Best Mac 2023: Which MacBook, Mac mini, iMac, and more is the best?

Best Mac
(Image credit: Future/ iMore)

What a year it's been for Mac! Not one, not two, but six new MacBooks launched, including a 14-inch replacement for the entry-level MacBook Pro, and an all-new 15-inch MacBook Air. On top of that came excellent refreshes to the Mac Studio and wonderful Mac Mini, and the long-awaited return of the iMac. And there was the new Apple silicon Mac Pro desktop too — though that ended up being less exciting than we'd hoped for.

But which of the wide range of computers is the best? Which, in a shootout, would come out on top? There are a number of different factors that need to be taken into account before we start to think more about answering the question. Use case, price, power, and audience all need to be considered before finding the best Mac — not to mention whether or not to go for a desktop Mac or portable MacBook.

Here, we’ll be looking at the whole range. That’s inclusive of our picks from the best MacBook line, including the 2023 versions of the 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro, and the 15-inch MacBook Air M2, as well as last year's MacBook Pro 13-inch, and the MacBook Air M2 and M1. There are also desktop Macs, such as the new Mac mini, the M2 Mac Studio, and the M3 iMac. All of these Macs have been stacked against each other to find the best option all around (as well as picks for those with demanding workloads, or those on a tighter budget).

Mac user and lover
A picture of Tammy Rogers
Mac user and lover
Tammy Rogers

I have used Macs for a long time (and currently own a MacBook Pro M1 Pro), and now I spend even more time testing them. Using both my own experience with the various laptops and desktops as well as the experience of others on the iMore team, this list has been carefully considered and curated to make sure you have an idea about which Mac is going to be the best for you.

The Best Macs out there

You can always trust iMore. Our team of Apple experts have years of experience testing all kinds of tech and gadgets, so you can be sure our recommendations and criticisms are accurate and helpful. Find out more about how we test.

Best Mac: MacBook Air 2022

MacBook Air 2022

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / iMore)
The best Mac for everyone

Specifications

Display: 13.6-inch (diagonal) Liquid Retina display
Processor: Apple M2 chip
RAM: 8GB, 16GB, or 24GB
Storage: Up to 2TB
Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD camera
Battery: Built-in 52.6-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
Battery life: Up to 15 hours wireless web, up to 18 hours Apple TV app movie playback
Dimensions: 0.44 cm x 30.41 cm x 21.5 cm
Weight: 1.24 kg (2.7 pounds)

Reasons to buy

+
Great price
+
Long battery life
+
Five color choices

Reasons to avoid

-
Can get expensive very quickly with add-ons
Why the best?

The MacBook Air is a lot of things to a lot of users. It's the perfect middle ground in the Mac lineup, with upgrade options if you need something a little more potent, and some very competitively priced lower specced machines if you don’t want to spend as much. It’s easily worth the five stars it received in our review, and the accolade of being the best Mac.

The 2022 MacBook Air really is the laptop for almost everyone. It’s already the best MacBook for most people in our eyes, but it also manages to build a package that puts it at the top of the Mac tree, desktop or portable, overall as well. It was the second Mac with an M2 chip inside, but it was the first with a new design.

Replacing the then-aging M1 MacBook Air and its more wedge-like shape, the flatter, MacBook Pro-esque MacBook Air M2 brought some serious new design chops to the table. It’s sleek, attractive, and most importantly retains the thinness and lightness that makes it a truly portable machine. You can get it in more colors than any other MacBook as well, with fetching Space Gray, Silver, Starlight, and Midnight shades on offer. The screen that lies within the clamshell is a stunning Liquid Retina number, with an extra 0.3-inches giving you a little more space to work or play with compared to its predecessor. The keyboard has been improved as well, with more key travel and slightly larger keys, as well as a useful function row.

M2 Macbook Pro 13 Inch Hero

(Image credit: Future)

Inside the MacBook Air M2 is, obviously, that M2 chip. The M2 brought a massive boost of power to the MacBook Air, making it a true portable powerhouse. It’s cooled without a fan as well, so it is utterly silent in operation – although you’ll lose a little bit of performance over the actively cooled MacBook Pro 13-inch that comes with the same chip. There are RAM options up to 24GB, which is plenty for anyone, although the base model with its 8GB feels a step behind current RAM requirements. Sensible buyers would want to upgrade to 16GB of RAM for a degree of future-proofing. Storage-wise, you can choose up to a 2TB SSD, which is plenty, and it’ll last you a good long time with up to 18 hours depending on how you use the MacBook.

