The Apple MacBook Pro is a go-to laptop for those who want high performance and involves in tasks like 3D modeling, music production, video editing, and more. However, the MacBook Air is a reliable option for students and working professionals who do basic tasks such as watching movies, surfing the internet, or use Microsoft Office apps, etc.
Both the machines come with premium design, great display, and a long-lasting battery life, where either of them can easily last for an entire day on a single charge. And even the new ARM M1 chip powered models offer great performance and would guaranteedly receive the upcoming macOS updates.
If you are buying a new laptop and have decided to get a MacBook but are confused choosing between the MacBook Air or the MacBook Pro, then you are at the right place. Our word of advice is to choose the model that can run all the softwares you use, without sacrificing the performance.
Both the machines are great, but if you’re looking for better value for money, then here is an in-depth comparison between the 3 models: MacBook Air 13-inch, MacBook Pro 16-inch and 13-inch.
- Apple MacBook Air Vs Apple MacBook Pro
- The Scorecard
- Frequently Asked Questions
Apple MacBook Air Vs Apple MacBook Pro
1. The Design
Apple is known for making laptops that look premium and these two models are no different. Both the MacBook Air and Pro have a metal aluminum unibody design with a thin and light chassis, it also makes the machines structurally stable. All the 3 models have no keyboard flex, which also ensures a premium typing experience (great for writers). Besides, the metal body shall also keep the machines in heat dissipation.
- The MacBook Air is lighter, thinner and weighs 2.8 pounds, making it a reliable candidate for those who travel a lot.
- The 13-inch MacBook Pro weighs 3 pounds.
- The 16-inch variant weighs 4 pounds. (Also, just so you know, it is one of the heaviest laptops from Apple.)
All the 3 models have a big Apple logo on the lid, which obviously does not light up like the previous generation Apple MacBooks. From a distance, all three models look exactly identical. However, the Air is a lot sleeker with a good amount of weight balance on all three models.
As per the color options, the MacBook Air is available in Silver, Space Grey, and Gold color, whereas the MacBook Pro comes in just 2 color options with Silver and Space Grey colors. Although, color is one of the less important factors while buying a laptop, but for certain work profiles it could matter. So if you’re looking for the gold color variant, then consider the MacBook Air.
All the 3 devices have a big trackpad, which is best in the industry. It offers multi-finger gesture support with accurate gesture tracking. There’s also a Touch ID near the power button (top-row of the keyboard) that helps to secure your laptop and login into the device with very little hassle.
When it comes to design, these 3 laptops do not compromise on this aspect. And everything boils down to the weight. Although, the MacBook Pro series might feel heavier than the MacBook Air, but it isn’t heavy compared to a lot of laptops with similar specifications.
The MacBook Air is a clear winner in terms of the design due to its lightweight and sleek design, but it does compromise on certain aspects such as the CPU, GPU, etc. So before you consider it because of its weight and sleek look, make a list of the software you use and see if the minimum requirements needed to run them are lesser than what the machine has and you are good to go!
No matter how good a laptop is, if it is fitted with a bad display, the overall user-experience will take a hit, as the screen is something that will showcase all the elements that are being processed on the GPU and the CPU.
All the 3 models are fitted with QHD or 2K resolution and Apple calls it the Retina display. It is a IPS LED panel with True Tone Technology which can change the color-science of the display depending on the external lighting conditions making it really comforting and safe for human eyes.
- The Apple MacBook Air has a 13.3-inch screen with a native resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels and a peak brightness of 400 nits.
- The 13.3-inch variant of the MacBook Pro also has a display with an identical resolution as of the MacBook Air with a slightly brighter panel, with a peak brightness of 500 nits.
- The 16-inch MacBook Pro has a slightly higher resolution screen with 3072 x 1920 pixels, which offers 500 nits of peak brightness.
For a few of them, the display on all these 3 MacBooks shall feel “oversaturated” but it is the type of experience 85% of the users want. Besides, all of them have the best displays that suited for watching movies, YouTube videos, bing a TV show on Netflix. Infact, the MacBook Pro takes an edge while watching HDR content as they use a brighter panel and it also supports P3 color gamut (which can reproduce 25 percent more color compared to the sRGB calibrated panel on the Apple MacBook Air.)
The 13.3-inch MacBook Air and Pro has thick bezels on the top and the sides of the display. On the other hand, the 16-inch MacBook Pro has thinner bezels and a higher screen-to-body ratio, which makes it one of the most compact laptops and the overall form factor is almost similar to a regular 15-inch laptop.
The Apple MacBook Pro’s more color accurate and brighter panel will give an edge over the MacBook Air, especially for those who work with photo and 4K video editing due to the wider color-space support. For regular usage, this should not be an issue, as all three panels offer a great user experience and users can also select various display calibration settings on all three models from the setting menu.
