Best MacBook 2018

If you are on the market for a new Mac laptop then you will no doubt be wondering which of Apple’s MacBooks is best. In this article we’ll aim to answer the question of what is the best MacBook to buy, comparing the MacBook, MacBook Air, and the 13in and 15in MacBook Pro models. That’s already a lot of choice, but the decision is even more complicated because for each model there are quite a few configurations to choose from.

It’s not even a simple choice that you can make based on money, because the different Mac laptop categories all have similar starting prices. Just to complicate things even further, at various points during the year Apple tends to update its range of Macs, upgrading the processors, graphics cards, and other features to better equip users for the future. The company last updated the MacBook Pro in July 2018, but the 12in MacBook hasn’t been updated since June 2017, and the MacBook Air hasn’t been updated since 2015, bar a couple of tweaks to the now ageing processor and a bump to 8GB RAM as standard.

Just a few years ago we would have said without hesitation that the best MacBook for most people was the MacBook Air.

But thanks to Apple’s neglect of that model things aren’t so simple anymore. The Air used to define what a light, thin laptop was not just for Apple but for the entire laptop market. But its design has barely changed since 2008, and since then Apple has not only slimmed and refined its MacBook Pro, but also released the MacBook.

A lot has changed since Apple last updated the MacBook Air. That may soon change, however. Reports are indicating that Apple will soon update not only the MacBook but also the MacBook Air!

With that in mind, we advise that you don’t buy either model until after 30 October.

As for the MacBook Pro, as we said above, that machine has been upgraded already in 2018 – back in July – but there are two entry-level models (the ones without Touch Bar) that have yet to be updated. So, as with the Air and the MacBook, we would advise that you don’t buy these models as they will either be updated, or more likely, they will be discontinued when Apple introduces the new 13in MacBook that is rumoured… We don’t know if that will be a new MacBook Air or a new MacBook, just that will apparently be 13 inches and available for under GBP1000/£1000.

In this article we will look at the four basic models of MacBook available and assess which is best for most people looking to buy a MacBook in 2018. Just one warning – we expect the majority of the Mac laptop range to be updated before the end of October, and even the MacBooks aren’t upgraded at the 30 October event, expect them to be before the end of the year.

Best MacBook 2018

1. 12-inch MacBook

Best MacBook 2018

Possibly for the first time, we think that the best MacBook for most people is the 12in MacBook. Not Air or Pro, just MacBook.

Despite the fact that it is expensive, starting at GBP1,249, and only has one USB-C port for physical connectivity. But it is incredibly lightweight (less than 1kg), slim and increasingly powerful. Its thinness is achieved by running a solid-state drive with no fan, batteries that are layered cleverly to maximise capacity but minimise size.

It also has a Retina display vastly superior to that of the MacBook Air (which is the only Mac laptop not to have a hi-res display).

The 12in screen is enough for most people who want to word process, email, surf the web and sit in bed with Netflix. The base Intel Core m3 processor is enough for most needs, but you’ll want to upgrade to i5 or i7 if you do any level of gaming, or music and video production. It offers 10 hours of battery life, which in our experience is an overestimate, but it charges pretty fast.

The shallow keyboard won’t be to everyone’s tastes and there have been reports of problems with the MacBook keyboard (which may or may not have lead Apple to change the keyboard in the MacBook Pro). It’s also available in four colours including Rose Gold. In an increasingly wireless world people don’t need USB sticks and DVDs so we aren’t too worried about the lack of ports.

The MacBook was ahead of its time when it came out but in 2018 it represents the future of computing – and we feel it’s time everyone got on board.

Note: the MacBook hasn’t been updated since June 2017. We expect Apple to update it before the end of the year.

Read our MacBook review.

2. 13-inch MacBook Pro (2017)

Best MacBook 2018

We thought long and hard, and we recommend the MacBook Pro (without Touch Bar) over the MacBook Air too (despite the fact that when Apple updated the MacBook Pro in July 2018 it left the two non-Touch Bar models untouched). It starts at the same price as the 12in MacBook and has a larger 13.3in screen, a more powerful Core i5 processor and 10 hours battery life.

It is heavier and thicker than the MacBook despite the name, but you should pick it if you want more power behind your computing. It has two USB-C ports instead of one, and can manage photo and light video editing without breaking a sweat.

It has the same shallow keyboard as the MacBook (with the same MacBook keyboard problems) but if you like it you will get on with it just fine as the build quality on show is second to none. This model keeps the normal function row of keys, meaning you don’t have to get used to the Touch Bar and can fall into your normal Mac workflow easily.

