These are the Best Macs right now: MacBook Air, M1 iMac, and more!

These are the Best Macs right now: MacBook Air, M1 iMac, and more!

Apple doesn’t make too many products, so if you’ve already decided on getting a Mac, you’re halfway towards buying the thing you want. Now you just have to decide which Mac you’re going to get. Steve Jobs famously divided the Mac lineup into four quadrants. There’s laptop and desktop, and for each one, there’s consumer and professional. After returning to Apple, he asked the team which one he should tell his friends to buy, and that’s when it was decided that things should be simpler.

With some exceptions, not much has changed. In the procategory, there’s the MacBook Pro laptop and the Mac Pro desktop. For consumers, we have the MacBook Air and the iMac. Of course, we can throw the Mac mini in there too.

Navigate this guide to the best Macs:

Best Overall: MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Air front view on gray background

The MacBook Air is one of the first to use Apple Silicon, and the M1 processor is a beast. Not only does that make this one of the best Macs around, but it’s also one of the best laptops around. It comes with a beautiful 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 display, Thunderbolt 3, and Touch ID.

Along with 8GB unified memory and a 256GB SSD, all of that comes in at $999. Seriously, with performance like that, a display like that, Thunderbolt, and a fingerprint sensor, you’re just not going to find anything on this level in the Windows world at that price. It comes in Gold, Silver, and Space Gray.

    MacBook Air
    The MacBook Air is Apple's thinnest and lightest laptop, but it still packs a punch with an M1 processor. It comes in three colors.

Best Desktop: 24-inch iMac

24-inch iMac in seven different colors

When I was considering what to make the best overall pick, I really wanted to make it the 24-inch iMac. The truth is that for most people, a desktop PC just doesn’t fit into their lifestyle. But if you want a mainstream desktop PC, this is the one for you.

It’s the first Mac that’s actually designed with Apple Silicon in mind. Others like the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini all used the chassis of their Intel-powered predecessors. The iMac looks impossibly thin and incredibly beautiful, also coming in six stunning colors, and silver. Starting at $1,299, it also comes with a stunning 24-inch 4.5K Retina display.

It’s got the same M1 processor as the MacBook Air. Indeed, we live in a world where the 11-inch iPad Pro and the 24-inch iMac use the same processor, and the iMac is still desirable. The Apple M1 is that good.

    24-inch iMac
    Apple's new iMac comes in a half-dozen colors, has a 4.5K display, and packs an M1 processor for everything you need.

Best on a Budget: Mac mini

Apple Mac mini with blue background

While the Apple M1 is included in the 11-inch iPad Pro, the Mac mini is actually the least expensive way to get your hands on the company’s custom silicon at $699. This is another one of those situations where the value is just incredible if you want to be sticking within the Apple ecosystem. You’re not going to get this level of performance with an Intel PC for $1,699.

On a side note, the Mac mini is the only Apple Silicon Mac that supports dual monitors. You can connect one to the USB Type-C port and one to the HDMI port. What’s cool is that it doesn’t take up a lot of space either. You can easily customize your setup, something that’s not as easy to do with an all-in-one.

    24-inch iMac
    Apple's Mac mini is only small in size, not performance. It doesn't take up a lot of space, and it's the least expensive way to get an Apple Silicon Mac.

Best for Creators: 16-inch MacBook Pro

16-inch MacBook Pro with green background

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is still the best Mac for creators, despite not yet having been refreshed with Apple Silicon. But since it still has a 45W Intel CPU, it can do some things that the M1 can’t. A single Thunderbolt port is capable of powering dual 4K displays, and the laptop itself can handle up to four 4K displays. Or it can handle two 6K displays. Another thing you can do here that you can’t do with the M1 is you can connect an external GPU, adding more power.

Along with up to an Intel Core i9, you can get it with an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB GDDR6 memory or a Radeon Pro 5600M with 8GB HBM2 memory. It also comes with up to 64GB 2,666MHz DDR4 memory and up to an 8TB SSD. It starts at $2,399.

    16-inch MacBook Pro
    Apple's 16-inch MacBook Pro is still the powerhouse laptop, and you can pack it out with 64GB RAM, 8TB of storage, an Intel Core i9, and Radeon Pro 5600M graphics with 8GB HBM2 memory

Best Desktop for Creators: 27-inch iMac

27-inch iMac with white background

On the creator end, the 27-inch iMac is the way to go. If you’re doing things like video editing and photo editing, you’ll appreciate the bigger, 5K Retina screen than the one on the 24-inch iMac. It’s got 10th-generation 65W Intel processors, which are full desktop parts. You can configure it with up to 128GB 2,666MHz DDR4 memory and up to an 8TB SSD.

For graphics, you can get up to an AMD Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16GB GDDR6 memory, so there’s lots of power here. External display support is one 6K display, or two 6K display if you get a Radeon Pro 5700 or 5700 XT, so you can do a lot with the 27-inch iMac. It starts at $1,799.

    27-inch iMac
    The 27-inch iMac has a bigger screen and more pixels than the smaller 24-inch one. It has 10th-gen Intel processors, up to Radeon Pro 5700 XT graphics with 16GB GDDR6, 8TB SSD, and 128GB of memory

Conclusion: What’s the Best Mac to get?

My top pick is the MacBook Air. Out of the four products with the Apple M1 processor, that’s the one that works for most people. And at $999, you’re just getting things that you can’t get anywhere else. It has a beautiful display, tons of power, and more. If you’re looking for something that isn’t portable, that’s when you go for the 24-inch iMac. It comes in pretty colors, and it’s just a delight to use.

Even though these products are using ARM processors now, you can still run other operating systems like Windows 10 through virtualization. Boot Camp is gone though. Also, many apps are running natively for Apple Silicon now, so that’s not an issue. Apple has Rosetta to make Intel apps work anyway.

A couple of products were omitted here. For one thing, we didn’t include the 13-inch MacBook Pro with its M1 processor. Being a Pro-branded PC, there are a few trade-offs that need to be worked out in the next generation, such as support for multiple external monitors.

Then there’s the big bad Mac Pro. The Mac Pro has tons of power if you want it, but we’re going to wait for it to get its Apple Silicon refresh before we recommend it. A year ago, Apple said that it was transitioning its entire lineup to Apple Silicon over the next year. For something that starts at $5,999, you might want to wait for the new one, especially since we know it’s coming soon.

About author

Rich Woods
Rich Woods

Managing Editor for XDA Computing. I've been covering tech from smartphones to PCs since 2013. If you see me at a trade show, come say hi and let me ask you weird questions about why you use the tech you use.