Best Mac desktop 2023 – Apple's desk computers compared
The best picks for a Mac to go on your desk.
Apple’s bread and butter was, for a long time, Mac desktop computers. Powerful machines that leveraged the extra space that a desk gave them to make some extremely useful productivity options for creatives and developers alike. Now, the Mac range is filled with more power than ever before, with some truly spectacular choices to look at.
For many, however, therein lies an issue. Which Mac desktop should I choose? You need to consider a number of different factors before you can make a final decision on which Mac it is that you want to put under your monitor, such as price, power, use case, and size.
Remember with some of these options you’ll need to add in one of the best Mac monitors so that you can actually see what’s happening. We’ll be looking at the entire range of Mac desktops, from the Mac mini, the Mac Studio, the iMac, and the Mac Pro. All of them have been compared to find the best option, and then categorized so that you can find the best for you.
I’ve been using Macs for almost all of my computing life, and now I spend even more time testing the machines. Drawing on my experience with the Mac lineup and the reviews of the wider iMore team, I’ve put together this carefully curated list to make sure that you’re going to be able to find the best Mac desktop for you.
Best Mac desktop: Mac mini
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Best Mac desktop: Mac mini
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The newest machine on the list, the Mac mini, is a tiny powerhouse. Well, maybe it's not the smallest computer out there; there are smaller Mac mini alternatives after all, but it’s still a compact computer with plenty of power on top for a great price.
Starting at $599, the Mac mini is one of the best-value Macs. That price can raise as you start adding in more RAM, a bigger hard drive, and a more powerful processor, but it’s never going to become quite as unaffordable as some of the other options in the Mac lineup.
The Mac mini is simply the best balance of price to performance out of the bunch. Even the more powerful options don’t cost massive sums of money, and the base model is perfect for loads of users. It’s the perfect beginners Mac, as well, as it is both low cost and plenty powerful. Worth the full five stars in our review, and the prize of being best Mac desktop.
It runs on the M2 chip, and you can upgrade to the M2 Pro if you want something with a little more poke. The base model chip comes with a 10-core GPU as well, so it’s actually a fairly competent little gaming box if you can find games that run on Apple silicon. It’s also more than the chip that comes in the base model MacBook Air M2, so you’re getting extra power for a cheaper price. You don’t get a keyboard or screen, however; as with most, but not all, of the machines here.
This is our favorite Mac for its incredible value. It got the highest honors in our review, five stars, and it ranked very highly in our list of the best Macs. There are plenty of ports on the back for your peripherals, and it keeps up surprisingly well with other, more powerful machines in the lineup. If you’re looking for the best Mac at a great price, this is the Mac to go for.
iMore’s best Config:
Mac mini M2 (10-Core GPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD) $599 / £699 (opens in new tab)
The base model is perfect here. It’s very well priced at $599, and its powerful M2 chip is great for light workloads and browsing the web. You might not be gaming or editing videos with it, but for the price, it's a phenomenal deal. You can grab some extra RAM for a little more multi-tasking smoothness, but then it starts to become a little too expensive to be considered budget. This is the sweet spot.
Buy it here. (opens in new tab)
Best Mac desktop for professionals: Mac Studio
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Want the most powerful Mac, but don’t want to spend potentially tens of thousands of dollars on a Mac Pro? Then the Mac Studio is the Mac to get. Don’t get us wrong, it’s still not a cheap machine, but it gives out gobs of power for what are reasonable prices.
At the heart of the surprisingly small Mac Studio are the M1 Max and M1 Ultra chips, supercharged versions of the older M1 Apple Silicon. They are, for lack of a better term, absolute monsters, capable of marching through even the most intensive computing tasks with ease. Couple that with the insane amounts of RAM you spec the machine with (up to 128GB) and massive storage capacity options (up to 8TB) and you’ve got one potent machine.
We think it looks pretty good too, nice and subdued. It’s kind of like an aluminum block with the Apple logo on the top – and some excellent connectivity. It’s got an SD card reader on the front, and USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports coming out of its ears. Again, this isn’t a cheap Mac, but if you pay the entry fee, you’ll get an absolutely stunning piece of hardware.
It’s worth watching for a new version of this Mac – it’s getting a little older now, and there are rumors that Apple will be replacing it with a newer version at some point soon. Until then, however, the Mac Studio remains an excellent option for professionals looking for a new computer.
Mac Studio (M1 Ultra 48-core GPU, 64GB RAM, 2TB SSD) (opens in new tab)
This is by no means a cheap computer, but it’s got all the specs that you’ll need if you’re looking for a professional work machine. The M1 Ultra is a stunning chip with a 20-core CPU, a 48-core GPU, and a 32-core Neural engine. The 64GB of RAM is more than enough for most tough computing tasks, and the 2TB SSD storage will store loads of work projects and other files. Again, it costs over $4000, but you’ll not need to upgrade for some time after getting a hold of one.
Buy it here (opens in new tab)
Best looking Mac Desktop: 24-inch iMac
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The iMac line is one of the most well-known parts of the Mac ecosystem, with its all-in-one design and cool colors. While it may be getting a little long in the tooth, it remains one of the best Macs in part for a very particular reason: That fabulous design. It’s so slim, so sleek, and so, so attractive. It’s available in more colors that ever before, with Blue, Green, Pink, Silver, Yellow, Orange, and Purple all available from the Apple store. Unfortunately, some of those colors are dependent on the internals – you can’t get an orange base model iMac for example.