For the same cost you get a 2.3GHz i5 processor instead of 1.2GHz m3, a better graphics card and 8GB of faster RAM, but only 128GB instead of 256GB. This is the Pro’s slight downside for the price as you’ll probably want to invest in more storage at point of sale, or at least get a hard drive. There are no USB-A ports on the MacBook Pro, so you will want to factor that in if your workflow currently relies on the ports.

The Pro remains a solid, dependable MacBook even if we do think it’s a touch too expensive now.

Note: this version of the MacBook Pro wasn’t updated in July 2018, Apple may update it before the end of the year, or it might discontinue it when the new 13in Mac laptop is launched.

Read our MacBook Pro review.

3. 13-inch MacBook Pro (2018)

Best MacBook 2018

Prior to Apple’s update to the Touch Bar verison of the 13in MacBook Pro in 2018 we found it hard to recommend based on the fact that we felt that the “pro” name was a bit of a misnomer. While the 15in model offered what we considered pro features, such as quad-core processors and a high spec graphics card, the 13in models were more suitable for office workers. We think there is a distinction between professional office workers and pro creatives, and that the 13in MacBook Pro definately didn’t suit the latter.

However, all that changed when the July 2018 update (to only the Touch Bar models) bought new quad-core Coffee Lake chips. Finally the gulf between the 13in and 15in MacBook Pro laptops narrowed. Of course, a professional machine comes with a professional price-point.

The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar costs from GBP1,749, which is hefty GBP500 more than the version without it. Luckily you are getting more than a gimmicky Touch Bar for your money.

You also get a Touch ID sensor, a much faster processor, better graphics (although still an Intel integrated GPU) and four USB-C ports rather than two. But is this enough to justify the very high price?

That depends on what you need from your Mac laptop. If you need a powerful Mac, but you don’t want to be spending GBP2,349 or more for a 15in MacBook Pro, then we think this is a good option, although you might want to consider an iMac as an alternative.

4. Apple MacBook Air

Best MacBook 2018

So here it is, the MacBook Air. It is by no means a bad laptop, but nine years into its lifecycle – and not having been updated since March 2015 (that’s more than three years!) – it is no longer our go-to recommendation.

But to start with the good things, it still has the best battery life of any MacBook around, with a promised 12 hours (but regularly clocking more). The 13.3in screen is big enough to work all day on, and the 1.8GHz Core i5 Broadwell (2015) processor might still be enough for some people’s everyday computing needs. The main thing in its favour is that at GBP949, it is GBP300 less than the cheapest MacBook or MacBook Pro so is better value (although we still that is too much to spend on a laptop with a chip that’s over three years old).

This price gets you 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, two USB-A ports, an SD card slot, a Thunderbolt 2 port and a MagSafe charger – the Air is the only MacBook to still use Apple’s clever MagSafe charging system that won’t pull your laptop off your desk if you trip over the cable.

The visual downside to the Air is the inferior display. It has a 1440 x 900 resolution screen – not Retina – with sizable bezels. Side by side with the 12in MacBook or MacBook Pro it really shows its age, and if your work is in photo and video it really isn’t an option.

But, if you want the cheapest route to macOS in laptop form then it is still here, and still powering careers in offices, schools and coffee shops all over the world. It is in many ways the quintessential laptop, and still has Apple’s full depth keyboard that millions are used to.

You can no longer buy the 11in version, but if you want familiarity and solid all-round performance, it’s still a decent choice, that will cost less.

Note: A respected Apple analyst maintains that Apple will soon be updating the MacBook Air, or at least replacing it with a new 13in Mac laptop. We think that this will happen in October.

Read our full MacBook Air review.

5. 15in MacBook Pro (2018)

Best MacBook 2018

The 15in MacBook Pro isn’t at the bottom of our list because it’s not a fabulous computer, it is.

It’s just going to be overkill for most people.

With prices starting at an eye-watering GBP2,349 – that’s GBP400 more than the most expensive 13in model – you’ll get 256GB storage, 16GB RAM, Radeon Pro graphics, and a 2.2GHz 6-core, Coffee Lake Core i7 processor.

If you do any gaming or video work then the discrete graphics card will probably be attractive, and the 6-cores desirable.

It’s the best MacBook for creative pros, and right now the specs are better than what the iMac has to offer, but that may well change soon (watch this space for the 30 October event we keep mentioning).

But if all you use a MacBook for is writing, emails, web surfing and Netflix then there is no way you need to spend this much money on a MacBook.

Read our 15in MacBook Pro review.

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