3 Best MacBook Laptop of 2019-2020

The best Macbook laptop for many people—and Apple’s best laptop in a minimum of half a decade—is the 2020 13-inch Best MacBook Air. It’s more than fast enough for the things most people use a computer for, including Web browsing, working on documents, and light photo and video editing. Plus, it has Apple’s new much-improved keyboard, an excellent high-resolution screen, and enough battery life to get most people through a day of work.

A well-balanced Best MacBook

Apple’s best MacBook Air in years has a comfortable keyboard, good performance, and a reasonable amount of storage—all things that weren’t true of the previous model.

Recommended configuration

Processor:quad-core Intel Core i5-1030NG7Memory:8 GB
Graphics:Intel Iris PlusStorage:256 GB SSD

We recommend the $1,100 version of the MacBook Air, which gives you a faster quad-core Core i5 processor that will keep your computer feeling quick when you’re running multiple apps and opening a bunch of browser tabs. The 2020 Air includes a much-improved keyboard with a deeper, more satisfying feel and improved reliability compared with previous MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models. And the cheapest configuration of the Air finally includes 256 GB of storage instead of the more-limiting 128 GB of past versions.

The Air includes only two USB-C ports (which support Thunderbolt 3) plus a headphone jack—but Thunderbolt 3 docks and USB-C hubs and adapters are common enough and inexpensive enough that this isn’t as big of a problem as it used to be. The Air also omits the Best MacBook Pro’s (situationally useful but largely unnecessary) Touch Bar in favor of a row of physical function keys and a standalone Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

The Macbook pro opened and resting on a table
Photo: Andrew Cunningham

The best Mac laptop for many people is that the 2020 13-inch Best MacBook Air. It’s more than fast enough for browsing, working on documents, and making light photo and video edits, and it has an excellent high-resolution screen, a great trackpad, and a reasonable price. Its battery life is unexceptional—it lasted just over eight hours in our battery test—but that’s enough to survive through a full day of work or classes. The Air’s lightweight, solid construction, and industry-leading support make it a great laptop, especially if you also own an iPhone or other Apple devices.

We recommend the $1,100 model with a quad-core 10th-generation Core i5 processor, a 256 GB SSD, and 8 GB of memory. If you regularly work with a couple of dozen browser tabs open or if you edit large image files or videos, consider upgrading to 16 GB of memory for an extra $200. If you need more storage, we recommend adding an external hard drive or portable SSD rather than paying Apple’s upgrade prices.

The Best MacBook Air has a bright and colorful 13-inch 2560×1600 IPS screen—that display has a higher resolution than the 1080p screens in most of the PC laptops we recommend, and to most eyes, text and pictures will appear sharp and crisp. The Air’s display uses the sRGB color gamut and doesn’t support the wider DCI-P3 color gamut, which can display more shades of certain colors, but this difference isn’t hugely important except you to’re doing high-end film or photography work. The Air’s screen also supports the True Tone feature, which subtly changes the screen’s color temperature to match the ambient lighting in the room.

If you need more storage, we recommend adding an external hard drive or portable SSD rather than paying Apple’s upgrade prices.

The Air has just two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports for connectivity and charging, both on the left side of the laptop, so you need adapters or new cables to connect your other devices. Each port supports charging, 40-gigabits-per-second data transfers, external displays (up to 5120×2880 resolution, or 5K), and basic USB peripherals like flash drives, printers, and mice—but the Air has no other ports aside from a headphone jack. More expensive versions ($1,800 and up) of the 13-inch Best MacBook Pro include four Thunderbolt 3 ports, as does the 16-inch Pro, but even with those models you’d still need a dongle, hub, or dock to attach most accessories.

A close look at the fingerprint scanner on the Macbook Air
The MacBook Air has a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, but no Touch Bar. Photo: Andrew Cunningham

The 2020 Air has an overhauled Magic Keyboard with much more comfortable key travel (and a tweaked arrow-key layout); it’s the same keyboard Apple added to the 16-inch Best MacBook Pro late in 2019. It’s still not as springy as the pre-2016 Best MacBook keyboards (or Lenovo’s excellent ThinkPad keyboards), but it’s a huge improvement, and it shouldn’t be as prone to breaking as the butterfly keyboards have been. The keyboard is now a scissor-switch design, which keeps most of the firmness of the old butterfly-switch keyboard but adds another 0.5 mm of key travel (for a total of 1 mm). If you’ve got a 2015 or older MacBook Air or Pro, and you’ve been waiting to upgrade because you didn’t just like the keyboard of 2016 and newer models, this keyboard is good enough for you to stop putting off the purchase. The layout skips the Touch Bar in favor of a row of physical function keys and a standalone Touch ID fingerprint sensor, but most people don’t need the Touch Bar, so we don’t really consider that to be negative.