This is still a competent computer as well, don’t let its age fool you. The M1 is still a great processor that’s super efficient, sipping power from your outlets to save energy. It’s also got plenty of power where it counts, making it perfect for lighter workloads, and browsing the web. Don’t expect it to run super complex rendering tasks or massive project exports and you’ll find a surprisingly capable Mac.
It’s well-priced too, although you’ll want to upgrade the RAM in the base model. There’s only 8GB, and if you want to make sure that your new iMac lasts longer then you’ll want to spend the extra $200 on the 16GB RAM option. With it, you’ll be able to multitask better and even have more headroom for graphics performance. The base model costs $1299/£1399, but we’d recommend spending the $1699/£1799 version with a slightly more powerful processor as well.
The iMac is on the list because it's still a good computer, not just because it looks good. It hasn’t aged a day and still looks like something that could have been released this year by Apple. It's worth watching for a new version over the coming months, but until we hear more news, you’re not going to go wrong with a 24-inch iMac.
iMore’s Best configuration:
iMac M1 (8-core M1/16GB RAM/256GB SSD) $1,699 / £1,799 (opens in new tab)
This option is a little more expensive than the base model, but you’ll get to choose more colors and you get a more powerful M1 chip and more RAM. That RAM choice is the max that you can get with the iMac, and it will mean you can do more multitasking with the machine.
Buy it here. (opens in new tab)
The Mac desktop that didn't make the cut
The Mac Pro remains the most powerful Mac, but it’s also the most expensive, by a country mile. In the best Macs list, we said that the “only people who should be buying it are companies that need ridiculous amounts of power or people with more than sense”, and we’ll stick with that here. It drastically needs an upgrade, and don’t even mention the wheels and feet that cost as much as a Mac mini. At least it looks like there might be another one on the way.
There are likely loads of questions that you have as to which Mac is the best Mac for you, what Apple Silicon even is, and where the best place to buy a Mac desktop is. We’ve answered all your questions below so that you can make the most informed decision as to which Mac to buy.
What are the benefits of a Mac desktop?
Well, the first thing is price to performance. With a desktop, you’ll generally pay less than you would for a similarly specced laptop. You can also get more powerful components in a desktop, as they are better at cooling the internal space inside. You’ll need to provide your own monitor, mouse, and keyboard, and it’s not portable like a laptop, but if you want good performance at a good price, a desktop is the way to go.
How much do Mac desktops cost?
Mac Desktops range in price from $599, all the way up to tens of thousands of dollars. It will all depend on the Mac that you choose, and whether you choose to add new components to your new Mac. Those extra specs can make be quite expensive, with some upgrades, like RAM, costing around $200. Have a look at the configurator on the Apple store online to make sure that you can balance the price you pay with the performance that you need.
What are the M-chips?
Apple ditched Intel chips in 2020, and started using its chips, named Apple Silicon. It started with the M1, which brought about the M-chip moniker for the fist time. These chips are very efficient, using less power to give more performance. The current model chips, the M2, are even more impressive with more power than the original M1 models. If you want to learn more about them we have a page dedicated to Apple’s M2 silicon.
If you spot a Pro, Max, or Ultra suffix after the chip then that means its one of the supercharged versions of the M1 or M2 chip. These have more CPU and GPU cores to help them bulldoze through heavier workloads, and are designed for more professional workloads.
Where is the best place to buy a Mac desktop?
The first place to look is the Apple store, which is where you’ll be able to upgrade your Mac to have all the bells and whistles that you’d like it to have. Here, you’ll be able to choose to put more RAM, storage, or add in a more powerful processor. You’ll pay more for the privilege however, and even if you go for the base models in the Apple store you’ll soon find that things rarely move from their full price. Occasionally, you might spot a good price on a refurbished model, but those tend to be snapped up fairly quickly.
If you only need a base model or only need to slightly upgrade the RAM or the storage, then Amazon is a good option. There’s Prime shipping for next day delivery, and sometimes even discounts, although you’ll not have as many options if you want to choose what’s in your Mac desktop.
Best Buy have more configuration options, and you’ll also find that there are sometimes discounts as well. B&H Photo is another good retailer for this, where you’ll also find fast delivery options.
If you’re looking for a deal, then keep an eye for Black Friday. Over the weekend of Black Friday, some retailers put the Mac line at lower prices, and give out some excellent discounts.
When are new Macs released?
That depends on the Mac in question, and Apple. While a Mac model may have received model updates for the last couple of years, it is not guaranteed to receive an update every year. As a rule of thumb, however, MacBooks are more likely to receive yearly updates, while they’re desktop counterparts, like those above, tend to remain on lengthier cycles before newer models arrive. Don’t let a Mac desktop being slightly older put you off either – they are still excellent machines, and going for something a little older could save you a lot of money.
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As the Buying Guides and Deals writer for iMore, Tammy puts over a decade of experience in finding the best prices of Apple products to work, helping you save money on the equipment that you want. An audiophile at heart, she loves all things audio and visual, but you’ll also find her drooling over the latest Macs and MacBooks. With a Masters in screenwriting, Tammy likes to spend her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays or driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.