It starts at prices a little more expensive than the older model, coming in at $1199 for the base model. If you want to spec your machine up to something a little more potent, then you’ll have to pay a little extra on top of that price as well, although certain options like extra RAM are worth the outlay. That price makes it one of the less expensive Macs as well, and puts it firmly as the best Mac for almost everyone.

And don't forget the all-new 15-inch MacBook Air! With its larger screen it's arguably an even better machine, pretty much identical to the 13-inch MacBook Air in all other respects. However it's higher price tag puts it a little further out of reach of some pockets, hence the 13-incher being our model of choice.

iMore’s best Config:

MacBook Air (M2 / 512GB SSD / 16GB RAM) $1,599 / £1,649

MacBook Air (M2 / 512GB SSD / 16GB RAM)
$1,599 / £1,649

If you’re simply looking for an Apple MacBook primarily for web browsing, interacting with friends and family, and perhaps some light office work (or even some simple gaming), the M2 MacBook Air is the option to go for. It’s Apple’s most affordable MacBook in the current generation (not including the still-on-sale M1 model), and its performance is remarkable given its size. Opt for the 512GB SSD configuration to ensure you get the top speeds from the storage possible, while 16GB of RAM is the minimum we’d recommend for even everyday computing tasks in the modern age. Buy it here.

Best budget Mac: Mac mini M2

M2 Mac mini on a wooden desk

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future)
The best Mac on a budget

Specifications

CPU cores: 8
GPU cores: 10
Unified Memory: Up to 24GB
Memory speed: 100GB/s
SSD Storage: 256GB 512GB 1TB 2TB
Audio: Built-in speaker, 3.5mm headphone jack
Thunderbolt 4 ports: 2x
USB-A: 2x
HDMI: Yes
Ethernet: Gigabit or up to 10Gb
Wi-Fi: 6E
Bluetooth: 5.3

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful M2 chip configuration options
+
Cheaper starting price
+
Pair with your own accessories

Reasons to avoid

-
Not upgradeable
-
No front-facing ports
-
Set up with non-Apple wireless accessories is a pain

The Mac mini is one of the newest machines on the list, and also one of the most impressive for the price. The base model only costs $599, making it the cheapest Mac that you can buy today. For the money, you’ll get a compact desktop with performance that you wouldn’t expect to find at this price point.

First, there’s the M2 under the hood, with a 10-Core GPU. That's more GPU power than found in the M2 in the base model MacBook Air M2, and it comes at a much lower price. There are plenty of options if you want to make the Mac mini more powerful as well, with a little extra RAM going a long way in making it a very competent computer for lighter workloads.

M2 Mac mini on a wooden desk

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future)

It’s not an unattractive little box, but it's also mostly just a slab of aluminum that sits on your desk with an Apple logo on top. It does require a monitor as well, so factor that into the end cost, although you can easily find one of the best Mac Monitors that fits within your price requirements.

We love this Mac for its price and performance, giving it five stars in our review. The inputs at the back are plenty for all your peripherals, and the specs help it keep up with its more expensive brothers and sisters. It's not the most flexible, given it needs to be rooted to a desk, but it's easily the best Mac if you don’t want to spend as much on your new computer.

There is a version you can get with the M2 Pro chip, too, which is even more powerful, but that makes it a little too expensive to be a ‘budget Mac’. It’s still an excellent machine, but not suitable for this section.

iMore’s best Config:

M2 (10-Core GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD) $599 / £699

Mac mini M2 (10-Core GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD) $599 / £699

The base model is perfect here. It’s very well priced at $599, and its powerful M2 chip is great for light workloads and browsing the web. You might not be gaming or editing videos with it, but for the price, it's a phenomenal deal. You can grab some extra RAM for a little more multi-tasking smoothness, but then it starts to become a little too expensive to be considered budget. This is the sweet spot. Buy it here.

Best Mac for professionals: MacBook Pro 14 and 16-inch

M3 MacBook Pro review

(Image credit: Future)
Best Macs for professionals

Specifications

Display: 14.2-inch/16.2inch (diagonal) Liquid Retina XDR display
Resolution: 3024 by 1964/ 3456 by 2234 pixels
Security: Touch ID
CPU: Up to 16-core M3 Max SoC
GPU: Up to 40-core
Unified Memory: 18GB, 36GB, 64GB, 96GB, 128GB
Storage: 512GB SSD, 1TB SSD, 2TB SSD, 4TB SSD, 8TB SSD
Dimensions: 0.61 x 12.31 x 8.71/ 0.66 x 14.01 x 9.77 inches
Weight: 1.6/ 2.15 kg
Battery Life: 18/ 22 hours
Ports: Three Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, HDMI port, SDXC card slot
Camera: 1080p FaceTime HD camera

