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Yebubbleman

macrumors 601
Original poster
May 20, 2010
4,683
1,463
Los Angeles, CA
I've followed similar posts on these forums, watched all of the videos by Renee Ritchie, Luke Miani, MaxTech, and Marques Brownlee, have gotten into some debates with people both online and offline about this (and have never found any solid answers for this), but I'm curious:

If you're torn between an M1 MacBook Air (presumably with the 8 core GPU) and an M1 2-port 13" MacBook Pro (with let's say, for argument's sake, identical RAM and identical SSD capacities), what practical concerns are causing you to lean toward the 2-port 13" MacBook Pro?

I'm not personally in the market for either device (there's a 4-port 10th Gen Intel based 13" MacBook Pro with my name on it that I'll be ordering fairly soon), though I do consult for many a Mac user as well as provide advice and support for friends and family (many of whom are due to buy one of these two Macs imminently) and I would like to have a solid handle on which Apple Silicon Macs to recommend to them (being that, unlike me, none of them have any dependency on staying with x86 for any reason).

My natural inclination would be to steer one towards the M1 based 2-port 13" MacBook Pro due to the better microphones, the active cooling system (though admittedly much of that is a knee-jerk response based on poorly cooled 12-15" Intel Mac notebooks circa 2016-2019 as well as how terrible the 2020 Intel MacBook Air's cooling system was. I recognize that this isn't an Intel Mac that we're dealing with, but the traumatic experience fueled wariness remains. I'm not the biggest fan of the newer Air's change in function keys, but that would never affect my recommendation to someone else. But I'm not 100% confident that any of my concerns or superstitions PRACTICALLY justifies the extra $150 difference between two (again, M1 Air with 8-core GPU vs. M1 2-port 13" Pro with identical RAM and SSD).

What practical concerns justified your choosing the M1 based 2-port 13" MacBook Pro over the M1 based MacBook Air? Or was it merely peace of mind? Let me know! I'm very curious.
 

ProfessionalFan

macrumors 68000
Sep 29, 2016
1,978
4,549
I like the Touch Bar. I know I’m in the minority on that but I like it so it was one of the reasons I went for the Pro over the Air. Having a fan was another thing I wanted. Yes the Air seems to be doing exceptionally well without a fan, but I still feel better about having one.
 

KShopper

macrumors member
Nov 26, 2020
84
116
...and I hate the Touch Bar, passionately. I had a 2018 MBP 13" with it (and the terrible keyboard) and I couldn't get rid of both fast enough once the 2020 MBA came out. It was such a negative experience for me using the Touchbar and that keyboard, made me depressed. It seemed like every function that used to be one hit-by-feel without looking function keypress was now like 3 gotta-watch-what-you're doing taps on the touchbar. Miserable terrible design. Just add a touchscreen and be done with it.

So yeah, I'm thrilled to be using the M1 Air with the proper function keys. :)
 

djlythium

macrumors 65816
Jun 11, 2014
1,051
1,449
I opted for the 8/256 because, for a couple hundred more (or not, depending on the perspective), you get a fan, larger trackpad, & bigger battery + battery life.
 

MayaTlab

macrumors 6502
Dec 12, 2007
316
295
We’ll know more about it in the coming weeks once they’re actually measured but actual display quality is another potential tangible difference.
 

KPOM

macrumors P6
Oct 23, 2010
17,133
6,386
If you're torn between an M1 MacBook Air (presumably with the 8 core GPU) and an M1 2-port 13" MacBook Pro (with let's say, for argument's sake, identical RAM and identical SSD capacities), what practical concerns are causing you to lean toward the 2-port 13" MacBook Pro?

I'm not personally in the market for either device (there's a 4-port 10th Gen Intel based 13" MacBook Pro with my name on it that I'll be ordering fairly soon), though I do consult for many a Mac user as well as provide advice and support for friends and family (many of whom are due to buy one of these two Macs imminently) and I would like to have a solid handle on which Apple Silicon Macs to recommend to them (being that, unlike me, none of them have any dependency on staying with x86 for any reason).


What practical concerns justified your choosing the M1 based 2-port 13" MacBook Pro over the M1 based MacBook Air? Or was it merely peace of mind? Let me know! I'm very curious.

