There are four different models of MacBook laptops in Apple's line-up: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and MacBook Pro with Retina display, and new for 2015, the 12in Retina MacBook.

Further still, each of those MacBooks is available in different sizes and configurations, with various build-to-order options. It's not surprising, then, that many people have difficulty deciding between them.

Here, we're helping you make that decision by examining the options and providing expert advice about which MacBook is best for you.

First, let's take a look at what's on offer.

[You should also read our Best Mac buyers guide]

MacBook Air buying advice

There are four configurations of MacBook Air available. Two have an 11in display and two have a 13in display. Each size offers 128GB and 256GB of flash storage and a 1.6GHz processor.

The MacBook Air used to be the most portable MacBook available, but the new MacBook with Retina display has now taken that position.

However, the 11in MacBook Air model is still ideal for anyone who travels a lot.

Retina MacBook Pro Buying Advice

When it comes to the MacBook Pro, there are a total of five Retina display models, three of which have 13in screens while the remaining two have 15in displays.

Thanks to its higher specs the MacBook Pro with Retina display offers more power than the MacBook Air, and the display is also significantly higher resolution. Internally, each of the MacBook Pro with Retina display models differ, but we'll come to that later.

MacBook Pro Buying Advice

There is one more MacBook Pro available, the MacBook Pro with no Retina display. It's only available as a 13in 2.5GHz model, but it's the last remaining MacBook with an optical-drive.

The non-Retina MacBook Pro hasn't been updated by Apple since 2012. There have been rumours over the years that Apple will update the non-Retina MacBook Pro, but we think it is more likely that it will soon disappear from the line up.

MacBook Buying advice

There's one more type of Mac laptop available. The 12in MacBook with Retina display.

The MacBook, introduced in April 2015 is available in Gold, Silver or Space Grey, just like the iPhone. Colour choices aside, there are two models of MacBook to choose from, either 1.1GHz and 1.2GHz.

While as we said earlier this is the lightest, and perhaps prettiest Mac available, it's also one of the most expensive, and low powered to boot.

Read our review of the 1.1GHz MacBook here.

How many Mac laptops are there?

That brings the grand total of Mac laptops to 12. However, there are also build-to-order options so you can spec out the Mac laptop of your dreams at the checkout if you order online.

You could also watch this video where we discuss whether you should buy the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, or the slightly cheaper 13-inch MacBook Air

Which MacBook should I buy for portability?

The new 12in MacBook is the lightest and thinnest MacBook available, with a height of 0.35-1.31cm and a weight of 0.92kg. However, there are sacrifices to be made in terms of power, this being Apple's lowest specced computer. It's also one of the most expensive Macs, so not one for the budget conscious.

Next up is the 11in MacBook Air, with a height of 0.3-1.7cm and a weight of 1.08 kg (sure at it's thinnest point the MacBook Air is thinner than the MacBook, but it tapers to a thicker 1.7cm). We still think this Mac is ideal for carrying with you on business trips or in your bag on the way to work.

Both these Macs could be slightly limiting due to their diminutive screen size. The 11in MacBook is the more limiting of the two, however. The actual screen size of the smallest MacBook Air is 11.6 inches, which is just 1.9 inches bigger (diagonally) than the iPad Air. Some people find the dimensions of the MacBook Air screen restrictive too, because the display is shallower than any other Mac due to it being 16:9 rather than 16:10, which is a more normal laptop screen aspect ratio.

The 12in MacBook has a bigger screen than the MacBook Air, plus it offers a much better quality display, more on that later.

We think that the best Mac for portability is actually the 13in MacBook Air, sure it's bigger and heavier than both of the Macs mentioned (its the same 0.3-1.7cm dimensions as the 11in model, but is wider at 32.5cm rather than 30cm). But at 1.35kg it is not a lot heavier than the 11in model, and it is lighter than the 13in MacBook Pro (1.58kg).

To help you decide between the two 13in models, you can read our which 13in Apple laptop article.

The price of the 13in MacBook Air is a lot better than that of the MacBook too, starting at £849 rather than £1,049. You get the best of both worlds, a light laptop with a decent screen size.

Watch our which MacBook Air is best video below.

You can also find out more in our which MacBook Air is best article.

Which MacBook is best for battery life?

The battery life of the 13in MacBook Air is the highest of any MacBook available. Apple calls it an "all-day battery" but what that means is up to 12 hours, and a whopping 30 days standby time.

Next up is the 13in Retina MacBook Pro which can manage 10 hours wireless web (and Apple claims 12 hours if you are just watching video in iTunes).

The MacBook, 11n MacBook Air, and the 15in MacBook Pro with Retina display all offer 9 hours of battery life for wireless web (10 hours for iTunes on the MacBook and Air, while the MacBook Pro offers 9 hours of iTunes).

Finally the older MacBook without the Retina display offers just 7 hours of wireless web browsing.

Which MacBook is best for storage?

One thing to consider if you work with large files, as many creative professionals do, is the capacity of the storage inside the Mac.

There are two types of storage available: flash (also known as SSD) or a traditional hard drive.

