Apple’s M1 and M2 MacBooks are amazing pieces of technology. They run cool, get amazing battery life, and are some of the best laptops you can buy. So why do so many technology websites not brand them the “best laptop?”
When you look for lists of the best laptops, you’ll see buying guides headlined by laptops like the Dell XPS 13, HP Spectre, and Microsoft Surface Laptop. When you read reviews of PC laptops, you’ll find reviewers forgiving problems with them that aren’t present on MacBooks. For example, it’s true—my Surface Laptop 4 certainly runs much hotter than the M1 MacBook Air. Our news editor Corbin Davenport has pointed out that his M1 MacBook Air runs Chrome a lot faster than his Surface Laptop 4 did according to his tests.
John Gruber over at Daring Fireball has been calling out PC reviewers and tech sites for not recommending MacBooks more strongly:
Reviewers at ostensibly neutral publications are afraid that reiterating the plain truth about x86 vs. Apple silicon — that Apple silicon wins handily in both performance and efficiency — is not going to be popular with a large segment of their audience.
Here’s the thing: Lots of people are looking to buy PC laptops for Windows software (or perhaps Linux software). People have software and workloads that depend on Windows, or they’re just more comfortable with Windows. Perhaps people want to play PC games—MacBooks are still far behind on gaming.
When we write about the best laptops, we don’t tell everyone they should buy a MacBook because that’s not what our readers are coming to us for. When we review a Windows laptop, we don’t relentlessly compare it to Apple Silicon MacBooks because we know that our readers generally know whether they want a Mac or a Windows PC. We know they’ll be comparing the Windows laptop to other Windows laptops if they choose Windows.
We don’t ignore MacBooks. We’ve written a lot about how M1 (and now M2) is amazing. Apple Silicon is incredible technology. Apple has leapfrogged Intel and AMD in power-efficient performance. M1 and M2 are especially amazing in light of how incredibly slow Windows-on-ARM laptops are. Apple’s Rosetta translation layer is much faster in our experience than Microsoft’s solution for running x86 apps on Windows ARM PCs. The fact that Microsoft has spent a decade trying to get ARM PCs to this point (Windows RT was released in October 2012) makes the situation even sadder.
But, if you want Windows, none of that matters 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 review that bangs on about how “you really should buy a MacBook instead because PC laptops suck in comparison” is not helpful.
This is especially true now that M1 and M2 MacBooks no longer support Boot Camp for installing Windows 10 or Windows 11 alongside macOS. This makes them less compelling to people who need Windows software.
Additionally, if you prefer Windows, you need to seek out much more information in your buying process. If you prefer a MacBook, you have only one manufacturer to choose from: Apple. (Of course, Apple does offer quite a few models, and we try to help people choose between them.) If you prefer a Windows PC, you have to do a lot more research because there are so many manufacturers offering so many different laptops. People who are hunting down the best laptop online are generally looking for the best PC laptop, so that’s what we feature upfront.
We include MacBooks in our laptop buying advice, but we don’t just recommend everyone buy them. It’s up to you if you want a Mac or PC. You should buy a MacBook if you want one, though! They’re great machines.
Ultimately, expecting a MacBook to top the list of Best Laptops is kind of like expecting an Xbox or Nintendo Switch to top the list of Best Gaming PCs. Yes, the Xbox and Nintendo Switch are incredibly efficient, compelling machines, and many people would be better off with them than a gaming PC. But they run completely different software and offer a completely different experience. Someone who has decided to buy a gaming PC isn’t well-served by a website that’s trying to get them to buy a console instead.