Take this from an owner of the Ice Lake 13" MacBook Pro model that you are interested in, as well as a recent purchaser of the M1 MacBook Air. The main reasons for choosing the Pro are preference for the TouchBar, and a need to run sustained CPU/GPU-intensive tasks. The vast majority of M1 Mac buyers are likely better off with the Air and saving the $250-$300 cost difference for other needs.

In my case I bought the 13" Ice Lake Pro earlier this year since I figured it would be the last Intel model, and I will keep it for the rare cases I need to use Windows over the years. I tried the early 2020 Air, but couldn't recommend it because the base 13" Intel Pro was so much faster than even the i7 Air. This time around, I think the Air is the better purchase for most buyers in that market. Those who really need the sustained power of the M1 13" Pro will likely be better served by whatever Apple releases in 2021, since they are also more likely to need more than 1 external display, more than 16GB of RAM, and more ports.
 

thenewperson

macrumors 6502a
Mar 27, 2011
681
549
...and I hate the Touch Bar, passionately. I had a 2018 MBP 13" with it (and the terrible keyboard) and I couldn't get rid of both fast enough once the 2020 MBA came out. It was such a negative experience for me using the Touchbar and that keyboard, made me depressed. It seemed like every function that used to be one hit-by-feel without looking function keypress was now like 3 gotta-watch-what-you're doing taps on the touchbar. Miserable terrible design. Just add a touchscreen and be done with it.

So yeah, I'm thrilled to be using the M1 Air with the proper function keys. :)
So you didn't actually answer the question.

Anyway, I'd go with the Pros because of the better mic + speakers and its ability to sustain its performance (especially with reports of it not being noisy while doing this). I've never used a Touch Bar, but I do have BetterTouchTool already so I think I can make it work (never used function keys anyway).
 

chad.petree

macrumors 6502
Feb 2, 2013
485
188
Germany
I went with the air because I think the macbook pro 13" will get the chop soon. I'd like a bit more screen real state so I will be getting the redesigned 14" Macbook pro when it comes out. I think the macbook air will hold its value a little bit better by the time I sell it since the design probably will stay the same. Also I don't like the touchbar, I'm hoping that it also gets the chop.
 

Sheppard

macrumors regular
Apr 29, 2012
122
56
Kent, UK
I had the doomed 2017 15” MBP and didn’t think much of the Touch Bar; I certainly don’t miss it whilst I’m using my MBA of the same year. However, I am in need of more power and really stuck between MBA/MBP scenario.

Given current situations, I’m mostly docked so the Touch Bar will hardly be used. But driving a (soon to be bought 5k display) as well as my usual work load (G-suite tabs galore), figma and comms tools; I may be better suited to active cooling.

But, if the MBA is great at doing the above, I would really appreciate the fanless (and overall) design.

I’m on the fence!
 

Yebubbleman

macrumors 601
Original poster
May 20, 2010
4,683
1,463
Los Angeles, CA
I like the Touch Bar. I know I’m in the minority on that but I like it so it was one of the reasons I went for the Pro over the Air. Having a fan was another thing I wanted. Yes the Air seems to be doing exceptionally well without a fan, but I still feel better about having one.

The fan makes me feel more comfortable about recommending it to people, but all of the videos and reviews and articles comparing the two seem to indicate that neither machine gets more than even a little bit warm after a while. It sounds like "peace of mind" is, Touch Bar preference aside, the feature that is steering you towards the 2-port 13" Pro. And I'm not saying that isn't practical in and of itself. I'm just wondering if that's really it, ultimately.

...and I hate the Touch Bar, passionately. I had a 2018 MBP 13" with it (and the terrible keyboard) and I couldn't get rid of both fast enough once the 2020 MBA came out. It was such a negative experience for me using the Touchbar and that keyboard, made me depressed. It seemed like every function that used to be one hit-by-feel without looking function keypress was now like 3 gotta-watch-what-you're doing taps on the touchbar. Miserable terrible design. Just add a touchscreen and be done with it.

So yeah, I'm thrilled to be using the M1 Air with the proper function keys. :)

I'm not stoked on the new function keys on the M1 Air (as many of those are functions I don't need compared to what they were on the Intel model; but hell if that's enough to make me want an Intel model as those had thermal issues for days). That said, I'm more wondering what's swaying people from Air to 2-port 13" Pro in M1 land as that seems to be the harder sell.