You will find SSD options of 256GB and 512GB for the Retina MacBook Pro, 128GB and 256GB for the MacBook Air, and 256GB and 512GB for the Retina MacBook.

There are also build to order options including 1TB flash storage on the top of the range Retina MacBook Pro (it'll set you back a cool £400 in addition to the £1,999 the machine already costs).

We think that buying a separate hard drive and plugging it in when necessary (or using network attached storage) is a better, and cheaper, solution.

The only Mac laptop to offer a hard drive is the older non-Retina MacBook Pro - this model comes with a 500GB hard drive. The hard drive in this Mac is far slower than the flash drives in the other MacBooks. We would advise anyone buying a Mac to look at a flash drive option.

Which MacBook is fastest

As Apple's fastest Mac laptop, the 2.5GHz quad-core MacBook Pro may be a good choice for you if you are looking for the fastest Mac. There's even a build to order option of a 2.8GHz quad-core. The quad-core processor in the 15in MacBook Pro means it has double the processor power of the other dual core Macs. This is likely to make a real difference to processor intensive work.

It's the most pricy option though. We recommend that if you think you want the most speed you can get for your money, find the build to order option within your budget that offers the fastest processor.

Find out the difference between i7 and i5 processors here.

How to chose the best Mac laptop for your needs

To figure out which MacBook will best suit your needs, you'll need to think about what's most important. Are you looking for a MacBook to take with you on business trips? Perhaps you're after a gaming machine, or you're a student who needs a MacBook for uni. Here, we take you through the options.

Which MacBook is best for Productivity?

You'll get iWork for free when you buy any new Mac laptop, which means you'll be able to use Apple's Pages, Numbers and Keynote applications (the rivals to Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint).

There has been some research that suggests that the bigger the screen the more productive you will be, so it might be best to opt for a 15in MacBook Pro to maximise the effect of the extra screen space.

Which MacBook should I buy for running graphics intensive applications?

If you want to use your MacBook for more powerful tasks like running creative applications, then the MacBook Air and MacBook might not be the best option.

If you're a graphic designer, video editor or photographer, then the likelihood is you'll benefit from a bigger display and a more powerful Mac. There's no longer a 17in MacBook Pro option, but there are two 15in MacBook Pro with Retina display models available.

The first has a 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor. It has 16GB 1600MHz memory and 256GB flash storage.

The second has a 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB or 1600MHz memory. It has 512GB of flash storage.

The 2.5GHz model also has a discrete graphics card - the AMD Radeon R9 M370X - in addition to the Intel Iris Pro Graphics, where the other 15in has only the Intel Iris Pro Graphics. The MacBook Pro is able to switch in and our of the two graphics cards depending on the activity. If you are likely to need the best graphics on offer this will be the MacBook for you, but it comes at a high price - £1,999! Hopefully your work will stump up the cash for you.

The 2.2GHz MacBook PRi isn't much cheaper either, it costs £1,599.

Which MacBook should I buy for gaming?

The Mac is growing in popularity as a gaming machine, especially since the launch of the Mac App Store. Plus, the ability to install Windows via Boot Camp on a Mac means Mac gamers can run Windows games too.

If you want to buy a MacBook for gaming, then we'd recommend the (unfortunately most expensive) high-end MacBook Pro with Retina display. It's got AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics card, which should enable it to provide the best performance out of all of the MacBooks available, and some Mac desktops.

However, even the Intel graphics in the 13in MacBook Pro models could be sufficient for your gaming needs. The Intel HD Graphics 6100 in the 13in model, and Intel Iris Pro Graphics in the 15in model are plenty fast enough for many of today's games.

Which MacBook should I buy for university?

We'd suggest that students will have similar needs to business users. They'll want to be able to carry their MacBook to and from lectures, and probably won't need them to be hugely powerful (unless they're on a graphic design or video editing course…).

In that case, we'd suggest the MacBook Air again. Take a look back at the advice we gave at the beginning of this article when discussing portability for more information.

However, it's worth noting that the Retina-less MacBook Pro still has an optical drive, and, surprisingly, some universities still require work to be submitted on a CD or DVD. However, Apple does sell an external optical drive for £65.

Which MacBook should I buy if I'm on a budget?

If money is the deciding factor when it comes to buying a MacBook, then the cheapest model available is the 128GB 11in MacBook Air, which costs £749. At £100 more, you can get the 13in MacBook Air, and add another £50 to that and you can buy the Retina MacBook Pro for £999.

The MacBook Pro without Retina display costs £899 but we think that is too much to pay what is essentially a machine from 2012, it hasn't been updated since then.

It's also worth taking a look on Apple's refurbished store, which often has MacBooks available to buy at reduced prices. Apple puts the products in the refurbished store through vigorous testing, so you'll hardly know the difference between a refurbished Mac and a brand new one.

The cheapest MacBook we can see on the Apple refurbished store at time of writing is a June 2014 11in MacBook Air with 128GB flash storage, which has a saving of £130, making it £719.

See: Should I buy a secondhand Mac?

[Wondering whether to buy a MacBook or a Mac desktop? Find out if you should buy a Mac laptop or Mac desktop here.]

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