Best MacBook for 2023

With M1 and M2 versions of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, it's hard to know which is right for you. We've tested and reviewed nearly every current model.

Updated on May 22, 2023

Written by  Dan Ackerman Joshua Goldman
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Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
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$899 at Best Buy
MacBook Air M2 2022 laptop
MacBook Air (13-inch, M2, 2022)
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$750 at Amazon
M1 MacBook Air on a table
MacBook Air (13-inch, M1, 2020)
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$3,499 at Apple
The Apple MacBook Pro 16 sitting on a wood desk, open and angled to the left showing the orange-flower desktop, against a purple-blue background
MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023)
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$1,999 at Apple
The 16-inch Macbook Pro from 2021 on a table
MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021)
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$1,049 at Amazon
The Apple MacBook Pro M2 13-inch laptop 2022
MacBook Pro (13-inch, M2, 2022)
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Apple offers MacBooks from $999 all the way up to $3,499, and that's just the default configurations. Optional upgrades can add thousands more to the price. With the new M2 chip, we're now firmly in the second generation of Apple Silicon, and the M2 versions of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are strong performers, even if some models are more expensive than their predecessors. 

The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are known for excellent design, build quality and ease of use. MacOS, with its intuitive nature, plays a big part in that, as does the fact that Apple makes both the hardware and software, leading to inherent synergies. 

That said, MacBooks aren't flying off the shelves like they used to. Data from analyst firm IDC says that Mac sales in the first quarter of 2023 were down a whopping 40% from the same period a year ago. Part of that is because so many people bought new laptops during COVID-19, and those generally have a three- to five-year lifespan, so we're between upgrade cycles at the moment. 

Still, the current M2 version of the MacBook Air, which starts at $1,099, gets my vote as the most universally useful laptop most people can buy right now, and I use one almost daily. And now it's available in a 15-inch size, too.

Below, we go over each MacBook and its strengths and weaknesses, as well as offering some MacBook shopping tips and answers to common questions. 

Apple is still offering education deals on MacBooks: Normally, the Apple Store is (ironically) not the best place to buy an Apple laptop (really, almost any Apple product) because sales are all but nonexistent. The big exception to the rule is Apple's education discounts, which usually include MacBook deals. On the other hand, we've also found Apple laptop deals through Best Buy's Student Deals page.

The Touch Bar is (mostly) dead: Apple announced the Touch Bar with great fanfare in 2016 but this slim secondary touchscreen, which sits above the keyboard, is now only available on one model. You can find it on the M2 13-inch MacBook Pro, which retains its dated design, despite having Apple's latest chip. 

Great webcam on the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro, and the 13-inch Air; 13-inch MacBook Pro webcam is still meh: The jump to a 1080p resolution camera in the newest MacBooks, as well as the 24-inch iMac, is a game-changer for people sitting in video meetings all day. Only that dated-looking 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro retains the not-great old camera. Here are some tips on making the 720-pixel cameras in those other Macs look better

If you need something bigger and don't mind it being tied to a desk: Apple updated its smaller iMac (formerly 21.5 inches, now 24 inches) in 2021, and it now comes in seven color options and runs on the company's M1 processor. You can also pair a Mac Mini or Mac Studio desktop with the new 27-inch Mac Studio Display

Almost all Macs have transitioned to Apple's own M1 and M2 chips:  Since late 2020, the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, Mac Studio, 24-inch iMac, 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro now all run either M1 or M2 chips (including Pro, Max and Ultra varieties), which combine both CPU and GPU cores into a single package. Based on our testing, the Apple M1 and M2 line has largely delivered on Apple's promises of better battery life and faster performance. You can still find the really old Mac Pro desktop with an Intel Xeon chip. 

The key question is how to make sure you're not buying too little MacBook -- or too much. Which is the best MacBook for your needs? For most people, the 13-inch Air remains the default choice and rightly so. The 14-inch and 16-inch Pro models are more powerful but in a way that only people who need heavy GPU support will appreciate.

