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No audio jack
Although it's a lot more streamlined now than it once was, the current MacBook Pro lineup still has a lot of configurations to choose from. As a result, it can be a bit of a challenge to figure out how to get the best bang for your buck. If you’re a generalist user with no specific requirements, we think Apple’s mid-range 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro is definitely the sweet spot in the Pro family.
For under $2,000, you’ll get Apple’s spectacular Retina Display, which has a wide color gamut and True Tone technology, along with an 8th-gen 2.4GHz (up to 4.1GHz) quad-core Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. Four thunderbolt ports provide the ability to connect a bunch of different accessories, and it’s also got Apple’s cool, yet controversial Touch Bar, complete with Touch ID and the highly-secure T2 chip built-in for secure sign-in and Apple Pay online transaction authorization.
It’s a great and well-rounded MacBook Pro at an affordable price, and should be well-suited for a variety of different uses. Seeing as every Apple MacBooks is designed to last, this one will easily provide enough power for years to come.
Touch Bar is super useful for audio editing
Excellent Multitasking capability
No native audio jack
Serious music producers will want lots of screen real estate for mixing up multiple tracks in GarageBand or Logic Pro X, so we’d definitely suggest springing for the 15-inch MacBook Pro. You’re also more likely to need the extra Thunderbolt 3 ports and the bigger battery life to support a collection of external mixers, sequencers, soundboards, and digital instruments, especially if you hop between multiple studios with different setups.
Some music editing apps can be processor-intensive, so the added horsepower of the Intel Core i9 model is a great choice, and we’d recommend bumping up the SSD to 512GB as sound libraries can eat up a lot of space — a full install of Logic Pro X’s entire library, for example, will take up 64GB by itself.
The Touch Bar is also handy for music production and works with a whole bunch of digital audio workstation (DAW) apps, like Apple’s own Logic Pro X, which uses the function key replacement for transport controls, project navigation, and intuitive manipulation of plug-in controls and effects.
Powerful i7-9750H CPU option
Macs are a long-time favorite of graphic designers, and when it comes to the best MacBook Pro for this purpose, screen size is king. The 15-inch True Tone Retina Display on Apple’s 2019 MacBook Pro will provide an absolutely gorgeous canvas on which to sketch and design any graphic project you can imagine, whether it’s corporate advertising print work in Illustrator, magazine layouts in InDesign, or modern web design in DreamWeaver.
There’s no need to spend a lot here either; the base 15-inch MacBook Pro wields more than enough horsepower for everything from Illustrator to Photoshop, with a bleeding-edge 9th-Gen Intel Core i7-9750H "Coffee Lake" CPU with six cores that can flex into turbo boost at speeds of up to 4.5 GHz. The Radeon Pro 555X GPU sports 4GB of GDDR5 memory for graphically intense applications, and of course, Apple’s True Tone Retina Display boasts a wide color gamut with a high level of color accuracy.
The 15-inch screen is also a must-have to provide as wide of a canvas as possible, not to mention the ability to show off your work to clients while you’re on the go. You’ll also get 16GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage, which should be more than enough for most design applications.
Touch Bar actually has some utility with audio mixing
3.5mm audio jack
Sub-par storage capacity
Only two USB-C connections
Even for those simply looking to mix and spin a few tracks, a MacBook Pro is still a great choice over a lower-end MacBook Air. First of all, it has the Touch Bar, which adds some exciting features to many of the popular DJ apps — Algoriddim’s djay Pro 2 included.
Until recently, this would have required a jump up to Apple’s mid-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, which really would be overkill in a lot of other ways, but fortunately, with the newly-refreshed entry-level model, you can get all of Apple’s Touch Bar goodness at a much more affordable price. Mixing like a DJ no longer requires the top-end performance that a full digital audio workstation does.
In other words, Apple’s 1.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 MacBook Pro will more than suffice, even if we'd recommend a 256GB SSD upgrade to store your healthy-sized library of music. You’ll be limited to only two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports on this model, one of which you’ll need to use for power, but most DJ rigs incorporate their own hubs, and the MacBook Pro still has a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can plug your headphones straight in.
Retina display offers excellent fidelity
Excellent battery life
Tons of USB-C connections
No USB-A inputs
On the larger side for a MacBook
Touching up photos? While you may not need top-of-the-line specs, you don't have to cut corners when it comes to your display. This 16-inch MacBook Pro has one of the largest portable displays available for a MacBook and plenty of power to back it up. A core i9 processor and 16GB of RAM keep things running smoothly and a 1TB SSD provides plenty of storage for even the highest resolution photos.
