Best MacBooks for students 2024: Get the best Apple tech for working on the go

The best MacBooks for students may look good, but they also have plenty of power to back up their pleasing aesthetics. While Chromebooks and Windows machines have their own strengths and pitfalls, there's something to be said about the style of MacBooks.

Whether it's a MacBook Air for writing essays, a MacBook Pro for powering through creative projects, or anything in between, the move to Apple Silicon (Apple's own processor chips) is now complete — and there's never been a better time to buy an Apple laptop.

The latest chips offer incredible power and multitasking capabilities, as well as power efficiency which means each device can last longer than ever before.

Still, there are plenty of options — M2 or M3? Pro or Air? We are continually running tests, benchmarks and reviewing the latest models to best answer those questions in this guide and give a rundown of some of the best laptops for students. For more on Apple tech for students, be sure to check out how to get the Apple Student Discount.

The Quick List

The best MacBooks for students we recommend in 2024

Why you can trust Live Science Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best ones for you. Find out more about how we test.

Best all-round laptop for students

(Image credit: Apple)

MacBook Air 15-inch (M3)

Specifications

Price: $1,129
CPU: Apple M3
GPU: Apple 10-core GPU
RAM: 8 GB (Configurable up to 24 GB)
Storage: 256 GB (configurable up to 2 TB)
Screen size: 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display
Weight: 3.3 lbs (1.51 kg)
Dimensions: 9.35 x 13.40 x 0.45 in (23.76 x 34.04 x 1.15 cm) (DxWxH)

Reasons to buy

+
Larger display
+
Powerful but power-efficient

Reasons to avoid

-
Still pricey
-
No HDMI port
-
256 GB storage is low
Buy it if

✅ You want a cheaper MacBook: It's the cheapest of the large-screen MacBooks available.

You're looking for a portable big-screen device: The Air is 0.45 inches thick and you get a great amount of screen real-estate.

Don't buy it if:

You want a smaller laptop: The 13-inch version is lighter and smaller than its 15-inch counterpart.

You want the most powerful MacBook: The M3  will be outgunned by the M3 Pro and M3 Max CPUs in the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

The bottom line

🔎 The MacBook Air 15-inch (M3) is a compact and versatile machine that offers a balance between power, portability, and price. ★★★★★

Our pick for the best MacBook for students is the base 15-inch MacBook Air M3 model, which is perfectly balanced for portability, functionality and price point. We mentioned in our review of its predecessor, the MacBook Air 15-inch (M2), that it's the ultimate student laptop  

While there are cheaper options out there, with the 15-inch version you get the same great performance the M3 chip allows for plus more screen real estate, so you can really dive into any work that involves graphics or if you're looking for a device to watch shows or run intensive games.

You also avoid needing to shell out for a MacBook Pro, given this device is largely the same in terms of its internal components. It's also very portable, weighing just 3.3 lbs (1.4 kg) and measuring just 0.45 inches (11.43 mm) thick when the lid is shut. 

That means you get the best of both worlds with a large and immersive display for viewing content or media and a fantastically portable machine that you can carry around with you when working on the go or on the way to lectures. There's also a fantastic battery life and a variety of colors you can pick up this device including Midnight, Starlight, Space Grey and Silver.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignSame great design as the previous generation's MacBook Air
FunctionalityHighly portable for a large-screen laptop
PerformanceFantastic performance with an upgraded M3 chip

Most portable MacBook

(Image credit: apple)

Specifications

Price: $1,099
CPU: Apple M3
GPU: Apple 10-core GPU
RAM: 8 GB (configurable up to 24 GB)
Storage: 256 GB (configurable up to 2 TB)
Screen size: 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display
Weight: 2.7 lbs (1.24 kg)
Dimensions: 8.46 x 11.97 x 0.44 in (21.5 x 30.41 x 1.13 cm) (DxWxH)

Reasons to buy

+
New design
+
Latest chip
+
Incredibly portable

Reasons to avoid

-
Basic configuration lacking in storage
Buy it if

You want to work on the move: This is the lightest and most portable MacBook available.

You don't need to run heavy workloads: The base model is perfectly capable of running basic tasks smoothly.

Don't buy it if:

You want a larger screen: You get plenty of real estate in a 13-inch laptop but if you want more room, consider a larger device.