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible performance
+
Luxurious industrial design
+
Long-lasting battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Design remains the same as last generation
-
Very expensive
-
Not upgradable post-purchase

The staggering new M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBooks were launched less than 12 months after the M2 line, but there's a big difference to be found. The M3 chip line is built on a new 3nm process that packs more processing power into a smaller space. That means these chips are faster and more power-efficient than ever before. On the outside, not much has changed, the chassis is still the same square, premium aluminum shell. There's also the same number of ports including HDMI, MagSafe, USB-C, and an SD card slot. The big headline is a new Space Black color which is designed to repel fingerprints and is a real head-turner. 

M3 MacBook Pro review

(Image credit: Future)

Under the hood, the new M3 Pro is actually nerfed slightly over the M2 Pro lineup, featuring fewer GPU cores and less memory bandwidth. By contrast, the M3 Max boasts 16 CPU cores and 40 GPU cores, as well as up to 128GB of Unified Memory clocked at 400GB/s. It's the model we tested in our review and an absolute beast. If you're on the hunt for a "Max" MacBook Pro, definitely choose the M3. If, on the other hand, you don't need all that power and the "Pro" M-series will do the job for you, it's worth looking around for a good deal on that M2 range. 

iMore’s best configuration:

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max / 14-Core CPU / 30-Core GPU / 36GB RAM / 1TB SSD) $3,499 / £3,599

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max / 14-Core CPU / 30-Core GPU / 36GB RAM / 1TB SSD)
$3,499 / £3,599
If your workflow of 3D rendering, high-end audio production, or complex coding demands the best of the best, then the 16-inch M3 Max with a 14-Core CUP and 30-Core GPU is the machine for you. While you could opt for 48GB of RAM over the 36GB I suggest here, or even 96GB, and as much as an 8TB SSD over the 1TB I’ve suggested, the added expense for both is astronomical and won’t massively improve performance in the case of the RAM. Buy it here.

Best Mac design: iMac M3

The 2023 M3 iMac on a wooden desk, showing the features of macOS Sonoma

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future / Apple)
The best all-in-one desktop with M1

Specifications

Display: 24-inch (diagonal) Retina 4.5K display
Processor: 8-core Apple M3 chip
RAM: Configurable up to 24GB unified memory
Storage: Configurable up to 2TB SSD
Cameras: 1080p FaceTime HD camera with M1 ISP
Dimensions: 46.1 cm x 54.7 cm x 14.7 cm
Weight: 4.46 kg (9.83 pounds) for the base model or 4.48 kg (9.88 pounds) for a higher-end model

Reasons to buy

+
Super fast M3 chip
+
8-core Apple M1 chip
+
Gorgeous design

Reasons to avoid

-
Lightning accessories
-
Port selection could use a refresh
-
Not upgradeable

It was a long time coming, but when the M3 iMac landed, it didn't disappoint. With Apple's latest, fastest chipsets, and retaining that iconic design, Apple's family-friendly desktop machine remains a great entry point into the world of Mac. A gorgeous screen, slimline design and approachable set up (everything you need is in the box) means it still sees off its all-in-one Windows competition too.

However, we were disappointed to see the iMac still shipping with Lightning-port connection devices in terms of its Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad. With all other elements of Apple's product line now moved over to USB-C, it feels a step behind the pack, and one final reason to keep those Lightning cables around.

The 2023 M3 iMac on a wooden desk, showing the features of macOS Sonoma

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future / Apple)

After three-or-so years stuck on M1 chip hardware, the jump to M3 chipsets for the iMac is a big deal. While iMac owners are unlikely to push the chip to its limits, improvements on the GPU side will suit those looking to game on Mac, with the iMac a very competent gaming machine thanks to ray tracing and Dynamic Caching support.

