If you’re just going back to school, college or university or have already started, here we’ve looked at the best Macs for students of 2023.
These are the best back-to-school deals for Macs you’ll find anywhere with some real bargains to be found for university, college and school students.
The good news for students is that MacBooks have never been cheaper and Apple’s release of the latest Apple Silicon M1 and M2 MacBooks offer some of the best value for money Macs that have ever hit the market.
Since most students are looking for the lightweight portability of a MacBook over a desktop machine like the Mac Mini or Mac Studio, this means lot of deals to choose from.
In our research, we found the M1 MacBook Pro 14 inch is the best Mac for students thanks to a combination of power, portability and value.
The good news for students that want to use their MacBooks in the library is that, unlike with the iPhone, Apple has kept the standard 3.5 headphone jack in the latest generation of Apple Silicon MacBooks so you can still use most headphones with them without an adapter.
So whether you need a MacBook for taking notes in lectures or seminars, watching back lectures, video editing courses, graphic design courses, video conferencing with teachers or students or writing your assignments on, you’ll find the best Mac for you here.
If you’re looking for a desktop Mac as oppose to a MacBook, then you also check out our review of the amazingly powerful Mac Studio or the newly released M2 Mac Mini which is currently the cheapest Mac on the market.
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Here then are the best Macs for students of 2023.
- 1. 2021 M1 MacBook Pro 14 inch
- 2. 2022 M2 MacBook Air 13 inch
- 3. 2020 M1 MacBook Air 13 inch
- 4. 2022 M2 MacBook Pro 13 inch
- 5. 2023 M2 MacBook Pro 16 inch
- 6. M2 Mac Mini
- Best Macs For Students Compared
- Can You Run Windows On These Macs?
- Are MacBooks Worth It For Students?
- Does Apple Run Promotions On Macs?
- Does Apple Offer Student Discounts?
1. 2021 M1 MacBook Pro 14 inch
The 2021 14 inch M1 MacBook Pro is the best Mac for students thanks to a combination of power, portability, customization and value for a machine this powerful.
The M1 MacBook Pro is still the most powerful MacBook ever released boasting the new revolutionary Apple Silicon M1 chip with a choice of M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.
The 14 inch screen model hits the sweet spot between the 13 inch and 16 inch models and can handle even the most demanding 8K video editing and rendering and pretty much any graphic design app you throw at it.
Compared to the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro also has a ProMotion display which is especially designed to handle frame rates of fast moving footage often required by video editors.
If you’re studying any kind of creative art such as graphic design or video editing, then the 16 inch model with an M1 Max processor and 64GB of RAM is definitely worth stretching to with a stunning 3456 x 2234 native resolution display.
You can even upgrade the storage to 1TB which is probably a good idea for anyone studying digital arts.
If you’re a fan of the Touch Bar, then you’ll need the 13 inch M1 MacBook Pro but if you can live without it then the increased screen estate in the 14 and 16 inch models is definitely worth it.
The 1080p webcam deliver stunning quality images and video for web conferencing and remote meetings, although you now get the same quality iSight camera in the M2 MacBook Air.
To really max it out, you’ll need to upgrade the chip to either the M1 Max or M1 Pro which can also support more than one external monitor compared the the base 13 inch M1 MacBook Pro which only supports one external display.
For photographers and video editors, there’s also an added SDXC card reader to slot memory cards into and instantly transfer footage to your hard drive.
Note that since this review was written, Apple released the new 14 inch and 16 inch M2 MacBook Pro in January 2023.
The M2 models offer some speed improvements on the M1 MacBook Pro although they are more expensive and are yet to be reviewed but you may want to consider this before purchasing.
You can also read our full review of the 2021 MacBook Pro for a more in-depth look at what it can do.
- Customizable with M1 Pro and M1 Max chips
- SDXC card reader slot
- M1 Pro and M1 Max support multiple external monitors
- Powerful yet portable
- Supports up to 3 external displays
- More expensive and heavier than the MacBook Air
- Not quite as fast and powerful as the 14 inch M2 MacBook Pro
2. 2022 M2 MacBook Air 13 inch
The 13 inch M2 MacBook Air is one of the best MacBook for students on a budget thanks to a combination of incredible processing power, portability and value for money.
Released in July 2022, the M2 MacBook Air has Apple’s latest M2 chip which is even faster than the Apple Silicon M1 chip first released in the 2020 M1 MacBook Air.
With a slimmer design, more processing power, more battery power and a much better 1080p webcam, the M2 MacBook Air is definitely an upgrade on the 2020 M1 Model.
