How to choose between the M2 MacBook Air and the M2 MacBook Pro

How to choose between the M2 MacBook Air and the M2 MacBook Pro

If you’re interested in one of Apple’s new M2 MacBooks but aren’t sure which one to buy, don’t worry, it’s confusing. Both devices are very similar, but they have some important differences.

To rule out a large group of people: If you regularly use this device for work and your work primarily involves something more intense than Chrome (eg, any program with Adobe in its name), you should buy a 14-inch MacBook Pro with M1 Pro or M1 Max instead of one of these computers. These laptops are much faster, with larger screens and a a lot a more useful selection of ports, and those upgrades are worth it.

But if you’re not in that category and have your heart set on an M2 machine, here’s how to approach your decision. (And, of course, before you jump into a buying decision, you need to know exactly why you’re looking for a new computer, what doesn’t work on your current computer, and what you’re looking for in a new one.)

MacBook Pro vs. Mac Air: price

The price difference between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro is not very significant.

The Air starts at $1,199 for an eight-core CPU, eight-core GPU, 8GB of memory, 256GB of storage, and a 30W power adapter and goes up to $2,499 for an eight-core CPU. cores, a 10-core GPU, 24GB of unified memory, 2TB of storage, and a 67W adapter.

The Pro starts at $1,299 for similar specs to the base Air model – eight-core CPU, eight-core GPU, 8GB memory, 256GB SSD and 67W adapter (no 30W option here). However, it also tops out at $2,499 (with similar specs to the top Air: eight-core/10-core, 24GB memory, 2TB storage, same charger).

The exact prices of the configurations and the differences between them vary. Generally speaking, the price difference between the two models if you specify them as similar as possible will be less than $100.

MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Air: chassis differences

Here is a list of the differences between the M2 MacBook Pro and the M2 MacBook Air, some of which you may be interested in and some of which you may not.

  • The MacBook Pro is a bit heavier – it weighs 3 pounds (1.4 kg), while the Air weighs 2.7 (1.24 kg). I would say the difference is noticeable but not life changing, even though the Air feels a lot thinner.
  • Both MacBooks are available in Space Gray and Silver, while the Air is also available in Midnight (dark blue) and Starlight (gold). Beware of the Midnight color – it picks up fingerprints very, very easily.
  • The MacBook Air has a larger screen – 13.6 inches compared to the Pro’s 13.3. (That means the Air’s resolution is technically slightly higher, but it’s not really noticeable.) Both have the same brightness and color coverage, but the Air is a Liquid Retina display while the Pro is the same LED-backlit IPS panel as last year. Pro had.
  • The MacBook Air has a camera notch, and your cursor will disappear when it passes under it. So even if you have an extra screen to work live with, the notch may interfere with some menu bar apps.
  • The MacBook Pro has a touchscreen OLED strip (the Touch Bar) across the top of its keyboard, while the MacBook Air has a row of physical function keys. Netizens have all sorts of strong feelings about the Touch Bar. If you are unfamiliar, the TL; DR is that the Touch Bar gives users a way to access features like brightness, volume, emoji selection, Siri activation, and other toggles in one place, but it’s also slower for most people. Use only physical keys and it’s easy to hit accidentally.
  • The MacBook Pro only charges via USB-C, while the MacBook Air also has a MagSafe power port. This essentially gives you an extra port on the MacBook Air since one of the Pro’s ports will be occupied whenever it’s plugged in (both models have two Thunderbolt/USB-4 ports). The MagSafe connectors also pop out of their slots very easily, meaning the Air is less likely to be ripped from your desk if someone trips over your cord.
  • The MacBook Air has a better webcam – 1080p to the Pro’s 720p. I don’t find either amazing, but the Airs give me a cleaner, less washed-out look.
  • The MacBook Air offers a number of power adapter options, including a 30W USB-C adapter, a 35-port dual USB-C adapter, and a 67W fast-charging adapter. The Pro only comes with a 67W version.
  • The MacBook Air has a “quad-speaker audio system” while the MacBook Pro only has “high dynamic range stereo speakers”. These look identical to me as far as I can tell.

