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Apple recently updated the MacBook Air by adding the M3 chip, so how do the new machines compare to its latest MacBook Pro models?

M2-MBA-vs-M2-MacBook-Pro-Buyers-Guide-Feature.jpg

Despite now being similar in appearance, the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro are very different devices, so should you consider purchasing the 13- or 15-inch MacBook Air, which start at $999, to save money, or do you need one of the higher-end 14- or 16-inch MacBook Pro models, which cost at least $600 more? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these two popular Apple silicon machines is best for you.

MacBook AirMacBook Pro
M2: 13.6-inch display
M3: 13.6- or 15.3-inch display
14.2- or 16.2-inch display
LCD Liquid Retina displayMini-LED Liquid Retina XDR display
60hz refresh rateProMotion for refresh rates up to 120Hz
500 nits brightnessUp to 1,000 nits sustained (full-screen) brightness and 1,600 nits peak brightness
Apple M2 or M3 chipApple M3, M3 Pro, or M3 Max chip
M2: Enhanced 5nm node (N5P) based on A15 Bionic chip from iPhone 13 (2021)
M3: 3nm node (N3B) based on A17 Pro chip from iPhone 15 Pro (2023)
3nm node (N3B) based on A17 Pro chip from iPhone 15 Pro (2023)
M2: 3.49 GHz CPU clock speed
M3: 4.05 GHz CPU clock speed
4.05 GHz CPU clock speed
8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency coresM3: 8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores
M3 Pro: Up to 12-core CPU with 6 performance cores and 6 efficiency cores
M3 Max: Up to 16-core CPU with 12 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores
Up to 10-core GPUM3: 10-core GPU
M3 Pro: Up to 18-core GPU
M3 Max: Up to 40-core GPU
100GB/s memory bandwidthM3: 100GB/s memory bandwidth
M3 Pro: 150GB/s memory bandwidth
M3 Max: 300GB/s or 400GB/s memory bandwidth
8GB, 16GB, or 24GB unified memoryM3: 8GB, 16GB, or 24GB unified memory
M3 Pro: 18GB or 36GB unified memory
M3 Max: 36GB, 48GB, 64GB, 96GB, 128GB unified memory
M3 models only:
New GPU architecture
Dynamic Caching
Hardware-accelerated ray tracing
Hardware-accelerated mesh shading
Support for AV1 decode
New GPU architecture
Dynamic Caching
Hardware-accelerated ray tracing
Hardware-accelerated mesh shading
Support for AV1 decode
M2: Neural Engine
M3: 15% faster Neural Engine
15% faster Neural Engine
256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB of storageM3: 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB storage
M3 Pro or M3 Max: 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB storage
Passive coolingActive cooling
M2: Wi-Fi 6
M3: Wi-Fi 6E
Wi-Fi 6E
Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 portsM3: Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 (USB-C) ports
M3 Pro or M3 Max: Three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports
HDMI 2.1 port with support for multichannel audio output
SDXC card slot
13-Inch: Four-speaker sound system
15-Inch: Six-speaker sound system with force-canceling woofers
High-fidelity six-speaker sound system with force-cancelling woofers
Three-mic array with directional beamformingStudio-quality three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming
M2: Support for one external display
M3: Support for up to two external displays when the lid is closed
M3: Support for up to two external displays when the lid is closed
M3 Pro: Support for up to two external displays
M3 Max: Support for up to four external displays
13-Inch: 52.6-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
15-Inch: 66.5-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
M3 14-Inch: 70-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
M3 Pro or M3 Max 14-Inch: 72.4-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
16-Inch: 100-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
18-hour battery lifeM3 14-Inch: 22-hour battery life
M3 Pro or M3 Max 14-Inch: 18-hour battery life
16-Inch: 22-hour battery life
30W, 35W, or 67W USB-C Power Adapter67W, 96W, or 140W USB-C Power Adapter
Silver, Space Gray, Starlight, or Midnight color optionsM3: Silver or Space Gray color options
M3 Pro or M3 Max: Silver or Space Black color options
M2 13-Inch: Starts at $999
M3 13-Inch: Starts at $1,099
M3 15-Inch: Starts at $1,299
M3 14-Inch: Starts at $1,599
M3 Pro 14-Inch: Starts at $1,999
M3 Pro 16-Inch: Starts at $2,499