Unlike the MacBook Pro models, the 2022 M2 MacBook Air is completely silent as it has no cooling fans but it can still handle everything from 4K video editing to music production.
The main downside compared to the MacBook Pro is that it is less powerful and the lack of fans means it will struggle processing and rendering 8K video or heavy duty graphic design software.
For photographers or video editors, there’s also no SDXC card reader to instantly transfer photos and video although you can still do this via a Thunderbolt/USB-C cable easily.
For those that want to connect an external monitor, bear in mind that there’s also no HDMI port in the MacBook Air although likewise, you can connect them via USB-C/Thunderbolt too.
However, note that officially, you can only connect one external monitor to the M2 MacBook Air although there are other ways to connect more than one monitor to base level M1 chips.
If external displays are important for you, consider getting an M1 or M2 MacBook Pro instead with at least an M1 Pro or Max chip inside which can support two and three external monitors respectively.
- The most powerful MacBook Air on the market
- Incredibly light and portable
- Excellent value for money
- Only supports one external display
- No HDMI port
3. 2020 M1 MacBook Air 13 inch
If you really can’t stretch to the M2 MacBook Air then the 13 inch 2020 M1 MacBook Air is the cheapest MacBook on the market.
It’s still the second most powerful Apple Silicon M1 MacBook Air ever released with the incredible Apple Silicon M1 chip inside which delivers amazingly fast performance compared to the older MacBook Air’s with Intel chips.
The M1 MacBook Air might be Apple’s base model MacBook but it can still handle 4K video editing, music production, graphic design and comes with a generous 8GB of RAM in the base model which can be increased to 16GB.
Unlike the M1 MacBook Pro, there’s also no fan inside the M1 MacBook Air which means it’s ideal for quiet areas like libraries and study rooms.
It’s also got up to 15 hours of battery life which is a few hours less than the M2 MacBook Air but more than enough to get you through the day on a full charge with heavy use.
There’s slightly less port connectivity than the 2022 M2 MacBook Air and the screen resolution isn’t quite as good but they’re hardly big drawbacks for most students.
Note that like the M2 MacBook Air, the M1 MacBook Air is also limited to just one external display without using workarounds.
- Powerful M1 chip inside
- Incredibly light and portable
- The cheapest Apple MacBook on the market
- Only supports one external display
- No HDMI port
- Shorter battery life than the M2 MacBook Air
- Lower resolution screen than the M2
4. 2022 M2 MacBook Pro 13 inch
The 2022 13 inch MacBook Pro is the the cheapest MacBook Pro on the market and is a great choice for students that need power over screen space.
The 13 inch M2 MacBook Pro was released in 2022 although in January 2023 it was joined by the more expensive 14 inch and 16 inch M2 MacBook Pros.
The M2 chip means it’s around 25% faster than the 13 inch M1 MacBook Pro although the build, design, and port connectivity are exactly the same.
However, you actually may find it better to get the M2 MacBook Air than the current M2 MacBook Pro as there aren’t many advantages other than that.
Surprisingly, you don’t get MagSafe charging with the M2 MacBook Pro (you do with the M2 MacBook Air though) and it also has a slightly smaller 13.3 inch screen compared to 13.6 inch on the M2 MacBook Air.
The 13 inch 2022 M2 MacBook Pro only has a 720p camera too compared to 1080p on the M2 MacBook Air.
There is however a cooling fan on the 2022 M2 MacBook Pro for more intensive graphic design and video editing work and it also includes the Touch Bar.
It also includes an SDXC card reader slot and has around 2 hours longer battery life than the M2 MacBook Air if you work off battery power a lot.
- Around 25% faster than the MacBook Pro M1 chip
- SDXC card reader slot
- Long battery life
- Powerful yet portable
- Base M2 chip only supports one external display
- More expensive than the MacBook Air for not much more spec
- No MagSafe charging
- Less powerful and lower spec than 14/16 inch M2 MacBook Pros
5. 2023 M2 MacBook Pro 16 inch
If money is no object, then the 16 inch M2 MacBook Pro is the most powerful MacBook for students available in 2023.
Hot off the press and released in January 2023, the 16 inch M2 MacBook Pro is the best MacBook on the market and can handle even the most demanding of tasks.
With a generous 16 inch screen which is comfortable enough for lengthy periods of video editing, music production and graphic design, the biggest M2 MacBook Pro is an awesome machine.
You can customize the RAM on the 16 inch M1 MacBook Pro up to 96GB of unified memory, add an even more powerful M1 Pro or M1 Max chip and to top it off, max it out with a whopping 8TB of SSD hard drive space.
