The Best Desktop Macs of 2023

If you don’t need the portability of a laptop, picking a desktop Mac over an Apple MacBook could save you money and net you much more screen real estate. But which desktop Mac should you pick up?

UPDATE: 12/14/2023

We’ve updated our desktop Mac roundup with the latest models. Take a look!

What to Look For in a Desktop Mac

Apple’s transition from Intel hardware to its own ARM-based Apple Silicon systems-on-chip is complete. Though Apple still supports some of the older chips in its software updates, every new Mac is now using a second or third-generation Apple Silicon chip at its heart.

The new chips sip power, use unified memory for faster RAM access, and have hardware optimizations for encoding and decoding video. These systems-on-chip also include a GPU and Neural Engine to handle graphical and machine-learning tasks. At the time of writing, Apple had both M2- and M3-powered chips available in its desktop machines, though there wasn’t a huge difference between the two generations except at the very top end of the market.

Perhaps the most important decision to make if you’re considering a desktop Mac is whether you want an all-in-one like the iMac or a “tower” setup like the Mac mini or Mac Studio. The iMac has everything you need to get started, including peripherals like Apple’s Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse. The Mac mini and Mac Studio only come with a computer and a power cord, ideal for saving money or fitting into existing setups.

In addition to the base M2 or M3 chips, there are more powerful M2 Pro, M2 Max, and M2 Ultra chips to consider. Not only do these include more powerful processors with higher core counts, they also open up options in terms of RAM capacity and number of Thunderbolt ports. Ultimately, it depends on what you’re doing with your Mac, since the base-level chips are powerful enough for most common computing tasks.

Alternatively, if you’d rather spend money on a portable Mac, the best MacBook laptops offer Apple Silicon power efficiency and performance in a portable package. That performance doesn’t come cheap, however.

If you’re looking for a desktop Mac, keep reading for our picks for the best.

How Did We Research

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iMac M3 10-core GPU (Four Ports) 2023

Pros

Cons

Powerful M3 processor with a boosted 10-core GPU

Not as performant as Apple’s Pro, Max, and Ultra chips

Beautiful 24-inch Retina display

Storage and RAM upgrades are pricey

Comes in a variety of colors

Includes a keyboard and mouse

If you don’t need the portability of a MacBook, you’re better off saving money and getting more screen real estate with an iMac. We recommend the M3-powered iMac with a 10-core GPU, also known as the “four ports” model, because of its two Thunderbolt (USB 4) and two USB 3 ports.

For an extra $200 over the base model, you get an additional two GPU cores for slightly better graphical performance, more room for accessories, Gigabit Ethernet as standard, and the option of adding a 2TB drive at checkout if you want to upgrade. Aside from that, you get the same 8GB of unified RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive as standard, and a 24-inch Retina display.

At the heart of the iMac is Apple’s M3 chip, the third Apple Silicon revision we’ve seen, with an 8-core CPU that comprises four efficiency and four performance cores. The chip includes the same hardware-accelerated video buffs to H.264 and HEVC we’ve seen in the past, ProRes and ProRes RAW optimizations, and a new AV1 decoder for the future of web-based video.

This is more than enough computing power for the vast majority of users, especially those who need to fill a dedicated computing space.

iMac M3 2023
Apple iMac 24-inch (M3, 2023)

Best Overall Desktop Mac

Apple’s all-in-one desktop includes everything you need: a powerful M3 processor, a large 24-inch Retina display, plus a keyboard and mouse.

Mac mini M2 2023
Apple

Pros

Cons

The best-value Mac you can buy

Nothing but the Mac mini included at this price

M2 chip is still a powerhouse

Not upgradeable like some other mini PCs

Huge performance-per-watt in a tiny package

There are many reasons to pick up a Mac mini, but the most compelling reason is the price. These are the cheapest Mac models you can get your hands on, and they include the same Apple Silicon chips found in Apple’s best-selling machines like the MacBook Air. Unlike a MacBook or even an iMac, all you’re getting here is the computer.

The Mac mini doesn’t come with a display and lacks peripherals like a keyboard and mouse, which drives the device’s overall price down. If you already have these accessories, the Mac mini is the perfect Apple-flavored jumping-on point. It’s especially great for Windows users who want an affordable Mac for development and mini PC tasks.

The Mac mini is still powered by 2022’s M2 chip, but don’t let that put you off. The M3 is only around 15% faster than the M2, and the older chip is fast enough for most standard tasks like web browsing, light video, and photo editing, and even playing games using emulators. The M2 in the Mac mini has four efficiency and four performance cores, making up its 8-core CPU, an 8-core GPU, and the same 16-core Neural Engine found in the more powerful chips.

It can power up to two displays at a time (one 6K at 60Hz via Thunderbolt, plus a 5K 60Hz Thunderbolt display or a 4K 60Hz HDMI display) and features two Thunderbolt 4 ports and two USB 3.1 Gen 2 (Type-A) ports on the back. You’ll also get a Gigabit Ethernet port, which you can swap out for 10 Gigabit Ethernet at checkout.

Mac mini M2 2023
Apple Mac mini (M2, 2023)

Best Budget Desktop Mac

$499 $599 Save $100

The Mac mini is Apple’s cheapest computer, and also the smallest. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for your first Mac, you already have a display and peripherals you want to use, or you’re looking for a powerful mini computer.