A look at the Macbook Air's trackpad.
The new MacBook keyboard trades the shallow, stiff keys from previous generations for springier keys with deeper and more satisfying travel. Photo: Andrew Cunningham

All of our picks include the same Force Touch trackpad, which remains the best trackpad we’ve used on a laptop because of its large size and its accuracy. It has no hinge, so it recognizes presses anywhere on the surface, but it also offers haptic feedback that makes it feel and sound as if it were “clicking” even though it doesn’t move.

The 2020 Best MacBook Air weighs 2.8 pounds and is nearly imperceptibly thicker than the 2018 and 2019 models, due entirely to the space needed for the additional key travel. It’s 0.3 pounds lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Pro, and about the same amount heavier than Dell’s XPS 13 (9300). The Air is not an exceptionally thin or light laptop, but it is as slim as it needs to be, and it is comfortable to carry in a backpack or shoulder bag.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Modern Best MacBook models utilize Thunderbolt 3 for all connectivity, including power. (The only other port is a 3.5 mm headphone/mic jack.) This means that if you own any hard drives, scanners, printers, thumb drives, or card readers that use USB Type-A ports, you need a hub or adapter; similarly, if you want to use an external display or projector, you need the right video adapter. It also means that you will need to replace older chargers that use Apple’s MagSafe magnetic power connection with newer USB-C chargers.

More ports, faster processor

If you do processor-intensive work like video editing and app development but don’t need better graphics (or you just don’t want the extra size and weight of the 16-inch Pro), the $1,800 version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is a big step up from the Air.

Recommended configuration

Processor:quad-core Intel Core i5-1038NG7Memory:16 GB
Graphics:Intel Iris PlusStorage:512 GB SSD

Encoding high-definition video and developing and compiling iOS apps are tasks that would use all the processing power you’ll throw at them. If you often do that quite a work but don’t need a quick graphics processor for 3D apps (or you don’t want to affect the value, size, or weight of the 16-inch Best MacBook Pro), the $1,800 version of the 13-inch Pro may be a worthwhile upgrade over a similarly configured Air. You won’t notice the difference for everyday browsing and document editing, but in our tests, the 13-inch Pro might be quite twice as fast because of the Air for processor-intensive jobs. The configuration we recommend has an equivalent improved keyboard as other recent Best MacBook models uses slightly Bar rather than typical function keys, and includes double the memory, storage, and Thunderbolt 3 ports of the MacBook Air we recommend.

We don’t recommend the $1,300 version of the 13-inch Pro, which has the improved keyboard but still uses older eighth-generation Intel processors and has only two Thunderbolt 3 ports. economize and obtain the Air, or intensify to the four-port version and obtain the additional performance.

A look at the open Macbook Pro
Photo: Andrew Cunningham

Apple’s 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro—specifically the $1,800 configuration with 16 GB of RAM, a 512 GB SSD, and 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports—is better than the MacBook Air for a selected quite work that doesn’t require a faster graphics processor but does enjoy additional processor speed. This includes things like encoding video, compressing files, and compiling apps for distribution via any of Apple’s various app stores. Its four Thunderbolt 3 ports (two on each side) also make it a touch more convenient to connect multiple monitors and other accessories to the laptop at an equivalent time. These aren’t things that everybody needs, which is why the Air remains our main pick, but they will be nice to possess if you employ more demanding apps to form a living.

Most common tasks—opening apps and browser windows, playing videos, making a couple of photo edits—need peak processor performance for less than a couple of seconds at a time, so you won’t notice a difference between the Air and therefore the Pro for those things. But the professional features a better cooling system that permits its quad-core Intel Core i5 to run faster for extended without overheating, which suggests that when using all four processor cores for quite a couple of minutes, the professional features a big advantage over the Air.

