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1 February 2021

Best MacBooks for 2021

Which MacBook is right for you? What's the difference between a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro? Our expert Apple laptop guide can help.
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Michael Passingham

Apple laptops aren't cheap, so it's important that you consider your MacBook options carefully before parting with your cash.

We take a look at the key differences between the MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro ranges, so you can be confident that you're buying the right Mac for you.

See also: See all of our best laptops Answer three questions to find the best laptop for you | Best Windows 10 laptops | Best laptops for students

Which MacBook should I buy?

Apple Macbook Pro 13-inch 2020 (M1)

Apple Macbook Pro 13-inch 2020 (M1)

£1189.00
Reviewed

The MacBook Pro and Air received the same treatment for their late 2020 models, with the familiar Intel Core processor choices replaced with just one chip, called the Apple M1. The processor has eight cores (four fast and four slow) and Apple's own graphics hardware. The battery is larger than that found on the MacBook Air, and there is also a cooling fan, which should keep the processor running cooler when it's working very hard on tasks like editing videos. Read our full review to see how it fared.

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Apple Macbook Air 2020 (M1)

Apple Macbook Air 2020 (M1)

£999.00
Reviewed

The late 2020 MacBook Air with M1 processor comes with some big promises and some big risks. It's an entirely new processor, ditching the Intel Core processors that Apple has been using for more than a decade. Aside from the processor, not much has changed from the previous version, so is this the model you should plump for? Read our full review to find out.

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Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch 2020 (Core i5)

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch 2020 (Core i5)

£1199.00
Reviewed

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Intel Core i5 is still available to buy from both Apple and third-party retailers. Ignoring the changes on the inside, the external parts of this laptop are practically identical to the new M1 model and includes the Touch Bar touchscreen and the same high-resolution screen you'd expect from a Pro. Read our full review to see how it fared.

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Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro

Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro

£2399.00
Reviewed

This Apple is at the very top of the tree in terms of power, size and price. Putting the Pro moniker to good use, this six-core laptop is designed for the most power-hungry tasks such as video editing and computer-aided design. It will surely be overkill for anybody who doesn't do those tasks on a daily basis, though. This model has now been superseded by the 16-inch model, which we have not yet tested.

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Apple Macbook Air 2020 (Core i5)

Apple Macbook Air 2020 (Core i5)

£1299.00
Reviewed

This is the previous version of Apple's popular 13-inch laptop, which starts at under £1,000 for a model with an Intel Core i3 processor. We've tested the mid-range Core i5 model. It has a high resolution screen and a very attractive design, although keep in mind the new model with an M1 processor could be faster and deliver better battery life. Read our full review.

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Table updated February 2021.

See our full collection of MacBook reviews to see how else these models differ.

Mac vs Windows vs Chromebooks

MacOS, Windows 10 and ChromeOS all have their own strengths and weaknesses. MacOS is buttery smooth and is the go-to operating system for many creative industries, but it also requires you to shell out a huge amount of money on a premium Apple device. 

Windows, meanwhile is available on a huge range of devices from ultra-budget to super-premium and, for many, is still the operating system they know best. But it's not without its downsides: Windows 10 updates are still a major sticking point for many people, and the fact that Windows 10 doesn't run particularly smoothly on very cheap laptops.

That's where ChromeOS comes in. This operating system is little more than a fancy web browser, with web apps that work best when connected to the internet. There's a range of budget devices available, and a few premium options as well. There's no faffing with huge updates and since everything is in a browser, there shouldn't be any problems with programs crashing either. 

See how MacOS stacks up against its rivals in our Mac vs Windows and Chromebook advice guide.

What do I need to know about MacOS?

MacOS (formerly known as Mac OSX) is extra useful for people who own iPads and iPhones, with a host of clever features that lets you share and work on files seamlessly on all your devices. You can also make and receive calls on your computer; no need to reach for the phone any more. There's also the Siri voice assistant that'll let you ask questions, set reminders and issue other commands with just your voice.

The latest version of MacOS is called Big Sur, which launched in Autumn 2020. This updated added a lot of new features including easier to access notifications, quick access to settings, updated app designs, privacy enhancements and more. You can read the full list of changes on Apple's website.

And, as ever, MacOS is arguably the best operating system to choose if you already own an iPhone; things sync and work together more seamlessly than other combinations of phones and laptops.

 

Need more help picking the best laptop for you? See our full range of laptop reviews.

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