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(Pocket-lint) - If you're looking for an Apple MacBook, you've come to the right place. In this guide, we'll help you decide which is best for your needs.

When hunting for your next Apple laptop, the first thing to decide is which of the two lines you want to go down, the professional-focused MacBook Pro or entry-level MacBook Air. From there, you can then start looking at the different configurations and prices.

We've rounded up everything from the MacBook Air (2020) to the 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021), to help you work out what each model offers, how much they cost, how they can be configured and what their pros and cons are.

In short, it's an interesting and exciting time to buy a MacBook. The company is currently in the middle of a two-year transition to its own processors - Apple Silicon - and away from Intel, and the initial devices are proving seriously powerful. With these latest devices, Apple is also correcting many of the widely acknowledged mistakes it's brought to the line over the last half-decade.

After October's Apple 'Unleashed' event, we now have four new-age Apple MacBook models to pick between, as well as the Apple iMac (2021) and the Mac Mini (2020)

Read on to find out which Apple laptop is the one for you.

Best Apple MacBook: Summary

Apple MacBook Air

The MacBook Air (2020) is the cheapest, lightest model available, and likely the best pick for most everyday users. Basically, if you're not going to be using this day-in, day-out in a professional sense for years to come, or you simply don't care about having the technical specs that will futureproof your purchase in the long-term, this is the top pick on the market. 

It offers very solid battery life - around 15-20 hours - Touch ID and a Retina Display with True Tone technology, and will pretty much match the entry-level MacBook Pro (2020) in terms of performance.

We've seen plenty of updates to the Air over the last few years, but this latest one, and the transition to Apple Silicon in November 2020, was a huge leap forward for the line. You can read more below.

Apple MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro was updated in November 2020, as it moved across to Apple M1 processors. The only real difference between the 13-inch Pro and the latest MacBook Air is the fan that enables sustained loads over a longer period. It also has the Touch Bar, as well.

This model is still available, though we now also have the beefier 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models for 2021. Unveiled in October 2021, this pairing redefines the lineup and gives creatives a very powerful option to work from. Both feature either Apple's M1 Pro or M1 Max chips, the next iteration on from M1, but, as you might expect, they also have the price tag to match.

The latest MacBook Pro models are seriously expensive, but the benefit of this price separation is that it's now more clear which model is designed for you and your budget - something we'll have more on below.

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Apple MacBook Pro, 14-inch (2021)

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  • Dimensions: 1.55 cm x 31.26 cm x 22.12 cm, 1.5kg
  • Display:  14.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display; 3024 x 1964 pixels; ProMotion 120Hz
  • Connections: MagSafe charging; SDXC slot; HDMI port; three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports
  • Battery life: 17 hours
  • Release date: Late 2021
  • Processor: Apple M1 Pro or Apple M1 Max
  • Price: From $1999 / £1899

Though it's not technically the flagship MacBook Pro model, it is the model that most people hunting a professional-standard Apple laptop should consider. 

It's noticeably more affordable than its 16-inch sibling - while offering almost an entirely identical package, save for the reduced battery life and smaller screen - and represents the cheapest way of picking up the latest MacBook Pro. 

What you get in this setup is also very different to the 2020 model. Apple has come crawling back to ports, meaning you'll get an SDXC slot, HDMI port, MagSafe charging and three USB-C ports, and benched the futile Touch Bar for function keys once again. 

It also houses the second iteration of Apple's own processors, with the choice to go with M1 Pro or the more expensive M1 Max, which can provide a maximum 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU. If you go with the latter chip, RAM can also be maxed out at 64GB, with storage ranging anywhere from 512GB to a whopping 8TB, but, as you would expect, the price tag will very quickly start to rise with these upgrades.

There's also an improved 1080p FaceTime HD camera that sits in the middle of the all-new notch design. It helps Apple deliver the smallest bezel we've ever seen on a MacBook, and the jump up in display quality is instantly noticeable, whether you're involved in some light browsing or require distinct clarity for editing software.

Providing you don't need the extra screen real estate of the 16-inch model, this MacBook Pro is the right pick for heavy users - especially if you value futureproofed specs and tip-top performance.

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Apple MacBook Air, 13-inch (2020)

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  • Dimensions: 304.1 x 212.4 x 41-156mm, 1.25kg
  • Display: 13.3-inches, 2560 x 1600 (227ppi), 400nits brightness, True Tone
  • Connections: Two USB Type-C ports, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Battery: 15 - 18 hours
  • Processor: Apple M1
  • Release date: Late 2020
  • Price: From $999 / £999

Despite being released last year, this is still the MacBook model that's best for most people. It offers a superb blend of features, design, performance and affordability that ensures it can keep up with power-needy apps during work hours and still be light and comfortable to use in your downtime.