It's really simple. If you're running any kind of sustained workload want the absolute best performance then Pro is the one to get.

Right, but not every sustained workload is going to see a benefit. I'd imagine editing 8K footage all day/night would be one such workload. But what about the user that's only using Microsoft Office, Teams, Zoom, Evernote, Chrome, stock macOS apps, the iWork apps, and, at most, GarageBand or iMovie? What about the user that's watching movies either via Netflix on a browser, or the Apple TV app? Are they going to appreciate any kind of a thermal/processing benefit?

Again, I've gravitated towards recommending people, for whom their needs might vary or be nebulous to the 2-port 13" MacBook Pro, but I'm wanting to know where the dividing line is more specifically. Because tests have been done and some sustained loads appear to not make a difference. If it's just sustained high-end video/audio/photo/computation/coding workloads, that's one thing. Otherwise, if it's ANY sustained workload, that's another.


I opted for the 8/256 because, for a couple hundred more (or not, depending on the perspective), you get a fan, larger trackpad, & bigger battery + battery life.

These are practical. I'm just wondering if there's not more to it than that. It IS only a $150 difference.

We’ll know more about it in the coming weeks once they’re actually measured but actual display quality is another potential tangible difference.

They've been measured. That's why I posed this question. MaxTech compared the two and came away saying that there's no reason why the average user wouldn't just be fine with the Air. Hence me asking what gravitates people towards the Pro instead. It's only a $150 difference when the RAM, GPU core count, and SSD capacity amounts are the same between the two. I'm not saying the screen brightness, better microphones, active cooling, (give or take) the TouchBar, and two hours of additional battery life isn't worth $150. I'm wondering if that's all there is and/or if that's all there really is to sway people in the direction of the 2-port 13" Pro over the Air. Back when both models had Intel under the same enclosure, going with the 2-port 13" Pro, despite it still having 8th Gen U-series Intel under the hood (versus the Air's 10th Gen Y-series Intel under its hood) was a no brainer because the Air was vastly underpowered and had crazy thermal issues when compared to the 2-port 13" Pro. I'm wondering if all of those niceties is all there is or if there was some other element compelling one to go 2-port 13" Pro over Air this time with M1.

Take this from an owner of the Ice Lake 13" MacBook Pro model that you are interested in, as well as a recent purchaser of the M1 MacBook Air. The main reasons for choosing the Pro are preference for the TouchBar, and a need to run sustained CPU/GPU-intensive tasks. The vast majority of M1 Mac buyers are likely better off with the Air and saving the $250-$300 cost difference for other needs.

In my case I bought the 13" Ice Lake Pro earlier this year since I figured it would be the last Intel model, and I will keep it for the rare cases I need to use Windows over the years. I tried the early 2020 Air, but couldn't recommend it because the base 13" Intel Pro was so much faster than even the i7 Air. This time around, I think the Air is the better purchase for most buyers in that market. Those who really need the sustained power of the M1 13" Pro will likely be better served by whatever Apple releases in 2021, since they are also more likely to need more than 1 external display, more than 16GB of RAM, and more ports.
It's funny. I will occasionally second guess my "I'm going with the 4-port Ice Lake 13" Pro and not going with any M1 Mac" stance and go between just getting that Mac, getting that Mac and also getting an M1 Air to tinker with (as I will eventually need to familiarize myself first-hand with some of the key differences), or not even getting the Ice Lake 13" Pro and getting an Intel Mac mini and an M1 13" Pro instead. My needs for the Ice Lake 13" Pro are similar to yours (though, in addition to Windows, virtualizing older versions of Intel macOS and x86 Linux are also big pluses). But the Ice Lake Pro seems like a good note to end the my dynasty of Intel Macs. I think I also keep flirting with the idea that it may be my last Mac period and that jumping off the Mac bus as a user might be more cleanly done that way. Though, I still want to keep my Mac knowledge current for those I support (also my IT career). I guess an M1 Air is relatively low commitment.

Anyways, I guess what I'm wondering here (with specific regards to users who are not me personally) is where the dividing line is between "you should get an Air" and "you should get a 2-port 13" Pro" and for whom one can OBVIOUSLY state the latter to.
So you didn't actually answer the question.

