Apple’s MacBook lineup has been overhauled between the new MacBook Pro arriving with M2 Pro and Max chips to start out 2023 and the all-new 15-inch MacBook Air arriving at WWDC 2023 (following the 13-inch M2 Air that launched in 2022). Follow along for our in-depth look at the MacBook Pro vs Air to see what’s similar and different and narrow down the best choice for you.
Table of contents
The MacBook Air got a big upgrade in 2022 with M2 chip, an all-new design, larger 13.6-inch display, flat-edged chassis, new midnight color, an upgraded webcam, and much more.
And at WWDC 2023, Apple launched the anticipated 15-inch MacBook Air.
Meanwhile, the MacBook Pro laptops were refreshed in January 2023 with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips and more that build on the 2021 updates that brought a fresh design, mini-LED display, the return of I/O like HDMI, SD card slot, and MagSafe.
For a detailed comparison between just the MacBook Pro or MacBook Air laptops we’ve got dedicated guides on those:
- 15-inch MacBook Air vs 13-inch Air: What’s the same, what’s changed?
- MacBook Pro comparison: How the new M2 Pro/Max improves over the M1 versions
And below we’ve got a side-by-side comparison of the MacBook Pro vs Air laptops.
MacBook Pro vs Air: How do they compare?
CPU, GPU, RAM, neural engine
M2 enables up to 24GB RAM, up to 10 GPU cores, with up to 2TB of storage.
Meanwhile, with the MacBook Pro, you get the M2 Pro or M2 Max chip with the option for up to 12 CPU cores, 38 GPU cores, and RAM up to 96GB.
|Hardware||MacBook Air||MacBook Pro|
|CPU||M2 – 8-core||M2 Pro or Max – 10 or 12-core|
|Storage||Up to 2TB||Up to 8TB|
|RAM||8, 16, or 24GB||16 to 96GB|
|Graphics||Up to 10-core||Up to 38-core|
|Speakers||4-speaker with wide sound, 6-speaker with 15-inch||6-speaker high-fidelity|
|Mics||3-mic array||Studio-quality 3-mic array|
|Thermal management||Fanless||Active cooling with fans|
Apple brought up to 18% faster CPU performance and up to 35% faster GPU performance with the M2 compared to the M1. And it has over 20 billion transistors thanks to its second-gen 5 nm chip technology.
But the M2 Pro and M2 Max offer 20, 30, and 40% performance improvements when compared to the M1 Pro and Max for CPU, GPU, and neural engine. The M2 Pro doubles the M2’s 20 billion transistors to 40 billion, and the M2 Max features an amazing 67 billion transistors.
Another major difference between the M2 and M2 Max will be the GPU capability.
Apple says the new media engine has “twice the ProRes support to dramatically accelerate media playback and transcoding.” The new M2 Max chip continues to include two video encode engines like Apple did with the M1 Max.
Meanwhile, the MacBook Air with M2 chip and the M2 Pro chip have single encode, decode, and ProRes encode/decode engines.
We’ve even seen the M2 Max outperform the M1 Ultra when it comes to ProRes exports:
Now the MacBook Air is available in 15.3 and 13.6″ models. And the MacBook Pro options are slightly larger with 14.2 and 16.2″ versions.
For screen brightness, the MacBook Air has up to 500 nits. which is the same for the MacBook Pro (for SDR content). But that goes up to 1,000 sustained nits brightness (1,600 peak) for HDR content on the MacBook Pro. Other display upgrades over the Air include 120Hz refresh rates with ProMotion, mini-LED backlighting, and a higher pixel density with the Pro.
|13.6″ MacBook Air||15″ MacBook Air||14″ MacBook Pro||16″ MacBook Pro|
|Actual screen size||13.6″||15.3-inch||14.2″||16.2″|
|Resolution||2560 x 1664||2880 x 1864||3024 x 1964||3456 x 2234|
|Aspect Ratio||16:10 + notch||16:10 + notch||16:10 + notch||16:10 + notch|
|Nits (brightness)||500||500||500 for SDR, 1000 sustained, up to 1600 peak for HDR||500 for SDR, 1000 sustained, up to 1600 peak for HDR|
|Liquid Retina Display||✅||✅||✅ + XDR||✅ + XDR|
|ProMotion (up to 120Hz)||❌||❌||✅||✅|
|P3 wide color||✅||✅||✅||✅|
The MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro include a notch at the top center of the display for the 1080p FaceTime camera. But unlike the iPhone, the notch doesn’t include Face ID hardware/support, even in the 2023 MacBook Pro and Air models.
All of the current MacBooks feature much slimmer bezels than their predecessors.
I/O: MacBook Pro vs Air
The MacBook Air gained MagSafe charging like the modern MacBook Pro in 2022, same for the 2023 15″ model. However, Apple has kept additions like HDMI, SDXC slot, and support for up to 4 external displays exclusive to the 14 and 16″ MacBook Pro.
The 13 and 15″ MacBook Air have support for just 1 external display up to 6K at 60Hz, even with the new M2 chip. That may be a deal-breaker for some.
