The best MacBook for programming: 2023 List

Are you a developer and an Apple fan? For programming, you'll want the best MacBook you can get.
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The best MacBook for programming: 2023 List - W3Tekno

Want to know which MacBook is best for programming? On this page we hope to provide recommendations based on our own extensive research and expertise with Apple laptops. Suffice it to say that any current Apple laptop can handle the majority of programming activities, so deciding which one is best for you will primarily depend on factors such as size, portability, price and other potential uses for the computer.

Many of our in-house staff and freelance writers use MacBooks as their primary workstations, and we have evaluated many of them first-hand. As a result, we have accumulated countless hours of expertise and have a comprehensive understanding of the MacBook.

Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) - The most cost-effective MacBook for programmers

Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

The most cost-effective MacBook for programmers
Specifications
  • CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU
  • Graphics: Integrated 7- to 8-core GPU
  • RAM: 8-16GB
  • Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 Retina display
  • Storage: 256GB-2TB
  • Reasons To Buy
  • Great price
  • Silent fanless running
  • Still offers fast performance
  • Reasons To Avoid
  • Newer MacBooks offer more power
  • MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is still a great option if you're a developer on a tighter budget who doesn't need the kind of processing power that other MacBooks provide.

    The 2020 MacBook Air continues to strike the ideal balance between price and performance. Even at full price, it's the most affordable MacBook you can buy new, though discounts are offered frequently. In our tests, we were impressed by the laptop's speed and smoothness in use, and we were able to use it for more than a full day on a single battery charge.

    The M1 MacBook Air is fanless, which allows it to run quietly. The M2 chip has replaced the M1 chip, but the M1 chip still provides excellent performance, especially when compiling code. While this isn't the best MacBook you can buy if you plan to do image or video editing, it will still work well if you need a laptop for programming and general productivity.

    MacBook Air 15 (M2, 2023) - Best MacBook with bigger screen for programming

    MacBook Air 15 (M2, 2023)

    Best MacBook with bigger screen for programming
    Specifications
  • CPU: Apple M2
  • Graphics: Integrated 10-core GPU
  • RAM: 8GB, 16GB, 24GB
  • Screen: 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display
  • Storage: 256GB - 2TB
  • Reasons To Buy
  • Powerful M2 processor
  • Still cheaper than MacBook Pros
  • Big screen in a relatively light body
  • Reasons To Avoid
  • Size may not suit everyone
  • Programmers who need more power than the MacBook Air but don't need (or can't afford) the power of the MacBook Pro 14-inch should consider the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022).

    The 13-inch MacBook Pro is the entry-level model of the MacBook Pro and is equipped with an M2 chip, which is faster than the M1 but less powerful than the M1 Pro or M1 Max found in the MacBook Pros above.

    This excels at compiling code and provides enough raw power to emulate different devices to help you test your apps and games as you work on them. Similar to the MacBook Air (M2, 2022).

    The 13-inch MacBook Pro has a fan that, unlike the MacBook Air, slightly increases the noise level (it's still pretty quiet), but allows it to handle heavier workloads for longer without overheating.

    MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) - Overall ideal MacBook for programmers

    MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021)

    Overall ideal MacBook for programmers
    Specifications
  • CPU: Apple M1 Pro 8-core – M1 Max 10-core
  • Graphics: Integrated 14- to 32-core GPU
  • RAM: Up to 64GB
  • Screen: 14-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
  • Storage: Up to 8TB
  • Reasons To Buy
  • Fantastic compact build
  • More portable and the 16-inch device
  • Matches the performance of the larger 14in above
  • Reasons To Avoid
  • May be too small for some working with visuals
  • We believe the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) is the best MacBook overall for programming. It includes essentially everything you could desire, including the option of Apple's incredibly powerful M1 Pro and M1 Max CPUs. Although the 2023 model with the M2 Pro or M2 Pro Max chip has replaced it, we advise programmers to stick with it as you're more likely to find a good bargain, as the 2021 model provides a lot more power than you'd want for programming work. If you plan to do more than programming, it will still be useful for many other jobs, such as graphics work.

    Of all the MacBook models, we've found that the 14-inch MacBook provides the optimal mix between portability and screen size for programming. The smaller size makes it more comfortable to use out and about, whether in the classroom or at the coffee shop. You still have the same CPU, connector and highest brightness options as the 16-inch mod Pro. When we tested it, our reviewer found that it worked incredibly well for everything from 3D modeling to image editing and video editing - we got instant results when working on demanding jobs in Cinema 4D. Additionally, the battery offered an astonishing 11 hours of web browsing time.

    MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) - The best MacBook for more than programming

    MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021)

    The best MacBook for more than programming
    Specifications
  • CPU: Apple M1 Pro 10-core – M1 Max 10-core
  • Graphics: Integrated 16- to 32-core GPU
  • RAM: Up to 64GB
  • Screen: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina XDR display
  • Storage: Up to 8TB
  • Reasons To Buy
  • Long battery life
  • Larger screen that's comfortable to code on
  • Reasons To Avoid
  • Larger size makes it less convenient to carry around
  • If you need a MacBook that can do a lot more than programming, and you also want the biggest screen you can get, the MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021) might be your best bet. It's pretty much identical to the 14-inch device at the top of our list, but with a bigger screen and battery. It's available with Apple's M1 Pro or M1 Max CPUs.

    This device will be loved by those who find it more comfortable to view lines of code on a larger screen. Among MacBooks, the 16-inch MacBook Pro offers the longest battery life. According to Apple, one charge should last for about 14 hours of web browsing, but actual battery life for everyday online tasks is closer to 17 hours. An extremely powerful MacBook can be built with up to 64GB of RAM and up to 8TB of storage. It will be overkill for many programming activities, but in addition it is perfect for anyone working on challenging video projects.

    Apple has a newer 2023 model, but as a laptop for programming, this is already much more than you need, plus the 2021 model is getting some pretty attractive discounts right now.

    MacBook Air (M2, 2022) - The best MacBook for programming on the go

    MacBook Air (M2, 2022)

    The best MacBook for programming on the go
    Specifications
  • CPU: Apple M2
  • Graphics: 8- to 10-core GPU
  • RAM: 8GB-16GB
  • Screen: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display
  • Storage: Up to 2TB
  • Reasons To Buy
  • Light and compact
  • Cheaper than MacBook Pro
  • Powerful M2 processor
  • Reasons To Avoid
  • Smaller screen
  • GPU not as powerful as on MacBook Pros
  • If you need something more portable, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is the best option. The 2022 model 13-inch M2 MacBook Air is quite similar to the 13-inch MacBook Pro from the same year, but it's slightly cheaper and lighter.

    It's lighter and smaller than the previous MacBook Air, although it has a larger screen (13.6 inches) and a more powerful processor. MagSafe support and a 25% brighter screen make it simple and safe to plug and unplug the power cord from the laptop. Battery life was excellent when we tried it out - we were able to watch more than 16 hours of video.

    The extra screen space makes writing code a pleasure and the M2 chip makes the code compilation process easier. If the 14-inch MacBook Pro is too expensive and offers a level of performance you don't need, we highly recommend the new MacBook Air instead.

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