It’s well-priced, although you may want to spend a little more and get a bit more RAM. For an extra $200 you’ll be able to use the iMac for longer as apps become more RAM dependent, and you’ll know that it will be able to multitask better as well. The base model costs $1299/£1399, but we’d recommend the more expensive $1899/£1999 model with a beefier processor, additional storage and RAM. 

iMore’s Best configuration:

<strong>$1,899 / £1,999</strong></a></p> <p>This option is a little more expensive than the base model, but you’ll get to choose from more colors and you get a more powerful M3 chip and more RAM. That RAM choice is about as low as we'd like to go with a machine these days, despite whatever Apple is saying about the efficiency of its unified chip design. <a href=https://www.imore.com/"https://apple.sjv.io/c/221109/435031/7613?subId1=hawk-custom-tracking&sharedId=hawk&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.apple.com%2Fshop%2Fbuy-mac%2Fimac%2Fblue-24-inch-apple-m3-chip-with-8-core-cpu-and-10-core-gpu-8gb-memory-512gb%22 target="_blank"><strong>Buy it here.</strong></a></p>" data-widget-type="deal" data-render-type="editorial">
iMac M3 (8-core CPU, 10-core GPU M3/16GB RAM/512GB SSD

iMac M3 (8-core CPU, 10-core GPU M3/16GB RAM/512GB SSD) $1,899 / £1,999

This option is a little more expensive than the base model, but you’ll get to choose from more colors and you get a more powerful M3 chip and more RAM. That RAM choice is about as low as we'd like to go with a machine these days, despite whatever Apple is saying about the efficiency of its unified chip design. Buy it here.

Macs that didn’t make the cut

These Macs are all available to buy at the Apple store at the moment, but they are now either outdated completely or make little sense when compared to the other machines you can get. To be clear – these are not ‘bad Macs’. There are no bad Macs – but there are some that drastically need an update to make more sense in the grand scheme of the Mac lineup.

MacBook Pro 13-inch

13-inch MacBook Pro (2022)

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / iMore)
Still a great choice

Specifications

Display: 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology
Processor: Apple M2 chip
RAM: 8GB, 16GB, or 24GB
Storage: Up to 2TB
Cameras: 720p FaceTime HD camera
Battery: Built-in 58.2-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
Battery life: Up to 17 hours wireless web, up to 20 hours Apple TV app movie playback
Dimensions: 1.56 cm x 30.41 cm x 21.24 cm
Weight: 1.4 kg (3 pounds)

Reasons to buy

+
Has Apple M2 SoC
+
Touch Bar with Touch ID
+
20-hour battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Older style case
-
Maxes out at 24GB RAM
-
No MagSafe
-
Only a 720p FaceTime HD camera

One can’t help but ask ‘Why does this Mac exist?’ when looking at the MacBook Pro 13-inch with M2. Sure, its active cooling means its performance numbers are slightly better than the passively cooled MacBook Air M2, but the chassis that's been around for nearly ten years and the weird touch bar make it feel like an anachronism. If you want more power, you’ll spend the extra and grab the MacBook Pro 14-inch or 16-inch, and if you want something more portable then you’ll get the MacBook Air.

The only thing that sets it apart is its excellent battery life, which can last you up to 20 hours. Beyond that, however, this is a Mac to avoid.

MacBook Air M1

MacBook Air in leaves

(Image credit: iMore)

Specifications

Display Size: 13.3-inch (diagonal) Retina display
Resolution: 2560 by 1600 pixels
CPU: 8-core Apple M1 chip
GPU: 7-core
RAM: Up to 16GB
Storage: Up to 2TB SSD
Camera: 720p FaceTime HD camera
Ports: Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports, headphone jack
Battery life: Up to 18 hours
Dimensions: 0.63 x 11.97 x 8.36 inches

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible performance-per-watt
+
Huge battery improvement over Intel-based MacBook Air
+
Classic design with new scissor-switch keyboard

Reasons to avoid

-
Still some performance hiccups on emulated software
-
Basically the same physical design as the last two years
-
Webcam is still garbage

This is still a good computer, but it is now getting a little too out of date to recommend buying. It's cheaper than the new model, but its M1 chip could soon start to show its age. Spending the extra $200 on the M2 Air is the way to go here, given that we could be seeing even newer models that make this model completely defunct.

Mac Studio

Mac Studio M2 on a wooden desk in an office

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future)
For the most demanding workflows only

Specifications

Processor: Apple M2 Max chip or Apple M2 Ultra chip
RAM: Configure up to 128GB unified memory
Storage: Configure up to 8TB of SSD
Dimensions: 9.5 cm x 19.7 cm x 19.7 cm
Weight: Up to 3.6 kg (7.9 pounds)

Reasons to buy

+
Spec-wise, the best Mac right now
+
Only Mac to offer M2 Ultra
+
Lots of customization options

Reasons to avoid

-
Still requires a monitor, keyboard, and mouse
-
Gets expensive quickly

The M2-generation Mac Studio is so powerful, it could end up being the last computer you ever buy. Making demanding, professional workflows look like preschool work, the latest Mac Studio should be the first choice machine for high-level video editors, 3D artists and professional musicians. But PC owners with a top-end GPU still have an edge in a few key areas.

