MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Air (2020): How to Pick Your Next Mac

by birtanpublished on November 25, 2020

Now is a great time to be picking up a new MacBook because both the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro have been updated this spring so you're safe you don't have to worry about a new version of it coming anytime soon the problem is picking between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro isn't all that simple it's not as easy as just saying this one's better than this one so here's everything you need to know about how these two laptops differ and which one is right for you now one of the reasons that picking between these two laptops is so difficult is because on the surface they look really similar

They're a similar size and if you configured a certain way they're even in a similar price range which that can be a really confusing thing to parse out so let's go through all the stuff that's the same first of all and get that out of the way to start off the build quality is the same on both these laptops they're both really really well made they use that aluminum unibody style you're not gonna see any difference in terms of build quality between these two laptops also uses a similar trackpad and keyboard the keyboard here is the magic keyboard came

To the MacBook Air first but now it came to the 13-inch MacBook Pro it's an excellent addition to these laptops it replaces the old butterfly style keyboards really reliable really satisfying typing experience there is one difference between these two keyboards though that the MacBook Pro comes with the touch bar whereas the MacBook Air has a standard row of function keys now this isn't a huge deal I actually prefer just the standard function keys they're a little more reliable you always know where they are and I find that the touch part isn't

Super useful in actual day-to-day use so I don't consider it a huge buying decision type of feature I realized some people are gonna like the cool factor of the touch bar which you can use for shortcuts or controls and certain apps but I really don't think that there's enough there to be using it on a day-to-day basis other things that are the same they both have the same size bezels around that 13.3 inch screen with the 720p webcam on top and of course the touch ID fingerprint reader on the top right of the keyboard layout so that's all the same and thing to note about

That is the MacBook Air is the cheaper option so if any of those things are really important to you you are technically getting a better value if you purchase the MacBook Air while still keeping all those same features that are really high quality there are however a few differences that are worth noting that kind of look similar but are slightly different so the shape of both of these devices is slightly different the MacBook Air comes in the wedge shape whereas the MacBook Pro is just a completely flat design I actually prefer the flat design of the

MacBook Pro it makes it seem a little thinner than it actually is but the MacBook Air technically is a little bit lighter so if that portability factor is really important to you you know it's good to know that the MacBook Air is a little more light when you throw it into your backpack and then this is purely just a service level thing but the MacBook Air does come with that gold color that I have here I really like this option and it works well for the MacBook Air I actually wish that they brought in that with pro 2 but as for now it's an exclusive option for the

MacBook Air one more thing that's similar but there is a slight difference is port selection both of these have very minimal ports they use only USB CD Thunderbolt 3 but the difference is that the MacBook Air only comes with two Thunderbolt 3 ports no matter what configuration you get no matter how much money you spend on it whereas the MacBook Pro has two different options so the 12 $99 version comes with just two similar to the MacBook Air but if you opt up for the 17 $99 version you get four thunderbolt through ports two on each side so if you

Know you need more ports for those extra accessories should know that the 17 $99 version of the MacBook Pro is really your only option with 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports even the speaker's here though they look pretty much identical are a little different than MacBook Pro has slightly better speakers in the MacBook Air a little more bass a little more volume and it just feels like a more full bodied audio profile than what you get on the MacBook Air and then there's the most discreet difference between these two laptops when you just look at the specs or sip the laptop side by side

And that's the display they're both using Retina displays as Apple calls and which means they are 2560 by 1600 resolution these are both great displays but the MacBook Pro does have a more colorful and brighter panel that it uses compared to the MacBook Air and that's really important in terms of color precision if you're someone who's like a professional photographer or video editor who really relies on those really precise colors and that's an important distinction to make that really starts to show you the different demographics

For who these two laptops are for and obviously that plays out the most in terms of performance but again Apple isn't making this easy for you because when you run down the spec sheets these actually look really similar in terms of performance for example when you configure both of them at $12.99 you're getting a quad core Core i5 processor in both cases so should expect similar performance right of course that's not true and the main difference is pretty technical it's that the MacBook Air uses just a nine watt processor whereas the 13-inch MacBook Pro uses a 25 watt

Processor and the difference there really is noticeable and I'm not only talking about when you are running a really heavy application for example let's say you want to pull up a zoom meeting which is a pretty typical thing these days you'll notice that the MacBook Air gets really hot and bothered when you do this the fans spin up really loudly and I even had one case where my laptop just shut off completely after a long video conference that's not ideal and you're not gonna run into those same performance limitations with a 25 watt processor in the MacBook Pro now I

Haven't tested every configuration of the MacBook Air but I really don't think maxing it out is going to fix that problem and of course the pro does handle things like video editing photo editing and music production a whole lot better than the MacBook Air this is the most powerful 13-inch laptop I've ever tested it even slightly surpasses the new XPS 13 which is also a really powerful 13-inch laptop now what you shouldn't do is go into the MacBook Pro assuming that because it's labeled a pro it's a professional-grade machine with super powerful components

That's just not entirely true this is really more for the hobbyist or the freelancer or the aspiring professional creative who's doing this stuff on the side not necessarily sitting down with this all day running you know 4k video renders in premiere if that's you you really should be stepping up to that 16 inch MacBook Pro that the device that Apple has made for actual creative professionals who need that kind of power now when you actually go to buy a 13-inch MacBook Pro you are quickly gonna see that there's a lot of different options basically Apple has

Split it into a base-model 12 $99 version and a more advanced model the 17 $99 version and they're basically identical outside of the processor choices I won't go too far into it because it's kind of an entirely different discussion but the 12 $99 version comes with a the gen Intel processors whereas the higher-end version comes with 10th gen Intel processors so it's pretty difficult to parse out which of these you should get and what the performance differences are but it's worth noting because buying a MacBook Pro especially these 13-inch

Ones is just not that simple the last thing to mention here is battery life the MacBook Air is the clear winner in this case in terms of how long it'll last on a single charge they'll give you around 2 hours of more battery life or 20% that's especially true in lighter usage which the MacBook Air is made for neither of these are battery life champions but the MacBook Air does last significantly longer and that is gonna matter if you're somebody who's out with their laptop all day so hopefully that gives you some ideas about how these two laptops differ and

Which one is really right for you when it comes down to it in terms of pricing the MacBook Air does come in a little bit cheaper and that is an important point to me because it starts at $1,000 that's a really attractive price for something like a student or a professional who doesn't really need to run a lot of heavy applications and this is the point where you do need to be kind of honest with yourself because if you're really just gonna be using this laptop for daily Lite computing tasks like web browsing and Netflix and Spotify you're not really gonna need the

Extra performance that you get with the MacBook Pro and in general I really wouldn't recommend configuring up the MacBook Air too far because if you get into the price territory of the 12 $99 MacBook Pro you're starting to lose out on the value in terms of performance as much as I don't like recommending old components in a new laptop like this 12 $99 MacBook Pro it is the better choice here in terms of not only performance but also display compared to the MacBook Air now if you are somebody who needs that extra power and you can afford it

Jumping up to the 17 $99 MacBook Pro is a good option that's the one I tested here and it does handle itself quite well with the 16 gigabytes of RAM in the 10th gen Core i7 processor

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