MacBooks are one of the most popular laptops on the market. Loved by creatives and professionals alike, MacBooks offer top-of-the-line hardware paired with Apple’s slick macOS operating system. But before taking the plunge on buying a MacBook, there’s a lot you need to consider.
In this complete guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know before buying a MacBook in 2023, including:
- MacBook pricing
- Choosing the right MacBook model
- Key specs to understand
- Software compatibility
- Portability and battery life
- Accessories you may need
- And much more…
Let’s dive in!
The first thing to understand when looking to buy a MacBook is that they command premium pricing. You can expect to spend anywhere from $999 to over $3,000+ on a new MacBook depending on the model and configuration you choose.
Here’s a quick overview of pricing for each MacBook model:
- MacBook Air – Starts at $999
- 13-inch MacBook Pro – Starts at $1,299
- 14-inch MacBook Pro – Starts at $1,999
- 16-inch MacBook Pro – Starts at $2,499
As you go up in screen size and power, you’ll pay more. Custom configurable upgrades to components like the processor, memory, and storage will also increase the price.
Choosing the Right MacBook Model
Apple currently offers four MacBook models to choose from. Here’s an overview of each to help you select the right one for your needs:
The MacBook Air is Apple’s entry-level ultraportable laptop. Weighing just 2.7 pounds, it offers great portability and up to 18 hours of battery life. Here are the key details on the MacBook Air:
- New M2 Apple processor
- 13.6-inch display
- Up to 24GB of unified memory
- Up to 2TB of SSD storage
- Starts at $999
The MacBook Air is a great choice if you want incredible portable at the lowest price point. It packs decent performance in a superslim chassis making it easy to take anywhere. The battery life is also hard to beat.
13-inch MacBook Pro
Stepping up from the Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro adds more performance while still keeping a compact, portable frame. Key details include:
- M2 or M1 Apple processor options
- 13.3-inch display
- Up to 32GB unified memory
- Up to 2TB SSD storage
- Starts at $1,299
The 13-inch MacBook Pro is a great all-around portable powerhouse. You get a bit more speed and memory capacity while still keeping nearly the same slim design. If you need more performance than an Air in a still compact size, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is perfect.
14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro
The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models offer the pinnacle of Apple computing performance and capability. Key specs and details include:
- New M2 Pro/Max or M1 Pro/Max processors
- 14.2 or 16.2-inch mini LED display
- Up to 96GB of unified memory
- Up to 8TB of SSD storage
- Starts at $1,999 (14-inch) or $2,499 (16-inch)
With incredible speed, gorgeous displays, and top of the line components, these pro models are built for demanding workflows like advanced video editing, 3D modeling, programming and more. If you’re a pro needing unrivaled performance, the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro is made for you.
Key MacBook Specs
When choosing any MacBook model, there are several key specifications to take note of based on how you plan to use your laptop:
Processor (Apple Silicon)
The processor is essentially the “brain” of any computer. In all modern MacBooks, Apple uses their own custom designed ARM-based Apple Silicon chips rather than Intel processors.
Some key processors you’ll encounter include:
- M2 Chip – Apple’s latest chip for the MacBook Air and 13-inch Pro. Offers 18% faster CPU performance vs M1.
- M1 Pro/Max – More powerful chips designed for professional workflows in the 14 and 16-inch models.
When choosing a processor, the M2 and M1 chips offer a great balance of speed and efficiency for most general use cases. But pro users running intensive tasks will benefit from the additional performance of M1 Pro or Max chips.
Memory, or RAM, allows your MacBook to juggle multiple apps at once without slowing down. The more memory, the more applications you can have open simultaneously.
Here’s an overview of memory options:
- 8GB – Fine for general use
- 16GB – Ideal for most users
- 32GB – Best for professional apps/multitasking
On Apple Silicon Macs, memory is fixed and can’t be upgraded later so get more than you need upfront. 16GB is the sweet spot for most users but pros who use intensive creative apps may want 32GB or higher.