Anyway, I'd go with the Pros because of the better mic + speakers and its ability to sustain its performance (especially with reports of it not being noisy while doing this). I've never used a Touch Bar, but I do have BetterTouchTool already so I think I can make it work (never used function keys anyway).
The MaxTech video seemed to show the microphones between the two as being very similar. Though I watched another video by GregsGadgets that showed a more pronounced difference. Never heard of BetterTouchTool; might have to check it out!
 

thenewperson

macrumors 6502a
Mar 27, 2011
681
549
Never heard of BetterTouchTool; might have to check it out!
It's really good; made me love the Mac's trackpad so much more (not really a keyboard person). I've heard before from people who have used it + Touchbar to be a genuine improvement on the TB's utility.
 

ManuCH

macrumors 6502a
May 7, 2009
730
336
Switzerland
I didn't get any M1 so far because I just got a 2020 13" MacBook Pro in May (bummer), but if I had to get one, it would be the Pro, for the following reason:

- I like the touchbar
- I dislike the tapered design of the Air
- the Pro display is 100 nits brighter (which is very relevant when using it on public transport)
- better speakers and microphone
- better battery life

So that's a no-brainer for me. The money saving is too little to give up everything I listed above.
 

delsoul

macrumors regular
Mar 7, 2014
136
149
I know on my m1 Pro, I'm easily getting 20+ hours of use with watching videos, internet browsing, apple arcading, etc. I figure for a pinch more in money...bigger battery, extra core, brighter screen, fan, etc. Might as well. I absolutely was turned off by the Touch Bar but once I learned that you can just set it to display the usual home keys, it's not any different than the air. Only downside I feel is the weight. I know it's not that much more than the air itself but for some reason it feels like a tank In comparison
 

MayaTlab

macrumors 6502
Dec 12, 2007
316
295
They've been measured.
They absolutely haven’t been to any degree that’s sufficient for visual work. Contrast ratio, black and white points uniformity, grey scale and colour accuracy delta, grey scale and colour accuracy uniformity, etc...
we also don’t if Apple’s tolerances are identical between the two devices or not.
 
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consumeritis

macrumors member
Mar 9, 2015
86
43
MobileTechReview is very good at checking display quality. Check out Lisa's review on YouTube. Her measurements showed that the Air's display was actually a bit worse. Its black level and contrast ratio is not as good.

The Pro seems to have a lot of little upgrades other than the fan - display, audio, battery, touch bar. But nothing that blows the Air away completely.
 

bill-p

macrumors 68030
Jul 23, 2011
2,752
1,277
What practical concerns justified your choosing the M1 based 2-port 13" MacBook Pro over the M1 based MacBook Air? Or was it merely peace of mind? Let me know! I'm very curious.

Battery life, screen, fan, speakers, microphone...

Also more uniform body design instead of being thick on one end and thin on another.

All of that for $250 more (I configured the MBA to 16GB 1TB and compared against the Pro). Honestly, it's not like I'm not already paying close to $2000, so it's a 13% price increase for 15% more of everything. Sounds like a good deal to me.

And in case you're wondering what kind of "sustained" workload will see benefits with a fan, well... gaming. Certain games (StarCraft 2, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, etc...) can push the Pro M1 to the point where its fan is clearly audible. You don't see this in Youtube videos because most youtubers don't try to push game settings to unreasonable numbers for >10 minutes at a time like... you know, a regular person.

That and 3D graphics workflow like... Fusion 360 > Chitubox > Photon File Validator will also benefit from being able to deal with sustained workload for longer.

It's simple, really: I just want to be able to make full use of the maximum performance of the computer no matter what I throw at it. It's a computer... not something I'd watch Netflix on. I have a TV and an iPad Pro for that.

In fact, here's a better question: what makes the Air a better sale than the iPad Pro 12.9? Considering the iPad Pro 12.9 is also fanless, has a better screen, has arguably better speakers, is lighter, more portable, more user-friendly...? The iPad Pro also can do the light tasks that some folks are doing on their MacBook Air like... Teams, Zoom, Youtube, Netflix, etc...
 