Mac Studio M2 Max 2023
Apple

Pros

Cons

A huge amount of Mac for your money

Not available with the faster M3 Max chip (yet)

32GB of RAM, 30-core GPU, and 10 Gigabit Ethernet as standard

No peripherals or display included

Better cooling than comparable MacBook models

More than three times the cost of a Mac mini

If the Mac mini and iMac aren’t powerful enough to scratch your photo and video editing needs, your next option is the Mac Studio. The Studio offers the versatility of the Mac mini in a powerful package that competes with the MacBook Pro in terms of raw computing ability. It’s a great option for those who don’t need a built-in display or portability but don’t want to settle for a Mac mini.

The Mac Studio range is still powered by the M2 series of chips, with our pick here sporting an M2 Max. This brings it into the same realm as a high-end 2022 MacBook Pro in terms of performance, though it should be noted that Apple managed to squeeze significant performance gains out of the M3 Max chip in its latest revision, offering around 45% speed increases on the M2 Max. If you need that much extra horsepower, you might want to opt for the M3 Max Macbook Pro instead.

That said, the Mac Studio is a small, static, and highly capable machine ideal for professional use. The M2 Max includes eight performance and four efficiency cores in its 12-core CPU design, a massive 30-core GPU, and 32GB of unified memory as standard. You can power up to five displays (four 6K displays at 60Hz, and a single 4K display at 60Hz over HDMI), or power a single 8K display with two additional 6K displays if needed.

Other nice-to-haves include 10 Gigabit Ethernet as standard, four Thunderbolt 4 ports, four USB 3.1 Gen 2 (Type-A) ports, and a built-in speaker. This is a huge amount of Mac power for the money, even if you do have to bring your own display and peripherals.

Mac Studio M2 Max or M2 Ultra (2023)
Apple Mac Studio (2023)

Best Desktop Mac for Photo and Video Editing

If you need serious power in a relatively small package, consider the Mac Studio. It’s like a super-charged Mac mini, but you’ll need to bring your own display and peripherals.

iMac M3 8-core GPU (Two Ports) 2023
Apple

Pros

Cons

Everything you need in a single package

Not the cheapest way to get started with a Mac

Plenty powerful for most common computing tasks

Not as capable as more expensive Pro, Max, and Ultra models

Bigger display and better ergonomics compared with a MacBook

Students are often best served with laptops and MacBooks due to portability, but if you already have one or work better with a bigger screen, the base-level 2023 M3 iMac is the best desktop Mac of the bunch.

The “two-port” M3 iMac is an entry-level Mac with an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 8GB of unified RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive. Though these specs may sound ordinary on paper, they’re more than enough for what most students will use a computer for, like writing papers, browsing the web, video calling, social media, and light photo and video editing.

It also includes a beautiful 24-inch Retina display, Apple’s usual high-quality speakers, a decent color-matched keyboard, and the questionable Magic Mouse (we recommend upgrading to the Magic Trackpad for $50 if you can).

Being an all-in-one desktop, the iMac’s svelte design is a great space saver, perfect for small bedrooms and cramped dorms. It’s also better for your neck and posture than staring down at a laptop for hours, since the iMac’s elevated display means holding your neck in a more neutral position.

iMac M3 8-core GPU
24-inch iMac (M3, 2023)

Best Desktop Mac for Students

Great for students and home office use, the base level iMac is a desktop computer with a large display that can handle most common computing tasks with ease.

Mac Studio M2 Ultra 2023
Apple

Pros

Cons

M2 Ultra offers Mac Pro performance in a more affordable package

Lacks the Mac Pro’s expandability

Massive performance in a relatively small package

Expensive

Better value than a MacBook Pro in terms of performance

If you need serious performance and don’t mind digging deep into your pockets, the high-end M2 Ultra Mac Studio is the model to go for. Sure, you could spend $6,999 on a Mac Pro with the same chip, but we’d recommend saving $3,000 and opting for the $3,999 Mac Studio instead. Both machines ship with the same 64GB unified memory and 1TB as standard, plus 10GB Ethernet.

The M2 Ultra chip ups the ante by doubling the CPU core count to 24 and upping the GPU core count to 60, with a 32-core Neural Engine for machine learning tasks. If that’s not enough, for an extra $1,000 you can up the GPU core count to 76 at checkout. There are a whopping six Thunderbolt 4 ports (two on the front, four on the back), two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A slots, and an SDXC slot for accessing memory cards. You can power eight 4K displays, six 6K displays, or three 8K displays.

The Mac Studio doesn’t have a built-in display or peripherals, which is great if you already have a monitor and keyboard. You can use the money you saved by not buying a Mac Pro to splurge on a monitor specifically made for photo and video editing, and pick up a decent mouse or Magic Trackpad while you’re at it.

That said, there are a few reasons you might want to consider a Mac Pro over the Studio, such as the six PCI-Express expansion slots, eight Thunderbolt 4 ports, dual 10GB Ethernet, or two built-in HDMI outputs. That said, the Mac Studio is going to be more than enough power for most professionals.

Mac Studio M2 Max or M2 Ultra (2023)
Apple Mac Studio (2023)

Best High-End Desktop Mac

Need professional power but can’t stomach the high price of the Mac Pro? Upgrade the Mac Studio and you’ll have most of the benefits at a fraction of the cost.


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