Here comes the Air – see that notch?
Photo by Becca Farsace/The Verge

The Apple MacBook Pro 2022 webcam up close.

Here’s the Pro – no notch.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Air: performance differences

The Pro and Air have the same M2 processor and run the same macOS operating system. But that doesn’t mean they’ll work identically because the Pro has something inside that the Air doesn’t: a fan.

Machines need to prevent their processors from overheating when they are working really hard. The Pro does this by turning on its fan. Since the Air can’t do this, it has to throttle its CPU performance to a lower level than the Air. In practice, this means that if you run heavy loads on the Air for long periods of time, you will notice a decrease in performance. In our testing, the Pro was able to run Cinebench R23 for 30 minutes without a performance decrease, while the Air’s performance started to drop soon after it was run.

The Air also gets hotter than the Pro, although I’ll point out that it does not get hot under Zoom calls, Chrome tabs, and most web loads you’ll have. But you may feel some heat on the Air’s bottom or keyboard if you run heavier programs on it for long periods of time. On the other hand, I never felt any heat in the Pro’s chassis, even while shooting videos (and I never heard any noise coming from its fan).

When it comes to graphics performance, our tests saw a 26% increase Shadow of the Tomb Raider performance and over two minutes difference in export time from Premiere Pro 4K.

The Pro also has a larger battery and offered longer battery life in our testing. I typically get an average of 16.5 hours of continuous use from the M2 Pro and an average of 13 hours and 15 minutes out of the Air. Your results can certainly vary depending on the work you do, but based on my findings and those of other people on the internet, I would expect you to get a few extra hours from the Pro.

Here is the air.
Photo by Becca Farsace/The Verge

The 2022 Apple MacBook Pro 13 seen from above on a lavender background.

Here is the Pro.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

OK, let’s try some scenarios

I frequently work with video, music, graphics, virtualization, VFX, or other demanding use cases, but the 14-inch model is out of my price range: Buy the Pro. If I’m using a device for this stuff and I’m going to use it all day, I’d rather be on the Pro. That said, if you’re willing to use a Mac, I’d save up for a MacBook M1 Pro or M1 Max (or Mac Studio) if you can. They will save you a lot of time.

I code: If you mainly work on tasks like web design, Air is perfect. Having MagSafe in an office environment can save you stress, and it probably outweighs any performance benefits you’ll see. If you compile elaborate stuff frequently, the Pro will probably save you some time. The Pro beat the Air by 10 seconds in the Xcode Benchmark.

I don’t use these fancy programs, but I use a very heavy Chrome load for which I’m afraid Air isn’t enough: I would still get Air unless you really think none of the other Air perks will make a difference in your life. I work with fairly large documents and spreadsheets, and the performance difference between the Pro and the Air was barely noticeable.

I only use my computer for Netflix and I send emails on my couch: Buy air. The better screen and lighter weight will benefit you more than the extra performance.

I usually only use my computer for Netflix and sending e-mails, but sometimes I make YouTube videos: Buy the Pro if you work on your YouTube videos every day or need to do that work on battery power often – the Air gets quite hot if you push it really hard all the time. Otherwise, Air should be fine.

I’m a student who needs to wander around all day and I mostly work in Google Docs or Word or whatever: Buy air. You won’t see much difference in performance, and its battery life should be enough to get you through a day at school. The Pro’s larger battery is offset by its extra size and weight; a thin laptop is a huge plus when your backpack is full.

I want to run games on my MacBook: First of all, good for you. I support you and your dreams. Don’t let the enemies bring you down. Second, get the Pro. You’ll see higher frame rates, spend more time gaming on battery power, and the Air gets unpleasantly toasty if you’re gaming for a while.

I travel a lot: This one is tough. I think it’s a question of whether the extra battery life or a thinner, lighter device is more important to you: if it’s battery life, Pro; if it’s portability, Air.

i hate notches: Professional.


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