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Apple recently announced a major update for its high-end MacBook Pro models, adding the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, better battery life, Wi‑Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, and an HDMI 2.1 port. Last year, Apple updated the MacBook Air with a complete redesign and the M2 chip, so how do the machines compare?

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 machines, so should you consider purchasing the MacBook Air, which starts at $1,199, to save money, or do you need one of the higher-end 14- or 16-inch MacBook Pro models, which cost at least $800 more? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these two popular Apple silicon machines is best for you.

This guide focuses on the high-end, 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips rather than the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M2 chip. See our other buyer's guide to understand the differences between the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 14- and 16-inch models.

Key Differences Overview

MacBook AirMacBook Pro
13.6-inch display14.2-inch or 16.2-inch display
LCD Liquid Retina display displayMini-LED Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion
500 nits brightnessUp to 1,000 nits sustained (full-screen) brightness and 1,600 nits peak brightness
Apple M2 chipApple M2 Pro chip or Apple M2 Max chip
8-core CPU with with four performance cores and four efficiency coresUp to 12-core CPU with eight performance cores and four efficiency cores
10-core GPUUp to 19-core GPU with ‌M2‌ Pro and up to 38-core GPU with ‌M2‌ Max
100GB/s memory bandwidthUp to 400GB/s memory bandwidth
8GB, 16GB, or 24GB of unified memory16GB or 32GB unified memory with ‌M2‌ Pro and 32GB, 64GB, or 96GB unified memory with ‌M2‌ Max
256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB of storage512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB of storage
Passive coolingActive cooling
Wi-Fi 6Wi-Fi 6E
Bluetooth 5.0Bluetooth 5.3
Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 portsThree Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports
HDMI 2.1 port with support for multichannel audio output
SDXC card slot
Four-speaker sound systemHigh-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
Integrated 52.6-watt-hour lithium-polymer batteryIntegrated 70-watt-hour or 100-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
Up to 18 hours battery lifeUp to 18 or 22 hours battery life
30W, 35W, or 67W USB-C Power Adapter67W, 96W, or 140W USB-C Power Adapter


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 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.

MacBook AirMacBook Pro (14-Inch)MacBook Pro (16-Inch)
Height0.44 inches (1.13 cm)0.61 inches (1.55 cm)0.66 inch (1.68 cm)
Width11.97 inches (30.41 cm)12.31 inches (31.26 cm)14.01 inches (35.57 cm)
Depth8.46 inches (21.5 cm)8.71 inches (22.12 cm)9.77 inches (24.81 cm)
Weight2.7 pounds (1.24 kg)3.5 pounds (1.60 kg)4.8 pounds (2.16 kg)


Dimensions are also a key area of difference between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is considerably larger and heavier than the MacBook Air, but it is important to not understate the difference between the 14-inch MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. While the 14-inch MacBook Pro offers a larger display than the MacBook Air, its marginally larger footprint, added thickness, and an additional 0.8 pounds of weight do make for a noticeably less portable machine if you prefer to travel light.

Even so, the 14-inch MacBook Pro offers a very good balance of portability and performance, so if you need its added capabilities, its size and weight should not hold you back.

Ports and Connectivity

The selection of ports is an area of major difference between the two machines. The MacBook Air features just two Thunderbolt 4 ports. The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, on the other hand, have three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI 2.1 port, and an SDXC card slot. Both machines feature a 3.5mm headphone jack with support for high-impedance headphones, but the 13-inch MacBook Air can support only one external display, while the high-end MacBook Pro model can support up to four displays in total with the M2 Max chip.

2021-macbook-pro-ports.jpg

All in all, the MacBook Pro is much more versatile in terms of connectivity, even possessing newer Bluetooth and Wi-Fi specifications, offering useful features for professionals who use SDXC cards from digital cameras, multiple external displays, or even simply more USB peripherals.

Display Size

The MacBook Air's display is 13.6 inches in size, which is a little smaller than the 14.2-inch MacBook Pro, and markedly smaller than the 16.2-inch MacBook Pro. 13.6 inches is still bigger than the largest iPad Pro model, which comes in at 12.9 inches, and even all of the previous MacBook Air and smaller MacBook Pro models, meaning that it should be adequate for most users. The 14.2-inch MacBook Pro simply offers a little bit more screen real estate to those who need high-end capabilities.

