Apple Silicon MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Buyer’s Guide

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In November 2020, Apple updated its popular 13-inch MacBook lineup with Apple’s first Silicon chip for Mac, the M1 chip. The 13-inch MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro have both received updates with the M1 chip.The M1 MacBook Air and the M1 MacBook Pro appear to be very similar due to their shared processor, form factor, and keyboard, so should you consider buying the cheaper MacBook Air, which starts at $ 999, to save some money. money, or do you need the high-end MacBook Pro, which costs at least $ 300 more? Our guide helps answer the question of how to decide which of these two Apple Silicon MacBooks is best for you.

Comparison of M1 MacBook Pro and M1 MacBook Air

The Macbook Air and MacBook Pro share a lot of important features like processor, screen size, and ports. Apple lists these same features of both devices:

Similarities

  • 13.3 inch LED-backlit display with IPS technology
  • Technologie Wide Color (P3) et True Tone
  • Eight-core M1 chip with up to eight-core GPU and 16-core neural engine
  • Up to 16 GB of unified memory
  • Up to 2TB of storage
  • Wide stereo sound and Dolby Atmos playback support
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ax 6
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Magic keyboard
  • Touch ID
  • Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports
  • Available in silver and space gray

Apple’s breakdown shows that the two MacBooks share a lot of key features. Still, there are some significant differences between the MacBook Air M1 and MacBook Pro M1 that are worth highlighting, including design, battery life, and screen brightness.

Differences

M1 MacBook Air

  • Thin, wedge design
  • Configurable with up to eight-core GPU
  • Passive cooling (fanless)
  • Brightness of 400 nights
  • Up to 18 hours of battery life
  • Stereo speakers
  • Three microphone array with directional beamforming
  • Weighs 2.8 pounds (1.29 kg)
  • Available in silver, space gray and gold
MacBook Pro M1

  • Thicker, slab-like design
  • Eight-core GPU as standard
  • Active cooling
  • Brightness of 500 nights
  • Up to 20 hours of battery life
  • High dynamic range stereo speakers
  • Three studio-grade microphone array with directional beamforming
  • Weighs 3.0 pounds (1.4 kg)
  • Available in silver and space gray
  • Touch bar

Read on to take a closer look at each of these aspects and see exactly what Apple’s first MacBooks with Apple Silicon processors have to offer.

Conception

The M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro share the same designs as their Intel predecessors. This means the MacBook Air retains its iconic wedge-shaped design, while the MacBook Pro still has its more uniform slab-style design. While the MacBook Air is actually thicker than the MacBook Pro at its thickest point, the wedge shape of the MacBook Air makes it much thinner overall. The MacBook Air is also 0.2 pounds lighter than the MacBook Pro and is available in gold.


If you travel frequently with your MacBook and portability is a priority, then the MacBook Air is the most suitable device. However, it should be noted that the MacBook Pro is only slightly heavier than the MacBook Air, so the two models will be very similar in terms of portability.

Performance

The two machines share the same Apple Silicon M1 processor, but with one key difference in cooling systems. Since Apple didn’t provide any specific benchmark comparison between the two models, it’s hard to speculate on how the two machines will perform until the benchmarks can be compared. However, a number of assumptions can be made.

The MacBook Air certainly has more thermal stress than the MacBook Pro because it is passively cooled and therefore has no fans or active ventilation. Unlike the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro has ventilation and fans. The MacBook Pro is expected to be able to run faster, pushing the M1 harder for longer and achieving better performance with the same chip. The MacBook Pro will be able to run the M1 at higher temperatures since it will be able to cool it more efficiently using its active cooling system than the MacBook Air.

The cooling systems of both machines are a strong indication that the MacBook Pro will perform better than the MacBook Air, but the margin of difference will be unknown until users can start testing them.

Based on these assumptions, the MacBook Pro will be better for users who need the best performance. However, since the two devices share the same M1 processor, the MacBook Air could perform quite similarly for certain tasks or tasks that don’t require sustained processing power.

