The 9 Best Macbook Pros of 2019

Find the right Macbook Pro model for your needs

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The Rundown:

Our Top Picks

Best Value: 13-inch MacBook Pro (i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)

MacBook Pro

Apple 

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.

Best for Music Production: 15-inch MacBook Pro (i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD)

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.

Music production apps aren’t particularly demanding, so there’s not really any need to go beyond the base configuration, although 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.

Beyond that, the standard six-core Intel Core i7 and 16GB of memory will be more than enough considering the extra performance of the Radeon Pro. The Touch Bar is also handy for music production, 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.

Best for Graphic Design: 15-inch MacBook Pro (i7, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD)

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.

Check out some of the other best laptops for graphic design.

Best for DJing: 13-inch MacBook Pro (i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)

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. 

Best for Photo Editing: 13-inch (i5, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD)

If your primary use for a MacBook Pro is sprucing up photos, you won’t have to worry too much about high-end specs. Instead, you can save a bit of money with Apple’s newest 2019 entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro. Graced with an OLED Touch Bar and a nice performance boost, this affordable workhorse can handle all but the most extreme and specialized professional photo editing projects.

Screen quality is probably the most important factor when editing photos; you want a display that provides a very high level of detail, along with the best color accuracy possible. The good news, however, is that you don’t need to pay more for this, as all of Apple’s MacBook Pros feature the same high-resolution Retina display. At a resolution of 2560x1600 (227 PPI), a brightness of 500 nits, and a P3 wide color gamut, you won't miss a single stunning detail. True Tone technology takes it a step further, matching display color temperature to ambient lighting, so your blues look blue and your reds look red, regardless of whether you’re sitting on a sundeck or in an indoor office. 

The 512GB SSD upgrade provides more than enough space to keep a library of thousands of photos, even in RAW form, and the 8th-Gen Intel Core i7 CPU and 8GB of RAM will make short work of even the most complex multi-layered photo edits. A pair of Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C ports also easily allow you to add in external storage or connect an external display.

Best for Video Editing: 15-inch MacBook Pro (i9, 16GB RAM, 512GB)

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.

Best for Programming: 13-inch MacBook Pro (i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)

MacBook Pro

Apple

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.

Best for College: 13-inch MacBook Pro (i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD)

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.

Best for Gaming: 15-inch MacBook Pro (i9, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD)

When you think of gaming laptops, the MacBook Pro isn’t usually the first machine that comes to mind. After all, gaming support on the Mac has had a less than stellar history. However, from a raw performance standpoint, there’s no doubt that Apple’s highest-end 15-inch MacBook Pro has the chops to handle even the most hardcore games you can throw at it.

And this year’s move to a ninth-gen eight-core Intel i9-9980HK chip — the pinnacle of Intel’s new mobile chips — has put it into an entirely new performance class that rivals most desktop PCs. (Yet it’s still under 16mm thick and weighs just under four pounds.) You also get Apple’s unrivaled Retina Display with True Tone technology, so all of your games will look absolutely stunning.

For serious gaming, though, you’ll definitely want the model that sports the desktop-class Radeon Pro Vega 20 GPU, which also gives you 4GB of ultra-high-performance HBM2 memory. The 1TB SSD also gives you plenty of room for even the most storage-hungry games, plus enough space to partition off a section of the machine to run a separate Windows Bootcamp partition since we have no doubt you’ll want to use some of this serious power for your PC games, too. 

Interested in reading more reviews? Check out our roundup of the best 13-inch laptops.

Our Process 

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.