Best MacBooks (2021): M1 vs. Intel, Which Model Should You Buy?

Apple still sells the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Intel’s 10th-generation processor, but the MacBook Pro with M1 outperforms it. The only benefit of the Intel version is it comes with four USB-C ports in total, but considering the jump in price, it doesn’t make sense to buy it. You’re better off investing in the M1 model with 16 GB of RAM, along with a multiport adapter to add more connectivity (or wait a year or so, when Apple will inevitably replace the four-port version with an even more powerful Pro).

MacBook Pro with M1 costs $1,299 from Apple, $1,300 from Amazon, or $1,499 from B&H for the model with 16 GB of RAM

Apple MacBook Pro (16-Inch, 2019)

For Big-Screen Lovers

Photograph: Apple

Right now, the only people who should buy the 16-inch MacBook Pro (9/10, WIRED Recommends) are power users who need a graphically powerful Mac now, along with the best possible speakers on a laptop, podcast-grade built-in microphones, four USB-C ports, and a much more spacious and sharper 16-inch screen.

The 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processor (upgradable to Core i9) is no slouch. Just know that the M1-powered MacBook Pro outperforms this 16-incher in many areas. Still, the dedicated AMD graphics card in this machine will give you a big boost whether you’re gaming or editing video, though it does get very loud and the beefy battery depletes quickly when running intensive tasks (it doesn’t last as long as the 13-inch MacBook Pro). The base model comes with a 512 GB SSD. Video editors will be happy to know that you can get up to 64 GB of RAM.

The biggest downsides are size, price, and weight. If you need a laptop you can take anywhere without much hindrance, look elsewhere. But if you need the most powerful MacBook, this is it.

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Apple will support this Intel-powered MacBook for years to come, and you won’t have to worry about potential app issues, but I strongly recommend waiting until late 2021 if you need a supercharged model. Apple will likely will release an M-series 16-inch MacBook Pro that will leap ahead of this one in performance. By then most developers will likely have optimized their apps for the new Apple processor too.

MacBook Pro (16-inch) costs $2,399 from Apple or $2,149 from Amazon

Apple iMacBook (2021)

For Desk Lovers

Apple iMac 2021 

Photograph: Apple

If you prize power over portability, there is another option: the 2021 iMac. Earlier this year Apple released a 24-inch M1-powered iMac (8/10 WIRED Recommends), which is also the first major redesign Apple has made to the iMac in years. As with the other M1 devices we’ve tested, it offers great performance. The powerful GPU adds extra horsepower for graphics-intensive tasks like editing video or playing games.

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