The 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro
The 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro has the same Magic Keyboard as the 16-inch version, including the Touch Bar. Photo: Andrew Cunningham

It took the Core i5 version of the 13-inch Pro 13 minutes and 12 seconds to transcode a 31-minute 1080p test video; the Core i5 version of the Air took 29 minutes and 45 seconds, over twice as long. Put simply, the Air may be a great computer if you sometimes compile code, or edit videos or large photos. the professional may be a far better option if you are doing those things a day.

That said, the Pro’s Intel Iris Plus GPU was around only 25% faster than the Air’s version of an equivalent GPU—it might help keep animations smoother on a multi-monitor setup, but it won’t be dramatically better for games or 3D drafting work. people that need better graphics during a Mac will be got to intensify to the 16-inch MacBook Pro and its dedicated AMD Radeon GPUs.

Recommended MacBook Airquad-core 10th-gen Core i58 GB256 GB$1,100
Base-model MacBook Proquad-core 8th-gen Core i58 GB256 GB$1,300
Upgraded MacBook Airquad-core 10th-gen Core i516 GB512 GB$1,500
Recommended 13” MacBook Proquad-core 10th-gen Core i516 GB512 GB$1,800
Recommended 16” MacBook Prosix-core 9th-gen Core i716 GB512 GB$2,400
Apple’s MacBook lineup has some confusing overlap. We currently recommend three different versions depending on what you do on your computer.

The Pro we recommend comes with 16 GB of memory and 512 GB of storage, two things which will help with creating and editing large files. Both of those upgrades are often added to the Air for $200 a piece, bringing the value of the i5 Air to $1,500—if you’re already considering both of these upgrades for an Air, the $1,800 Pro might make even more sense. The 13-inch Pro also offers a 32 GB RAM upgrade for an additional $360 and SSDs up to 4 TB, though you ought to still consider auxiliary storage before you pay Apple’s sky-high SSD prices.

The rest of the Pro’s features are similar or just like those of the Air. Its Magic Keyboard has an equivalent improved travel you get in other recent MacBook models, though it does include Apple’s Touch Bar instead of a row of physical function keys. the massive multi-touch trackpad is identical. The Pro’s 13-inch 2560×1600 IPS screen supports the DCI-P3 color gamut, which may display more reminder red and green than the Air’s sRGB screen, but both screens are equally bright and sharp and can look an equivalent to most of the people . the professional lasted 8 hours and 36 minutes in our battery test, barely longer than the Air’s 8 hours and 10 minutes. And while the three .1-pound Pro maybe a little heavier than the two .8-pound Air, that’s not a difference you’ll really feel once you’ve tucked the laptop into a bag or backpack.

Most powerful, biggest screen

The 16-inch MacBook Pro has a larger screen, as well as the fastest, most powerful components Apple ships in a laptop plus a new scissor-switch keyboard that’s miles better than the old butterfly version. But you pay a lot for that extra speed.

Recommended configuration

Processor:six-core Intel Core i7-9750HMemory:16 GB
Graphics:AMD Radeon Pro 5300MStorage:512 GB SSD

The 16-inch MacBook Pro costs quite twice the maximum amount because the Air, and it’s worth that investment as long as you’re editing huge photos and videos, connecting to multiple high-resolution 4K or 5K monitors, or working with 3D drafting software. You wouldn’t notice an enormous speed boost in everyday computing tasks compared with the Air or 13-inch Pro, but our recommended configuration’s six-core Intel Core i7 processor can provide it a speed boost of nearly 80% over the Air when rendering video or compiling code, and it’s discrete AMD Radeon GPUs provide better performance when running 3D drafting programs or games.

And if you would like more power, you’ll get an eight-core processor, faster graphics, and the maximum amount as 64 GB of memory during this model—none of that’s possible with the Air or maybe with the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Because you can’t upgrade Apple’s laptops later—the memory, storage, and processors are all built in—you got to confirm to shop for the proper configuration. We’ve listed our recommended configuration for every of our picks within the sections below.

If you’re not wedded to Apple’s ecosystem and its OS, macOS, we have a separate guide dedicated to helping you discover the proper laptop.

A 2019 model of the 16 inch MacBook Pro
Photo: Andrew Cunningham

The 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019) is far more computer than you would like to browse the web, edit documents, or do casual photo and video editing. But if you need the extra processing power required to edit photos and videos professionally, to run 3D drafting programs, or to compile app code for Apple’s app stores, or if you want a bigger screen for editing large spreadsheets and databases on the go, the Pro might be worth the extra money.