Chompineer

Suspended
Mar 31, 2020
502
1,181
Ontario
Battery life, screen, fan, speakers, microphone...

Also more uniform body design instead of being thick on one end and thin on another.

All of that for $250 more (I configured the MBA to 16GB 1TB and compared against the Pro). Honestly, it's not like I'm not already paying close to $2000, so it's a 13% price increase for 15% more of everything. Sounds like a good deal to me.

And in case you're wondering what kind of "sustained" workload will see benefits with a fan, well... gaming. Certain games (StarCraft 2, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, etc...) can push the Pro M1 to the point where its fan is clearly audible. You don't see this in Youtube videos because most youtubers don't try to push game settings to unreasonable numbers for >10 minutes at a time like... you know, a regular person.

That and 3D graphics workflow like... Fusion 360 > Chitubox > Photon File Validator will also benefit from being able to deal with sustained workload for longer.

It's simple, really: I just want to be able to make full use of the maximum performance of the computer no matter what I throw at it. It's a computer... not something I'd watch Netflix on. I have a TV and an iPad Pro for that.

In fact, here's a better question: what makes the Air a better sale than the iPad Pro 12.9? Considering the iPad Pro 12.9 is also fanless, has a better screen, has arguably better speakers, is lighter, more portable, more user-friendly...? The iPad Pro also can do the light tasks that some folks are doing on their MacBook Air like... Teams, Zoom, Youtube, Netflix, etc...

Because an iPad Pro multitasks about as well as elephants dance.
 

magbarn

macrumors 68030
Oct 25, 2008
2,632
1,866
One of the mbp’s biggest advantages for me was the 4 TB ports which was lost as an option with the M1. I would also love to demo the speakers in person as the 2020 Intel 2 port speakers weren’t as good sounding as the 4 port version. In fact imho they sounded closer to the intel 2020 MBA. I hate touchbar so no advantage. Tapered design nice to type on too!
 

deeddawg

macrumors G4
Jun 14, 2010
11,837
5,904
US
One of the mbp’s biggest advantages for me was the 4 TB ports which was lost as an option with the M1.
No sure it's "lost" -- the four port MBP models simply haven't transitioned to Apple Silicon yet.

Remember - there were both two-port and four-port Intel MBP 13" models. Only the two-port models have transitioned to Apple Silicon so far - you can still buy a four-port model, but it'll be Intel not ARM.

Presumably they will transition to ARM sometime in 2021.
 

richard371

macrumors 68040
Feb 1, 2008
3,165
1,352
I didn't get any M1 so far because I just got a 2020 13" MacBook Pro in May (bummer), but if I had to get one, it would be the Pro, for the following reason:

- I like the touchbar
- I dislike the tapered design of the Air
- the Pro display is 100 nits brighter (which is very relevant when using it on public transport)
- better speakers and microphone
- better battery life

So that's a no-brainer for me. The money saving is too little to give up everything I listed above.
This
 

magbarn

macrumors 68030
Oct 25, 2008
2,632
1,866
No sure it's "lost" -- the four port MBP models simply haven't transitioned to Apple Silicon yet.

Remember - there were both two-port and four-port Intel MBP 13" models. Only the two-port models have transitioned to Apple Silicon so far - you can still buy a four-port model, but it'll be Intel not ARM.

Presumably they will transition to ARM sometime in 2021.
It may come back, but for right NOW, the MBP has lost that advantage which was a big deal for me as it makes it possible to charge my MBP while having an external monitor and 2 scratch disks connected without a hub. I ended up getting the MBA instead as the no Touch Bar, price difference, and no fans were all big advantages for me.
 
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deeddawg

macrumors G4
Jun 14, 2010
11,837
5,904
US
It may come back, but for right NOW, the MBP has lost that advantage which was a big deal for me as it makes it possible to charge my MBP while having an external monitor and 2 scratch disks connected without a hub. I ended up getting the MBA instead as the no Touch Bar, price difference, and no fans were all big advantages for me.
Four-port models remain available for purchase.

Not sure what's been "lost"?

Sure, if you need a four-port system, you're going to have to either buy an Intel model or wait for those to transition to ARM. That (presumably) will happen in time.

Screen Shot 2020-11-27 at 11.04.04 PM.png
 
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