The best MacBook for every budget

It’s pretty easy to buy a MacBook: You pick one on the Apple website or store that fits your budget, and you’re set.

But if you dig a little deeper into a laptop’s product page, you can find customizable options for certain specs, like the processor, storage space, and RAM. It’s perfect for tweaking a laptop’s specs to better fit your needs and budget.

Apple macbook pro 6

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Apple

For example, you can tweak the cheapest MacBook Pro with extra performance specs that propose great value against more expensive models. Going into those tweaking details isn’t for everyone, so I’ve done it for you!

This guide should help you find which Apple laptop fits within your budget according to what kind of user you are, whether you use lightweight apps, have several open browser tabs and apps, or you’re a power user who needs top performance. I also propose budget options, as well as “full-fat” models that make less of a compromise on performance and features.

You can even buy certain models from Apple’s Refurbished Mac Store if you want to save some money. Don’t balk at the word “refurbished.” My experience with refurbished Macs from Apple has been fantastic. I saved a bunch of money on my refurbished MacBook Pro, and it came in pristine aesthetic and working condition.

Check it out:


$1,200: The cheapest and best options for most computer users.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The new 2018 MacBook Air is the ideal laptop for the majority of computer users. It’s light, slim, portable, and packs enough power for the most common computer apps and use cases.

It’ll also run more advanced apps for things like photo editing, but don’t expect lightning-quick performance every time, it’ll vary on the complexity of the task.

You can also get the model with 256GB of storage for an extra $200.


$1,300 – $1,500: For the lightweight user who wants a little extra power.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The base 13-inch MacBook Pro with 128GB of storage ($1,300) or 256GB of storage ($1,500) is designed for the same kind of person who would buy the MacBook Air but wants slightly more “comfortable” performance for basic and advanced apps.

Spending an extra $100 over the base MacBook Air model will get you a slightly better screen, as well as slightly better overall performance with the 13-inch MacBook Pro’s 7th-gen 2.3GHz Core i5. It’s also not that much bigger or heavier than the MacBook Air. In fact, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is slightly thinner than the MacBook Air at its thickest point.

You can get the 13-inch MacBook Pro for less on Apple’s Refurbished Mac Store.


$1,400 – $1,700: The value sweet spot for busy users with lots of open web browser tabs and/or multiple basic apps running at the same time.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The base 13-inch MacBook Pro without a Touch Bar comes standard with 8GB of RAM, but you can give it a meaningful performance boost by opting for the 16GB RAM option. You can pick that option on the product pages for 128GB and 256GB storage models. It’ll cost you an extra $200 on top of the laptop’s $1,300 – $1,500 price tag, but it will make a huge difference.

The same goes for the new 2018 MacBook Air. For an extra $200, you can get an extra 8GB of RAM for a total of 16GB.

RAM is where your computer stores your open apps and browser tabs so you can quickly switch between them. The more RAM you have, the more apps and browser tabs you can run without your computer slowing down. For busy users who usually have lots of open web browser tabs and apps, I’d generally recommend you consider more RAM before processing power, at least when it comes to basic apps and tasks.

The processor that comes standard with the laptop will handle basic apps just fine, and will even do you proud for lightweight-fast photo editing.


$1,600: For the lightweight user who wants a premium design and the ultimate in portability with little concern about cost.

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Apple

The $1,600 MacBook with a 7th-gen Core i5 comes with more storage (512GB) as standard than the aforementioned MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. With that said, it offers slightly less performance compared to the MacBook Air for $400 more, at least according to benchmark tests. What you’re paying for here is the MacBook’s extreme portability.

You can find a refurbished model from Apple’s Refurbished Mac Store for a good discount at $1,190. Considering the MacBook’s lesser performance, I’d look at buying the refurbished units for the best value.


$1,800 – $2,000: For busy users willing to spend a little extra for performance, or power users on a budget.

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Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

For busy users who want a better performance guarantee, or budget power users who use more advanced apps, your best options are:

– 13-inch MacBook Pro (no Touch Bar) with 128GB to 256GB storage, 7th-gen 2.5GHz Core i7, and 16GB RAM upgrades: $1,800 – $2,000.

13-inch MacBook Pro (with Touch Bar) with 256GB storage, 8th-gen 3.5GHz Core i5 as standard, and 16GB RAM upgrade: $2,000.

For 15-inch models in this budget range, you’d do well to check out Apple’s Refurbished Mac Store for the 2017 15-inch models with Touch Bar, 7th-gen 2.8GHz Core i7 processor, and 16GB RAM, which start at $1,910.


$2,300 – $2,800: For power users who don’t mind spending extra for more power.

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Apple

Powers users who don’t mind spending to get great performance can opt for:

13-inch MacBook Pro (with Touchbar) with 256GB storage, 8th-gen 4.5GHz Core i7 and 16GB RAM upgrade: $2,300.

15-inch MacBook Pro (with Touch Bar) as standard (256GB of storage, 8th-gen 2.2GHz Core i7, 16GB RAM, dedicated graphics card): $2,400.

15-inch MacBook Pro (with Touch Bar) as standard (512GB of storage, 8th-gen 2.6GHz Core i7, 16GB RAM, dedicated graphics card): $2,800.

The 15-inch machines will also suit video editors and Mac gamers, as they come with dedicated graphics cards for better performance.


$3,300 – $6,700: For uncompromising performance, when cost is no object.

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Apple

You can max out the processor and RAM on the 15-inch MacBook Pro with an even more powerful 8th-gen 4.8GHz Core i9 processor, 32GB of RAM, and a slightly better dedicated graphics chip for $3,300.

The top, most specced-out MacBook Pro with the the absolute highest specs that Apple has to offer includes the Core i9 processor, 32GB RAM, the AMD Radeon Pro 560X graphics chip, and an outrageous 4 terabytes of storage (that’s 4,000 GB) for a whopping $6,700.