Purchasing a laptop is a significant investment in 2023, especially if you’re committed to going with an Apple MacBook. You’re parting ways with a large amount of money that will ideally serve your individual needs for many years to come. Therefore, you must choose the best MacBook for you.
When joining the Apple ecosystem, you can choose between the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. We’ve compiled an in-depth comparison between the most recent models to ensure you make the right decision. By comparing the two devices head to head, you can determine which MacBook is right for you.
Also helpful: an Apple iPad can serve as a laptop alternative for many users. If you’re considering an iPad, check out this comparison of iPad vs. iPad Air.
When considering a laptop’s design, we usually consider the color, screen size, and weight. These design aspects can influence buyers’ decisions, especially if they care about aesthetics and portability.
The MacBook Pro is available in two iconic colors: Space Grey and Silver. Both classic colors are also available for the MacBook Air. However, the MacBook Air is also available in Midnight and Starlight. These two unique finishes give the Air an edge if you’re mainly after a unique and innovative design.
The MacBook Pro has three screen size variations: 13, 14, and 16 inches. The latter is significantly larger and heavier due to the more prominent display. The MacBook Air only comes in one size: 13 inches.
Despite the seemingly minimal size difference between this and the 13-inch Pro, the contrast in thickness and weight cannot be understated. The 13-inch MacBook Pro weighs 0.3 pounds more than the Air. If portability and color options are a priority for you, the MacBook Air would be the best choice.
Good to know: if this will be your first MacBook purchase, you should note the unique keyboard design for Apple and decide whether you like it.
Depending on how you will use your new MacBook, you may need a high-quality display. Although both the Air and Pro use similar technology, there are some very clear differences.
As with previous models of the MacBook Air, Apple uses the Liquid Retina Display, which is essentially an LCD panel. All versions of the Pro sport an even more advanced mini-LED version of the Liquid Retina, utilizing XDR technology for deeper blacks, improved color accuracy, and wider dynamic range.
Brightness is also a strong differentiator, with the Pro’s XDR reaching heights of 1,600 nits of brightness when viewing content formatted for HDR. The new ProMotion display feature has a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, which the Air doesn’t have.
Furthermore, the 14″ and 16″ Pro boast an impressive 3456 x 2234 native resolution at 254 pixels per inch, while the 13″ Air and Pro have a 2560 x 1664 native resolution at 227 pixels per inch. Despite both models having a high-quality display, we recommend going with the Pro if you intend to watch a lot of high-definition content or work in a field like graphic design.
Also helpful: You can connect your new laptop to one of these MacBook docking stations if you want to use an external monitor instead.
For most people, a laptop’s performance is the most significant determining factor for purchase. After all, what good is a new computer if it can’t handle all your tasks?
The 2022 MacBook Air and 2023 MacBook Pro sport the new M2 chip, with some variations. The MacBook Air and 13-inch Pro come with the standard M2 chip, a whopping 8-core CPU that is customizable to 10 cores if you plan on using the machine for more intense software.
Alternatively, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro are available with the M2 Pro or M2 Max Chip. The M2 Pro CPU offers 10 to 12 cores with up to 16 additional GPU cores and twice the memory bandwidth of the regular M2. The M2 Max features the same 12-core CPU as the M2 Pro but an even more powerful GPU with up to 38 cores. Paired with its L2 Cache, the M2 Pro can tackle most graphics-intensive projects, including machine learning and visual effects.
The MacBook Air will work fine for most everyday users. However, if you need to do graphics-intensive projects or like to push your machine to its limits, it may be worth investing in the MacBook Pro from a performance standpoint.
Tip: while the new Apple CPUs are excellent, you will want to ensure that all your apps are optimized for Apple Silicon.
Ports and Connectivity
With Apple products, the ports and connectivity have changed drastically to make way for emerging technology. This is no different with the MacBook Pro and Air models that have been released in the past year. It is, in fact, an area of significant difference between the two machines.
The MacBook Air and 13-inch Pro feature two Thunderbolt 4 ports, whereas the 14-inch and 16-inch Pro models have three, an additional HDMI port, and a single SDXC card slot.
After implementing customer feedback, both MacBooks have returned to the 3.5mm headphone jack. One key difference between the two models is that the MacBook Air can support one external display, while the Pro can support up to four external displays at once.
Tip: there’s no need to worry about having a headphone jack if you connect your AirPods to your Mac.
For many, the price can be crucial when choosing which model to buy. Between the MacBook Air and the base level Pro is a considerable price gap of $800. If the Pro model suits your requirements for a laptop, this is a necessary leap for a customer. However, with the technological capabilities of the 2023 MacBook Air, there is no better compromise if the higher-end model is out of your price range.
The MacBook Air starts at $1199, whereas its 13-inch Pro counterpart comes in at $1299. The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1999 and the 16″ Pro $2499. These prices can accelerate rapidly when you begin to customize the machine’s specs. The most expensive configuration is the 16-inch MacBook Pro with 38-Core GPU and 1TB SSD storage for $3499!
Also helpful: If Apple’s prices are too high for your blood, some of our recommended Windows Laptops may fit your budget.
The battery life on any device is subject to your usage. Neither the MacBook Pro nor the Air will last as long if you’re performing graphics-intensive tasks or streaming content, as these will drain your battery quicker than activities such as searching the Web. Each device does provide some battery ratings.
The 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro claim to provide up to 18 hours of battery life, while the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models offer up to 22 hours. We recommend cycling your MacBook battery regularly and using adequate power wattage to ensure that you get the most from it.
Also helpful: If you travel frequently, you can use a power bank to charge your MacBook.
Memory and Storage
RAM and hard drive capacities are also important considerations when investing in a laptop. The entry-level M2 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro come with 8 GB of unified memory, customizable up to 24 GB. They also feature 256 GB SSD storage, which can be configured up to 2TB for an additional cost.
The 14-inch and 16-inch M2 Pro MacBook Pro models start with 16 GB of unified memory, customizable to 32 GB. They also offer 512 GB SSD storage that is customizable up to 8 TB SSD storage, which is ridiculous. If you’re after a higher memory level, you’ll need to upgrade to the M2 Max, which will open the option to scale up to 96 GB of unified memory.
Our final comparison is between the speakers and microphone on each machine. The MacBook Air utilizes a four-speaker sound system with expansive stereo sound. Both models support spatial audio and benefit from a three-mic array with directional beam forming, which in simpler terms, means a high signal-to-noise ratio. Comparatively, the larger Pro models have an extra three speakers and force-canceling woofers, enabling expansive stereo sound. The addition of the HDMI port in the 14-inch and 16-inch machines indicates the support of multi-channel audio outputs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Roughly how long should a MacBook last?
According to Apple, on average, a MacBook Pro is expected to last seven years, while a MacBook Air lasts five to seven. Your device’s lifespan is tied to how you use it and how frequently it is used. How well you treat your battery and other hardware components is also significant.
Who is the targeted audience for the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air?
The MacBook Pro has historically been targeted toward professionals, enabling them to pursue more graphics-intensive software like video editing or CAD design. The Air was initially aimed at casual consumers interested in regular usage, like surfing the Web or using office software.
What is next for the MacBook?
It has been heavily speculated that the next iteration of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air will feature an upgraded M3 silicon chip. This could mean an increase in speed by up to 30 percent and a significantly longer battery life.
Image credit: Pexels
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