Watch this: MacBook Air M2 vs. MacBook Air M1: Worth the Extra $200

 Read more: Best Mac VPN for 2023  

MacBook starting configurations

14-inch MacBook Pro16-inch MacBook ProMacBook Air (13-inch, M1)MacBook Air (13-inch, M2)13-inch MacBook Pro (M2)
CPU M2 Pro or M2 MaxM2 Pro or M2 MaxM1M2M2
No. of GPU cores 16-19 (M1 Pro), 30 (M1 Max)19 (M2Pro), 38 (M2 Max)788
Screen size (inches) 14.2 in16.2 in13.3 in13.6 in13.3 in
Screen resolution 3,024x1,964 pixels3,456x2,234 pixels2,560x1,600 pixels2,560x1,664 pixels2,560x1,600 pixels
Starting storage 512GB512GB256GB256GB256GB
Starting RAM 16GB16GB8GB8GB8GB
Webcam 1080p1080p720p1080p720p
Networking 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
Connections Thunderbolt USB-C x3, HDMI, SDXC card, MagSafe 3Thunderbolt USB-C x3, HDMI, SDXC card, MagSafe 3Thunderbolt USB-C x2Thunderbolt USB-C x2Thunderbolt USB-C x2
Weight (pounds) 3.5 lbs4.7 lbs2.8 lbs2.7 lbs3.0 lbs
Starting price $1,999$2,499$999$1,199$1,299

Best MacBooks of 2023

$9 at Best Buy

MacBook Air (13-inch, M2, 2022)

MacBook Air M2 2022 laptop
Battery Life/Runtime 1,039 minutes
Weight 2.7 pounds
Display size/type 13.6-inch 2560 x 1664 Liquid Retina
Processor tested Apple M2 8‑core
Graphics tested Apple M2 8‑core

The 2022 MacBook Air got its biggest refresh in many years, moving to the M2 chip and adopting a new design. Thanks to that MacBook-Pro-like design, larger display (13.6-inch vs 13.3-inch), faster M2 chip and a long-awaited upgrade to a higher-res webcam, it's now my favorite Mac, with one caveat. At $1,199, the $200 price increase over the traditional $999 MacBook Air starting price is a disappointment.

The MacBook Air goes beyond the Pro models it mimics in one important respect -- it adds new colors to the space gray and silver, with a new gold-like starlight and a deep, dark midnight finish. Midnight, which appears as a matte black finish, reminds me of the old matte black polycarbonate MacBooks of the mid 2000s, which I've always thought was a sharp look. 

We've got a lot of different MacBook models, prices and specs to keep track of. To sum it up, the key reasons you're going to prefer the new M2 Air over the previous M1 model are:

  • Slimmer, more modern design in new colors
  • Upgraded full-HD webcam
  • Larger, brighter display (13.6 inches vs. 13.3 inches)
  • Faster M2 processor 

Read our full review of the MacBook Air M2

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$8 at Amazon

MacBook Air (13-inch, M1, 2020)

M1 MacBook Air on a table
  • Amazingly slim designGreat keyboard/trackpad combo New iLife '11 software included Decent graphics performance16:9 display.
  • Pricey for an 11-inch laptop with an older processorLacks backlit keyboard and SD card slot.

This model has been surpassed, but not replaced, by the new M2 MacBook Air. Because it's staying on as Apple's sole $999 laptop, it still deserves a place on this list. 

For many years, this Apple laptop was everyone's favorite laptop. It was reasonably priced, thin, light and built like a tank. It could last for years and take lots of falls and bumps. For any college student or coffee shop creative type, $999 would get you sorted. 

You get only two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, but for most people that's enough, as long as you can get a whatever-to-USB-C dongle.  

The 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops, like the new M2 MacBook Air, have better displays, faster processors and more ports. The Pro models also have HDMI and SD card slots. 

Read our full review of the MacBook Air M1

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The Apple MacBook Pro 16 sitting on a wood desk, open and angled to the left showing the orange-flower desktop, against a purple-blue background
$35 at Apple

MacBook Pro 16-inch (2023)

Apple's 2023 update to its flagship MacBook Pro 16-inch line follows the company's usual MO. It offers a modest refresh from the more significantly redesigned 2021 model; notably, upgrades to the latest generation of M2-class processorsWi-Fi 6E and HDMI 2.1, which means support for displays up to 8K, 60Hz and 4K, 240Hz and variable refresh rates.

We awarded it our Editors' Choice award for its combination of the old and new. It's a powerhouse Mac for creation and development work. 

Read our full review of the MacBook Pro 16-inch

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The 16-inch Macbook Pro from 2021 on a table
$1,999 at Apple

MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021)

Compared with the 13-inch Pro, the screen size here jumps from 13.3 to 14.2 inches. It's what Apple calls a Liquid Retina XDR display, which is basically a mini LED screen, like in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. It also has the same HDMI, SD card and MagSafe ports as the 16-inch MacBook Pro and the same 1080 webcam. 

