I’ve been comparing the latest MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models, and I’m still convinced that Apple’s less expensive laptop is the best option for most people

  • Apple’s M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro each provide loads of energy and battery life.
  • However, the MacBook Air is a superior pick because it is $300 less expensive and has more functionality.
  • Only those who require a little more power than the ordinary user should consider the MacBook Pro.

Choosing between the MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro has never been more difficult.

Both laptops are powered by Apple’s M1 CPU, which was released in late 2020. The new CPU gives Apple’s most portable laptops significant performance and battery life boosts, signifying a significant step forward for the Mac.

It’s difficult to choose between the new $1,299 MacBook Pro and the $999 MacBook Air because they both use Apple’s M1 processor and have similar memory and storage settings. However, there are a few key differences to consider when picking between the two, especially in terms of battery life and performance.

Which is better: the MacBook Air M1 or the MacBook Pro M1?

Because it delivers identical features, performance, and configuration possibilities at a $300 lower starting price, the M1-powered MacBook Air is a better value than the Pro. The MacBook Air is a powerful general-purpose laptop that can be used for browsing the web, writing papers, viewing videos, and doing basic picture and video editing.

While the MacBook Air is the superior choice for the majority of people, there are certain reasons to choose the MacBook Pro instead. The MacBook Pro has a few extra features that may make it the best choice for professionals with special demands, such as a slightly longer battery life, better microphones, and, most importantly, internal cooling fans.

With the M1-powered MacBook Pro now available at a $200 discount through Apple’s Refurbished Mac Store, it may be a more tempting alternative for those in need of greater power. Apple’s Touch Bar, a narrow, touch-sensitive strip that replaces the function key row in the Pro model, is also included. However, this isn’t enough of a reason to suggest the Pro above the Air on its own.

However, unless you absolutely need a new MacBook, it’s generally best to wait. According to Bloomberg, Apple plans to deliver a new high-end MacBook Pro this year with a redesigned design and an updated Apple-made chip that will bring significant performance improvements over the M1. A new MacBook Air with a processor that’s faster than the current M1 but not nearly as fast as the one in the next-generation MacBook Pro is also in the works, according to reports.

Specifications

Macbook Air (M1) vs. Macbook Pro (M1)

MACBOOK AIR (M1)MACBOOK PRO (M1, 13-INCH)
PriceStarts at $999Starts at $1,299
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB
Memory8GB or 16GB8GB or 16GB
ProcessorApple M1 with 8-core CPU and 7 or 8-core GPU, 16-core Neural EngineApple M1 with 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine
Display Size13.3 inches13.3 inches
Display Resolution and Brightness2560 x 1600, 400 nits2560 x 1600, 500 nits
Estimated Battery Life15 hours wireless web browsing17 hours wireless web browsing
Ports2 Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports2 Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
Webcam720p with Apple’s image signal processor720p with Apple’s image signal processor
Weight2.8 lbs3 lbs
SpeakersStereo speakersStereo speakers with high dynamic range
KeyboardMagic KeyboardMagic Keyboard with Touch Bar
AuthenticationTouch IDTouch ID
Apple

Performance

Apple’s M1 system-on-a-chip, which has an eight-core central processor unit and a 16-core Neural Engine, powers both the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

One of the minor CPU differences is that the MacBook Air’s base model comes with a seven-core graphics processing unit, but the MacBook Pro‘s entry-level version comes with an eight-core GPU. When running games and other graphics-intensive programs, the standard MacBook Pro should have a little more oomph.

A cooling fan is another significant feature on the MacBook Pro that the MacBook Air lacks. The MacBook Air‘s fanless design is a blessing for anyone who has had to cope with noisy, spinning fans that make your laptop sound like a jet engine when it’s stressed. The MacBook Pro’s fan, on the other hand, most likely means it can maintain high performance for longer because it won’t have to throttle it to cool down.

When it comes to graphics-intensive applications, the M1 MacBook Pro feels more powerful than the Air, although it performs similarly in everyday chores. I found the MacBook Pro was more responsive and capable of producing visuals significantly more smoothly than the Air when playing “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” on both laptops. After around 20 minutes of games, both laptops are decently — but not uncomfortably — warm. After five minutes of gameplay, the underside of the MacBook Air felt warmer than the Pro’s.

