The base 16-inch MacBook Pro comes with 16GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory, 512GB SSD storage, and four Thunderbolt 3 ports. The model comes standard with an AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory graphics processor and can be upgraded to AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 (for an extra $100) or AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 ($200) for better performance.
On the apparent downside, this is an expensive laptop. Plus, you'll need to recharge this laptop more often than the MacBook Air. And like all MacBooks, it isn't usually on sale at a discount.
Note: Apple's promises up to 11 hours of wireless web and 11 hours of movie playback between charges.
- Pay only $100 extra for a graphics boost
- Most prominent MacBook Pro display to date
- Better battery life than the 13-inch model
- Very expensive
- A 2020 refresh is possible
The 16-inch MacBook Pro is an excellent choice when the size of the screen matters the most. Plus, look at that battery life!
Another Option: 13-inch MacBook Pro (2019)
When it comes to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, $500 separates the base and most complete package. Add more memory, storage, and a better processor, and the price can jump even more. Despite this, the smaller of the two MacBook Pro models has a lot going for it.
At just over three pounds, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is only slightly heavier than the MacBook Air, which clocks in at 2.8 pounds. For this, you receive a better processor and graphics card and the Touch Bar.
However, there are other things to consider. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is likely to receive a refresh later this year. If you want an MBP rather than a MacBook Air and can wait a few months to make a purchase, you should do so.
Note that Apple promises up to 10 hours of wireless web and 10 hours of movie playback between charges.
- Some better internals than MacBook Air
- Much cheaper than the 16-inch model
- Includes Touch Bar
- A new model is likely soon
- Price can rise quickly as you add components
A step up
There's much to love about this model, but a refresh in 2020 is likely.
There are currently three MacBooks on the market, the 13-inch MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Of these, the MacBook Air (2020) offers the best battery life, up to 11 hours of wireless web and 12 hours of movie playback.
The MacBook Air (2020) offers lots of features at a great price. The least expensive option, for example, has a 1.1GHz dual-core 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz, 256GB Storage, Touch ID, Retina display with True Tone, Intel Iris Plus Graphics, and 8GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X memory. You can add a better processor and graphics card, but it will cost you extra.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
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. Thanks for reading. @bryanmwolfe
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