Macintosh buying guide: Choose the best Mac and accessories


Mac buying guide: Choose the best model and accessories
We'll help you pick the perfect Mac.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

When you buy a new Mac, you will spend a decent stack of cash. So, whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else, ensuring you choose the best Mac is key. While every modern Mac can handle casual computing with ease, some are a much better fit for certain use cases.

In our Mac buying guide, we’ll look at all of the models offered by Apple today, as well as some of the best Mac accessories you can get to go with them.

This post contains affiliate links. Cult of Mac may earn a commission when you use our links to buy items.

Best Mac buying guide

Whether you want a desktop or laptop, Apple offers a Macintosh computer for you. Our buying guide provides an in-depth look at the pros and cons of each model.

Table of contents

Best Mac overall: Mac mini

Mac mini is the best Mac overall, offering everything most users will ever need
Mac mini is as brilliant as any other Mac, but more affordable.
Photo: Apple

Yes, believe it or not, Apple’s most affordable Mac is also the best overall. Why? Because for a huge percentage of users, it offers all the power and features you’ll ever need — not only for everyday computing, but also for things like editing photos and home movies, making music, and playing the latest macOS games.

Powered by a blazing-fast M2 or M2 Pro chip, Mac mini can be configured with up to 32GB of RAM and a whopping 8TB of storage. It also packs plenty of connectivity options, with traditional USB-A and USB-C (Thunderbolt 4) ports, HDMI, 10Gb Ethernet, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 6E and a 3.5mm audio jack. That’s even more ports than the iMac!

The only downside to the Mac mini is that it doesn’t come with a display or peripherals. But with a price tag starting at just $599 — or $499 if you buy it from somebody other than Apple — the Mac mini is affordable and more than good enough for most.

Buy from: Amazon
Buy from: Best Buy
Buy from: B&H

Best Mac for students: MacBook Air

MacBook Air is the best Mac for students
You can’t go wrong with MacBook Air.
Photo: Apple

MacBook Air is one of the world’s most popular laptops, and it’s easy to see why. It boasts terrific specifications, an exceptional display, and handy features like Touch ID. It’s also the most affordable notebook Apple sells, making it ideal for students — or anyone who needs a portable Mac.

Starting at $999 (but often on sale), the MacBook Air comes in two versions. One packs a super-speedy M1 chip with up to 16GB of RAM and as much as 2TB of storage, in a classic, wedge-shaped design. But we would recommend spending the extra $100 to get the latest model with an even more impressive M2 chip, an improved design, a slightly larger screen, and up to 24GB of RAM.

Both models offer up to 18 hours of battery life on a single charge, and they weigh less than 3 pounds, making them truly ultraportable. But don’t be fooled by their slim form factor. Thanks to Apple silicon, the MacBook Air is now almost as fast as more expensive Mac models.

Bag yours on Amazon to get up to $250 off the usual price.

Buy from: Amazon (M1 model)
Buy from: Amazon (M2 model)

Best Mac for home use: iMac

iMac is the best Mac for the home.
iMac is the best all-in-one computer money can buy.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s all-in-one iMac has long been the best option for home use. And thanks to a recent upgrade to the brand-new M3 chip, it’s more powerful than ever before. Whether you’re editing family photos, playing Mac games, or just doing some casual computing, the iMac keeps up without a sweat.

Packing a gorgeous 4.5K Retina display measuring 24 inches, a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, and a six-speaker sound system, the iMac is a joy for media consumption and video calls. It’s arguably the best desktop Mac — especially for those who don’t want to worry about buying their own display.

In addition to the new M3 chip, the iMac features up to 24GB of RAM and as much as 2TB of storage. It ships with a Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard, and some models also offer Touch ID. Prices start at $1,299, but you can still pick up the M1 model for as little as $1,129.99.

Buy from: Best Buy (M1 model)
Buy from: Best Buy (M3 model)
Buy from: Amazon (M1 model)
Buy from: Amazon (M3 model)

Best MacBook: MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro is the best Mac for productivity on the go
MacBook Pro gives you ample power on the go.
Photo: Apple

For Mac users who need even more power on the go, the best laptop is the spectacular MacBook Pro. It not only looks infinitely better than high-end Windows alternatives, but in almost every scenario, it’s more powerful and lasts a lot longer in between charges (up to 22 hours). Plus, it comes with a best-in-class Liquid Retina XDR display.

Available in 14- and 16-inch options, the MacBook Pro truly sparkles under the hood. M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max chips make light work of anything you might want to throw at the machine, including 4K video editing, 3D rendering and animation, software development, and everything in between.