This 16-inch display features a crystal clear Retina display that supports up to 2880x1800 native resolution as well as Apple’s trademark Touch Bar slotted in right above the keyboard. While this feature has a variety of applications, it comes in particularly handy for photo or video editing, giving you plenty of storage for even the largest photo editing jobs. The quartet of USB-C thunderbolt connections offers plenty of versatility for charging, docks, and lightning-quick file transfers.
Form factor and portability are at the forefront of all Apple designs, and this MacBook is no exception. Featuring up to 11 hours of battery life, this slick laptop is deceptively light, weighing in at just over four pounds and little more than 16mm thick. This laptop not only looks great but sounds great too, with its six built-in speakers and force-canceling woofers. If you need a laptop with excellent visual fidelity and performance, the 16-inch MacBook Pro's got it where it counts.
Touch Bar is great for editing and multi-tasking
Three USB-C connections
16GB of memory
Needs more storage
Our pick for the best MacBook Pro for editing videos isn’t much different from what you’d use for graphic design since the requirements of apps like InDesign and Premiere Pro aren’t really all that dissimilar. In fact, the biggest difference here is that you’ll need a serious chunk of extra storage for all of the video footage you’ll be working with, so a bump to a 512GB SSD is going to be critical; you can go even bigger if you like, but with four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, we think most users will prefer to offload archive footage and only keep working projects on the internal SSD.
As with graphic design, a 15-inch screen is pretty much a requirement for working with video — if for no other reason than you’ll want as much room as possible for all of the various preview, timeline, graphics, and effects windows you’ll have to manage in like Final Cut Pro X or Premiere Pro. You’ll also get 16GB of memory and a discrete Radeon Pro GPU as part of the standard configuration, which will be more than enough unless you’re a Hollywood producer working on a feature film.
Touch ID and T2 security
8th-gen Intel CPU
Modest memory needs an upgrade
The MacBook Pro has become a favorite of coders, and this should be especially true if you’re planning to write apps for the iPhone and iPad ecosystem, where you’ll have no choice but to use a Mac. For most programming applications, however, you don’t need a ton of horsepower or storage, so you can save some cash by sticking with a slightly upgraded base model.
Apple’s newly-refreshed 13-inch MacBook Pro will more than do the job, especially now that it’s gained an 8th-gen Core i5 CPU — that can turbo boost up to 3.9 GHz — and comes standard with a 256GB SSD. While it’s arguably not necessary for most coding apps, you do also get Apple’s Touch Bar, plus Touch ID and the new T2 chip for added security.
We’d recommend bumping the memory up to the 16GB configuration just to give you the necessary headroom for more complex code builds, but otherwise, this light and portable machine should really be more than enough for coders on the go.
Lower than average base CPU performance
Apple’s 2017 entry-level MacBook Pro was already our pick for visual arts college students, but this affordable Mac has gotten even more powerful, making it a better buy than ever.
For the same price as before, you’re now getting Apple’s OLED Touch Bar, bringing it into the same class as the more premium MacBook Pros, while also adding Touch ID and Apple’s T2 chip for much better security — an especially great feature for something you’ll be carrying around the campus with you.
Even better, while the 1.4 GHz Intel Core i5 CPU may not sound like much, it’s an 8th-gen quad-core chip — a bump up from the previous two-core version, making it 83 percent faster. Once Turbo Boost kicks in, it burns rubber at an impressive 3.9GHz. You’ll also get 8GB of memory and a 128GB SSD, which should be more than enough to take you through your college writing assignments. Of course, if you’re taking a programming or graphic design course, you may want to consider one of the more specialized models.
Excellent gaming performance in the Mac ecosystem
Plenty of USB-C ports
Limited game compatibility
No native USB-A ports
If you're going to game on a MacBook, this should be this one. While Macs certainly aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when gaming away from a console, this 15-inch MacBook Pro has all the right specs to provide excellent gaming performance. This most recent iteration of the MacBook Pro comes equipped with a Radeon Pro 560X GPU paired with a 9th-gen i9 CPU and 16GB of RAM, making it a solid choice for gaming if you’re in love with the Apple ecosystem. A 512GB SSD also ensures that you won’t run out of storage for your favorite titles anytime soon.
Just like virtually all new MacBook models, this laptop comes equipped with a Retina display, which supports resolutions up to 2880x1800. This laptop also features the MacBook’s trademark Touch Bar seated above the keyboard that can be retasked for a variety of functions. As far as gaming laptops go, the MacBook Pro is also remarkably portable, weighing in at just 4 pounds and a little over 15mm thick.
This laptop also features excellent connectivity options with a total of four USB-C Thunderbolt ports for quick file transfers and charging. And while USB-C isn’t ideal for connecting peripherals, it does give you the option of a dock for additional input options. If you’re into gaming but just can’t quit the Apple ecosystem, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is the way to go.
Our writers spent 4 hours researching the most popular MacBook Pros on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 8 different MacBook Pros and read over 15 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.