You are investing in a machine for creative work: While performance is solid, you will need more memory to copy with running multiple intensive programs.

The bottom line

🔎 The MacBook Air 13-inch (M3) is a portable powerhouse that is ideal for working on the move. ★★★★½

The MacBook Air has been widely recognized by Apple and others as being the developer's most popular laptop and it's obvious why. 

Its stunningly elegant design is coupled with a lightness you don't get with the MacBook Pro (it weights 2.7 lbs versus the MacBook Pro's 3.4 lbs). It also performs on par thanks to the inclusion of an M3 chip. We mentioned in our MacBook Air M2 review that the device offers the perfect blend of power and portability for students — and the M3 version is no different. 

With the base model available for just over $1,000, you could do much worse than one of the best laptops out there — and you also get the popular MagSafe charging option, 1080p webcam and a gorgeous Liquid Retina display with the price. 

You can also pick it up in a handful of great colors including Silver, Space Gray and Starlight — but we have a soft spot for the Midnight coating. While you can pick it up for a reasonable price, we would always recommend looking for at least 16 GB "unified memory" if you're looking to do anything beyond browsing and typing up notes, however, but it's nonetheless a zippy laptop that's well worth the price.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignExquisite build quality and premium MacBook design
FunctionalityThe most portable MacBook at your disposal
PerformanceExcellent at simple tasks but you may wish to consider a heftier laptop if you need more than that

MacBook with the best battery life

(Image credit: Apple)

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max)

Specifications

Price: $3,699
CPU: Apple M3 Max
GPU: Apple 40-core GPU
RAM: 48GB (Configurable up to 128 GB)
Storage: 1 TB (Configurable up to 8 TB)
Screen size: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina display
Weight: 4.8 lbs (2.16 kg)
Dimensions: 9.77 x 14.01 x 0.66 in (24.81 x 35.57 x 1.68 cm) (DxWxH)

Reasons to buy

+
The most powerful MacBook
+
Incredible battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Incredibly expensive
-
Heavier than other MacBooks
Buy it if

You want the best battery life: This MacBook is hands-down the longest-lasting Apple device you can get right now.

You want the best of the best: You also get the best display, and performance alongside the best battery.

Don't buy it if:

You want the best value for money: The M3 Max chip is exceptional but will be overkill for most tasks.

You want a smaller screen: The smaller 14-inch MacBook Pro and the 13-inch MacBook Air also have excellent batteries.

The bottom line

🔎 The MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max) is a monstrous machine that will last longer that anything else. ★★★★

No matter which MacBook you pick up, you can guarantee that you are bound to get a device that can last you a full day, and beyond if you're not planning on using it throughout. 

The latest MacBooks last between 18 hours and 22 hours depending on the model you pick up and how you're using it, but the best of all is is the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max) — which is also the most powerful and expensive MacBook you can buy right now.

According to sister site LaptopMag, the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max) lasted more than 18 hours in testing — which was better than other competing devices. 

CNET also tested the latest MacBooks and found this version lasted more than 21 hours in testing. The next best device was the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M3), which lasted 19 hours, followed by the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (M3), which lasted 18 hours. 

We would certainly recommend investing in the MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Max) if you're looking to marry ultimate performance and ultimate battery life — but, of course, this will set you back a fair amount and it might not represent the best value for money. 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignExpansive and immersive display underlines a fantastic overall build
FunctionalityGreat collection of ports and still very thin, but a heavy machine
PerformanceUnrivalled performance — one of the most powerful laptops out there right now

Cheapest MacBook

Specifications

Price: $999
CPU: Apple M2
GPU: Apple 10-core GPU
RAM: 8 GB (Configurable up to 24 GB)
Storage: 256 GB (Configurable up to 2 TB)
Screen size: 13.3-inch Liquid Retina display
Weight: 2.7 lbs (1.24 kg)
Dimensions: 8.46 x 11.97 x 0.44 in (21.5 x 30.41 x 1.13 cm) (DxWxH)

Reasons to buy

+
Portability
+
Cheapest MacBook

Reasons to avoid

-
Old design
-
Could do with more storage
Buy it if

You want value for money: This device is fantastically priced for the hardware you get.

You're always on the move: Despite its age, it's still more than good enough to work with on the go.

Don't buy it if:

You want the most powerful specs: The M2 is one (soon to be two) generations old by now. 

