The two new MacBooks are closer in specs than any MacBook Air or Pro before. This is mainly thanks to the M1 chip inside these two laptops. 

But there are many other similarities too – the screen, battery, keyboard, webcam, storage options are all nearly identical – making the decision to spend and extra NZ$480 on the Pro, or not, tricky.

MacBook Air vs Pro (M1): 8 differences you NEED to know

If you’re thinking about buying the new M1 MacBook Air or Pro, the best place to start your buying journey is with the differences.

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1. The Pro has an internal Fan (…and the Air doesn’t)

This is the biggest difference between the two new Apple laptops. Both devices have the excellent new M1 chip, but only the MacBook Pro has an internal fan.

This means that the MacBook Pro is able to carry out heavy-duty tasks for longer because its fan will literally keep the M1 chip cool and at an optimum temperature. The MacBook Air, however, is fanless. Which means it will slow down when it gets hot.

This is, of course, only a problem if you’re going to be pushing your MacBook (Air or Pro). Anecdotally, I’ve been using both the Air and the Pro for the past couple of weeks, and I haven’t noticed the fan kicking in or the Air slowing down once. The only time I’ve managed to engage the fan on the M1 MacBook Pro is by running Benchmarking software on a loop – which isn’t a real-life environment, I know.

Here’s the deal, and it’s the same as previous Air vs Pro debates, if you’re a “pro” you already know that you’re a “pro” – you’ll likely need a MacBook that can sustain its performance for long periods of time. So get the MacBook Pro. If you’re not sure if you’re going to push the MacBook to its limits, and you’re not sure if the work you do is intensive or not, get the Air.

By the way, having multiple tabs open in Chrome doesn’t make you a Pro. Both of the new M1 MacBooks can handle this sort of load without any trouble, or slow down, at all – another example of how and why these new MacBook are so good.

Which M1 MacBook should I buy? MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro 4

2. The Pro comes with a Touch Bar (…and the Air doesn’t)

And like I said in the intro, there really aren’t that many. The biggest difference you’ll notice from an aesthetic perspective – other than the classic wedge shape of the Air – is that the Pro has the Touch Bar, whereas the Air has physical function keys. 

Personally, I think this is a good thing as I love the Touch Bar. However, I know there are a lot fo passionate opinions out there about the Touch Bar and how customers wish they could configure their MacBook Pros to come with Function Keys instead. Alas, we’re not there yet. 

3. There’s a slightly bigger battery inside the MacBook Pro

Slightly. The MacBook Pro has an integrated 58.2-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery, and the Air has a 49.9-watt-hour.

In reality, the battery life of both of these laptops is insanely good. Expect between 12-15 hours of battery life from the Air, and 14-17 hours from the Pro – while doing normal (non-crazy computing things). 

The Pro comes with a 61W USB-C Power Adapter too, whereas the Air only has a 30W USB-C charger.

4. You can get the MacBook Air in Gold

The MacBook Pro is only available in two colours: Space Grey and Silver. You can get the MacBook Air in Space Grey, Silver and Gold.

Which M1 MacBook should I buy? MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro 3

5. The speakers and mics on the MacBook Pro are better

Apple made a leap with its laptop speakers back in 2019 when it gave the 16-inch MacBook Pro a high-fidelity six-speaker system with force-cancelling woofers. 

Unfortunately, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro’s stereo speakers with high dynamic range speakers aren’t in the same league. They sound fine, and warm, but not as good at the 16-inch laptop. The MacBook Air is a step down again, with speakers that aren’t special at all.

The new Pro has “studio-quality” three-mic array with directional beamforming, while the Air just has regular mics inside. In the real-world, this won’t make much of a difference to users unless they’re looking to record podcasts or professional-quality audio on their MacBooks.

6. The MacBook Pro has a brighter screen

Both MacBooks have 13.3-inch LED-backlit display with IPS technology. They’re both Retina displays with 2560 by 1600 pixels and True Tone technology. But the Air can only reach 400 nits of brightness while the Pro can hit 500.

Which M1 MacBook should I buy? MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro 2

7. Actually, the M1 chips are a bit different…

This is slightly confusing here. The MacBook Air and Pro have the M1 System on Chips (SoC). Both devices have the “big/little” 8-core CPU with four performance cores and four efficiency cores. And both devices have a 16-core Neural Engine. BUT, the entry-level MacBook Air only comes with a 7-core GPU, while the entry-level MacBook Air comes with an 8-core GPU.

It’s a bit of a niche point though because you can configure the Air to have an 8-core GPU too.

Which M1 MacBook should I buy? MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro 1

8. They’re different sizes

MacBook AirMacBook Pro
Height0.41–1.61 cm (0.16–0.63 inch)1.56 cm (0.61 inch)
Width30.41 cm (11.97 inches)30.41 cm (11.97 inches)
Depth21.24 cm (8.36 inches)21.24 cm (8.36 inches)
Weight1.29 kg (2.8 pounds)1.4 kg (3.0 pounds)

The rest is the same

  • Storage options (256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB SSD)
  • 8GB or 16GB RAM
  • Touch ID sensor
  • Two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports
  • 720p FaceTime HD camera

Same.

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