MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Air: How to decide which Apple laptop to buy

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

When you’re out there for a brand new MacBook, you would possibly marvel if it makes extra sense to purchase a MacBook Professional or a MacBook Air. Apple’s been busy refreshing its MacBook lineup: the corporate has added greater than 5 new MacBook configurations and retired greater than three over the previous 18 months. 

When shopping for a MacBook, you may wish to think about the pc’s show dimension, storage capability, computing energy, and worth. For instance, the 2022 13-inch and 2024 13-inch MacBook Air are each Air fashions, however have totally different chips, so the laptops differ in efficiency, effectivity, and battery life.

Additionally: M3 MacBook Air overview: Apple’s AI pc for the plenty has arrived

The newest MacBook Professional and MacBook Air fashions embrace Apple’s M3 chips, that are much more environment friendly and succesful than the M2 chips. On this state of affairs, consider your self as Goldilocks; you are confronted with 5 totally different MacBook fashions, however you must discover the one which’s simply best for you. So, earlier than you determine which one to purchase, let’s cowl the principle variations between the Professional and the Air.

What is the distinction between the MacBook Professional and Air?

Imagine it or not, there are a large number of variations between the MacBook Professional and the MacBook Air. The most important variations between the 2 are pricing and computing energy. Probably the most reasonably priced MacBook Professional with an M3 chip will value greater than probably the most reasonably priced Air with an M3 chip. Nonetheless, the Professional is extra highly effective, due to the upgraded internals beneath the hood.

Overview: MacBook Professional (M3 Max): A desktop-class laptop computer for an AI-powered age

The M3 MacBook Professional fashions have extra unified reminiscence, longer battery life, extra ports (together with HDMI and SD card), and, typically, a extra subtle GPU and CPU than their Air counterparts. There are two MacBook Professional show sizes: 14-inch and 16-inch.

The M3 MacBook Professional has improved inside computing elements for better effectivity and efficiency. There are three chips within the M3 household: M3, M3 Professional, and M3 Max. The M3 fashions have improved media engines to deal with video playback. The M3 chips have the identical quantity of CPU and GPU cores and neural engines because the M2 chips, and each the bottom M2 and M3 chips can assist the identical quantity of unified reminiscence.

In accordance with Apple, the M3 chips are 15% sooner than the M2 chips, so when you not too long ago upgraded to an M2 MacBook Professional, you are not eons behind on pc energy.

MacBook Pro (M3 Max) in Space Black

This is the 16-inch MacBook Professional.

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

When you’re on the lookout for a brand new 13-inch MacBook Professional, Apple sadly discontinued the 13-inch MacBook Professional after releasing the brand new 14-inch MacBook Professional. You’ll be able to now not buy a 13-inch MacBook Professional on Apple’s web site. Apple additionally discontinued the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Professional fashions with M2 Professional and M2 Max chips.

Additionally: M3 MacBook Professional with top-of-the-line specs? You will be shocked at how far it’s beneath $10,000

You’ll be able to equip the present 14-inch and 16-inch Professional with Apple’s new M3 Professional and M3 Max chips, and you should purchase a 14-inch Professional with the bottom M3 chip. When you’re going huge with the 16-inch Professional, perceive that your solely choices are the M3 Max or M3 Professional chips, which is able to bump up the value tag.

The upgraded chipsets are extra highly effective than the bottom M2 chips discovered within the 2022 13-inch MacBook Air. These upgraded chips make the 14-inch and 16-inch Professional appropriate for enhancing pro-grade video footage (as much as 8K), rendering 3D artwork, producing music, and enhancing high-resolution images in Adobe Photoshop.

Nonetheless, the extra energy you need with the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Professional, the costlier the laptop computer turns into. The 14-inch Professional begins at $1,599 and, with chip and inside storage upgrades, can go as much as $3,199. The 16-inch Professional begins at $2,499 and, with inside upgrades, goes as much as $3,999.

When you’ve determined you desire a MacBook Professional and wish extra steerage figuring out which Professional mannequin works greatest for you, take a look at ZDNET’s M3 MacBook Professional shopping for information.

Apple MacBook Air M3

The 15-inch MacBook Air is the most important of its type, however lacks the side-firing audio system discovered on the Professional fashions.

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

The 2022 13-inch MacBook Air solely comes outfitted with Apple’s base M2 chip, and the 2024 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air solely include the bottom M3 chip. Nonetheless, the dearth of Professional and Max chips doesn’t suggest the Air is a less-than-capable pc. The MacBook Air is thinner and lighter than the Professional as a result of it has much less inside {hardware}, dismissing for-work ports like HDMI and an SD card slot, and a cooling fan. As a substitute, Apple is banking on the effectivity of its chips to maintain the laptops’ warmth dissipated and stabilized.

Additionally: M3 MacBook Air vs. M2 MacBook Air: Which Apple laptop computer must you purchase?

And, after all, much less {hardware} means the MacBook Air is inexpensive, however you may add a number of upgrades. For the 13-inch Air, you may select between two M2 chip configurations, as one M2 chip has two extra GPU cores than the opposite. An upgraded GPU means your pc can course of graphics extra effectively, making 4K video enhancing sooner and smoother.

Final summer time, Apple introduced a 15-inch MacBook Air with an M2 chip, however discontinued the system with the introduction of the M3 15-inch Air. Though the 15-inch M2 Air had a brief run, it is nonetheless an ideal possibility for these on the lookout for an Air with up-to-date capabilities. Nonetheless, you may’t buy it model new from Apple. You should purchase it refurbished from Apple or you should purchase it new for a discounted worth at Greatest Purchase

The M3 13-inch Air begins at $1,099, and goes as much as $1,499 when you max out the inner storage and decide a extra highly effective GPU. The M3 15-inch Air begins at $1,299 and goes as much as $1,699 in change for extra inside storage and unified reminiscence.

When you’re assured you need an M2 MacBook Air and wish extra assist deciding which Air will float your boat, take a look at ZDNET’s M2 MacBook Air shopping for information. When you’re considering shopping for an M3 MacBook Air and wish to know the way it stacks up in opposition to the M2 Air fashions, we in contrast the specs that will help you determine which one is greatest for you.

Which MacBook is best for you?

The reply primarily relies on the way you see your self utilizing the laptops and the way show dimension and weight issue into that equation. A dependable pc is an funding; you do not wish to spend an excessive amount of on an overqualified laptop computer, and you do not wish to purchase a pc that is not highly effective sufficient on your wants.

When you’re a graphic designer, music producer, skilled photographer, videographer, 3D artist, or iOS recreation and app developer, a MacBook Professional could be the best way to go, so far as MacBooks are involved. The Professional fashions can deal with intense graphics processing and extra software program operating within the background with out considerably lagging, overheating, or slowing down.

In case you are a pupil or somebody who spends most of your time in Microsoft Workplace or Google Workspace, a MacBook Air could also be a greater match. If you need a MacBook to casually surf the web, watch YouTube or Netflix, reply to emails, and FaceTime your pals, then the Air mannequin is adept at dealing with these duties and will not put a burden in your again as you lug it round.

Regardless of which mannequin you purchase, a MacBook is great for customers who wish to increase their private Apple ecosystem with a tool that works seamlessly with their iPhone, AirPods, Apple Watch, and different merchandise. Handoff, for instance, permits you to swap FaceTime calls between your MacBook and iPhone, and your MacBook can simply entry your iPhone information, messages, contacts, and images.

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