You want a large screen: The smaller 13-inch screen is beneficial in plenty of ways unless you're working more creatively.

The bottom line

🔎 The MacBook Air 13-inch (M2) is a perfect laptop for students and you can grab it for less than $1,000. ★★★★★

While you can still pick up a refurbished version of the MacBook Air (M1) for a reasonable price, things have moved on a little since 2020 and we'd recommend looking at the MacBook Air (M2) instead, which you can pick up for less than $1,000 depending on the configuration you go for. 

There are also a host of benefits that you get. For instance, you get a redesigned form factor, including a notch for the webcam, a brighter and sharper display and better performance overall thanks to the much-improved M2 chip. 

We mentioned in our MacBook Air 13-inch (M2) review that the performance jump alone isn't enough to make it a "must buy," but it's a very easy recommendation given its slim profile, portability and powerful hardware. 

We branded it the ultimate student laptop and it's an assessment we're more than happy to double down on given you'll be able to pick it up for much cheaper than it was when it was first launched. 

There are some downsides to consider, however, such as the lack of some ports like HDMI and a smaller screen versus the 15-inch MacBook Air and 16-inch MacBook Pro — but that's a trade-off we're happy to make given how portable and lightweight this device is.

Read our full MacBook Air 13-inch (M2) review.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignCompact, stylish and effortlessly light
FunctionalityThe most portable MacBook you can get but lacks ports and a bigger screen
PerformanceGreat performance and better than many new Windows laptops

Best MacBook for creatives

(Image credit: Apple)

MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Pro)

Specifications

Price: $1,699
CPU: Apple M3 Pro
GPU: Apple 14-core GPU
RAM: 18 GB (configurable up to 36 GB)
Storage: 512 GB SSD (configurable up to 4 TB)
Screen size: 14.2-inch Liquid Retina
Weight: 3.5 lbs (1.61 kg)
Dimensions: 8.71 x 12.31 x 0.61 in (22.12 x 31.26 x 1.55 cm) (DxWxH)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent performance
+
Great display
+
Lots of ports

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
Buy it if

You want more firepower than the base model: The M3 Pro chip is a step up  and offers much better performance 

You want to work on the go: This device couples its performance with fantastic portability in one package.

Don't buy it if:

You need the biggest possible screen: We'd recommend that 16-inch version if you want more screen space.

You don't need as much power: The M3 MacBook Pro is good enough for most tasks and performs better than most new Windows laptops.

The bottom line

🔎 The MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Pro) gives you more power in a compact package that's ideal for working creatively on the move. ★★★★½

Creatives looking to get the most out of a machine without breaking the bank should consider the MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Pro). 

While this sits rather awkwardly in the middle of the M3 and M3 Max versions of the MacBook Pro it offers plenty of firepower without completely breaking the bank. It's especially useful if you have more of a budget and you're hoping to go beyond the basic performance levels of the M3 chip.

Creatives will appreciate the extra firepower afforded with the M3 Pro chip and 18 GB unified memory — and you can have plenty of storage too (picking from 512 GB or 1 TB SSD options) — all for much less than you would expect to pick up a MacBook Pro fitted with the M3 Max chip. 

This most powerful version of the MacBook Pro 14-inch is worth approximately $1,000 more than the best M3 Pro configuration — and may be overkill for many creative tasks. 

The smaller screen also means working on the move is far more comfortable than if you're using a 16-inch device, which despite being exceptionally thin for a large-screen machine is a little less versatile.   

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignSame great build and design quality you have come to expect
FunctionalityPlenty of ports in this portable package
PerformanceExcellent performance thanks to the M3 Pro chip

Best MacBook for video editing

(Image credit: Apple)

MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Pro)

Specifications

Price: $2,199
CPU: Apple M3 Pro
GPU: Apple 18-core GPU
RAM: 18 GB (configurable up to 36 GB)
Storage: 512 GB (configurable up to 4 TB)
Screen size: 16.2-inch Liquid Retina display
Weight: 4.7 lbs (2.14 kg)
Dimensions: 9.77 x 14.01 x 0.66 in (24.81 x 35.57 x 1.68 cm) (DxWxH)

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible performance
+
Great battery life
+
Best laptop display you’ll find anywhere

Reasons to avoid

-
Among the most expensive
-
Heavier than the 14-inch version
Buy it if

You need a big screen: The largest MacBook you can buy offers plenty of room to dive into any video work you're doing.