Design

Both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro share the same basic design with a flat top and rounded edges on the bottom, but they do have several minor details that differ. For example, while both MacBooks have displays with a "notch" at the top to facilitate the built-in webcam, the MacBook Pro's bezels are noticeably slimmer. The keyboard area of the high-end MacBook Pro is also all-black.

macbook-air-design.jpg

The MacBook Air and M3 version of the MacBook Pro are available in Silver and Space Gray, but the MacBook Air is also offered in Starlight and Midnight color options, so if you are looking for a particular aesthetic with one of these finishes, you will need to get the MacBook Air. Space Black is exclusive to the MacBook... Click here to read rest of article

Article Link: MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro Buyer's Guide: 30+ Differences Compared
 
Last edited:

SRemington

macrumors member
Mar 10, 2022
30
73
Do you think that this technology will be available on future MacBook Air’s at some point? I love the MacBook Pro’s but getting these amazing ProMotion MiniLED displays would be the only reason for me to buy one - I am not a power user (anymore).
 

Warped9

macrumors 68000
Oct 27, 2018
1,689
2,336
Brockville, Ontario.
M2 (and M1) MacBook Air is a very capable mainstream consumer device for most use cases. The M2 MacBook Pros are high-powered dedicated professional devices. You buy a Pro because your work really demands that kind of capability so their cost is an investment in productivity. Or you want bragging rights for having an extreme toy. You buy an Air because you’re more practical, (somewhat) more budget minded and need/want something more general purpose oriented yet still capable of some heaving lifting.

The 13in. Pro is the oddball. It’s a (somewhat) budget oriented Pro device, but there is very little justification for it compared to the Airs. Maybe you like the Touchbar.
 

Cam Elppa

macrumors member
Jul 4, 2021
48
71
Do you think that this technology will be available on future MacBook Air’s at some point? I love the MacBook Pro’s but getting these amazing ProMotion MiniLED displays would be the only reason for me to buy one - I am not a power user (anymore).
Totally agree. Use to need a MacBook Pro to edit videos now and then and to export things like movies or photo shop. I have a MacBook Air M2 and OMG it flys!!! It is equivalent to a MacBook Pro of yesteryear and then some. Not till you use one do you realise how capable it is and don’t really need anything more powerful.
 

loby

macrumors 68000
Jul 1, 2010
1,846
1,462
M2 (and M1) MacBook Air is a very capable mainstream consumer device for most use cases. The M2 MacBook Pros are high-powered dedicated professional devices. You buy a Pro because your work really demands that kind of capability so their cost is an investment in productivity. Or you want bragging rights for having an extreme toy. You buy an Air because you’re more practical, (somewhat) more budget minded and need/want something more general purpose oriented yet still capable of some heaving lifting.

The 13in. Pro is the oddball. It’s a (somewhat) budget oriented Pro device, but there is very little justification for it compared to the Airs. Maybe you like the Touchbar.
It does has some justification since it has a fan to keep the CPU constant if you need to do some work other than general computer work. Around the same weight etc. and foot print. Most people who complain about it or say it is not good are those who want the Touch Bar to go away. Some like the Touch Bar as it is good for audio work and some other tasks. Also, if you are in-between as far as workflow with the Air and the 14" Pro, the 13" MacBook Pro is a good option, though the M2 Air is a good choice also of course..
 

lambertjohn

macrumors 68000
Jun 17, 2012
1,647
1,715
The Air is fine for most users--lightning fast with a beautiful screen. I'm typing on it right now and it's a joy to use. I also own a 16" M1 MBP, and although it's a fantastic computer in its own right, it's clunky and seldom used in our household. Which is kind of a shame. Wish I would have spent that $2500 on a Disney vacation instead. LOL.
 

riverfreak

macrumors 68000
Jan 10, 2005
1,828
2,289
Thonglor, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon
These comparison articles are great, but the side-by-side bullet points never line up making it difficult to quickly scan each item.

For MacRumors editors, this is what I’m talking about with the bullet points.

Surely this deserves a table or some other evenly distributed CSS presentation?

