Which MacBook is right for you: MacBook Air vs. Pro

MacBook Air vs Pro: MacBooks are among the most universal laptops you can buy, but choosing the right one is not always easy. They go from $ 999 to $ 3,000 or more, although they look and feel similar. I have a lot of readers’ questions about how to choose, especially if you’re torn between a slightly updated MacBook Air and a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a similar price, for example.

Based on our years of reviewing and testing Apple laptops, you can make sure you’re not buying too little or too much MacBook here.

Dan Ackerman / CNET

There is a concept we call Line Creep. It’s what happens when brands keep adding iterations and subdivisions of popular product lines until nobody can tell which one to buy. Apple has usually avoided this trap by sticking to a handful of choices in each category, but buying a MacBook can still get confusing.

MacBook Air vs Pro

For a few years, you could choose a 12-inch MacBook, a 13-inch Macbook Air, a 13-inch MacBook Pro without a touch bar, a 13-inch pro with a touch bar, or a 15-inch pro. And years ago, you had black and white versions of the 13-inch polycarbonate MacBook and even 11-inch and 13-inch versions of the Air.

Now it goes back to the basics for Apple. There is the 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. That’s it. Yes, this excludes some potential options that are right for you, but it also makes it a lot easier to figure out which camp to fall into, especially since these three models are so different that you naturally drawn to one over the camp feel others.

MacBook 2020 launches configurations

modelMacBook AirMacBook Pro (13-inch)MacBook Pro (16-inch)
Starting price$ 999, £ 999, AU $ 1,599$ 1,299, £ 1,299, AU $ 1,999$ 2,399, £ 2,399, AU $ 3,799
Central processor1.1 GHz dual-core 10th generation Intel Core i3 processorEighth-generation 1.4 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor6-core Intel Core i7 processor of the ninth generation with 2.6 GHz (plus AMD Radeon Pro 5300M)
R.A.M.8 GB 3733 MHz LPDDR4X8 GB 2133 MHz LPDDR316 GB 2666 MHz DDR4 memory
warehouse256 GB SSD storage256 GB SSD storage512 GB SSD storage
PortsTwo Thunderbolt 3 portsTwo Thunderbolt 3 portsFour Thunderbolt 3 ports

MacBook Air

For many years, this was the most popular laptop of all: pretty cheap. Thin and light. Built like a tank. It could take years and endure many drops and bumps. For any creative college student or coffee shop type, you would sort $ 999.

Then the time passed. The low-resolution display and the thick screen bezel even lag behind average Windows laptops. The components were rarely updated. Fortunately, the Air was extensively updated a few years ago and now looks and feels like a MacBook Pro.

Most importantly, that magical starting price of $ 999 is important again, but there is a catch. This applies to an Intel Core i3 processor. So you should spend an additional $ 100 and purchase the Core i5 version. This is really my only real blow to the new air that there is a secret $ 100 Core i5 tax. Even the $ 999 version starts with a 256 GB SSD, which is very nice.

There are three important things you will miss when choosing Air over the Pro: your CPU options are not that robust. You only get two USB-C ports, not four. and there is no touch bar, which is not a big deal for most people.

If you’re looking for a college student, a budding entrepreneur, a writer, or just an all-round laptop in the high end of the leisure industry, it’s hard to make a mistake with the MacBook Air. It will rightly be the standard starting point for many people.

13-inch MacBook Pro

The most recently updated MacBook is the 13-inch Pro. The 2020 version catches up in many ways and adds 10th generation Intel CPU options, but only in the more expensive configurations. It also doubles the 2019 version’s memory and adds the new one Magic keyboardIt is the final MacBook to receive the new keyboard design.

All professionals now have the Apple Touch Bar, which is not as useful as Apple would think, but not as useless as everyone else thinks. I use it all the time for screen brightness, volume control, and some other contextual buttons like using the calculator app.

Because they’re close in price, you might be tempted to get cheaper air through the Pro – after all, they look and feel similar and have many of the same features. And for many people, this is the right call. However, if you’re working on more power-hungry apps like Photoshop or Premiere, keep in mind that the Air uses Y series chips with lower power consumption, while the Pro uses more U series mainstream chips.

You won’t notice the difference in web surfing, social media and movie streaming. For CPU intensive tasks you will. This is particularly noticeable because the Pro’s larger body is better designed for the heat generated by higher workloads, making it less likely to be throttled.

My other limitation with the 13-inch Pro is that you have to switch to a more expensive configuration to get the newer 10th generation CPUs and the four USB-C ports instead of two.

Here’s a closer look at two $ 1,299 MacBook configurations:

What does a MacBook bring you for $ 1,299?

modelMacBook AirMacBook Pro (13-inch)
Price$ 1,299$ 1,299
Central processor1.1 GHz quad-core 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor (Y series)1.4 GHz quad-core processor of the eighth generation of the Intel Core i5 (U series)
R.A.M.8 GB 3733 MHz LPDDR4X8 GB 2133 MHz LPDDR3
warehouse512 GB SSD storage256 GB SSD storage
PortsTwo Thunderbolt 3 portsTwo Thunderbolt 3 ports

16-inch MacBook Pro

Laptops are often about packing as much as possible in the thinnest, lightest, and smallest possible package. But sometimes bigger is better. People are still complaining about the late, great 17-inch MacBook Pro already discontinued in 2012.

After all, Apple resurrected it with the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, while killing the long-standing 15-inch version. It’s huge, at least compared to the 13-inch MacBooks, but still more portable than most 15-inch Windows laptops I’ve seen.

The main selling point, of course, is all of these screen properties that you need if you are a designer or even a number breaker and need to do a lot of things.

Like the old 15-inch Pro, the 16-inch MacBook is ridiculously expensive. It starts at $ 2,399 and rises from there. But if that’s your all-day, daily work-from-home screen, it might be worth it.

The other big selling point of the 16-inch Pro is that it contains discrete graphics with some AMD Radeon options. No, Macs are still not slot machines. However, when editing 4K videos or creating 3D models, a GPU is important. The other Macs have at least Intel Iris graphics that are at least one step further than standard off-the-shelf laptop graphics.

Which MacBook should I buy?

My TL; DR Council reads as follows:

If you need a MacBook for everyday school work, surfing the Internet, watching movies and being creative, choose the MacBook Air. Especially the Core i5 version for $ 1,099. For most people, this is a good standard starting point.

Do you need more CPU muscles or additional USB-C ports or do you really love the Touch Bar for some reason? Opt for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, but keep in mind that 10th generation CPUs and the additional USB-C ports are only available in the more expensive versions.

The 16-inch Pro is basically a desktop replacement. If you’re thinking of an iMac, but sometimes want to carry it around with you or if you definitely need a discrete GPU, you should choose the 16-inch MacBook Pro. It’s painfully expensive, but it’s a real pleasure to use, and frankly, it’s hard to go back to a 13-inch screen after a while.

Our suggestions to read:

Best Black Friday MacBook Deals 2020: Macbook Air and MacBook Pro

MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro 13

The Best Cheap MacBook Deals for December 2020

Apple’s first Arm-based computers include new MacBooks and the Mac Mini

The Macbook Air is so Cheap for Black Friday It Could Be a Mistake

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