You want to run heavy workloads: The M3 Pro chip is a step up on the base version.

Don't buy it if:

You are working to a tight budget: Consider downgrading to a MacBook Air 15-inch (M3) if you're strapped for cash.

You need something more portable: If you can get away with a smaller and lighter device, the MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Pro) is the one for you. 

The bottom line

🔎 The MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Pro) is as close to the ultimate experience you can get and comes with a stunningly immersive display. ★★★★½

You can take everything we said about the MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3 Pro) and apply it to the 16-inch version. While we don't see many drastic improvements over its sibling in terms of performance or functionality — you get the same number of ports for example — there are a few things worth highlighting. 

Firstly, and most obviously, you get a much bigger and better display, which is essential if you're working with video. The bigger display real estate means you'll be able to get a much closer look at the footage you're cutting, and you won't need to worry about plugging into an external monitor while on location or while on the move. It's very much a desktop-level workstation in a much more portable package. 

This extra peace of mind is worth the larger chassis, which may mean carrying it around is a little tougher than if you had the 14-inch version, but it's still extremely portable for a large machine. 

The MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Pro) also comes a fast charger as standard, so you can get that little extra juice if you need to charge up your device while on the move.




Swipe to scroll horizontally
Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignThe largest MacBook you can buy with a stunningly immersive display
FunctionalityHas everything you could ask for from a premium MacBook
PerformanceExcellent performance but you can upgrade to the M3 Max for ultimate firepower
Keumars Afifi-Sabet
Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars is the technology editor at Live Science. He has written for a variety of publications including Space.com, ITPro, The Week Digital, ComputerActive and TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a technology journalist for more than five years, having previously held the role of features editor with ITPro.

MacBook student discount

Apple has long offered educational discounts for students looking to invest in the company’s products, and that means you can save big bucks on a Mac and iPad right now.

If you’re a student or faculty staff, you’ll be able to save money on everything from the iMac, to the Pro Display XDR using your student ID credentials at Apple’s education store.

Apple also runs regular “back to school’ promotions, ranging from additional Gift Cards that can be redeemed for hardware, software, or services like Apple Music. The company also offers occasional discounts on its AppleCare+ insurance, helping with repairs for things like out-of-warranty screen cracks or water spillages. That can be particularly helpful when transporting your shiny new laptop from a dorm to a classroom and back, giving you peace of mind.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are MacBooks best for students?

While Windows laptops are traditionally more affordable, Apple’s MacBooks tend to last longer. If you're worried about access to all your usual programs, fear not, because Apple laptops can run Microsoft Office apps like Outlook, Word, and Excel. There’s also the App Store for Mac, which offers a huge number of apps for work, play, and creativity. From task managers to note-taking and research apps, to games and more, there’s plenty to be found on the App Store. 

If you’re working in audio or video editing workflows, Apple offers its own powerful tools. GarageBand is included for free with every Mac purchase and is ideal for recording audio, while Logic Pro X is the tech giant’s premium option. Final Cut Pro is an excellent video editing suite, too.

Is a MacBook worth it for students?

The answer to this question depends on your budget to begin with. If you're looking for anything under $1,000 then we'd strongly recommend considering a MacBook Air 13-inch (M2) for example, which is often worth less these days, especially if you can pick up a good deal. We would say that the M3 or M2 MacBook Air 13-inch represents excellent value for money — given you are picking up an extraordinarily powerful device with a massive battery life and a great display quality. MacBooks are also built to last.

Which MacBook is best for students?

Students will be looking for different things in a laptop depending on their need — and MacBooks are an ideal brand of laptop to suit various uses. Most students will need something light and portable, as well as fast enough to be able to handle multiple apps at the same time, as well as plenty of power for media playback or games. Depending on your budget, most students will get plenty of change from the MacBook Air 13-inch (M3), which is a perfect blend between power, portability and functionality. If you're a little more strapped for cash, the M2 version is just as worth considering. 

Is a MacBook Pro or Air better?