The MacBook Pro has a slight edge over the MacBook Air when it comes to displaying technology. According to us, the display on the 16-inch variant is the best among the 3 models. However, you should know that the laptop weighs a bit more than the other models. Also, the second rank goes to the MacBook Pro 13-inch (as it’s 100 nits brighter than the MacBook Air and comes with the P3 color gamut.)
Although a good keyboard has more advantages for people who spend a lot of time typing such as college students, programmers, writers/bloggers, or research teachers. But you still would need a good keyboard even if you’re a regular user who just wants a laptop for browsing the internet, responding to emails or posting on social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter.
Both, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air offer a neat keyboard that provides a great typing experience. Apple introduced the butterfly mechanism keyboard, which is now replaced by the Magic Keyboard.
- The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 16-inch have the Magic Keyboard.
- The MB Pro 13-inch comes with the butterfly mechanism.
The MacBook Pro models also have a Touch Bar on the top row, which is a vertical OLED screen that offers various controls depending on the app/software opened and it replaces the old-school function keyboard layout. However, the MacBook Air has a physical function key layout, which again offers various shortcut buttons to control media, volumes, and additional aspects of the machine.
Although, the butterfly mechanism keyboard offers less key travel and is much silent compared to the Magic keyboard. But they do face a few problems such sticky, non-functional, and repeating keys. However, Magic keyboard comes with a redesigned scissor-switch mechanism (where the plastic joints have been replaced with the glass-reinforced-plastic making the keys more durable.)
Also, the butterfly mechanism keyboard is more susceptible to damage, and even a small amount of dust can damage the keys, and replacing the keyboard is quite expensive!
There was a time when Apple MacBooks used to offer a plethora of ports or I/O options. It changed in 2015, where Apple introduced a MacBook with just USB Type-C port and from then on every machine that the company has ever launched comes with USB Type-C ports (at least two) along with a dedicated 3.5mm headphone jack with support for audio output and audio input (microphone support).
These are not just the regular USB Type-C, in fact, these are Thunderbolt 3 ports, which can charge the notebook, connect USB accessories, and can also connect an external display.
The Apple MacBook Air has two USB Type-C ports similar to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, whereas the big 16-inch MacBook Pro has 4 USB Type-C ports, 2 of them on each side.
As most of the things happen over the cloud, the MacBook Air with just two ports should be good enough for regular usage. However, to connect accessories like a regular HDD or a USB-A storage device, the consider getting a docking station.
The Apple MacBook Pro with 4 USB Type-C ports will come handy for those who connect the laptop to an external display and use additional accessories like card reader, external GPU, and other USB devices. Do note that Apple does sell first-party dongles, which offers higher data transfer (more bandwidth) compared to the third-party ones.
If you prefer a laptop that you might want to connect to an external display, the MacBook Pro might fulfill your needs. However, if you just need a laptop with minimal ports the MacBook Air seems to fit into the bill. If you want more ports, you might have to consider the older MacBook Air or MacBook Pro model with a dedicated SD card slot and USB-A ports.
Portability is something that has various definitions. when it comes to laptop, it is the factor that determines how easy it is to carry the device under the day-to-day scenario. Most of the Apple MacBooks are highly portable, even the 16-inch MacBook Pro. However, how does the Pro compare to the Air when it comes to portability? Let’s check the same.
The 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro has a bigger form factor but it can be carried in a regular backpack that can carry a 15-inch laptop. The 13.3-inch MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air are much smaller in terms of form factor and are also lighter.
- The MacBook Air weighs 2.8 pounds
- The MacBook Pro 13-inch weighs 3 pounds
- The MacBook Pro 16-inch weighs 4.3 pounds.
The MacBook Air, which is much lighter in weight when compared to both models of the MacBook Pro is much easier to carry and offers almost a similar set of features and form factor.
If you need a laptop with a big screen, the Apple MacBook Pro with a 16-inch laptop seems like a great option, thanks to the bigger display with a higher screen-to-body ratio. However, if you want a machine that’s lightweight then the MacBook Air or the 13-inch MacBook Pro is a reliable option too.
5. Battery Life
All the Apple laptops come with a good battery life and the new models of MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro are no different. In fact, the 16-inch Pro variant has the highest rated battery ever on a MacBook, which also supports 96W fast charging.
In a typical Apple fashion, all these models can last for an entire day with a single charge, and here are the details on the same.
- The MacBook Air comes with a 49.9 watt-hour battery with support for 30W fast charging.
- The 13.3-inch MacBook Pro has a slightly bigger battery with 58.2 watt-hour capacity that supports 61W fast charging.
- The 16-inch MacBook Pro model has a 100 watt-hour battery with support for 96W fast charging and these fast chargers are included in the retail package with a USB Type-C port.
Based on the Battery Life:
- The MacBook Air can lasts upto 11 hrs (Internet surfing and watching videos)
- Similarly, the 13-inch MacBook Pro can last for 10 hours with both wireless internet surfing and video playback.
- The 16-inch MacBook Pro can last for 11 hours while surfing the web and watching movies.
The MacBook Air comes with lower TDP CPU when compared to the Pro which is why it consumes less battery. However, the problem with the Air model is, it might struggle to run a few softwares because of the low-powered processor. On the other hand, The MacBook Pro offers higher performance and can run professional software without any issues.
All 3 models offer similar battery life even though they offer different specifications, thanks to the bigger batteries on the Pro models. If one watches a lot of videos and movies on the laptop, the MacBook Air seems like a good option, as it can offer up to 12 hours of battery life. Whereas, the Pro models are more performance-centric models which again does not compromise on the battery life.
Though most laptops have a headphone jack, including the Apple MacBooks, a laptop/notebook also offers a great sound experience, where it will be useful for giving presentations, watching movies, or even to listen to music on platforms like Spotify or Amazon Prime Music.
- The Apple MacBook Air has a stereo speaker setup with support for Dolby Atmos profile along with a dedicated 3.5mm headphone jack, which can be used to connect wired earphones and headphones, similar to the Pro models.
- The 13-inch MacBook Pro also has a stereo speaker setup with support for high dynamic range. Both models do include a three-array microphone that can clearly record the audio.
- The 16-inch MacBook Pro takes the audio performance a notch above which consists of six high-fidelity speaker setups with force-canceling woofers along with Dolby Atmos support. It is fitted with a studio-quality three-mic array with a high signal-to-noise ratio making it highly suitable for music production, podcasting, etc.
Both on paper and real-life performance, the 16-inch MacBook Pro has the best possible speaker setup, capable of reproducing true surround sound like audio experience, especially while watching content that supports Dolby Atmos.
The MacBook Air is no slouch either, especially considering the size of the laptop, it is one of the best sounding 13-inch laptops that produces crystal clear sound even at the higher volume levels.
If your main priority while choosing a laptop is sound quality, then get the 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro. If you are okay with a laptop that offers an adequate amount of sound, the Apple MacBook Air or the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro is also a great option.
Though these models have similar features for almost all parts when it comes to real-life performance, these laptops are completely different machines. The Apple MacBook Air is an entry-level laptop that comes in two variations which either use the Intel Core i3 (dual-core) or the Intel Core i5 (quad-core) CPU with 1.1GHz clock speed and a Turbo Boost frequency of 3.5GHz. The graphics are handled by the Intel Iris Plus Graphics, which can handle light GPU centric tasks.
The MacBook Air with the Intel Core i3 processor scores 1000 points on single-core CPU performance and 1994 points on multi-core CPU performance on Geekbench 5. Similarly, the upgraded MacBook Air with the Core i5 processor offers 1055 points on single-core and 2648 points on multi-core CPU performance. Software that can utilize multi-core resources will perform better on the MacBook Air with the Intel Core i5 processor.
The 13.3-inch MacBook Pro comes with the Intel Core i5 processor (quad-core) with a base clock speed of 1.4GHz and a Turbo Boost clock speed of 3.9GHz. Thanks to the higher clock speed and higher TDP, this machine is significantly faster and performs better on high-end software. Similarly, the built-in Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 can power an external display with up to 5K resolution without any hassle.
It scores 953 points on a single-core, which is slightly less than the MacBook Air, as it uses an 8th Gen Intel CPU. However, on multi-core performance, this laptop takes a lead with a score of 3909 points, performing a lot better than the Air, and this score indicates that tasks like video editing and rendering will be a lot smoother on the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro than the Air.
The bigger and the most powerful 16-inch MacBook Pro is either powered by the Intel Core i7 (2.6GHz base clock speed and 4.6GHz Turbo Boost clock speed) or the Intel Core i9, which is a six-core processor runs at 2.3Ghz clock speed and 4.8GHz Turbo Boost clock speed, enabling a higher level of performance on software, which can utilize multi-core CPUs.
The base model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro with the Intel Core i7 processor scores 1026 points on single-core and 5412 points on multi-core, offering more than double the performance that of the MacBook Air. The MacBook Pro with the 9th Gen Intel Core i9 scores 1117 points on single-core and 6976 points on multi-core CPU performance, making it the most powerful MacBook Pro ever.
This laptop also comes with the Intel UHD 630 GPU. For those, who want a little more performance they can opt for the high-end model, which comes with the AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB video memory or the AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB video memory, both using GDDR6 technology, offering higher bandwidth.
- For watching videos, web browsing, and taking notes, the Apple MacBook Air is more than enough.
- For those who want a little more performance, the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro is a good option.
- The 16-inch MacBook Pro with dedicated graphics and a high-end CPU with higher TDP is best suited for video editing, photo editing, graphics designing, and other high-resource-intensive tasks.