It might be pricey, starting at $1,599, but when you consider the new MacBook Pro with M3 Max actually outpaces the current $6,999 Mac Pro, it seems like an easy sell. (Here’s why you should consider the M3 Max chip over the M3 Pro.) What’s more, you can already enjoy up to $200 off the usual price when you buy a MacBook Pro from Amazon.

Buy from: Amazon (14-inch, M3)
Buy from: Amazon (14-inch, M3 Pro)
Buy from: Amazon (14-inch, M3 Max)
Buy from: Amazon (16-inch, M3 Pro or M3 Max)

Best Mac for music production and photo editing: Mac Studio

Mac mini is the best Mac for creativity
Mac Studio is a Mac mini on steroids. Lots of steroids.
Photo: Apple

The best Mac for music production is also the best Mac for photo editing. Really, the Mac Studio does it all. Mac Studio is essentially a Mac mini with mad power stuffed inside. It has the same footprint as Apple’s entry-level machine, but it’s taller to accommodate even faster M2 Max and M2 Ultra chips that need ample cooling. You also can configure it with up to 192GB of RAM and 8TB of storage if you want to go all out.

With all that speed under the deceptively small hood, and generous connectivity options around the back, Mac Studio is undoubtedly overkill for casual computing, but ideal for almost any creative professional. Pair it with a display and peripherals of your choosing, and it’s the ultimate workstation that won’t get in your way.

Mac Studio starts at $1,999 when you buy from Apple and discounts can be hard to find. However, B&H currently offers up to $200 off some models.

Buy from: B&H

Best Mac for professionals: Mac Pro

Mac Pro is the best Mac for professionals
Mac Pro is pricey but outstanding.
Photo: Apple

Mac Pro is the ultimate Apple desktop. For those who need a Mac with extraordinary power, as well as the ability to upgrade certain components, it’s really the only option. Mac Pro ships with an M2 Ultra chip as standard. And, like the Mac Studio, it can be configured with up to 192GB of RAM and 8TB of storage.

The big selling point of the Mac Pro — apart from the fact that it’s just a stunning desktop — is that it’s expandable. It’s the only Mac with full-length PCIe 4 slots. It comes with six of them altogether: Two offer 16 lanes while the other four offer four lanes. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s also one half-length PCIe 3 slot with the Apple I/O card preinstalled.

Alongside superb cooling, Mac Pro offers plenty of connectivity options, including eight Thunderbolt ports, two HDMI ports, two USB-A ports and the latest Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 technologies. The downside? Mac Pro starts at a rather eye-watering $6,999 and is rarely discounted. So unless you really need it, another Mac is likely a better buy.

Buy from: B&H

Beware M3 upgrades

Before you decide on a new Mac, there’s something important to consider. As you may have spotted, several of Apple’s machines are now available with the latest M3 series chipsets, while others are still packing older M2 silicon. The M2 machines are still insanely impressive, so you won’t be disappointed if you can’t wait. However, upgrades to M3 chips are likely to come in 2024.

It might be worth waiting if you’re eyeing certain Mac models, but bear in mind that almost all of the M2 machines listed above are currently available with deep discounts, whereas those that are upgraded to M3 next year likely will remain at full price for a while after launch.

Mac comparison chart

Here's how the latest Mac models compare
Here’s how the latest Mac models compare on a variety of factors, from price to specs.
Photo: Apple
MacBook Air MacBook Pro iMac Mac mini Mac Studio Mac Pro
MSRP From $999 From $1,599 From $1,299 From $599 From $1,999 From $6,999
Chip M1, M2 M3, M3 Pro, M3 Max M3 M2, M2 Pro M2 Max, M2 Ultra M2 Ultra
RAM Up to 24GB Up to 128GB Up to 24GB Up to 32GB Up to 192GB Up to 192GB
Storage Up to 2TB Up to 8TB Up to 2TB Up to 8TB Up to 8TB Up to 8TB
Display 13-inch, 15-inch 14-inch, 16-inch 24-inch
Battery life Up to 18 hours Up to 22 hours

Best accessories for your new Mac

Once you’ve decided on which Mac to get, you’ll want some accessories to go with it. We recommend picking up a good mouse (Apple’s Magic Mouse isn’t great) right away. You also might want a laptop stand, a case, a USB-C hub and a good set of speakers for certain machines. Here are our picks for some of the finest Mac accessories.

MacBook Air


Mac mini

MacBook Pro

Mac Studio and Mac Pro


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