The cheapest MacBook Air configuration at $ 999 also has a seven-core GPU. The MacBook Air’s $ 1,249 top-tier configuration, however, comes with an eight-core GPU. The MacBook Pro comes with the eight-core GPU as standard. The difference between 7 and 8 cores shouldn’t be dramatic, but users who will be doing a lot of graphics work should go for the MacBook Pro, as it only costs $ 50 more than the eight-core MacBook Air GPU. .

Display

MacBook Pro and MacBook Air share the same 13.3-inch LED-backlit display with IPS technology, True Tone, and P3 Wide Color. The content and colors will be exactly the same on both devices.

However, the MacBook Pro’s screen can reach 500 nits of brightness compared to the MacBook Air’s 400 nits. This means it can be up to 20% brighter. You might prefer the brighter MacBook Pro screen, especially if you often use your machine outdoors, but the brightness of the MacBook Air’s screen probably won’t disappoint most users.

Battery life

The M1 MacBook Pro has a two-hour longer battery life than the MacBook Air, according to Apple’s estimates. This is most likely due to the smaller batteries in the MacBook Air due to its thinner, wedge-shaped profile.

Both machines have excellent battery life of up to 20 hours on the MacBook Pro and 18 hours on the MacBook Air, thanks to the energy-efficient M1 chip. While the battery life of both machines is exceptional, if you need to prioritize battery life for long periods away from a power source, the MacBook Pro is clearly the better option.

Microphones and speakers

The MacBook Air has stereo speakers and a three microphone array with directional beamforming. The MacBook Pro pushes these features into the “pro” market with stereo speakers that support high dynamic range, as well as an array of three “studio-grade” microphones with directional beamforming.

If you consume a lot of video or music content using the built-in speakers, or if you frequently use the built-in microphones for video calls or podcasting, for example, the MacBook Pro is the best device.

Touch bar

While both machines come with Touch ID, only the MacBook Pro receives Apple’s Touch Bar. The Touch Bar replaces the traditional row of function keys with a “Retina quality” Multi-Touch display.

The Touch Bar controls change when you use different apps. For example, the Touch Bar can show tabs and bookmarks in Safari, allow easy access to emojis in Messages, and provide an easy way to edit images or browse videos.

If you’re especially keen on having the Touch Bar, you’ll need to get the MacBook Pro, but not all users will appreciate the feature, and that doesn’t directly add new functionality that isn’t possible on the MacBook. Air.

Other Mac options

The 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are the only Mac laptops so far to contain Apple Silicon chips. There is only one other Apple Silicon Mac, the Mac mini, but it is a desktop machine.

The larger 16-inch MacBook Pro is yet to upgrade to Apple Silicon. Apple continues to sell its older, high-end 13 and 16-inch Intel-based MacBook Pros.

If you are a business user, unsure of the M1’s ability to deliver high performance, or are used to running Windows through Boot Camp on your Mac or virtual machines, or using eGPUs, it may be best to purchase a Intel MacBook until Apple Silicon are more high-end options and the technology has had more time to demonstrate its merits and gain support.

Final thoughts

The Apple Silicon M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are very similar in terms of specifications. Both devices sport the same M1 processor, 13.3-inch display, Touch ID, and ports, plus most other hardware features.

The main differences are screen brightness, touch bar, microphone and speaker quality, two extra hours of battery life, and the active cooling system that sets the machines apart in favor of the MacBook Pro. For casual users, that means the extra $ 300 to upgrade to a MacBook Pro can be hard to justify, especially without knowing the exact performance benefits at the moment.

If you want the best performance, battery life, screen brightness, and speaker and microphone quality, the MacBook Pro is the best option. The MacBook Pro is therefore the current best option for those who want to get the most out of their Apple Silicon laptop.

Likewise, users who intend to perform a lot of graphics tasks should skip the MacBook Air altogether and buy the MacBook Pro as the MacBook Air’s eight-core GPU configuration is only $ 50 less than the MacBook. Pro. However, this is only the case if you don’t need more than 256GB of storage, as a storage upgrade would increase the price of the MacBook Pro even further.

While the real-term performance difference between the two MacBooks has yet to be seen, the MacBook Air seems to be the better option for most users. The MacBook Air offers a compelling feature set at a more affordable price of $ 999. We will revisit this recommendation after seeing the actual performance of both machines. The new MacBook Air and Pro are available to order now.

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