Best MacBook in 2020: Apple laptops to buy this holiday season

We finally recommend every MacBook in Apple’s arsenal thanks to recent keyboard improvements. In the past few months, Apple released a new MacBook Air along with a 13-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Each of these laptops has its own strengths and weaknesses so it’s important to determine which one is best for your needs before spending your hard-earned money.

Based on our testing, the best MacBook for most shoppers is the $1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro. Yes, it’s pricier than the $999 MacBook Air, but you get a faster processor and longer battery life. There are still reasons to opt for the Air, especially if you’re a student or simply want a reliable laptop for everyday web browsing. If you’re a content creator, developer or engineer who needs faster performance or a larger screen, you should go for the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which replaced the 15-inch model at the end of last year.

Our MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro face-off will help you decide which system is right for you, and our Apple Warranty Check instructions will tell you when your AppleCare+ plan expires. You can also read our macOS Catalina review to learn more about the latest operating system version running on these laptops.

Then again, you might want to wait to buy a MacBook as Apple is expected to release new laptops with custom ARM-based CPUs, not the Intel chips it has relied on for many years. This could completely transform Apple’s Mac offerings as it will bring iOS app support to laptops. We might also see the return of the 12-inch MacBook if rumors hold true and there are rumblings of a 14-inch MacBook in the works. For more about the move to Apple Silicon, see our article about why Apple will succeed. And before you think ARM-based CPUs are the only update coming to MacBooks, Apple is also rumored to adopt Mini LED displays.

Black Friday 2020

Black Friday kicks off on November 27 and we expect to see tons of deals on the industry’s best laptops, including MacBooks, from now until then. Be sure to bookmark our Black Friday laptop deals page for this year’s exclusive deals on laptops. 

What is the best MacBook? 

Apple streamlined its laptop offerings in the past few years, so there are now only four models to choose from, two of which are practically identical. Each device has its pros and cons but we recommend the 13-inch MacBook Pro to most users because it offers the best price-to-performance ratio and now has a reliable keyboard.

The newest 13-inch MacBook Pro offers double the storage and RAM of the previous model and for no extra cost. Before you grab one of those 13-inch models, you should be aware that there are two different versions. The cheaper models have aging 8th Gen Intel CPUs and only two Thunderbolt 3 ports while the pricier versions have four Thunderbolt 3 inputs and faster 10th Gen Intel CPUs. Our recommendation is simple: if you have the extra cash, get the premium model. 

If you need a larger screen and even more power, set aside some cash for the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The larger version also has the new Magic Keyboard, which is a huge improvement over the unreliable and uncomfortable Butterfly keyboard. On top of that, you get faster performance, a sleeker design, and better speakers than the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Then there’s the $999 MacBook Air, which is a great choice for anyone who needs a solid laptop for day-to-day tasks but doesn’t want to spend a fortune.  

Before you buy a MacBook, you should be aware of their shortcomings. The 16-inch and 13-inch MacBook Pro models don’t have many besides a crazy-high price and limited ports. The MacBook Air, on the other hand, struggles in the performance department, although the laptop should do fine for most folks. Unfortunately, none of these laptops have USB-A ports for legacy peripherals, so be sure to leave room in the budget for a dongle or a dock. 

The best MacBook you can buy today

1. MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)
2. MacBook Air (2020)
3. MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) 

Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Pro is the best MacBook for most people because of its fast performance, relatively affordable price, and (finally) good keyboard (Image credit: Future)1. MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)

The best Apple laptop for most users

CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 16GB/32GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB/4TB | Display: 13.3 inches, 2560 x 1600 pixels | Size: 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3.1 pounds

Elegant design

Solid performance

Great keyboard

Excellent SSD speeds

A bit heavy

Cheaper configs use 8th Gen CPUs

It’s not the huge leap forward you wanted, but rather the incremental changes you needed. So while it’s true that the latest MacBook Pro isn’t the 14-inch beauty that had been rumored, it’s still got a lot going for it. Number one, Apple doubled the amount of storage you can get with every configuration. Number two, the company has closed the chapter on the much-maligned Butterfly keyboard in favor of the highly-lauded Magic keyboard. 

Making the jump to a 10th Gen Intel processor, the 13-inch MacBook Pro held its own against top-rated competitors in the competitive premium laptop space and even excelled in most areas. The system proved itself as a top-ranked laptop with great performance, lightning-fast transfer speeds and over 10 hours of battery life. It’s a solid upgrade that Mac fans will appreciate. 

