13-Inch MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Air: Which M2 Apple Laptop Is … – PCMag Middle East

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The newest 13-inch Apple MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro laptops share Cupertino’s latest M2 processor, a slight improvement to the revolutionary M1 chip that started the Mac’s transition away from Intel processors nearly two years ago. But the similarities between the Pro and the Air end with the silicon. The Air was entirely redesigned for 2022, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro uses the same physical design as it has for several generations.
Both Macs have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, so you may be torn on which to buy. They’re both excellent, in our view, but one is no doubt a better fit for your needs, unless you’re eyeing a far more powerful laptop for professional use, like the 14-inch MacBook Pro or the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Even a 15-inch MacBook Air is now an option for the same price as the 13-inch Pro.
So, which 13-inch Apple laptop should you get? For some folks, the Air is the right machine; for others, the 13-inch Pro will be a better fit. We’ll help you sort through the various features, as well as the processor, memory, and storage options, to find the right match.
The MacBook Air, the prototypical ultraportable laptop in its early days, isn’t as light or as unusual as it used to be (many Windows laptops are as light or lighter), but it is still the lightest current Apple laptop at 2.7 pounds. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is a little heftier, at 3 pounds, but a few ounces probably aren’t enough of a difference to base your decision on alone. 
Neither is the price difference, which is negligible when looking at the base models. The M2 MacBook Air now starts at $1,099 (it dropped a bit with the introduction of the 15-inch Air), while the least-expensive 13-inch MacBook Pro model still starts at $1,299. You’ll find multiple configurations available for each, with the Pro maxing out at $2,499 and the Air at $100 less, not including the cost of accessories. Apple also continues to sell the M1 MacBook Air, with a starting price of $999.
We’ll get into the components offered in each of the two laptops below, but the long story short with the starting models has changed in 2023: The 13-inch MacBook Air is now inarguably the more affordable MacBook with just about the exact same hardware inside at $1,099. Unless you desperately need the slightly more powerful GPU that comes standard in the $1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro, you may as well save yourself $200 while getting a slightly larger (13.6-inch) screen, along with several other modern Apple features. (It’s also worth noting here that the new 15-inch MacBook Air has the very same GPU arrangement and price as the 13-inch Pro.)
If you do plan to use your MacBook for work, especially if you’re a content creator, you’ll want to more strongly consider the MacBook Pro (the 13-incher, but possibly the 14-inch model depending on how big your budget and how advanced your needs). You won’t see a huge performance gap between the Air and the 13-inch Pro, but it’s enough to differentiate the two and, for many professionals, make the higher price worth paying.
Both laptops offer similar all-metal chassis, which are a Mac hallmark. But the MacBook Air, despite being slightly cheaper and smaller than the Pro, actually has a slightly larger screen. Its 13.6-inch display measures 2,560 by 1,664 pixels, compared with the smaller 13.3-inch screen of the MacBook Pro. Both offer the same level of coverage of the P3 color gamut and support for True Tone automatic white-balance adjustments, and both have 500-nit maximum brightness ratings.
Both the Air and the 13-inch Pro are also built around Apple’s Magic Keyboard, a welcome change from the much-maligned “butterfly” keyboard that once graced (or some users will say, plagued) both models in earlier iterations. The butterfly keyboard has an infamously flat feeling when typing, with little feedback. It was also prone to malfunction when dust or debris got under the keycaps, disabling certain keys. The Magic Keyboard offers a much more traditional, satisfying typing experience on both models. A scissor mechanism with rubber-dome springback delivers more feedback, and feels more stable when typing.
The keyboards may be the same, but the Touch Bar, a touch-enabled OLED strip above the keyboard, is only present on the MacBook Pro. We’ve said before that we don’t think this is exactly an essential feature (and the MacBook Air audience doesn’t seem to miss it), but its shortcuts and hotkeys can definitely be useful for content creators using a MacBook Pro. Applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Premiere benefit from its contextually relevant tools. Apple has eliminated it, though, from its 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models.
Both laptops have two USB Type-C ports and a headphone jack as their only connectivity options. This is common for super-slim laptops, as they have no room for larger, standard USB Type-A ports. USB-C connections are great, offering versatility and faster data transfer speeds, but if you already own a lot of USB-A peripherals, you’ll need to get converters or new cables for them. Both laptops’ USB-C ports support Thunderbolt connectivity, with data transfer speeds up to 40Gbps.
One advantage that the MacBook Air has over the Pro is its MagSafe 3 power port, used for charging the battery. This means you can keep the Air plugged in and still have the two USB ports available for accessories. The Pro lacks MagSafe, instead using one of its USB-C ports for battery charging, leaving you with only one available.
Another Air advantage is its superior webcam, which has a 1080p video resolution, compared with the 720p resolution of the Pro’s camera.
Plenty of shoppers are primarily concerned with the physical traits of each laptop, which makes those factors a natural starting point for comparison, but you should also pay attention to the specs. The MacBook Air is made for less-demanding users who are focused on portability, so Apple smartly offers a wider range of prices and power.
