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Best MacBook Air and MacBook Pro builds in 2020

Find out a tech expert’s picks for the best Mac laptop for mobile professionals, the best Mac laptop for replacing a desktop, and more.

Matching a computer’s build to its intended use isn’t a perfect science, but thankfully Apple makes it easy to customize various Mac laptop configurations. Whether you usually perform tasks that don’t typically overwhelm a computer’s CPU and graphics capabilities, or even if you do, here are the best configurations years of experience and IT consulting suggest work well as at least a baseline for most users.


Standard 13-inch MacBook Air

Image: Apple

A standard 13-inch MacBook Air, complete with a 1.1Ghz dual-core i3 CPU and Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz, offers a strong mix of portability and capability. The $999 model’s 256 GB SSD and 8 GB RAM meet the needs of most professionals, thanks in part to Apple’s intelligent architecture that maximizes performance. The laptop’s two Thunderbolt 3 ports leave room (after connecting the power cord) for an external drive or other accessory, while still delivering 13-inch portability, a Retina display, and attractive graphics that more than meet most workers’ needs for documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and email.

$999 at Apple


13-inch MacBook Air

Image credit: Apple

Mobile professionals who need more horsepower while traveling will be well served choosing the $1,299 MacBook Air with a 1.1GHz quad-core Intel i5-powered CPU that can reach 3.5Ghz speeds thanks to Turbo Boost. With 512 GB local SSD storage, road warriors will also prove less dependent upon the cloud for files and information while working in the field. With additional power and storage, the upgraded MacBook Air delivers increased performance while retaining portability in a 13-inch, lightweight package that’s still easy to pack when hitting the road, visiting clients, and traveling.

$1,299 at Apple


13-inch MacBook Pro

Image: Apple

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with 2.0GHz CPU, 16 GB RAM, and 512 GB SSD storage will provide the performance, capacity, and expandability (with four Thunderbolt 3 ports) that the majority of business professionals require. While there’s always a chance high-end engineering and video-editing tasks will require additional power, you’re typically no longer talking a laptop at that point but a desktop replacement.

$1,799 at Apple


16-inch MacBook Pro

Image: Apple

Mac professionals needing a true desktop replacement computer that still retains some portability should consider Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro. The base model boasts a 2.6GH CPU with six cores, an AMD Radeon Pro 5300M graphics card with 4 GB GDDR6 memory, four Thunderbolt 3 ports for expansion, 16 GB RAM, and 512 GB SSD storage. That’s one potent machine up to the rigors of productivity software and cloud application use, video and photo editing, and most other common tasks, while still being reasonably portable.

$2,399 at Apple


Base 13-inch MacBook Pro

Image: Apple

There’s an argument to be made that the base 13-inch MacBook Pro is, pound-for-pound, one of the best laptop computers money will buy. I’ve used such models–or Apple’s period-equivalent–for everything from editing and publishing to technical consulting and project management in the field for almost 20 years. With a 1.4GHz 8th-generation Intel Core i5 CPU with four cores, the laptop is an absolute workhorse. Apple pairs 8 GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD with the build, meaning the machine is more than capable of handling most mobile workers and an impressive array of typically deskbound applications. At $1,299, the base MacBook Pro offers a proven compromise between performance, portability, and price.

$1,299 at Apple