Best MacBooks for students 2024: get the best Apple tech

While Chromebooks and Windows machines have their own strengths and pitfalls, there's something to be said about the style of MacBooks – and the best MacBooks for students have plenty of power to back up their looks, too.

Whether it's a MacBook Air for writing essays, a MacBook Pro for powering through creative projects, or anything in between, the move to Apple Silicon is now complete – and there's never been a better time to buy an Apple laptop.

The latest chips offer incredible power and multitasking capabilities, as well as power efficiency that means each can last longer than ever before.

Still, there are plenty of options – M1 or M2? Pro or Air? We'll do our best to answer those questions in this very guide and give a rundown of some of the best laptops for students.

For more on Apple tech for students, be sure to check out how to get the Apple Student Discount, as well as our picks for the best iPad for students.

The Quick List

Best all-round laptop for students

(Image credit: Lloyd Coombes)

Specifications

Price: $1,199
CPU: Apple M2 chip (8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine)
GPU: M2 includes 8-core GPU (configurable with 10-core GPU)
RAM: 8 GB as standard, 16 GB and 24 GB options
Storage: 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB or 2 TB versions
Screen size: 15-inch Liquid Retina display with 2650 x 1664 resolution
Weight: 2.7 lbs (1.2 kg)
Dimensions: 9.35 x 13.40 x 0.45 in (23.76 x 34.04 x 1.15 cm) (DxWxH)

Reasons to buy

+
Larger display
+
Powerful but power-efficient

Reasons to avoid

-
Still pricey
-
No HDMI port
-
256 GB storage is low

The MacBook Air with 13-inch display was a great laptop, but its smaller panel felt limiting for students looking to edit images or dive deep into video production timelines. Thankfully, Apple has removed the need to jump to the MacBook Pro for a powerful laptop with a larger display, and the 15-inch MacBook Air is the result.

The M2 is Apple's latest consumer-level chip, and this means that the slimline machine, which weighs just 2.7 lbs (1.2 kg), is able to power your work (and play) with ease. In fact, you may find the MacBook Air is now much better for you than the MacBook Pro.

It's got a great battery life, too, and comes in a variety of colors. The speakers are better than the 13-inch version, too.

Most portable MacBook

(Image credit: Future)

Specifications

Price: $1,199
CPU: Apple M2
GPU: Apple 8-core GPU
RAM: 8 GB (Configurable up to 24 GB)
Storage: 256 GB (Configurable up to 2 TB)
Screen size: 13.6-inch, 2560 x 1664
Weight: 2.7 lbs (1.24 kg)
Dimensions: 8.46 x 11.97 x 0.44 in (21.5 x 30.41 x 1.13 cm) (DxWxH)

Reasons to buy

+
New design
+
Latest chip
+
Incredibly portable

Reasons to avoid

-
Basic configuration lacking in storage

Apple has long touted its MacBook Air as its most popular laptop, but the tech giant finally put its money where its mouth is with a stunning refresh of the product line. For the price, users get Apple’s latest M2 chip, the return of the popular MagSafe charging option, and a gorgeous Liquid Retina display.

It’s evidently inspired by the 2021 MacBook Pro, and packs in a much-improved 1080 p webcam for good measure. All of this in a package that weighs just 2.7 lbs, and now comes in four colors – including the long-awaited midnight.

We’d still suggest bumping up the storage though, since 256 GB feels a little miserly in 2022. Those looking to undertake more demanding tasks may want to add to the base 8 GB of RAM, too. Even without those upgrades, Apple says it’s 1.4 times faster than the M1 version, and an incredible 15 times faster than the Intel MacBook Air.