Our recommended configuration’s six-core Intel Core processor can give it a speed boost of almost 80% over the Air when rendering video or compiling code, and the optional eight-core processor can provide an even larger improvement. The dedicated AMD Radeon graphics processors perform better than Intel’s integrated graphics when the laptop is running 3D drafting programs or games, and they make this model the only MacBook that can use two 5K (or 6K) external displays instead of just one. It also has a total of four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, and its speakers are surprisingly good for a laptop.

But it costs more than twice as much as the MacBook Air, it’s 1.6 pounds heavier, its battery life is relatively mediocre, and it runs a little hot—though that last part has been true of most 15-inch MacBook Pros in years past.

We recommend the $2,400 configuration of the 16-inch Pro, which includes a six-core Core i7 processor, 512 GB of storage, 16 GB of memory, and the AMD Radeon Pro 5300M graphics processor. Although 16 GB of memory is plenty even for most professionals, you can have 32 GB of memory for an extra $400 or 64 GB for $800—Apple’s other laptops top out at 16 GB. Only creative professionals who make their living editing video, doing 3D drafting, or coding apps should even consider paying more for an eight-core processor or the Radeon Pro 5500M GPU; the added cost is just too much to justify otherwise, and our recommended configuration remains plenty fast. You can even have the maximum amount as 8 TB of internal storage, but Apple’s storage prices are so high—the 8 TB SSD upgrade costs an equivalent amount because the laptop itself—that cloud storage or auxiliary storage may be a more economical option.

The keyboard of the 16 inch MacBook Pro
The 16-inch MacBook Pro’s improved scissor-switch keyboard and physical Esc key replace the old butterfly keyboard, and they’re a big improvement. As for the gigantic trackpad, it’s the best we’ve used on a laptop. Photo: Andrew Cunningham

The 16-inch MacBook Pro’s screen includes DCI-P3 color gamut support and therefore the True Tone feature—so it can display more reminder some colors than sRGB displays and may change the tint of your display to match your ambient lighting—just because the screen on the MacBook Air does. But the 16-inch model’s higher, 3072×1920 resolution allows it to suit more stuff directly . the larger screen makes a big difference when you’re editing photos or working during a large spreadsheet, and therefore the Pro remains about an equivalent size and weight as high-performance 15-inch laptops from most PC makers.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro also includes the improved Magic Keyboard design that swaps the firm but shallow butterfly switches call at favor of scissor switches with a springier feel and deeper, more satisfying key travel. and therefore the Touch Bar, previously one continuous strip across the highest of the keyboard, has split into three pieces: a physical Esc key on the left, the otherwise same-old Touch Bar within the center, and a standalone Touch ID sensor and power button on the proper . The Touch Bar still doesn’t feel necessary, but these design improvements address a couple of long-standing complaints. The 16-inch Pro’s Force Touch trackpad is additionally considerably larger than either that of the 13-inch Air or that of the 15-inch Pro it replaces—so much in order that I experienced a couple of instances where my palms accidentally activated it while i used to be typing (though other Wirecutter staffers didn’t encounter this issue).

Although the 16-inch MacBook Pro is considerably larger and heavier than any of Apple’s 13-inch laptops—it’s 14.09 inches wide and 9.68 inches deep, and it weighs 4.3 pounds—its measurements are in line with those of other laptops we’ve tested with similar specs but with smaller, 15-inch screens. It’s also costlier than those laptops, though: Dell’s XPS 15, for instance, offers comparable processors, GPUs, memory, and storage for fewer than $2,000, and that’s typical of larger, more powerful laptops aimed toward creative professionals. That isn’t helpful if you would like or like better to use macOS, but it does put Apple’s pricing in perspective.

