Apple’s notebook lineup now consists of the new 13-inch MacBook Air and three MacBook Pro models in 13, 14, and 16-inch sizes. Deciding which MacBook to buy can be difficult, especially since Apple offers models with the M1 chip, newer models with the M2 chip, and models with the M1 Pro or M1 Max processors.
That’s why we’ve put together a MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro comparison, comparing price, features, performance, battery life and more between the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro. We’ll help you decide which notebook is right for you. By the end of this guide, you’ll know exactly which notebook you should spend your hard-earned money on – or wait for the next release.
If you want to get familiar with the MacBook before you buy, check out these seven hidden MacBook features and learn how they can improve your Mac’s security and privacy.
Not sure which Mac to choose? Check out our ranking of the best laptops to discover more great options on the market. If you’re wondering what to expect from the rumored 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro M2, we can help.
Which MacBook is best for you?
Now that Apple has made the switch from Intel CPUs to custom chips from Apple Silicon, it’s the perfect time to buy a MacBook: all three MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models feature Cupertino-designed M Series processors.
They offer impressive performance and unprecedented battery life. The M1 chip, already used in the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro, gives these ultraportable computers unmatched performance and durability, making them the best notebooks in their respective categories. Not to mention support for iOS and iPadOS apps, and in the case of the MacBook Air, it doesn’t even need a fan for cooling.
The M2 chip in the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro is even faster and more powerful than its predecessor, making it ideal for those looking for an ultra-light workhorse. But in the case of the MacBook Pro M2, there are no design improvements or additional ports – it’s just the upgrade to M2.
What’s more, the 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro come with either the M1 Pro or M1 Max chip. We received the M1 Pro chip and were blown away by its incredible performance: the CPU and GPU are 70% faster than the M1, and the GPU is up to twice as fast. This is for the M1 Pro, not the more powerful M1 Max.
MacBook Air (M1, 2020). The best model for most people
Advantages. The MacBook Air with M1 has just about everything you could want in an Apple notebook, thanks to the M1 chip, which delivers unprecedented performance and battery life. Specifically, the MacBook Air lasted 14 hours and 41 minutes in our battery tests, making it one of the most enduring notebooks.
The MacBook Air with 16GB of RAM scored an impressive 5,962 points in our Geekbench 5.2 overall performance test, beating out the XPS 13 (5,319, Core i7-1165G7) with the 11th-generation Intel Core i7-1165G7. The Surface Laptop 3 (4,791) with a 10th-generation Intel chip was even further behind, but above the category average (4,178).
And of course, the MacBook Air is equipped with the Magic Keyboard, which is much more comfortable and reliable than the traditional Butterfly Keyboard. We compared the two keyboards side by side and unanimously opted for the new version because it has more stable keys and a better layout.
The screen is also sharper with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels. The latest version of the Air supports the P3 color scale for more vibrant hues and True Tone, which adjusts the screen’s color temperature to match lighting conditions.
It also features Touch ID for easy system unlocking, secure payments and password replacement. The 720p webcam on the new MacBook Air also gets a small upgrade thanks to the M1 chip, and the system now supports iOS and iPadOS apps, though few are optimized for notebooks.
MacBook Air (M2, 2022). Next best solution
Pros: The latest chapter in the history of the MacBook Air is compelling to say the least. The notebook has shed its old wedge-shaped design and now looks more like the MacBook Pro. But as the Air name suggests, it’s 20% smaller than its predecessor. There are also snazzy new colors this time around, and Apple has added a few more new features, like a 1080p webcam, new speakers, and a larger screen.
But the real star of the show is Apple’s M2 chip, which offers great performance for an ultraportable notebook. Faster and more powerful than its predecessor, this chip is ideal for those looking for an ultralight workhorse. Plus, the battery lasts more than 14 hours according to tests and recharges quickly.
Bigger screen, smaller frame: That’s the proposition for the MacBook Air M2. The notebook now features a 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display with 2560 x 1664 pixels, instead of the previous 13.3-inch display. When it comes to displays, bigger is always better. As expected, the M2’s screen is an explosion of color and sharp detail.
The M2 Air also performed excellently in the synthetic tests. In Geekbench 5.4, for example, the notebook scored 8.919, beating the premium notebook average (6.054) and the Slim 7 Carbon (AMD Ryzen 7 5800 CPU) (6.241).
In the Handbrake test, the Air M2 transcoded 4K videos at 1080p in 7 minutes and 52 seconds. This beats the 10-minute average, as did the XPS 13 (Intel Core i7-1185G CPU) and Spectre x360 (Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU), which took 18 minutes 33 seconds and 18 minutes 39 seconds, respectively. The Slim 7 Carbon came closest at 8 minutes 51 seconds, which was over a minute slower.
The battery life of over 14 hours won’t bother anyone, but it’s still a bit less than the previous model. That’s not a huge issue, but if you want the full power of a MacBook, the MacBook Air M1 might be better for you.
Granted, the starting price of $1,199 is a bit steep, especially compared to the previous generation’s starting price of $999. However, the M2 outperforms the M1 in almost every category and is definitely worth the investment.
Apple’s lightest notebook has always been lighter than air. The ports are also lighter: although the MagSafe charger is back, there are only two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a headphone jack, so you’ll definitely need a dongle or two.