There is a cheaper version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro but the money you save doesn’t justify its older 8th Gen CPUs and only two Thunderbolt 3 ports. 

See our full MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020) review.

The MacBook Air 2020 has a lower starting price than its predecessor and offers improved performance.  (Image credit: Future)2. MacBook Air (2020)

The most affordable MacBook

CPU: 10th Gen Y-Series Core i5 | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB | Display: 13.3 inches, 2560 x 1600 pixels | Size: 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Today’s best Apple Macbook Air (2020) deals

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch,…

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch,…

Sleek design

Great battery life

Magic Keyboard

Underwhelming performance

Limited ports

The new MacBook Air is the best MacBook for those on a budget. This latest model not only starts at a lower $999 price than its predecessor but it now features the Magic Keyboard, which is more reliable and comfortable than the doomed Butterfly keyboard that came before. 

On top of that, you get the latest Intel 10th Gen CPUs. Yes, they’re still Y-series, so don’t expect amazing performance, but they are a notch up from the previous model.  Another benefit of the new model is that it starts with 256GB of storage — no more measly 128GB. 

Everything else about the 2020 model is about what you’d expect from a MacBook Air. It’s a slim, sleek laptop that weighs just 2.8 pounds and comes in at 0.6 inches thick. Those numbers don’t break any records but they keep this notebook easy to carry around. Battery life is also good, at 9 hours and 31 minutes, and the speakers sound remarkably crisp. 

See our full Apple MacBook Air (2020) review

Apple’s latest product, the 16-inch MacBook Pro, is the best MacBook in year, but only power users without a budget should go with this one.  (Image credit: Laptop Mag)3. MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)

The best MacBook for serious pros

CPU: 9th Gen Intel Core i7/Core i9 | GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 5300M/5500M | RAM: 16GB/32GB/64GB | Storage: 512GB/1TB/2TB/4TB/8GB | Display: 16-inch, 3072 x 1920-resolution | Size: 14.1 x 9.7 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 4.3 pounds

Radically improved Magic Keyboard

Immersive 16-inch display with slimmer bezels

Powerful 6-speaker audio

Up to 8-core Core i9 CPU and 64GB RAM

No full-size USB port or SD card

With an improved keyboard, powerful speakers and a larger, more immersive display, the new 16-inch MacBook Pro — the latest member of the MacBook family — improves upon the now-discontinued 15-inch model in every way that matters. Yes, it’s larger and a bit heavier, but that hit to portability is forgotten once you get your eyes on the MacBook Pro’s gorgeous 16-inch, 3072 x 1920-resolution display, which is flanked by thin bezels. 

Continuing the tradition of its predecessor, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is the most powerful of Apple’s laptops thanks to its 9th Gen Core i7 or Core i9 CPUs, up to 64GB of RAM, up to 8TB of storage (no, seriously) and AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is the best Apple laptop in years…if you can afford one. 

See our full 16-inch MacBook Pro review

How to choose the best MacBooks for you?

We have a separate guide on how to decide which MacBook is right for you. The TL;DR version is to consider how much power you need and what you are willing to spend. 

The new 16-inch MacBook Pro — arguably the best of the current MacBooks — has the scissor keyboard we’ve all been waiting for, but its starting price is steep. The MacBook Air, on the other hand, is the cheapest option but falls short on performance. If you just need something for basic everyday tasks, the Air will do just fine. 

For power users, the MacBook Pro 13-inch might be the best option. Just note, there are two versions of the smaller MacBook Pro: one with two Thunderbolt 3 ports and another with four. 

How we test MacBook laptops

We put MacBooks through extensive benchmark testing — both synthetic and real-world — before they end up in the hands of our reviewers. We evaluate everything from speed and battery life to display brightness, speaker volume and system heat.

We use a Klein K10 colorimeter to detect the brightness and sRGB color gamut of a laptop’s display. For performance benchmarking, we run the laptop through a gauntlet of benchmarks, including Geekbench 4.3 and 5.0 and 3DMark professional graphics tests. 

To determine real-world performance, we task the laptop to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution and to duplicate a 4.97GB multimedia file. Our real-world graphics test is the Dirt 3 benchmark with medium settings and 1080p resolution. 

We also run heat tests by playing a 15-minute full-screen video and our battery test consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. We consider everything over the category average (8 hours and 36 minutes) to be a good result. Of course, these tests are complemented with hands-on testing from our reviewers.


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