The Best MacBooks of 2022 | CNN Highlights

If you’re in need of a new Apple laptop, now’s a great time to buy one. Thanks to the company’s powerful new processors, MacBooks are faster and more durable than ever, with a range of options depending on how much power you need. The latest MacBook Air models offer top-notch speed and battery life at a relatively affordable price, while the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros offer plenty of ports, a more advanced display and, with the M1 Pro, offer creative professionals More powerful functions and M1 Max chip. After testing all of Apple’s current MacBooks, we’ve rounded up some MacBooks you should buy right now.

The best overall MacBook

The MacBook Air M2 is the ideal MacBook for most people, offering the best performance at an affordable price, packed into a slim, modern design, and packed with plenty of useful upgrades over the previous generation.

The new MacBook Air M2 offers some of the best laptop performance at a reasonable price, with a sleek, functional design that makes it the best overall MacBook for most people.

The latest MacBook Air is a bold update to the long-term Air design we last saw in 2020, incorporating more uniform edges, larger physical function keys, and a more seamless display that lets you see more of the screen at once. Much (as long as you’re a little cooler). It’s basically a tiny version of the excellent 14-inch MacBook Pro chassis, but without the extra power and ports that serious creatives might want. It also lives up to its namesake, with a slim 2.7-pound, 11.3mm design that’s a breeze to pick up and put into work.

The MacBook Air’s thinner bezels allow for a noticeable increase in real estate for the display itself (13.6 inches versus 13.3 inches), and thanks to the transition from Apple’s Retina technology to Liquid Retina technology, images and videos stand out even more. The Magic Keyboard feels as good as any modern MacBook, with enough travel and feedback to keep us typing comfortably for hours on end.

Old-school Mac fans will be pleased to see the return of the MagSafe charger, which attaches and detaches with a quick magnetic snap to make charging a little easier — and prevents your MacBook Air from dropping if someone trips over the cord . The MagSafe connection also makes the Air’s Thunderbolt 4 USB-C port free for accessories, which is nice considering you only have two.

MacBook Air M2 Review 1

Mike Andronico/CNN

The MacBook Air M2 packs a host of smaller quality-of-life upgrades over its predecessor, including a sharper 1080p webcam and a richer four-speaker system. But for many, the real selling point is performance.

The Apple M2 processor that powers the latest Air offers some of the best speeds we’ve tested on a laptop. In addition to handling our day-to-day workload (including video calls, messaging apps, and countless Chrome tabs) and some light music production, the MacBook Air M2 edged out nearly all of the competition in our benchmarks. Apple’s latest laptop produced the highest single-core result we’ve ever seen from Geekbench 5, and came very close to the pricier MacBook Pro M2 in the multi-core and graphics tests. It also outperformed the MacBook Air M1 by about 16 percent in general performance tests. The M2 Air can even handle some light gaming, though it runs a little hot and produces some relatively low frame rates when trying to run demanding titles like Shadow of the Tomb Raider at higher settings. Still, when it comes to day-to-day productivity, and some light creative work, this is a machine you can rely on.

The MacBook Air M2 offers pretty strong battery life in day-to-day use, often going through a full day before needing a charge. That said, it drained the battery in 5 hours and 21 minutes on our more demanding 4K video playback test, about 45 minutes behind the MacBook Pro M2. If you plan on doing anything other than simple web surfing and email, you’ll want to keep the charger handy.

The improved design and performance of the new MacBook Air do come at the cost of a higher base price: $1,199, a full $200 more than the MacBook Air M1. We recommend the 512GB storage configuration (the 256GB solid-state drive fills up quickly), which brings the machine up to $1,499. You might also want to consider upgrading to 16GB of RAM for serious multitasking and general future proofing, which brings the total cost to $1,699. But even with those extra costs, we think the MacBook Air M2 is worth the investment for those upgrading for the first time in a while — or buying their first MacBook.

Best Budget MacBook

2020 Apple MacBook Air with Apple M1 chip

If you’re looking to spend less than $1,000 on a MacBook, the older MacBook Air M1 is still a solid choice. You’ll sacrifice the newer model’s larger screen, better webcam, and useful MagSafe charger, but you’ll still get a sleek and powerful laptop that’s faster than almost anything at this price.

upgrade options

The 14-inch MacBook Pro’s M1 Pro and M1 Max processors offer excellent graphics performance for those with heavy photo, video or animation work, and its port selection is healthy — including three USB-C ports, an SD card slot and an HDMI port – allowing you to work without any extra adapters.

