Best MacBook for Gaming iMore 2021
Apple MacBooks have never been designed to perform solely as gaming laptops. Despite this, some models are better than others for this type of use. Our favorite current model, the 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019) i7 processor, includes numerous features that make it a terrific device for casual gamers. There are other noteworthy models we've gathered to help you choose the one that fits your needs best.
- Best Overall: 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019) i7 processor
- Best Value: MacBook Air (2020)
- Best Alternative: 13-inch MacBook Pro (2020)
- Best Premium: 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019) i9 processor
Best Overall: 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019) i7 processor
For gamers, we're recommending the least expensive of the two 16-inch models, which includes a 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz. We're picking this one because it offers a nice mix of features at a price that's far more affordable than the premium offering we highlight below.
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 graphics processor that you can upgrade to an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 or an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8 GB of GDDR6 for better performance.
On the obvious downside, this is still 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.
- The least expensive 16-inch model
- Pay extra for a graphics boost
- Biggest MacBook Pro display to date
- Still very expensive
- Not the most powerful MBP you can buy
- Up to 11 hours wireless web
Largest display for less
The entry-level 16-inch MacBook Pro is an excellent choice for the occasional computer gamer.
Best Value: MacBook Air (2020)
Much lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Pro that has the same screen size, the 2020 MacBook Air weighs just 2.8 pounds, making it a great take-and-go laptop. Along with being less weighty, the MacBook Air provides an hour more of use between charges, although actual performance depends on the tasks.
We're sold on the entry-level MacBook Air, even for gaming, because of its price. Still, think casual gaming here only thanks to its slower processor and graphics card. There's also fewer Thunderbolt 3 ports on this model.
If you're purchasing a laptop solely for gaming, this isn't the one to buy. However, it will work well in a pinch when you need to take a break from your studies or work.
- Same screen size as 13-inch MBP
- Up to 11 hours of wireless web between charges
- Excellent price
- Only two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
- Not as powerful as MBP models
Save money and still game
Casual-casual gamers will enjoy using this MacBook Air model during the occasional break from work or school.
Best Alternative: 13-inch MacBook Pro (2020)
When it comes to the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro, $700 separates the base and most complete package. For even more, you can upgrade the machine's memory, storage, and processor.
The smaller of the two MacBook Pro models is a great overall pick. At just over three pounds, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is only slightly heavier than the MacBook Air. For this, you get a better processor and graphics card, more storage availability, and a Touch Bar. You can upgrade the processor and storage. In doing so, however, you'll push the price just shy of $2,000. If that happens, you might want to consider our No. 1 pick instead.
Regardless, if a 13-inch display is what you want and you want the bells and whistles missing on the MacBook Air, this is the one to get. If you intend to spend more than one-fourth of your time gaming, it's even more vital for you to consider this model over the Air.
- Better internals than MacBook Air
- Great mobility
- Much cheaper than the 16-inch model
- You can't upgrade the graphics card
- Price can rise as you add components
- Is 13-inches enough?
A step up
There's much to love about this model, which offers better internals than the MacBook Air.
Best Premium: 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019) i9 processor
If you're a hard-core Mac gamers or want to be, the 16-inch MacBook Pro with an 8‑core 9th‑generation Intel Core i9 processor and Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz is the one for you. Compared to the entry-level model, you'll get a graphics card boost and 1TB of storage. If this isn't enough, add more memory, and even better graphics card, and more storage. In doing so, the cost of this model can quickly exceed nearly $6,000, however.
- Apple's best MacBook Pro to date
- Graphics boost, upgrades
- Up to 64GB of memory available
- Very expensive, of course
The best of the best
If you're okay with the price, no doubt this is the MacBook to get. Happy gaming!
In 2019, the MacBook lineup changed considerably as Apple discontinued the 12-inch MacBook and 15-inch model MacBook Pro. The change brings to four the number of Apple laptops we recommend for gaming purposes. Our favorite, the 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019) i7 processor, should give you enough power to play your favorite casual computer games. Still, it will cost you, especially if you add extras. It's still an expensive laptop, which no doubt is something to consider too.
The base model includes a 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz 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 graphics processor and can be upgraded to an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 or an AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 8 GB of GDDR6 for better performance.
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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