Why a MacBook isn’t the “best laptop” for everyone

Apple’s MacBook M1 and M2 are fantastic technical products. They perform well, have good battery life and are some of the best laptops you can buy. So why aren’t so many tech sites listing them as the “best laptop”?

If you check out the best laptop lists, you’ll see buying guides with laptops like the Dell XPS 13, HP Specter, and Microsoft Surface Laptop in mind. When you read laptop reviews, you’ll find reviews that condone problems that aren’t present on MacBooks. For example, it’s true – my Surface Laptop 4 definitely runs much hotter than the MacBook Air M1. Our editor Corbin Davenport pointed out that his MacBook Air M1 runs Chrome much faster than his Surface Laptop 4 in his tests.

16 questions you’re too afraid to ask about your new MacBook

John Gruber, at the Daring Fireball website, blamed PC reviewers and tech sites for not recommending MacBooks more highly:

Here’s the thing: many people are looking to buy laptops for Windows software (or maybe Linux software). They have software and workloads that depend on Windows, or they’re just more comfortable with Windows. Maybe people want to play PC games – MacBooks are still far behind when it comes to gaming.

When we write about the best laptops, we don’t tell people to buy a MacBook because that’s not what our readers come to us for. When we review a Windows laptop, we don’t relentlessly compare it to Apple’s silicone MacBooks because we know our readers generally know whether they want a Mac or a Windows PC. We know they will compare Windows laptops with other Windows laptops if they choose Windows.

We don’t ignore MacBooks. We’ve written a lot about how great the M1 (and now the M2) is. Apple’s silicon is amazing technology. Apple has surpassed Intel and AMD in energy efficiency. The M1 and M2 are especially great considering how incredibly slow Windows-on-ARM laptops are. In our experience, Apple’s Rosetta translation layer is much faster than Microsoft’s solution for running x86 applications on Windows ARM PCs. The fact that Microsoft spent a decade trying to bring ARM PCs to this point (Windows RT was released in October 2012) makes the situation even sadder.

But if you want Windows, it doesn’t matter to you. You should buy a Windows laptop so you can run the software you need, play the games you want, and use the familiar interface you prefer. A buying guide or article that says “you really should buy a MacBook because laptops are bad in comparison” is not helpful.

This is especially true now that the MacBook M1 and M2 no longer support Boot Camp to install Windows 10 or Windows 11 alongside macOS. This makes them less compelling for people who need Windows software.

If you prefer Windows, you should also look for a lot more information in your purchasing process. If you prefer a MacBook, there is only one manufacturer to choose from: Apple. (Of course, Apple offers several models, and we try to help people choose between them). If you prefer a Windows PC, you need to do a lot more research because there are so many manufacturers that offer so many different laptops. People looking for the best laptop online are usually looking for the best laptop, so that’s what we present at the start.

We include MacBooks in our laptop buying advice, but we don’t recommend everyone buy them. It’s up to you whether you want a Mac or a PC. But you should buy a MacBook if you want one! They are amazing machines.

Ultimately, expecting a MacBook to top the list of best laptops is like expecting an Xbox or Nintendo Switch to top the list of best PCs. Yes, the Xbox and Nintendo Switch are incredibly powerful and compelling machines, and many people would be better off with them than with a gaming PC. But they run completely different software and offer a completely different experience. A person who has decided to buy a gaming PC is not well served by a website that tries to trick them into buying a console instead.

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