MacBook with the best battery life

(Image credit: Apple)

3. MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2)

Specifications

Price: $1,278.98
CPU: Apple M2
GPU: Apple 10-core GPU
RAM: 8 GB (Configurable up to 24 GB)
Storage: 256 GB (Configurable up to 2 TB)
Screen size: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600
Weight: 3 lbs (1.4 kg)
Dimensions: 8.36 x 11.97 x 0.61 in (21.24 x 30.41 x 1.56 cm) (DxWxH)

Reasons to buy

+
Latest chip
+
Great battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Dated design
-
720 p webcam

The MacBook Pro 13-inch M2 may be brand new but it already feels more than a little outdated. That’s mainly due to its exterior, which maintains the M1 version’s 13-inch display and still includes a 720 p webcam, as well as a limited number of ports. It’s now the only MacBook with the controversial touch bar, too.

And yet, it offers the best battery life of any MacBook around at the time of writing, and just about trumps the fanless MacBook Air M2 when it comes to sustained performance. While it’s not the most exciting MacBook, there’s no denying that it’ll offer a solid computing experience – even if it is lacking in pizazz.

If you are wedded to this design, the M1 version of the MacBook Pro 13-inch can likely be found at a discount, and while it’s not quite as fast, the jump from M1 to M2 is much more incremental than Apple silicon’s explosive debut vs Intel.

Cheapest MacBook

(Image credit: Apple)

Specifications

Price: $899.99
CPU: Apple M1
GPU: Up to Apple 8-core GPU
RAM: 8 GB (Configurable up to 16 GB)
Storage: 256 GB (Configurable up to 2 TB)
Screen size: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600
Weight: 2.8 lbs (1.25 kg)
Dimensions: 8.63 x 11.97 x 0.63 in (21.24 x 30.41 x 1.61 cm) (DxWxH)

Reasons to buy

+
Portability
+
Cheapest MacBook

Reasons to avoid

-
Old design
-
Could do with more storage

Despite the overhauled MacBook Air M2 getting all of the attention, the M1 edition of Apple’s most popular laptop remains an attractive proposition for its portability alone. The M1 MacBook Air is slim and maintains the product line’s impressive tapered design (this means the laptop is thinnest at the front).

It’s also the cheapest MacBook you can buy with Apple silicon, although that comes with a catch – you’ll still likely want to spend a couple of hundred dollars extra to double the storage to 512 GB.

There’s also still just a 720 p webcam, meaning you may want to go for another MacBook if you spend a lot of time in calls or on FaceTime. Still, for the price, it’s the best way to experience what macOS has to offer, and if you’ve already got an iPhone or iPad you’re likely to feel right at home.

Best MacBook for creatives

(Image credit: Apple)

5. MacBook Pro 14-inch (M2 Pro)

Specifications

Price: From $1,999
CPU: Apple M2 Pro
GPU: From 16-core GPU
RAM: 16 GB (configurable up to 64 GB)
Storage: 512 GB SSD (configurable up to 8 TB)
Screen size: 14.2-inch, 3024 x 1964
Weight: 3.5 lbs (1.6 kg)
Dimensions: 8.71 x 12.31 x 0.61 in (22.12 x 31.26 x 1.55 cm) (DxWxH)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent performance
+
Great display
+
Lots of ports

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey

In a lot of ways, the MacBook Pro 2021 models feel like a return to what made prior models so beloved by power users – there are more ports, the function keys are back and MagSafe made a comeback.

Beyond that, the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are still Apple’s most powerful laptop processors (although we can reasonably expect M2 Pro and Max versions in the coming months), while still offering more than 11 hours of battery life.

Then there’s the revamped design. This laptop now includes an incredible new display with the controversial “notch” that holds the camera, as well as a black keyboard tray that looks great while offering excellent key travel.

Best MacBook for video editing

(Image credit: Future)

Specifications

Price: $2,199
CPU: Apple M1 Pro (M1 Max available)
GPU: Up to 32-core GPU
RAM: 16 GB (configurable up to 64 GB)
Storage: 512 GB (configurable up to 8 TB)
Screen size: 16.2-inch, 3456 x 2234
Weight: 4.7 lbs (2.1 kg)
Dimensions: 9.77 x 14 x 0.66 in (24.81 x 35.57 x 1.68 cm) (DxWxH)

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible performance
+
Great battery life
+
Best laptop display you’ll find anywhere

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive

You can take everything we said about the 14-inch MacBook Pro and apply it to the 16-inch version, too. Apple’s largest MacBook doesn’t offer any drastic improvements over its smaller brother, but it does come with a fast charger as standard.

