MacBook Air vs Pro: Which one is right for you? | Hoxton Macs

MacBook Air vs Pro: Which one is right for you?

When it comes to laptops, Apple now offers the:

Each one comes in different colours and configurations, and while that's great for you because it means you're spoilt for choice, it can also make it difficult to know which Apple laptop is right for you. That's why we've put together this handy guide, in which we touch upon some of the key differences between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro models to help you with that all-important decision.


Design

Let's start with design first, because while Apple laptops are instantly recognisable, there are subtle differences that are worth noting. Firstly, in terms of finishes, the MacBook Air is available in gold, silver and space grey. The MacBook Pros don't come in gold but are available in silver and space grey.

Secondly, in terms of weight the MacBook Air is the lightest, weighing in at 1.27kg, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro is 1.36kg, the 14-inch is 1.59kg, and the 16-inch is 1.95kg/2.13kg (Intel/M1 respectively). This is important to know if you frequently travel with your laptop and want something that isn't a strain on your shoulders.

Thirdly, the MacBook Air has a slimmer form factor with a thinner front edge. That said, they occupy a similar space within a bag to the 13-inch MacBook Pro.  

Lastly, when it comes to the screen, the newer 14-inch and 16-inch M1 MacBook Pros have thinner bezels with a notch at the top for the 1080p webcam. The 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air have thicker bezels, with no notch for the 720p webcam.


Performance

Generally speaking, the MacBook Air’s have been designed to be portable with their thin and light design, whereas the MacBook Pro’s are designed to be more powerful.

In practice the 13-inch MacBook Air’s and 13-inch MacBook Pro’s are quite similar in terms of performance and both offer memory and storage upgrades.

What this means is that for general use such as browsing the web, Word, Excel, listening to music, watching videos, 1-to-1 video calls the 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro are both great.

If you are planning on using your Mac with professional apps, for example Adobe CC, Final Cut, Logic, or CAD then either the larger MacBook Pro’s (14-inch+), or the newer M1 13-inch MacBook Pro with 16GB memory are better suited.

If M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max sound Greek to you, then don’t worry, you’re not alone! Check out our post on M1 vs Intel chips to know which processor will suit you best. In our experience, both offer terrific, long-lasting performance.


Price

MacBook Air's are typically lower in price when compared to similar aged MacBook Pro's. Hence these are a great option if you are trying to keep the price down, whether purchasing new or refurbished.


Display

Apple’s MacBook Pro’s from 2015 onwards, as well as the MacBook Air’s from 2018 onwards feature high resolution Retina displays. We’ve put a quick resolution guide below so you can see how this has changed over time. For the most screen real estate the 14, 15 and 16-inch MacBook Pro’s are of course better suited.

MacBook Air

  • 13-inch, (non Retina) 2017: 1440 by 900
  • 13-inch, 2018-current: 2560 by 1600

MacBook Pro

  • 13-inch, 2016-current: 2560 by 1600
  • 15-inch, 2016-2018: 2880 by 1800
  • 16-inch Intel, 2019: 3072 by 1920
  • 14-inch M1, 2021: 3024-by-1964
  • 16-inch M1, 2021: 3456-by-2234

Apple’s newer 14 and 16-inch M1 models use mini-LED technology with increased brightness, so performance looks extra smooth.


Ports

Ports on Mac’s can be a little confusing, as they have changed back and forth over time with the newer MacBook Pro models reintroducing the SD card and HDMI port and an updated MagSafe port. We’ve put a guide below where you can check quickly which models have which ports.

With the help of an adapter (or two) you can pretty much connect everything you need to with any Mac. However, if you always plan on having a few things connected, then a MacBook Pro with four ports might suit you better.

MacBook Air 13-inch

  • Intel 2017: Two USB 3 ports, Thunderbolt 2 port, MagSafe 2 power port, SD card slot, headphone jack
  • Intel 2018-2020: Two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), headphone jack
  • M1 2020: Two Thunderbolt 3 / USB 4 (USB-C), headphone jack

MacBook Pro 13-inch

  • Intel 2016-2020: Two or Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), headphone
  • M1 2020: Two Thunderbolt 3 / USB 4 (USB-C), headphone jack

MacBook Pro 15-inch

  • Intel 2016-2018: Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), headphone jack

MacBook Pro 16-inch

  • Intel 2019: Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), headphone
  • M1 2021: Three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports, SD card, HDMI port, MagSafe 3 power port, headphone jack

MacBook Pro 14-inch

  • M1 2021: Three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports, SD card, HDMI port, MagSafe 3 power port, headphone jack

2017 13" MacBook Air

2020 13" MacBook Air

2020 13" MacBook Pro


Battery life

The battery life on all MacBook’s is relatively good and as with all battery life estimates they should be taken with a pinch of salt, as they are often idealistic and can only be obtained when the device is used in a specific manner.

We’ve included some figures below. Generally speaking where the Air’s are less powerful and as a result offer bettery battery lives. That said, efficiency has been a central factor in the development of Apple’s M1 chip and you can see that the potential battery life is increasing with these newer models.

MacBook Air

  • 13-inch, (non Retina) 2017: Up to 12 hours wireless web
  • 13-inch, 2018-2019: Up to 12 hours wireless web
  • 13-inch, 2020: Up to 11 hours wireless web
  • 13-inch, M1 2020: Up to 15 hours wireless web

MacBook Pro

  • 13-inch, 2016-2019: Up to 10 hours wireless web
  • 15-inch, 2016-2019: Up to 10 hours wireless web
  • 16-inch Intel, 2019: Up to 11 hours wireless web
  • 13-inch M1, 2020: Up to 17 hours wireless web
  • 14-inch M1, 2021: Up to 11 hours wireless web
  • 16-inch M1, 2021: Up to 14 hours wireless web

For tips on how to improve your battery life, see our blog article below on how to: check battery health and improve battery runtime.


MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro

So, which is the best MacBook for you? The answer of course depends on what you’re looking for and what you need. Here’s what we would say:

  • MacBook Air: Sleek and light, it’s great for everyday tasks and delivers great battery life. Plus, unlike all the other models, it’s available in gold.
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro: Great for power users on a budget, the Pro is a reliable workhorse and is capable for light professional use.
  • 16-inch Intel MacBook Pro: A great all round model, well suited to the majority of professional apps with great amount of screen real estate to keep your workflow tidy.
  • 14-inch /16-inch M1 MacBook Pro: If budgets not a problem then these new M1 models offer the best specs and latest technology.

You can always read our Spring 2022 buyers guide for more information or browse our range of refurbished MacBooks. We carry both the MacBook Air M1 and the MacBook Pro M1, as well as the excellent Airs and Pros with Intel processors that we all know and love.

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