4F429802-D059-4983-90A2-D492221D2EC0.jpeg



At any rate, what about the keyboards? Are they the same between the air and the Pros?
 
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Andronicus

macrumors 6502a
Apr 1, 2008
819
817
The air is the perfect machine for me. I just use it for logic and it runs like a champ. Very happy with my purchase and I’m sure it will last me many years…..unless they come out with a blue one….. 👀 cause I NEED that.
 

Unami

macrumors 65816
Jul 27, 2010
1,382
1,609
Austria
The MacBook Pro takes things to the next level with a high-fidelity six-speaker sound system with force-cancelling woofers for dramatically bigger and deeper audio – something that may be invaluable to users who work in professional audio production
Yes, it's "invaluable" as in "it has no value". If you work with the laptop's speakers, you are very likely no audio professional. Sure, you can use them to check out how your mix sounds on laptop-speakers, but as probably more people got an air, it's speakers are more useful as a reference. The Air got a headphone jack as well - which is far more useful on the go. I know a few who got the M1 air because it is already fast enough and, more importantly - it has no fan, which is far more valuable to them than tiny laptop speakers.
 

riverfreak

macrumors 68000
Jan 10, 2005
1,828
2,289
Thonglor, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon
I was curious about the old 15” MacBook Pro W/Touchbar circa 2019 (and similar form
factors) vs the new 16”.

Size and Weight - 15” 2019​

  • Height: 0.61 inch (1.55 cm)
  • Width: 13.75 inches (34.93 cm)
  • Depth: 9.48 inches (24.07 cm)
  • Weight: 4.02 pounds (1.83 kg)3

Size and Weight - 16” 2023​

  • Height: 0.66 inch (1.68 cm)
  • Width: 14.01 inches (35.57 cm)
  • Depth: 9.77 inches (24.81 cm)
  • Weight (M2 Pro): 4.7 pounds (2.15 kg)6
  • Weight (M2 Max): 4.8 pounds (2.16 kg)6
 
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mystery hill

macrumors 6502a
Apr 2, 2021
948
3,605
M2 Air: Up to 15 hours wireless web
MBP 14: Up to 12 hours wireless web

They both have 18 hours for Apple TV app movie playback.
 

lazyrighteye

Contributor
Jan 16, 2002
4,113
6,344
Denver, CO
It’s a great shame the Air can’t drive two monitors.
Omg this!
Without question, the biggest miss and the one feature I most wish the Air offered.

The need to simultaneously view multiple documents isn’t necessarily that of only high-end video editors and designers. There are some (eg: writers) that don’t need the added power, weight, size, cost of a Pro, but do need the ability for dual monitor support.

If the Air were capable of pushing two displays, it would be my favorite Mac to date. It’s an amazing machine in almost every way. An impressive culmination of years of hardware evolution.
 

mystery hill

macrumors 6502a
Apr 2, 2021
948
3,605
If you go for a MacBook Pro, always go for the 16-inch version if you can financially.

The larger screen size is dramatically more useful than the slightly reduced size and weight of the 14-inch version.
It’s not as portable, and if you really needed more screen real estate, you would be better off with an external display.
 
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Yebubbleman

macrumors 603
May 20, 2010
5,873
2,479
Los Angeles, CA
It just goes to show how good of a job Apple has done to make customers think that "Pro" just means "not the cheapo version". There are TONS of folks buying M2 Pro Mac minis and MacBook Pros thinking that they need it when they don't because the standard M1 or M2 is already so performant for 95% of all Mac users.
 

Unami

macrumors 65816
Jul 27, 2010
1,382
1,609
Austria
Omg this!
Without question, the biggest miss and the one feature I most wish the Air offered.

The need to simultaneously view multiple documents isn’t necessarily that of only high-end video editors and designers. There are some (eg: writers) that don’t need the added power, weight, size, cost of a Pro, but do need the ability for dual monitor support.

If the Air were capable of pushing two displays, it would be my favorite Mac to date. It’s an amazing machine in almost every way. An impressive culmination of years of hardware evolution.
Can't it drive it's own monitor plus an external one? Or does it only do one external Monitor in clamshell mode?

(at least it could do another extrnal display via sidecar mode on an ipad, but that's an expensive workaround)
 
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