The only Apple Silicon Mac which out performs it is the Mac Studio if you maxed it out with the top of the range M1 Ultra chip.
Of course, the bigger 16 inch model is a bit heavier to carry around so it’s not as portable as the 14 or 13 inch versions but the screen estate and power increase payoff is worth it.
It can also work off the battery for an amazing 22 hours in optimum conditions which is easily the most powerful battery ever released by Apple on a MacBook.
If money is no object and you’re looking for the most powerful MacBook on the market that can handle pretty much anything, the 16 inch M2 MacBook Pro is your answer.
You can read our full M2 MacBook Pro review for more.
- The most powerful MacBook on the market
- SDXC card reader slot
- Up to 22 hours battery life
- Up to 8TB of hard drive space
- Up to 96GB of unified memory
- Supports multiple external displays with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips
- The heaviest MacBook to carry around
6. M2 Mac Mini
Finally, if you can live without a MacBook, then the new M2 Mac Mini is easily the cheapest Mac for students on the market.
Released in January 2023, the M2 Mac Mini starts at just $599 which is actually $100 cheaper than the original M1 Mac Mini released in 2020.
You can customize up to 32GB of unified memory RAM with the M2 Mac Mini when purchasing with storage of up to 8TB.
Remember that since the M2 Mac Mini has no monitor, keyboard or mouse, you’ll have to buy them separately although you can use pretty much any monitor, keyboard or mouse with it.
Check out our guide to the best external monitors for the Mac Mini for more on the best displays for it.
Although it’s more expensive than the basic M2 chip, we strongly recommend going for the more powerful M2 Mac Mini with M2 Pro chip as it also supports up to three external displays – two via Thunderbolt and one via HDMI 2.1.
The basic M2 Mac Mini supports two external displays but only one via Thunderbolt, the other via HDMI. The HDMI port in both models of Mac Mini is also useful if you want to connect your Mac Mini to a TV too.
If you’re looking for the cheapest Mac for students, the M2 Mac Mini offers great value for money but lacks the convenience of the screen in a MacBook which can be used on the move.
You can read our full M2 Mac Mini review for more on this incredibly powerful budget Mac.
- Incredible value for students
- Can support up to 3 displays simultaneously
- Up to 8TB of storage
- Easily portable
- Upgraded HDMI 2.1 port
- Cheaper than the M1 Mac Mini
- Requires keyboard, monitor and mouse separately
- Not suitable for using in college, university or library
Best Macs For Students Compared
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the pricing and specifications of the best Macs for students we’ve reviewed here.
Can You Run Windows On These Macs?
There are some programs, applications and games that are Windows only and in those cases, some students have no choice than to either buy a PC laptop or install Windows on their Mac.
You can install Windows on M1 & M2 Macs but it’s important to understand that Apple Silicon Macs can only run the Windows for ARM version of Windows 10 and Windows 11 which isn’t compatible with all Windows programs.
If you need to run the standard x86 version of Windows, then you’ll need an Intel Mac but Apple does not sell them from new anymore although you can still buy refurbished Intel Macs.
Are MacBooks Worth It For Students?
The relatively higher cost of Macs compared to PC laptops means many students may wonder whether its worth buying a MacBook.
If you’re studying any kind of video editing or graphic design then a MacBook is definitely worth it if you’re a student. Almost all professionals in creative industries use Macs and much of your course will be based around using Macs.
Even if you’re not studying anything creative, MacBooks are reliable and far less prone to viruses and slow downs than PC laptops.
A Mac should also last you many years compared to a PC laptop and is a good investment over the long term. The average MacBook Air for example lasts around 7 years and many users will get far more than this out of it.
If there are any problems with your Mac, you’ll also find that AppleCare is very quick and efficient at repairing your MacBook or even replacing it. Students can also get up to 20% off AppleCare plans depending on region.
Does Apple Run Promotions On Macs?
Apple rarely runs promotions (although it sometime offers Apple vouchers with Mac purchases to spend on Apple accessories) so often the cheapest Mac deals are to be found on Amazon.
If you want to customize your Mac with more RAM and hard drive space, this isn’t always possible on Amazon and you’ll have to buy direct from Apple.
Does Apple Offer Student Discounts?
Apple does offer education discounts depending on the region although some of it is in the form of Apple gift cards to spend on accessories.
Apple also offers student discounts on Apple Music subscriptions and receive Apple TV+ free as part of the student Apple Music offer.
You’ll need to verify yourself via UNiDAYS to access the Apple student store.
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