It features Touch ID, a Retina Display and True Tone technology, with the latest model also offering the same refreshed keyboard as the MacBook Pro devices, which should mean there are no more familiar breakdowns in this department.

There are now two versions of the Air, both with the same Apple M1 processor. The base model features 7-core graphics with the more expensive model having 8-core graphics. Performance is excellent and is very similar between the models which have 256GB and 512GB of storage, respectively. RAM also starts at 8GB and maxes out at 16GB.

The cheaper model retains its sub $1000 / £1,000 price point, and, once again, it's available in silver, space grey and gold. The FaceTime HD webcam sticks with 720p resolution, which isn't as good as the latest MacBook Pro devices, but this is a relatively minor point for most, we suspect.

The Air is a little more flexible than the old models when it comes to ports, too, in that it offers an extra USB-C port for a total of two. Again, it's not quite as port-rich as the new Pro options, but it'll likely be enough for most users.

In short, this laptop is a doozy - and the right pick for those who want a great MacBook experience, don't require the extra grunt power of Pro models and don't want to face their asking price. That means students, teachers and professionals who don't have task-heavy apps and platforms to work on will be very well catered for.

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Apple MacBook Pro, 16-inch (2021)

  • Dimensions: 1.68 cm x 35.57 cm x 24.81 cm; 2.1kg
  • Display: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR Display; 3456 x 2234 pixels; ProMotion 120Hz
  • Connections: MagSafe charging; SDXC slot; HDMI port; three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports
  • Battery life: 21 hours
  • Processor: Apple M1 Pro or Apple M1 Max
  • Release date: Late 2021
  • Price: From $2499 / £2399

Like its 14-inch sibling, this is a MacBook Pro for heavy professional users. And, naturally, this is the choice for those who prefer a bigger laptop; one with a (relatively) ample port array, line-leading battery life and enough processing power to blow the competition out the proverbial water.

Really, you're getting pretty much an identical package to the 14-inch model here, except for that improved battery life and the screen. That means there's still the same choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB (only with M1 Max) RAM, as well as the choice to go all the way from a 512GB SSD to an 8TB option.

Your needs will largely dictate whether you go for the 'standard' chip or require the top-spec M1 Max model, but, if you do begin maxing it out, you can receive up to a 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU.

You'll also get the price tag to match. The 16-inch model is obviously more expensive than the 14-inch equivalent, and you'll pay at least $500 / £500 more for the privilege of that big screen and slightly bumped battery.

Is the jump worth it? Not for most people - and, if we're honest, not even for most professional users - but it is for the ultimate power user for whom money is no object.

We'll be reviewing the 16-inch model over the coming weeks, so stay tuned for our full verdict.

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Apple MacBook Pro, 13-inch (2020)

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  • Dimensions: 1.56 cm x 30.41 cm x 21.24cm; 1.4kg
  • Display: 13.3-inches; LED-backlit with IPS panel; Retina; 2560 x 1600 (227ppi), 400nits brightness, True Tone
  • Connections: Two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports; 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Battery: 17 - 20 hours
  • Processor: Apple M1
  • Release date: Late 2020
  • Price: From $1299 / £1299

The MacBook Pro (2020) launched alongside the latest Air model, detailed below, and now represents the cheapest option for those interested in an Apple laptop with a little more oomph. 

The issue for this particular model is that it doesn't quite have the separation required to justify the extra $300/$300 over the Air, unless you're okay with the minor spec and performance upgrades and the presence of a fan. It's also now quite a drop-off from its siblings. The newer MacBook Pro models have a better display, the omission of the Touch Bar and tons more ports, to name just a few upgrades.

If that stuff doesn't really concern you, the 2020 MacBook Pro is still a great machine - particularly, we'd say, for those who want a laptop for mixed professional use and occasional personal use. The onboard SSD can be upgraded anywhere from the standard 256GB up to 2TB, though RAM is capped at either 8GB or 16GB. There's also an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, with the entire experience run by Apple's own M1 chip.

For those work calls, there's also the 720p webcam built into the bezel, which is the same as the Air and a step down from the other Pro models in the lineup.

Writing by Conor Allison. Originally published on 28 October 2016.