The 16.2-inch display will be a better replacement for a desktop machine and provide much more screen space to arrange multiple windows and use professional applications that benefit from additional display area.

Display Technology

The display technologies of both machines are significantly different. Like most MacBooks in recent years, the MacBook Air has an LCD panel, but owing to its slim bezels and rounded corners, Apple calls it a Liquid Retina display. The 14- and 16-inch models feature Apple's more advanced mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR technology for deeper blacks, better dynamic range, and improved color accuracy.

macbook-pro-display.jpg

The XDR display can get much brighter, reaching as high as 1,600 nits of brightness at its peak when showing HDR content. The 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models also have ProMotion displays, allowing them to vary their refresh rate up to 120Hz. The MacBook Air does not have a display with a variable refresh rate.

It will be worth getting the high-end MacBook Pro models for viewing and editing HDR content, as well as watching high-framerate video such as sports. The display of the MacBook Air is sufficient for most users and some may not even notice a drastic difference. The MacBook Pro's deeper blacks and smoother on-screen motion simply offer a slightly better experience.

Chips

The MacBook Air contains the M2 chip, while MacBook Pro customers can choose between the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips. The M2 Pro and M2 Max are scaled-up versions of the M2 chip that offer additional CPU and GPU cores. See the M2, M2 Pro, and M2 Max's Geekbench 5 scores below:


Single-Core Scores
  • M2: ~2,000
  • M2 Pro: ~2,000
  • M2 Max: ~2,000
Metal GPU Scores
  • M2: ~30,500
  • M2 Pro: ~52,700
  • M2 Max: ~87,000


Multi-Core Scores
  • M2: ~9,000
  • M2 Pro: ~15,000
  • M2 Max: ~15,000


The M2 Pro and M2 Max provide CPUs with up to four additional cores and GPUs with up to 28 additional cores. The M2 chip in the MacBook Air is just as powerful as the M2 Pro and M2 Max in single-core tasks, but the M2 Pro and M2 Max are considerably better in multi-core and graphics tasks.

m2-m2-pro-chips.jpg

With significantly more transistors, performance CPU cores, and GPU cores, the M2 Pro and M2 Max are powerful chips designed for professionals with demanding workflows. The M2, on the other hand, is more of a consumer-oriented chip focused on delivering surprisingly impressive performance and excellent efficiency to keep temperatures down and prolong battery life.

It is also worth noting that the MacBook Air is passively cooled and contains no fan, which can slightly constrain peak performance compared to the MacBook Pro, since the high-end machines have large fans to actively cool the system and push the chips harder.

Memory and Storage

The MacBook Air can be configured with up to 24GB of unified memory and up to 2TB of storage, which should be more than enough for the vast majority of users. For those who need even more memory and storage, the MacBook Pro can be configured with 72GB more memory and 6TB more storage than the top-spec MacBook Air.

The M2 Pro and M2 Max chips in the MacBook Pro also provide 200GB/s and 400GB/s memory bandwidth respectively – an enormous increase over the 100GB/s memory bandwidth with the M2 chip in the MacBook Air.

Buyers should also be aware that the 256GB MacBook Air and 512GB MacBook Pro base models have up to 50 percent slower SSDs than configurations with more storage. This is because the base models only have a single SSD module inside, whereas models with larger amounts of storage have two SSD chips, significantly increasing the overall speed of the machine's storage.

Speakers and Microphones

The MacBook Air has a four-speaker sound system that is surprisingly full and balanced for such a small, slim device. 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 or simply listen to a lot of music out-loud.

macbook-pro-speakers.jpg

The MacBook Air has a three-mic array with directional beamforming that is perfect for activities like video calls and voice notes. The MacBook Pro has what Apple calls a "studio-quality" three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming. While they are not as good as a dedicated microphone, the MacBook Pro's microphones are impressive and, at a push, are suitable for production purposes like podcasting.