We last tested a 14-inch Pro in 2021, but the performance and configuration options remain substantially similar to the 16-inch M2 MacBook Pro, which we tested and reviewed in 2023. 

If you're a college student, coffeeshop writer or other mainstream laptop user, this is a hefty premium to pay for a better screen, better webcam and more ports. It might be like buying a sports car just for driving on city streets. Bring in all-day, every day web video meetings, you might be able to make a good case, but the new M2 Air also solves that problem. 

Read our full review of the 14-inch MacBook Pro

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The Apple MacBook Pro M2 13-inch laptop 2022
$10 at Amazon

MacBook Pro (13-inch, M2, 2022)

This new 2022 version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro looks just like the 13-inch MacBook Pro that was part of Apple's first wave of M1-chip Macs in late 2020. Same body, same camera, same limited ports, same Touch Bar. Yes, this remains the last holdout of the Apple Touch Bar, a clever-but-underused second screen that's fallen out of favor. 

And that's exactly what this system is: The 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro, with the initial M1 chip swapped out for the new M2 chip. That makes it Apple's most powerful 13-inch laptop, and it edges out the otherwise similar new M2 MacBook Air because its active cooling allows it to run at higher temperatures. 

That means it's less likely to be your best choice for a MacBook. But there are some reasons you may still want the 13-inch MacBook Pro over either the new MacBook Air or the pricier 14- or 16-inch MacBook Pro. We outlined the most obvious reasons here and they include:

  • The last opportunity to get a MacBook with a Touch Bar
  • Smallest MacBook with the longest battery life (at least until we test the new Air model)
  • Platform continuity for your company or creative shop

Read our full review of the M2 13-inch MacBook Pro

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Which MacBook should I buy?

My TL;DR advice is as follows.

  • If you need a MacBook for everyday work, schoolwork, web surfing, movies and light creativity, go with the M2 MacBook Air. For most people, this is all the MacBook they'll need. 
  • The new design and camera are great, as is the bigger screen, but the older $999 M1 version of the MacBook Air is still great if you don't want to spend $200 more on the M2 version. 
  • The 13-inch MacBook Pro remains a tough sell. More expensive than the Air but essentially has the same performance and same Apple M2 chip. It's also the last holdout of the Touch Bar. 
  • The 16-inch MacBook Pro is the one high-end creative types have been waiting for. The video editor and creative pros I've spoken to have flocked to it and usually with the highest-end M2 Max chip. 
  • The 14-inch MacBook Pro can do almost everything the 16-inch can, but in a smaller package. It's either a premium mainstream laptop splurge or a work tool for creative types who need something a little more portable.

How we test MacBooks

When a computer -- typically a laptop, desktop, two-in-one hybrid or Chromebook -- arrives at the CNET Labs, we set it up as a typical user of the product would. As a best practice, during the setup, we disable as much of the invasive privacy and data collection options as possible. Then we update the OS, GPU drivers, BIOS and manufacturer utilities as needed and use an application such as Sandra from SiSoftware to gather information about the system's components, such as the CPU, GPU and RAM. 

Our benchmark tests consist of a core set we run on every compatible system including several we can run on both MacOS and Windows PCs. There's also an extended set of tests for specific use cases, such as gaming or content creation, where systems may have more powerful GPUs or higher-resolution displays that need to be evaluated. 

Primate Labs Geekbench 5: We run both single-core and multicore CPU tests, and either the Vulcan (Windows) or Metal (MacOS) Compute test. On Android, Apple devices and Chromebooks, we run the CPU tests and the Compute test. Geekbench's CPU tests measure the performance of a mixed workload. Primate Labs recently updated to version 6 for Geekbench, which we've started using on all new MacBooks.   

Geekbench 5 (multicore) scores

Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2023) 15,009Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch, 2021) 12,259Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2022) 8,954Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2022) 8,592Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2020) 7,729
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Wild Life Extreme: We run this test on MacOS (Apple silicon), Windows, Android and iPadOS systems; it's one of the few cross-platform benchmarks available to test graphics performance. We additionally run it in Unlimited mode, which eliminates screen resolution as a variable when making cross-device comparisons.  

3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited scores

Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2023) 12,989Apple MacBook Pro (14-inch, 2021) 10,264Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2022) 6,803Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2022) 6,803Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2020) 4,530
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance