Apple M1 MacBook Air Vs MacBook Pro: Do You Really Need The ‘Pro’

Here's all you need to know to choose between M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro

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MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro featured image

With the new Apple M1 MacBook lineup, the difference between MacBook Air and MacBook Pro has further narrowed down. Now, you can get nearly identical performance out of both devices.

However, the MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro debate is on the rise. If you look closely, Apple has still kept some features exclusive to the Pro lineup.

Why the M1 MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro?

For this comparison, we’ll only talk about the M1 MacBook lineup. The custom Apple silicon is eventually going to trickle down to the 16-inch MacBook Pro and other Mac models. So it makes sense to compare the models that will remain available in the future.

You should also consider going for an M1 MacBook if you’re planning to buy one. It is so because the M1 Mac can practically run iPad apps, giving you more apps to tinker around with.

M1 MacBook Air And MacBook Pro Specifications

SpecificationMacBook AirMacBook Pro
Display13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit with IPS technology
2560x1600p resolution
400 nits brightness
Wide color (P3)
True Tone technology
13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit with IPS technology
2560x1600p resolution
500 nits brightness
Wide Color (P3)
True Tone technology
Dimensions and Weight0.41-1.61 x 30.41 x 21.24cm
1.29Kg (2.8 pounds)
1.56 x 30.41 x 21.24cm
1.4Kg (3.0 pounds)
Operating SystemmacOS Big SurmacOS Big Sur
CPU and GPUApple M1 chip
8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores
Up to 8-core GPU
16-core Neural Engine
Apple M1 chip
8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores
8-core GPU
16-core Neural Engine
RAM8GB
16GB
8GB
16GB
Storage256GB SSD
512GB SSD
1TB SSD
2TB SSD
256GB SSD
512GB SSD
1TB SSD
2TB SSD
Camera720p FaceTime HD camera720p FaceTime HD camera
SpeakersStereo speakers
Wide stereo sound
Support for Dolby Atmos playback
Stereo speakers with high dynamic range
Wide stereo sound
Support for Dolby Atmos playback
BatteryUp to 18 hoursUp to 20 hours
Wireless802.11ax Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology
802.11ax Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology
PortsTwo Thunderbolt / USB 4 portsTwo Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports
Secure AuthenticationTouch IDTouch ID
ColorsSilver, Space Grey, GoldSilver, Space grey

Design

MacBook Air side view for M1 MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro
Image: Apple

When it comes to design, both MacBooks stand out and can be distinguished by just looking at them. The MacBook Air is Apple’s thinnest and lightest notebook, retaining the sleek note from when it was first unveiled out of a manila envelope.

Made out of recycled aluminum, the Air weighs 1.29Kg (2.8 pounds) and comes in gold, silver, and space grey finishes.

Coming to the MacBook Pro, it’s on the slightly heavier side, weighing 1.4Kg (3 pounds). However, it has a bigger battery, a touch-bar, and a brighter display to account for that weight. The Pro is also carved out of aluminum and comes in silver and space grey finishes.

Another difference between MacBook Air and MacBook Pro is that of the keyboard design. While the Air sticks to the conventional function keys, the Pro comes with a multi-functional Touch Bar.

Display

MacBook Pro Display for M1 MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro
Image: Apple

Both the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro have a 13.3-inch Retina (IPS) display. Both come with a 2560×1600 resolution, wide color (P3), and True Tone technology. The only difference is that of the maximum brightness.

While the M1 MacBook Air has a 400 nits brightness, the M1 MacBook Pro sports a higher 500 nits brightness. It doesn’t make a difference if you’re using it indoors, but having that extra 100 nits would make a difference if you’re using the laptop in direct sunlight.

Performance

Performance is where the M1 MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro debate takes an interesting turn. Now that both laptops are powered by the same chip, it’s the rest of the internals that make a difference in performance.

If you read the specifications above, you’ll find that the MacBook Air and Pro are nearly indistinguishable. That’s because they have the same chip, RAM, storage, graphics, and pretty much everything else.

A minor difference between the specifications is that the Air comes with up to an 8-core GPU, and the Pro is packing an 8-core GPU by default.

The MacBook Pro has an edge in processing because it has a fan that can push the chip further without heating it. This processing muscle will come in handy if you’re into performance-intensive tasks like video editing.

Battery And Connectivity

The M1 MacBook Pro also packs a bigger 58.2 watt-hour battery compared to the 49.9 watt-hour one powering the MacBook Air. The Pro model also gets a faster 61-watt USB-C charger out-of-the-box. The Apple website claims that the Air lasts up to 18 hours, while the Pro goes on for up to 20 hours at a single charge.

Apart from that, both laptops have two Thunderbolt /USB 4 ports and a headphone jack. Both come with WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 technology.

Price

The MacBook Air starts at $999 and the MacBook Pro starts at $1299. The MacBook Air price is more on the affordable side, so much so that even if you go with the 16GB 512GB variant, it’ll cost you just $100 more than the MacBook Pro price for the base variant.

Both laptops are available at the Apple Store Online.

The ‘Pro’ Factor

MacBook Pro Front
Image: Apple

Okay, so if the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, what makes the MacBook Pro better than the MacBook Air? There are certain under-the-hood refinements that Apple has implemented on the MacBook Pro, making it a subtly superior laptop over the MacBook Air.

Starting with the display, the MacBook Pro has a brighter 500 nits panel, compared to the 400 nits on the Air. It has over 2 hours of extra battery life, and it comes with a touch bar which is pretty functional when you get the hang of it.

The MacBook Pro also has superior stereo speakers with a high-dynamic range. It also has a studio-quality-three-mic array with a higher signal-to-noise ratio compared to the Air.

Which MacBook Should I buy?

If you’re trying to ask yourself, “is MacBook Air, or Pro better than the other laptops?”, then it is a completely subjective question. With the new M1 chip, the current Mac lineup is a good choice. So now you have to ask yourself “which Mac should I buy?”

The MacBook Air is a great choice if you have to do light multi-tasking, blogging, or binging Netflix. It is much more affordable and you can get the 512GB, 8-core GPU M1 MacBook Air for less than the base price of the MacBook Pro.

However, if you’re a power user and looking for a machine for video editing, heavy multitasking, and occasional gaming, the MacBook Pro would be the one for you. It has better speakers, microphones, battery, and even the display is brighter than the panel on the MacBook Air.

When we address the debate on MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro for college, different colleges have different requirements. If you’re pursuing a degree where most of your tasks include reading and writing, with occasional multitasking, you can easily choose the MacBook Air. Go for the Pro if you’re going to use Final Cut Pro, AutoCAD, or other heavy apps.

In a nutshell, Apple has done the update so well that the Air makes a great value for money choice, but you also get a suitable upgrade if you choose the Pro model. Both laptops are able to perform almost at par, but the Pro option is for those who would like everything maxed out on their laptops.

Manik Berry

Manik Berry

With a Master’s degree in journalism, Manik writes about big tech and has a keen eye for political-tech news. In his free time, he’s browsing the Kindle store for new stuff read. Manik also adores his motorcycle and is looking for new routes on weekends. He likes tea and cat memes. You can reach him at [email protected]

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