How we picked

The 13-inch MacBook Air rests on top of the Pro
The 13-inch MacBook Air (top) and 13-inch MacBook Pro (bottom). Photo: Andrew Cunningham

As of this review, Apple proposes three different laptops in various configurations. We considered the following criteria when deciding which ones to recommend:

  • Performance: Dual-core Intel Core processors are okay for basic browsing and light photo editing, but we recommend a four- or six-core processor if you’re doing heavy multitasking, editing videos, or compiling code. All MacBooks include a minimum of 8 GB of RAM, which is plenty for everyday tasks, but you ought to consider upgrading to 16 GB or 32 GB if you edit a lot of large files or want to run Windows apps in a virtual machine.
  • Display: A high-resolution IPS display is a must on any laptop priced at or above $1,000. All of Apple’s Retina displays are sharp and color-accurate and capable of displaying nearly 100% of the sRGB color gamut. MacBook Pro models include screens that support the larger DCI-P3 color gamut, which just means that they can display more shades of some colors than sRGB displays—this feature is nice to have but not necessary for most people.
  • Ports: All of Apple’s laptops now use Thunderbolt 3 ports exclusively, for everything from data to video to charging; Thunderbolt 3 ports are fully compatible with all USB-C accessories and cables, but Thunderbolt 3 offers better performance. All MacBooks include at least two of these ports, so you can charge the laptop and connect a second device at the same time. We wish they had a greater number and variety of ports than they do, but two ports are workable. We have picked for both Thunderbolt 3 docks and USB-C docks, as well as for USB-C monitors, USB-C data cables and video cables, spare or replacement USB-C chargers, and other accessories that will help you connect all of your old stuff to these new ports.
  • Keyboard, Touch Bar, and Touch ID: You shouldn’t buy a MacBook that still has the low-travel butterfly-switch keyboard that Apple installed in all of its MacBooks between 2015 and 2019, mostly because of its unsatisfying, flat feel and well-documented reliability problems. Our picks all have the newer scissor-switch keyboard, which is nicer to type on and shouldn’t be as susceptible to dust and dirt. All current MacBooks include the Touch ID fingerprint sensor; as for the Touch Bar, in our tests, the presence or absence of the Touch Bar didn’t factor in one way or the other since it’s a neat feature but still mostly superfluous.
  • Size and weight: All of Apple’s laptops are relatively thin and lightweight compared with similar laptops from other manufacturers, but the 13-inch models tend to supply the simplest combination of size, weight, and performance.
  • Price: Macs cost a lot, but most people don’t need to buy the most expensive versions. Our recommended configurations balance performance, storage, and price—we especially recommend counting on cloud storage or auxiliary storage, if you’ll, rather than buying a bigger SSD since Apple’s expensive storage upgrades add hundreds of dollars to the price of its laptops.
  • Battery life: When you’re performing basic computing tasks such as browsing or emailing, all of Apple’s laptops should be able to get you through most of an eight-hour workday on a single charge.

The competition

All of Apple’s current laptops include the much-improved scissor-switch Magic Keyboard, so you’ll run into the old failure-prone butterfly-switch keyboard as long as you purchase a refurbished model. Apple’s refurbished store is typically an honest thanks to economizing on a like-new laptop, but as long as you’ll buy the 2020 versions of the MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro, or the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Avoid the 2018 and 2019 versions of the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pros made between 2016 and 2019, and any 15-inch MacBook Pro (the 16-inch replaced the 15-inch model in late 2019).

Most people should skip the version of the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, which does include the new Magic Keyboard but still uses older 8th-generation Intel Core processors. These processors are a touch faster than the Core i5 MacBook Air at tasks like encoding video and compiling code, but most of the people should either economize and buy the Air for $1,100 or spend a touch more and obtain the faster processor, extra ports, and increased memory and storage of the $1,800 Pro.

Apple’s 12-inch MacBook and therefore the 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Air was discontinued in July 2019, and therefore the 15-inch Pro went away in November 2019, but you’ll still be ready to find them at a reduction in Apple’s refurbished store. But we don’t recommend that the majority of people buy any of these laptops at any price. The 12-inch MacBook is slow and includes just one USB-C port—since that port also serves to charge the laptop, the 12-inch MacBook is far less flexible than even the two-port MacBook Air and Pro models we recommend. The old MacBook Air’s four-year-old processor and 1440×900 TN LCD screen are far inferior to the components in anything Apple currently sells. and therefore the 15-inch Pro still features a pretty high tag, uses the inferior butterfly-switch keyboard rather than the new scissor-switch version, and offers slower graphics processors and worse battery life than the 16-inch version.

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  1. […] If you would like a more powerful Mac with a bigger screen, take a glance at our full guide to MacBook models. […]

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