The MacBook Pro can also encode video a few minutes faster than the MacBook Air, in my experience. It encoded a ten-minute video. 4K

Using the application Handbrake, I was able to convert footage to 1080p in around five minutes less time than with the Air. See how both laptops fared in tests of general computing power (Geekbench 5 CPU and Cinebench) and graphics performance (see below) (Geekbench 5 Compute). The higher the score, the better.

Nonetheless, the M1 CPU gives the MacBook Air a significant performance bump, making it far more competent than its Intel-powered predecessor. In comparison to the Intel-powered Air, Apple claims the M1-equipped MacBook Air offers 3.5 times the computing power, five times the graphics performance, and nine times the machine-learning capabilities. Anecdotal performance testing reveal that the M1 processor is far faster than its current Intel counterpart, as detailed in our entire review.

Features and battery life

Both machines should have outstanding battery life – during my testing, I was able to get more than 12 hours out of the MacBook Air, and reports of the MacBook Pro say it has a similarly impressive battery life. However, Apple promises that the Pro would last somewhat longer, with 17 hours of battery life compared to 15 hours for the MacBook Air when browsing the web.

The Touch Bar is included in the MacBook Pro, which is likely the most significant distinction between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. The Touch Bar was introduced by Apple in 2016 as an attempt to improve the Mac’s user experience by adding useful, touch-friendly shortcuts above the keyboard. The controls visible in the Touch Bar can change depending on the app or program you’re using, in addition to changing the function key row. You may see controls that allow you to scrub through your open tabs when using Safari, for example.

The Touch Bar is an interesting concept, but it doesn’t add enough to the experience to justify buying the MacBook Pro over the Air. If you choose the Pro, do so for the other advantages it provides in more important areas, such as performance and battery life.

Aside from that, the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air have a lot in common. Both have two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, Apple’s new and enhanced Magic Keyboard, a 720p webcam that leverages Apple’s chipset’s image signal processor, storage options ranging from 256 to 2 TB, and Touch ID.

However, there are some minor changes in the speakers and microphones. Unlike the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro‘s speakers support high dynamic range, which should allow the Pro to maintain good audio at its loudest and lowest volumes. The 13-inch Pro should fall somewhere between the Air and the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which, thanks to its six-speaker sound system, provides excellent, loud audio for a laptop of its size.

The microphones on the 13-inch MacBook Pro are likewise marginally better than those on the Air. They’re studio-quality microphones with a good signal-to-noise ratio, something the Air doesn’t have.

Display and design

If you’re familiar with the MacBook Air, you’re probably aware of its distinct wedge-shaped design, which distinguishes it from the MacBook Pro.

That hasn’t altered with the M1-powered MacBook Air; the teardrop-shaped base of Apple’s thin-and-light laptop hasn’t changed. In addition to silver and space gray, the MacBook Air is also available in gold, but the MacBook Pro is only available in those two hues.

The MacBook Air is also slightly lighter than the MacBook Pro, weighing 2.8 pounds versus the MacBook Pro’s 3-pound weight.

The MacBook Pro, like the Air, has the same design as its predecessors, which means it’s somewhat thicker and more uniform at the base than its cheaper and lighter sister.

When it comes to display quality, the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are fairly close once again. Both laptops have 13.3-inch screens with 2,560 by 1,600-pixel resolutions, and they both support P3 broad color and Apple’s True Tone technology. This feature allows the screen to adapt the hue of the display to fit the lighting in your environment, making it appear less blue.

The MacBook Pro‘s display, on the other hand, is slightly brighter than the MacBook Air‘s (500 nits vs. 400 nits for the MacBook Air).

Last but not least

Overall, the MacBook Air offers better value, particularly for consumers seeking a general-purpose laptop. Even though it’s $300 less expensive, it doesn’t compromise on performance or configuration possibilities. That’s noteworthy since the previous entry-level edition of Apple’s Intel-powered MacBook Air, which only had a dual-core Intel Core i3 CPU, felt underpowered.

However, there are some circumstances in which the MacBook Pro may be the best option. It may be a better alternative for those who need to perform difficult work for long periods of time while still wanting a lightweight laptop because it features a fan-based cooling system and an extra core in its GPU at the base level. The Pro also offers a little longer battery life and additional features such as better microphones and speakers.

Overall, the MacBook Air is definitely the best option for most individuals, providing performance comparable to Apple’s professional-grade laptop at a cheaper price. The MacBook Pro is preferable for individuals who want a portable laptop with a little greater performance, a little longer battery life, and better microphones and speakers.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.


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