Storage determines how much data (videos, photos, music, documents, apps etc) you can keep on your MacBook before needing an external hard drive. Here are the main storage tiers available:
- 256GB – Entry level storage
- 512GB – Mainstream users
- 1-2TB – Enthusiast/pro storage
Like memory, you’ll be locked into your initial storage amount so get what you realistically expect to need long term right away. Again, pros working with large video and photo files require more storage.
Display & Resolution
MacBooks are known for gorgeous, color accurate displays. Key terms to know:
- Retina display – Sharp high pixel density screen
- IPS panel – Provides vivid colors and wide viewing angles
- 120Hz refresh rate – Smoother, more responsive display
- Mini LED backlighting (14 & 16-inch) – Higher brightness and contrast
For most users, a base model Retina display MacBook screen will look beautiful with accurate colors. But professionals who rely on color sensitive work or fast video/scrolling may benefit from upgraded configs and specs like Mini LED and 120Hz ProMotion.
Mac Compatible Software
A key consideration when purchasing any Mac computer is software compatibility. Because macOS and Windows handle software differently, there are some cases when apps designed for Windows won’t work on a Mac and vice versa.
The good news is that most popular software titles are available for both platforms, including:
- Microsoft Office
- Adobe Creative Cloud
- Google Chrome & Apps
- Zoom & Slack
- Evernote & Asana
Plus virtually all software written specifically for macOS will function, which is a lot. This includes apps like:
- Apple iWork suite (Pages, Keynote, Numbers)
- Final Cut Pro
But there are exceptions. Before switching to Mac, some Windows-only apps to check for compatibility include niche programs like:
- Sage 50 Accounting
- TurboTax Business
- AODocs Document Management
Using tools like Is Apple Silicon Ready, you can check if your must-have Windows apps work on a Mac to avoid surprises. For most common apps, you should have zero issues though.
Portability & Battery Life
For anyone wanting to regularly use their MacBook on the go without access to a wall outlet, both portability and battery life are essential factors.
The size and weight of each MacBook line differs significantly:
- MacBook Air – 2.7 lbs | 0.63 inches thick
- 13-inch MacBook Pro – 3.0 lbs | 0.61 inches thick
- 14-inch MacBook Pro – 3.5 lbs | 0.61 inches thick
- 16-inch MacBook Pro – 4.7 lbs | 0.66 inches thick
The Air lives up to its name as far as portability, weighing just 2.7 pounds you can easily throw it in any bag or even large purse for use on the go without much heft. The 14 and 16-inch models are still portable enough for most needs but become progressively less so the larger in screen size you go.
Thanks to power efficient Apple Silicon chips, all MacBooks offer impressive battery runtime but longevity differs between models:
- MacBook Air – Up to 18 hours wireless web
- 13-inch MacBook Pro – Up to 20 hours wireless web
- 14 & 16-inch MacBook Pro – Up to 14 hours wireless web
For the ultimate battery performance allowing you to leave your charger at home, the Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro have insane marathon-like runtimes upwards of 18-20 hours on a charge. The bigger Pro models sacrifice some battery for power, but still deliver all-day life away from an outlet.
Useful MacBook Accessories
To improve your experience using a MacBook, here are some of the top accessories worth buying:
Modern MacBooks come equipped only with USB-C ports. To connect traditional USB-A accessories, an affordable USB-C hub like Anker’s highly rated 6-in-1 Hub gives you extra ports for USB peripherals, SD cards, monitors and more.
To protect your MacBook from scratches, spills, and drops, a protective case or sleeve is recommended whenever travelling. The MOSISO Sleeve ($16) works great.
Pair your MacBook with a desktop external display like the LG 27UK850-W for extra screen space and easier multitasking.
We hope this guide covered everything you need to know before buying a MacBook in 2023. Let us know if you have any other questions!