Both versions come with custom Apple silicon — if we ignore the M2 chip, you get the same M3 chip in, for example, both the MacBook Air 13-inch (M3) as you do in the MacBook Pro 14-inch (M3). What sets these devices apart is the slightly better display in the Pro, a cooling system to prevent any thermal throttling as well as more ports (including HDMI). The MacBook Air is more than good enough for most people, and it's considerably lighter than the Pro versions. But you should consider the Pro if you have more to spend, want that extra functionality, and want to prevent any potential for performance dips if you're using the device intensively for prolonged periods. The Pro also comes with the option of M3 Pro and M3 Max chips — which offer more firepower for the most intensive workloads. 

What are the disadvantages of a MacBook for students?

You can get plenty of Windows laptops for much less than a MacBook, so Windows devices are certainly worth considering if you are running with a tight budget. But the opposite is true too — and Windows laptops with components as powerful as those fitted into the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro tend to very pricey and may not represent the best value. 

Windows laptops can also adopt different form factors. MacBooks only adopt a traditional clamshell form factor, while Windows devices can come as 2-in-1s with 360-degree hinges as well as tablets with a keyboard attachment and a stylus to boot. There is more versatility in these options that might well be worth considering. Some Windows laptops are also much lighter and smaller than MacBooks. 

How long will a MacBook last you?

The average laptop will last you at least three years and up to eight or nine if you're lucky, speaking from experience. But at that point, you'll be looking to upgrade anyway. Anecdotally (and according to sites like Fruit Fixed) MacBooks have always been considered more built to last than most Windows machines. And that is more true for devices with Apple's custom silicon (M1 and beyond), which are future-proofed given their tendency to blow most other chips out of the water. Given the lengthy battery life in the latest MacBooks, you can also expect to undergo many more recharge cycles before it shows signs of deterioration. That, coupled with the fact that the hardware in the MacBook is engineered to work cohesively, means you are investing in a device that could last many years. 

How we test

A Spyder display calibrator on a screen with measurement reports and graphs

(Image credit: Live Science/Keumars Afifi-Sabet)

Picking the best MacBook for students is a challenge, not only because it's dependent on your workload, but because of the cost involved – Apple's machines are expensive, and there's no getting around that.

We test all our laptops to the same standard whether MacBook or Windows, running various benchmarks and tests — as well as getting hands-on with the machine — to determine what it's like using it and how it performs depending on what you might be looking for in a device. We run CPU and GPU benchmarks using Geekbench 6 to test a laptop's performance, while we run CrystalDiskMark to test how well its hard drive or SSD can handle data transfers. 

Testing a laptop's display involves using a specialized display calibrator that can detect brightness levels, color accuracy, color volume, any undersaturation or oversaturation in the RGB space, as well as distortions against what we expect. We compare and contrast these results to determine how well the display may be suited to, say, video editing or other uses. 

We also test the battery life of all laptops we review in a consistent way to make comparisons viable. We run a looped video in specific conditions with all automatic brightness and contrast settings turned off and we measure how long the laptop lasts before it runs out of battery. 

Beyond benchmarking, we use these laptops day-to-day and run informal stress tests like playing several 4K YouTube videos at once, browsing, and using other applications a typical user might open. We also type with the device and get a general feel for what it's like carrying it around with us.

Everything you need to know before buying

You should ask yourself what you're looking for in a new MacBook and how exactly you intend to use it, and how often. If you need a device for note-taking, web browsing or to watch shows and movies, then a MacBook might feel like overkill. 

But, on the other hand, they're stylish, built to last and are impressively engineered. So perhaps getting a cheap MacBook Air for under $1,000 is the best way forward. If you primarily need something to work with while on the move and that's much lighter than others, the MacBook Air 13-inch (M3) is the pick of the bunch. 

For more firepower and intensive creative tasks or video editing, for instance, you should consider the MacBook Pro line — which offer more power in the form of upgraded M3 Pro and M3 Max chips and more ports. 

Regardless of your needs, there will be a MacBook for you. Just be wary of the price, the size of the machine and how much power you will end up needing. 

Keumars Afifi-Sabet
Channel Editor, Technology

Keumars is the technology editor at Live Science. He has written for a variety of publications including ITPro, The Week Digital, ComputerActive, The Independent, The Observer, Metro and TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a technology journalist for more than five years, having previously held the role of features editor with ITPro. He is an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a degree in biomedical sciences from Queen Mary, University of London. He's also registered as a foundational chartered manager with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), having qualified as a Level 3 Team leader with distinction in 2023.

With contributions from