When it comes to buying the best laptop with the Apple logo on the lid, there are really only two options these days – the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. Both are capable laptops, but which one you choose will depend largely on what you’re looking for in a computer.
Let’s be honest, neither of these options is cheap though one certainly is Cheaper from the last. But if you’re shopping around on features alone, you’ll need to take a long time, and think carefully about what you’re looking for, what you need to do, and how long you’ll likely need to do it for.
But with all the excitement around the newly released MacBook models, there are bound to be some buyers who are torn between the best MacBook for them. Fortunately, we’ve been testing both laptops for years, and we’re here to break everything down for you so you can get the right MacBook model for your needs and budget.
MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro: Price and Availability
Right now, the Apple MacBook Air (M1) starts at $999 for the base configuration and the MacBook Air (M2) at $1,199 / £1,249 / AU$1,899. You can pay Many More than that if you add more RAM and storage, of course—the MacBook Air tops out at $2,499—but you probably shouldn’t go that high in the specs. At this point, you may also get the 14-inch MacBook Pro.
Choosing a MacBook Pro means starting at $1,299 / £1,299 / AU$1,999 for the 13-inch MacBook Pro (M2), but this is a model you really shouldn’t buy. If you’re on a budget, the MacBook Air is your best bet, while the MacBook Pro you really want is the MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021), which starts at $1,999 / £1,899 / AU$2,999.
Upgrade to the 16-inch monster MacBook Pro (2021) from $2,499 / £2,399 / AU$3,749. Again, you can upgrade these to include hefty specs and absolutely outrageous pricing.
With the release of the new 14-inch (2023) and 16-inch MacBook Pro (2023) models, starting prices are the same in the US, so you don’t have to pay more for the entry price like you do with the new MacBook Air (M2). ).
In the UK and Australia, though, starting prices for the new MacBook Pro have increased slightly, with the 14-inch model starting at £2,149 / AU$3,199, and the 16-inch model starting at £2,699 / AU$3,999.
In terms of availability, the situation is much better than it used to be. You can buy a pre-configured MacBook Air or MacBook Pro and get it in a matter of days, and Apple Stores should also have stock. Start customizing things and you’ll have to wait a little longer.
MacBook Air and MacBook Pro: Design
There are multiple versions of both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in different industrial designs depending on what you’re willing to spend.
Apple is just getting started with the MacBook Air, and it’s still selling the previous generation model with the M1 chip inside. Externally, this is basically the same MacBook Air that Apple has been selling for years, and frankly, it’s just a little boring. You can still choose from at least Space Gray, Rose Gold, and Silver colors.
The best option is the newer M2-powered MacBook Air with a completely new look. That includes a design that’s no longer as tapered as the old MacBook Airs, and there’s a notch at the top of that 13-inch screen that houses the camera. It also means that the bezels are smaller which means the screen itself is slightly larger – 13.6in vs. 13in – and the overall aesthetic is more modern. You can also choose from more colors including Midnight, Space Gray, Starlight, and Silver.
Upgrading to a MacBook Pro again means there are two options. Well, technically three.
The lineup starts with the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro, which you really shouldn’t buy. It’s an older design and includes the much-damaged Touch Bar above the keyboard. The hardware can be upgraded at the time of purchase, like any Mac, but the CPU can’t. If you want the power of the M2 Pro or M2 Max, you’ll need one of the other MacBook Pro options.
These options are basically the same device but with 14 and 16 inch screen options. Compared to the 13-inch model, the overall design is more modern, including to the degree that some people like it and others hate it. What that means is that the bezels are smaller, just like the MacBook Air. This is never a bad thing. The rest of the design is more modern, and while the 13-inch MacBook Pro can be had in any color you want as long as it’s silver, the larger machines add a gray alternative.
There’s another big benefit to choosing a recent MacBook Pro, too — the ports. A lot of them. You’ll enjoy three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, and a MagSafe 3 port for charging. You can’t say that about any other portable Mac.
MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro: Performance
If that’s the raw performance you’re looking for, there’s really one for you — the upgraded 16-inch MacBook Pro. But this will cost you.
Priced at $3,499 / £3,749 / AU$5,599 before any options are added, this model comes with an Apple M2 Max chip with 12 CPU cores and 38 GPU cores. The 32GB of memory is paired with 1TB of SSD storage and you can, of course, upgrade both — up to 96GB and 8TB, though a higher-spec configuration would be incredibly expensive by any measure.
This will, of course, get you the best laptop Apple has to offer, but that doesn’t mean the M2 MacBook Air should be ignored. If the augmented MacBook Pro was designed for people who need to edit 8K video or hundreds of tracks on battery power, the MacBook Air is for everyone.
The M2 chip is more than fast enough for most people and is the best thin and light laptop on the market, and it will be for some time. You can of course add more RAM and storage to meet your requirements as well. But if pure longevity is what you need, any of the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros will serve you well for years to come, no matter what.
Which one should you buy?
We said at the beginning that choosing between a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro will depend on what you need to do and how long you want to do it. That’s still very much the case, though we’ve now established that you should avoid the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro and only opt for the M1 MacBook Air if you’re on tight budgets.
But when it comes to the M2 MacBook Air and 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, it’s actually surprisingly simple. If you’re someone who needs the extra power of a MacBook Pro, you probably already know this is the machine for you. You are a professional that demands the best workflow. When time is money, quite literally for indie creators, for example, it pays to choose which notebook to keep.
But for others, the MacBook Air is the only option that matters. The M2 chip is very fast, the entire device is silent, and you can choose from some great colors. It’s definitely not cheap. But M2 MacBook Air buyers can rest at night knowing their new Mac will last for years and years. Can you say that about every laptop on the market today?