The components tell a story about whom these laptop families are made for, though you might not be able to glean this from the starting configurations. The $1,099 MacBook Air starts with an M2 processor, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD. The starting $1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro also comes with an M2 processor, 8GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD. Both also max out at 24GB of memory and 2TB of storage. Yes, those are identical specs, but you’ll find two hidden differences when you dig a bit deeper.
The first is cooling capabilities. Even the extraordinarily efficient M2 generates heat as it powers through that Zoom video call or enormous Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. The Air has no cooling fan, though. It employs a passive cooling technique. Heat follows a path away from the processor and through the exhaust vents all on its own, a unique arrangement that’s more similar to the design of an Apple iPad or iPhone than any other comparable Windows laptop.
The MacBook Pro, on the other hand, uses a fan to push the heat where it needs to go. As the chip heats up, the fan can automatically spin faster. This means that the Pro’s M2 chip can not only run at potentially higher clock speeds than the nearly identical one in the Air, but can also sustain those speeds for longer before it generates too much heat and the thermal management system kicks in to slow it down. Running at higher speeds for longer benefits resource-intensive tasks such as compiling code or editing videos. You’ll likely find the Pro slightly better than the Air at performing these tasks.
The other minor component difference between the entry-level Pro and entry-level Air is the number of graphics cores, which process 3D imagery and output it to the laptop’s screen. The entry-level Air has eight of these cores, while the Pro and top-end Air both have 10. It’s a small difference that most users won’t notice while browsing the web or doing word processing, but for graphics professionals, it might be worth the upgrade.
All told, the 13-inch MacBook Pro does offer a bit more speed than the MacBook Air thanks to the active cooling, but you won’t find a whole world of difference between these two models. If your tasks would benefit from active processor cooling, the higher-end 13-inch MacBook Pro configurations are a better choice.
If you need even more processing power for your work, you may need to move up to the 14-inch MacBook Air mentioned earlier or even the high-end version of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Definitely forget about the MacBook Air. These units use the up-ticked M1 Pro or M1 Max CPUs with more CPU and GPU cores on hand, along with high-end screens and storage/RAM complements to match. The M1 Max and M1 Pro outperform the basic M2 chip in the MacBook Pro, as we found in our initial tests of the M2.
The MacBook Air, though far from a powerhouse, still brings Apple Silicon innovations to bear. Apple is cagey about sharing detailed specifications of its chips, but we do know that they’re based on the technologies refined in generations of the company’s A-series processors for its iPhones and iPads. This means it’s a low-power-consumption chip good for both everyday use (think checking email and editing documents) and handling occasional CPU-intensive work such as transcoding videos and manipulating photos.
Apple Silicon’s most significant weakness is that it doesn’t natively run software originally designed for Intel-based Macs—and that’s pretty much all Mac software that hasn’t been updated since the second half of 2020, a list that by now is thankfully growing short. Apple’s own apps (and macOS itself) already have Apple Silicon-native versions, and many third party apps do, too. Those that don’t will still run on the M2 MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro models, but their instructions are automatically translated so the processor can understand. This emulation process, known as Rosetta, can hamper performance, as we saw when testing the first-generation M1 chip.
With Apple’s 14-inch and 16-inch laptops, the MacBook lineup offers more power and better features than ever before. The M1 and M2 Pro and M1 and M2 Max processors, plus higher-density displays with mini-LED backlighting, change the outlook for the high-end MacBook Pros. But those machines start at $2,000 for the 14-incher and $2,500 for the 16-incher. If you’d rather not shell out that much, you’ve got two excellent 13-inch MacBooks to choose between.
With its two 13-inch laptops, Apple has made machines that are perhaps more similar than you’d expect, but still distinct. The MacBook Air is the obvious choice for value seekers and those with light workloads. And it’s worth keeping in mind that the $999 model with M1 processor is still for sale, if you simply want the cheapest Mac laptop you can get. If you want a bit more oomph or storage but don’t need the fancier features of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, you can up-configure your MacBook Air by a couple of notches.
If you need to do some real work on your laptop but still prioritize portability compared with the 16-inch MacBook Pro and don’t need a true powerhouse like the 14-inch or 16-inch models, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the choice for you.
Of course, the new pricing scheme for MacBook Air models may change this calculus for you. You’re now paying $200 more for a bit more power in some niche areas of use with the 13-inch MacBook Pro versus several improvements in Apple’s laptop design with the largely comparable 13-inch MacBook Air. Then you have the 15-inch MacBook Air coming in at the same base price as the Pro with the very same GPU. All told, it’s not looking as good for the 13-inch MacBook Pro these days as it did upon its debut. (Perhaps it’s time for an update?)
Considering a Windows laptop instead, or want to see how far your dollar would go outside of the Apple ecosystem for comparison? Check out our guide to today’s best ultraportable laptops, as well as our picks for the overall best laptops.
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