MacBook Air M2 product image 2

Apple m1 macbook air

macbook pro 14 product card.jpg


13.6-inch, 2560 x 1664 Liquid Retina display

13.3 inches, 2560 x 1600 Retina display

14.2-inch, 3024 x 1964 Liquid Retina XDR display


Apple M2

Apple M1

Apple M1 Pro / M1 Max


8GB / 16GB / 24GB

8GB / 16GB

16GB/32GB/64GB (M1 Max only)


256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB SSD

256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB SSD

512GB / 1TB / 2TB / 4TB / 8TB SSD


1080p FaceTime HD camera

720p FaceTime HD camera

1080p FaceTime HD camera


Thunderbolt 4 (2), MagSafe charging port, headphone jack

Thunderbolt 4 USB-C (2), headphone jack

Thunderbolt 4 USB-C (3), SDXC card slot, HDMI port, headphone jack, MagSafe charging port

Battery life (nominal)

up to 18 hours

up to 18 hours

up to 17 hours

size and weight

11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches, 2.7 lbs

11.97 x 8.36 x 0.16-0.63 inches, 2.8 lbs

12.31 x 8.71 x 0.61 inches, 3.5 lbs

color options

Silver, Space Gray, Midnight, Starlight

silver, space gray, gold

silver, space gray





Once we had all the models on hand, we started the unboxing process and charged them to 100%. (Many laptops come with some power supply out of the box, but rarely do they come fully charged from the factory.)

As with every CNN Underscored review, we put our devices to rigorous quantitative and qualitative testing. For laptops, we decided to benchmark first to get a measure of performance to quantify. If you’ve read our standalone laptop, tablet, or phone reviews, you’ll be familiar with these tests.

We conducted a GeekBench 5 test. They run the laptop through a range of workflows and applications, many of which you’ll find yourself (we found yourself) doing every day.
Regardless of the operating system, we run our standard battery test on every laptop, including charging the laptop to 100 percent, setting the brightness to 50 percent, and enabling airplane mode to ensure the connection is closed. We then ran a 4K video file with sound set to 15% until the battery died and the machine shut down. The tests are monitored in person and via two cameras to ensure accuracy.
The combination of battery and benchmarks gives us a quantitative feel for the devices and gives each a hard number against which to compare. We then used each laptop as a driver for everyday work, play, and entertainment tasks, testing the battery to see if it could handle a full day of tasks, watching movies to get a feel for the display, and of course, running a bunch of different apps program.

The MacBook Pro M2 offers the fastest performance of any laptop we’ve tested, but its design is frustratingly dated. You still get an old Retina display with thick bezels, a 720p webcam, and the Touch Bar, which we found to be barely as useful as a good set of physical function keys. Unless you specifically want a machine with a built-in fan for particularly tough tasks, the cheaper MacBook Air M2 offers nearly the same level of performance for less money — plus a more modern chassis.

The M1-powered 13-inch MacBook Pro is our previous pick for an upgrade for Apple users, thanks to a slight increase in maximum graphics performance over the M1 MacBook Air. However, it’s been replaced by the new 14-inch MacBook Pro, which offers a bigger leap in overall performance, has better ports, and ditches the annoying Touch Bar for a more usable set of physical function keys . If you want this particular MacBook Pro design, you’re better off buying the more powerful M2 model.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro has everything we love about our upgrade options for the 14-inch model, only with a bigger screen and more configuration options to really get the most out of the processor. If those two things are important to you (and you have some cash to spare), it’s an excellent choice, but we think the 14-inch MacBook Pro’s lower starting price and more portable design make it the choice for most power users better choice.

Now, with the general availability of the M1 Macs, the performance of these models is a bit dated. If you’re in the market right now, we recommend the M1 MacBook Air for most people. That said, if you see a good deal on the Intel 13-inch, it might be worth it.

The 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro was previously our top choice for video editing and creative laptops, thanks to its strong performance and connectivity options. But since you opted for Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, it’s been phased out by the 2021 16-inch model, which offers more ports, a more advanced Liquid Retina XDR display, and significantly better performance.

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