Then there’s the display, which gains an extra couple of inches to make it ideal for watching movies. The battery life has also increased – Apple says you can watch over 20 hours of video on a single charge.

Factor in the incredible performance and power efficiency of both the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, and the 16-inch MacBook essentially becomes a powerful, desktop-class workstation that you can take anywhere. Still, it’s not cheap, and for many students, it’ll be overkill.

MacBook student discount

Apple has long offered educational discounts for students looking to invest in the company’s products, and that means you can save big bucks on a Mac and iPad right now.

If you’re a student or faculty staff, you’ll be able to save money on everything from the iMac, to the Pro Display XDR using your student ID credentials at Apple’s education store.

Apple also runs regular “back to school’ promotions, ranging from additional Gift Cards that can be redeemed for hardware, software, or services like Apple Music. The company also offers occasional discounts on its AppleCare+ insurance, helping with repairs for things like out-of-warranty screen cracks or water spillages. That can be particularly helpful when transporting your shiny new laptop from a dorm to a classroom and back, giving you peace of mind.

Are MacBooks best for students?

While Windows laptops are traditionally more affordable, Apple’s MacBooks tend to last a fair amount longer, with more regular updates across the products’ life cycle.

If you're worried about access to all your usual programs, fear not, because Apple laptops can run Microsoft Office apps like Outlook, Word, and Excel. Apple also offers its own productivity suite. Pages, the company’s word processor, and Numbers, the spreadsheet app, can read all sorts of file formats, too, so you won’t be left in the dark when you’re sent notes.

There’s also the App Store for Mac, which offers a huge number of apps for work, play, and creativity. From task managers to note-taking and research apps, to games and more, there’s plenty to be found on the App Store. Not keen on Apple’s stock apps? Well, you’ll be glad to know that macOS is more customizable than iOS and iPadOS.

If you’re working in audio or video editing workflows, Apple offers its own powerful tools. GarageBand is included for free with every Mac purchase and is ideal for recording audio, while Logic Pro X is the tech giant’s premium option. Final Cut Pro is an excellent video editing suite, too.

Much of macOS will feel familiar if you’re used to using an iPhone or iPad – and a lot of your apps may run on Apple silicon already. If you’re already using AirPods or Beats headphones, you’ll be able to enjoy them seamlessly on Mac as well.

One area where Windows has Mac beat is in gaming. While macOS can run the likes of Steam, Battle.net, and offers its own library of games and Apple Arcade titles, the selection on offer in third-party stores pales in comparison to Windows. Still, if you do play, you’re at least able to connect controllers via Bluetooth.

How we test

Picking the best MacBook for students is a challenge, not only because it's dependent on your workload, but because of the cost involved – Apple's machines are expensive, and there's no getting around that.

Apple also offers multiple build options with the option to customize your machine's specs, and this is a one-time-only deal – you won't be able to, say, upgrade your storage over time. That makes picking the right machine doubly important.

In our testing, our Apple experts work full days on MacBooks, taking calls, testing ecosystem features like iCloud Drive, and even move to different locations – just like a student would.

We also drain the battery down to zero and test charging, as well as working on tasks that range from writing in Google Docs, to editing audio, video, and images.

Lloyd Coombes

Lloyd Coombes freelance tech and fitness writer for Live Science. He's an expert in all things Apple as well as in computer and gaming tech, with previous works published on TopTenReviews, Space.com, Dexerto and TechRadar. You'll find him regularly testing the latest MacBook or iPhone, but he spends most of his time writing about video games as Editor in Chief at GGRecon.com. He also covers board games and virtual reality, just to round out the nerdy pursuits.