Battery Life

The MacBook Air has an 18-hour battery life, offering the same battery life as the 14-inch MacBook Pro and four hours less than the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Other MacBook Options

If you are looking for a more affordable Apple silicon MacBook, there is the M1 MacBook Air, which sports a 13.3-inch Retina display, Touch ID, two Thunderbolt ports, and more, for prices starting at $999. For users on a strict budget, the M1 MacBook Air is still a good option.


For just $100 more than the M2 MacBook Air, there is the M2 MacBook Pro – an entry-level MacBook Pro model that has a 13.3-inch display and uses the same design that dominated all of Apple's MacBook Pro models from 2016 to 2021. It has the same chip as the MacBook Air but can push it slightly harder due to having a fan for active cooling, and offers a brighter display, the Touch Bar, better microphone and speaker quality, and two extra hours of battery life. If you cannot afford the 14-inch MacBook Pro's $1,999 price tag, but you think you will need slightly more than what the M2 MacBook Air has to offer, the 13-inch MacBook Air offers a good middle-ground option for some.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the MacBook Air is the best option for most users, offering an excellent balance of features and performance in a highly portable design. The MacBook Air's $1,199 price tag is affordable compared to the MacBook Pro, and with an education discount or an offer from our Apple Deals Roundup, it is possible to get that price down by at least $100. The additional $800 to get the MacBook Pro likely is not worth it for most users, and on the contrary, many will prefer the slimmer, lighter design of the MacBook Air and perhaps even its additional color options.

macbook-pro-sizes-space-gray.jpg

Professionals who require larger and more accurate displays, additional ports, more memory and storage, and a very high level of performance should look to the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro, and the $1,999 and $2,499 price points of these machines reflects this. These high-end MacBook Pros are not targeted at everyday consumers, being clearly tailored to creatives and professionals who rely heavily on the capabilities of their machines. As such, the MacBook Pro should only be a go-to option if you are a power-user or professional who can make use of its advanced features.

Alternatively, if you are a tech enthusiast who can afford to pay a lot more to get the MacBook Pro, aspects like its larger Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion and six-speaker sound system can be enjoyed by almost any user. If you simply want the best possible performance, connectivity, display technology, and speakers, the high-end MacBook Pro is the best option. The 16-inch MacBook Pro, in particular, is also potentially a good desktop replacement machine due to its large display.

If you configure the MacBook Air with its 10-core GPU option, 16GB of memory, and 512GB of storage to build a configuration that is closer to the 14-inch MacBook Pro, it costs $1,699 – just $300 less than the MacBook Pro. At this point, it may be worth paying the extra cash to get the 14-inch MacBook Pro, since that machine's performance, larger mini-LED display with ProMotion, additional ports and memory bandwidth, and better speakers and microphone deliver a big upgrade.

Article Link: MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro Buyer's Guide
 
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Liquid Galaxy

macrumors regular
Sep 12, 2012
105
243
Swindon, UK
Just managed to grab the 14" M2 Pro MacBook Pro (12/19 core, 16gb, 1TB SSD) here in the UK for £2239 on eBay, almost £500 cheaper than the RRP (£2699). Brand new, sealed, serial number checked etc. Pays to shop around.
 

SRemington

macrumors newbie
Mar 10, 2022
19
58
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 65816
Oct 27, 2018
1,020
1,175
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.
 
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Cam Elppa

macrumors member
Jul 4, 2021
36
39
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
1,672
1,246
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..
 
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lambertjohn

macrumors 68000
Jun 17, 2012
1,622
1,629
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.
 
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riverfreak

macrumors 68000
Jan 10, 2005
1,707
2,045
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
786
599
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
1,084
1,018
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
1,707
2,045
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
 

SoldOnApple

macrumors 6502a
Jul 20, 2011
614
914
I love the Touch Bar. Being able to touch the brightness or volume "key" and then slide left or right to precisely adjust it is worth the extra $100 alone. And the emoji array is a godsend, when it actually works..
 

mystery hill

macrumors 6502a
Apr 2, 2021
644
1,823
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
3,421
4,277
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
644
1,823
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
5,136
1,774
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.
 
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Unami

macrumors 65816
Jul 27, 2010
1,084
1,018
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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