Other upgrades that have arrived with the M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pro include Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, and support for 8K video output with the new HDMI 2.1 port.
|||MacBook Air||MacBook Pro|
|SDXC card reader||❌||✅|
|Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi 6 (802.11.ax)||Wi-Fi 6E (802.11.ax)|
|External display support||1 external display up to 6K/60Hz||M2 Pro: Up to 2 external displays at 6K/60Hz, 1 external display at 8K/60Hz, or 1 display at 4K/240Hz over HDMI
M2 Max: Up to 4 external displays, 3 at 6K/60Hz and 1 at 4K/60Hz or 3 total with 2 at 6K/60Hz and 1 external display at 8K/60Hz or 1 display at 4K resolution at 240Hz over HDMI
Size, weight, and finish
As you’d expect, the MacBook Air remains the lightest machine with both MacBook Pro models weighing more. The MacBook Air is also super-thin at 11.3 mm (0.44 in).
The new MacBook Pro laptops remain available in space gray and silver while the Air comes in four choices.
|13″ MacBook Air||15″ MacBook Air||14″ MacBook Pro||16″ MacBook Pro|
|Weight||2.7 pounds (1.24 kg)||3.3 pounds (1.29 kg)||3.5 pounds (1.6 kg)||4.7 pounds (2.1 kg)|
|Thickness||0.44 in. (1.13 cm)||0.45 in. (1.15 cm)||0.61 inch (1.55 cm)||0.66 inch (1.68 cm)|
|Width||11.97 in. (30.41 cm)||13.40 in. (34.04 cm)||12.31 in. (31.26 cm)||14.01 inches (35.57 cm)|
|Depth||8.46 in. (21.5 cm)||9.35 in. (23.76 cm)||8.71 inches (22.12 cm)||9.77 inches (24.81 cm)|
|Display size||13.6 in.||15.3 in.||14.2 in.||16.2 in.|
|Finishes||Silver, space gray, starlight, midnight||Silver, space gray, starlight, midnight||Silver or space gray||Silver or space gray|
Since the 2022 MacBook Air shifted from the wedge design it had for years, all of the new MacBooks share the flat-edged chassis.
Real-world battery life for Apple Silicon MacBooks compared to the old Intel models has been impressive and usually matches the company’s claims. But that can depend on your workflow, screen brightness, and more.
Apple has boosted the M2 Pro/Max MacBook Pro battery life to the point where the 16″ MacBook Pro has up to 22 hours of video playback.
Both 13 and 15″ MacBook Air models share strong, but slightly less battery life at up to 18 hours of use.
Here’s how the machines compare:
|13″ MacBook Air||15″ MacBook Air||14″ MacBook Pro||16″ MacBook Pro|
|Wireless web battery||15 hours||15 hours||12 hours||15 hours|
|Video playback||18 hours||18 hours||18 hours||22 hours|
|Included power adapter||30W, 35W, or 67W USB-C + MagSafe||35W or 70W USB-C + MagSafe||67W or 96W USB-C + MagSafe||140W USB-C + MagSafe|
|Fast charging||✅ with 70W||✅ with 70W||✅ with 96W||✅|
All of these modern MacBooks can fast charge to give up to 50% battery in just 30 minutes. But keep in mind you’ll need to use the bigger power adapters listed above.
|Model/price||13″ MacBook Air||15″ MacBook Air||14″ MacBook Pro (2023)||16″ MacBook Pro (2023)|
|256 / 8GB||$1,099||$1,299||–||–|
|512 / 8GB||$1,399||$1,499||–||–|
|256 / 16GB||$1,299||$1,499||–||–|
|512 / 16GB||$1,599||$1,699||From $1,999||From $2,499|
|1TB / 16GB||$1,799||$1,899||From $2,199||From $2,699|
|1TB / 32GB||–||–||From $2,899||From $3,499|
|Custom builds||Up to $2,399||Up to $2,499||Up to $6,299||Up to $6,499|
MacBook Pro vs Air wrap-up
- For light to medium performance needs and some limited intensive needs, in the lightest package with all-day battery life, the MacBook Air is the best fit starting at a reasonable $1,099 or $1,299.
- If you need or value the most power (still with an all-day battery), active cooling for heavy workloads, a brighter screen, more ports, greater external display support, and more, the MacBook Pro is the way to go.
- While the 13-inch MacBook Pro was refreshed with the M2 chip 2022, you shouldn’t buy it. You should either go for the M2 MacBook Air which has many more upgrades or if you really need the extra power, step up to the M2 Pro or Max MacBook Pro.
- Apple does still sell the M1 MacBook Air, but with many upgrades from just $100 more, go for the M2 MacBook Air if at all possible
What do you think about the current MacBook lineup? Share your thoughts in the comments! Thanks for reading our guide on MacBook Pro vs Air!
Read more 9to5Mac guides:
- Mac mini comparison: What’s different with the M2 and M2 Pro vs M1
- M2 iPad Pro vs iPad Air: What’s the better choice?
- iPad 10 vs 9 vs iPad Air: Which is the best pick?
- Apple Watch Ultra vs Series 8 vs SE: What’s the best pick?
FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.