8. Value And Price
Apple MacBooks are known for being a bit more expensive compared to the competition.
- The base variant of the New MacBook Air with 8GB RAM, 256GB storage, and the Intel Core i3 retails for $999.
- The base variant of the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with 8th Gen Core i5 with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage retails for $1299.
- Lastly, the 16-inch MacBook Pro with Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and 512GB storage retails for $2,399, making it the most expensive .
When it comes to the value-for-money proposition, the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro comes close with just a $300 price difference. Though the MacBook Air offers double the storage compared to the MacBook Pro, it does have a slightly better display, more powerful GPU, and CPU with similar battery life.
If you want a MacBook with almost no compromises, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is the device to consider, as it offers desktop-class computing, premium audio experience, big bezel-less screen, and more USB Type-C ports. Choosing between the MacBook Air and the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro models is a bit more complex.
They offer almost similar feature sets, except for the fact that it has a CPU which is a bit more powerful. The keyboard on the MacBook Air is a lot better than the butterfly keyboard on the MacBook Pro. So, if you are someone who wants a laptop for doing a lot of typing related tasks including financial modeling and accounting, the MacBook Air will take an edge over the Pro model, as it is light in weight and still has a great keyboard that outperforms the MacBook Pro.
Also, consider the fact that the 16-inch MacBook Pro costs almost double as of the MacBook Air, which makes it very affordable. Overall, all three variants have their own pros and cons.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Apple laptop is best for power users?
The Apple MacBook Pro with the 16-inch Retina display is the Apple laptop for the power users as it offers up to 8TB RAM and 64GB RAM, making it great for users who do a lot of multi-tasking. Not just that, the laptop also offers the high-end Intel Core i9 processor, which can run software like Adobe Photoshop or the FinalCut Pro X, without any issue. Additionally, the laptop has a great display with 2K resolution and it has a premium speaker setup with a 6-speaker unit, offering a premium audio experience.
Which is best MacBook for most people?
Most people can opt for the Apple MacBook Air with the 10th Gen Intel Core i3 or the Intel Core i5 processor, as it is a thin and light laptop, making it easy to carry. Similarly, it also comes with a new and improved Magic keyboard, which offers great typing experience similar to the 16-inch MacBook Pro. For regular users, the MacBook Air seems to fit the bill, as it is much more affordable compared to the MacBook Pro and is also easy to carry.
Which is best for Multitaskers? Pro or Air?
Multitaskers tend to use a lot of software at the same time, opening multiple tabs on the web browser and running apps in the background. I would recommend the MacBook Pro over the MacBook Air for multitaskers, which requires a more powerful CPU and more RAM. So, the entry-level 16-inch MacBook Pro is a good laptop to consider.
Is MacBook Air worth buying?
The Apple MacBook Air is worth buying, especially considering the upgrade that it offers. The base model now comes with 8GB RAM, 256GB storage and the newly introduced Magic keyboard is also a good upgrade when compared to the previous generation MacBook Air. It also comes with a 10th Gen Intel processor, which helps the laptop to offer good battery life while maintaining a thin and light design.
Should I buy a MacBook Pro or Windows laptop?
This depends entirely on one’s requirements. I would recommend users to get a MacBook Pro over a Windows laptop, as one can install Windows OS using Bootcamp option. However, it is not easy to install macOS on the Windows laptop. However, if you use software that is primarily available on the Windows platform, then get a Windows laptop.
Which is the best Apple laptop to buy?
Overall, the 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro with the Intel Core i9 Processor, 64GB RAM, and 8GB AMD Radeon 5500M GPU is the best Apple laptop to buy. It comes with a 6-core processor with a 100 watt-hour capacity battery, making it a great laptop with respect to battery life and it also offers a new and improved Magic keyboard. Overall, the MacBook Pro is the best laptop that one can consider.
Unlike smartphones, which most of us upgrade every year, buying a laptop is a long term commitment, where one uses it at least for three years. And the Apple MacBooks are known for offering some of the best features, even though these laptops cost a bit more when compared to Windows laptops with similar specifications.
The Apple MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air are the two different offerings, which caters to the different set of users. The MacBook Air is best suited for students, who like a laptop with a thin and light design, good battery life, and a great display. The MacBook Pro, which is more powerful will be useful for professionals like photo and video editors.
If you have a budget of over $1000, then the Apple MacBook Air is a great device. However, we do suggest users opt for the higher variant of the MacBook Air, which offers a quad-core CPU, which is important in 2021, which makes sure that the laptop can last really long.
The 13.3-inch model of the MacBook Pro is a middle way between the MacBook Air and the 16-inch MacBook Pro, with a slightly faster processor and a slightly brighter display with touch bar. However, this model has a controversial keyboard, which is hard to repair and easily gets damaged even with regular usage.