This Mac didn’t make the list not because it's a bad machine. It's a very good machine in fact, with gobs of power at your disposal and loads of configuration options. It doesn’t make the list because it is starting to show its age in the wake of the M3-generation launches, meaning an M3 Studio variant is worth holding out for now.

Mac Pro

the new Mac Pro with Apple silicon

(Image credit: Apple)

The new Mac Pro is another powerhouse, and all models are equipped with the M2 Ultra chip. There are loads of RAM options, and it will support up to six Pro Display XDRs which is a lot of mental 5K screens.

That said, the only people that should be buying this Mac are companies that need ridiculous amounts of processing power or people with more money than sense. It is a very powerful computer, but it is far, far too expensive. For most people with this sort of requirement, the Mac Studio now fits the bill. For ever more specialized workflows, if you don't know why you need a Mac Pro, that's a good sign that you don't need it at all.


Q&A

You likely have lots of questions about which Mac you should buy, how much Macs cost, what all this chip stuff is, and where the best place to buy a Mac is. We’ve answered all your burning questions below, so that you can make a more informed decision when you go to buy your new Mac.

MacBook or desktop Mac?

This question can be answered very simply by looking at your needs for a computer. If you need a computer that can be carried around, with a built-in screen, then a MacBook is for you. Think students and mobile professionals. For others, a desktop is the way to go. It’ll stay locked in one place, but you can easily pair it with a bigger screen and more comfortable peripherals.

Of course, a MacBook can also be plugged into a large monitor, making them more flexible. A desktop will cost you less for more power, however, which is also worth thinking about. For family computers, something like an iMac is perfect, with a great price and good features.

How much do Macs cost?

Macs actually span a much wider range of prices than you might expect. A Mac mini will cost as little as $599, but you can go all the way up to a Mac Pro which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. What you’ll pay comes down to what Mac you choose, and whether you choose to add to the baseline configuration. Those extras can cost a lot as well, with RAM upgrades often costing upwards of $200. Make sure you check around and have a play with the configurator on the Apple website to find your Mac price sweetspot.

M2 Mac mini on a wooden desk

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future)

What is an M-chip?

In 2020, Apple launched its M1 chip, an in-house designed processor that replaced the then-used Intel options. These new chips are super efficient, using far less power to give you loads of performance. The current models, the M2 chips, are Apple's latest silicon, and they are even more impressive than the M1 versions that came out a few years ago. If you want to learn more, we have a page dedicated to Apple’s M2 silicon, and it's latest M3 chips too.

As for the Pro, Max, and Ultra monikers that you might see, they are designations given to Apple’s more premium chips that offer more power. The best way to think of them is as super-charged versions of the base model chips, with more performance on tap. They are designed for more professional use cases.

MacBook Pro 14-inch in coffee house

(Image credit: iMore)

Where is the best place to buy a Mac?

The first port of call is going to be the Apple website, where you’ll find all the configuration options. This is the best place to go if you want to spec up a Mac and put more RAM, storage, or a more powerful processor inside. One thing worth noting about the Apple website, however, is that there are very rarely any kind of discounts, if ever. Students get slightly lower prices, as do teachers, but the Apple store is still going to be full price for most of us. From time to time refurbished models appear on the Apple store, but you won’t have any say over what configuration these come in, and they tend to be snapped up quickly.

If you don’t want to make too many changes to the base spec of a  Mac, then you can get one from Amazon. There, you’ll see discounts and fast shipping, albeit with fewer options to dial in exactly what you want from your Mac. There are other shops where you might find a Mac with more options, however.

BestBuy has configuration options, letting you choose different components that you may want to put in your Mac. They also have discounts as well, so you might even save a buck if you shop there. The same can be said for the retailer B&H Photo, where you can also choose what you want from your Mac. Fast delivery is also available here, and there are also discounts on occasion.

If you’re looking to save money on a Mac, you should watch out for sales like Black Friday. At some of the retailers above, you may find some brilliant prices on Macs over the biggest sale of the year, meaning you can get more Mac for your money.

MacBook Air 2022

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / iMore)

When do new Macs release?

That depends on the Mac – and the whims of Apple. Sometimes, a Mac might see an upgrade every year, receiving a new chip or a new chassis. Sometimes it might be years between variants, making it a little harder to predict. As a general rule, however, MacBooks tend to receive yearly updates, while desktop Macs remain on lengthier cycles before upgraded models arrive. Don’t let a machine being replaced by a newer edition deter you either – sometimes it's a great way of getting a great price!