Which MacBook Should I Buy? The 5 Best MacBooks of 2018

See which Apple laptop is right for you

MacBook
Apple

Widely hailed as some of the best laptops available today, Apple's emphasis on power and portability has broken their laptop lineup into three separate categories: MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. And each category has different perks. The MacBook Air's thin, lightweight build makes it ideal for portability, while the MacBook Pro is perfectly suited for creative types. Still not sure which MacBook is best for your needs? Take a look at Apple’s current laptop lineup.

The 12-inch MacBook has changed relatively little over its three-year career, but the latest version addresses its biggest complaint: the keyboard. Previous versions lacked tactile feedback and users said it just never felt right. Now, the 2017 version adopted the butterfly mechanism present on the Pro line, which gives it a more substantial and satisfying feel.

The latest MacBook also bumps up its processing power. The default is still the low-powered Intel Core m3, but you can now upgrade to low-voltage Core i5 and Core i7 Intel CPUs for an additional cost. Other than that, the MacBook will be surprisingly similar, with the same aluminum body and his-res Retina display. Unfortunately, that means you’re still stuck with just one USB-C port, but if that’s not a deal-breaker, you’ll agree that this is the best MacBook yet.

After less than a year on the market, the 13-inch MacBook Pro sans Touch Bar has been upgraded with Intel's Kaby Lake processor. The upgrade yields about a 20 percent boost in performance and actually comes at a -- wait for it -- lower cost! Of course, you can choose from several different configurations, so your total price will depend on factors like how much RAM you need.

Aside from that, the 2016 and 2017 models are almost identical. They are the same size and shape, and the 2017 model also features the controversial butterfly mechanism keyboard. The Force Touch trackpad is the same size as before as well, and it still has a LED-backlit display with the same 2,560 x 1,600-pixel native resolution and IPS technology. Battery life stands tall at about 10 hours. If you have the 2016 model, it’s probably not worth upgrading to this new version, but for those who can’t decide between the 12-inch MacBook and the 15-inch MacBook Pro, this 13-incher is a great compromise.

Apple might have been the first company to make touchscreen smartphones a thing, but when it comes to touchscreen laptops, Apple has yet to make a splash. The introduction of Apple’s Touch Bar is the closest you’ll get and radically re-envisions how touch should work on a laptop. The Touch Bar is a multi-touch OLED display panel that offers up contextual controls and visual settings that change depending on which app you're using. The display on this 13-inch notebook has also been upgraded so it’s brighter, offers better contrast and includes wide color gamut support.

Powered by a 3.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz, 256GB of SSD storage, 8GB of RAM and Intel Iris Graphics 650 GPU, this is one of Apple’s best performers yet. And you don’t have to listen very closely to tell that the built-in speakers take it up a notch too.

The King of MacBooks gets yet another upgrade, but this time it isn’t anything to write home about. Of course, that’s good news for those who splurged on the 2016 model. But the 2017 model features the same aluminum body, port selection, 2,880 x 1,800-pixel Retina display, butterfly mechanism keyboard and Touch Bar. For those unfamiliar, the Touch Bar is Apple’s foray into the world of touchscreen laptops and it extends across the top of the keyboard, replacing the old function key row. It lets you log in via your fingerprint, access volume and brightness controls and also changes contextually depending on which app you’re using. Configurations max out at 16GB of RAM, which unfortunately some might find limiting.

The biggest difference is the move to the 7th-generation Intel Core i-series CPUs. That also includes a jump in integrated graphics chip to the HD 630, and discrete graphics to Radeon Pro 555 and 560 options. It’s a welcomed upgrade, but one that most people probably won’t notice.

Arguably the first notebook to truly be labeled as an “Ultrabook,” Apple has done away with the 11-inch variant and now offers just one 13-inch model. Last updated in March of 2015, Apple’s only real change since then was to bump up standard RAM to 8GB right out of the box. The latest model offers a 5th generation Intel Core processor, flash storage and battery life that can last up to 12 hours. What it lacks is the Retina display that has become the gold standard for Apple computers and this makes the laptop feel a little older than others.

The .68-inch unibody aluminum design weighs 2.96 pounds and feels as durable as ever, even if it hasn’t been updated since 2010. Fortunately, inside this package is still top-notch (albeit older) processor performance that can keep up with many of today’s competitor laptops. The Air can handle light video and photo editing without shifting the computer into overdrive. If you value portability, a top-notch keyboard and trackpad, and you can overlook the older display, the Air remains a superb unit and is currently Apple’s least expensive model.

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