MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro: What's the difference?

Choosing a Mac laptop has never been more challenging, because both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are excellent. They have differences, so let's see what's right for you.

MacBook Air
  • Great performance at an entry-level price.

  • Similar to Pro design, the body is thinner.

  • Long battery life.

  • Super quiet and no internal fan.

MacBook Pro
  • The new M3 Pro and Max chips deliver incredible performance.

  • Stunning Retina display with slim bezels.

  • Run demanding applications with ease.

  • Available in 14-inch and 16-inch models.

People don't realize you can get everything done on a MacBook Air . This begs the question: "Why buy a MacBook Pro?" Because for some people, time is money and using a MacBook Pro can get a specific job done faster. Plus, the Pro’s screen is really nice. There are also more ports on the Pro, which is more convenient in some situations.

MacBook Air
  • 13-inch with Apple M2 processor, 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU | 256GB storage ($999)

  • 15-inch with Apple M3 processor, 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU | 256GB storage ($1,299)

MacBook Pro
  • 14-inch with Apple M3 processor, 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU | 512GB storage ($1,599)

  • 16-inch with Apple M3 Pro processor, 12-core CPU, 18-core GPU | 512GB storage ($2,499)

Air and Pro models are available in 13-16 inches.

The Air comes in 13-inch and 15-inch models, and the Pro comes in 14-inch and 16-inch models. The entry-level Air comes with a regular M2 processor, while other Air models come with an M3 chip. The M3 Pro and M3 Max come with 14-inch and 16-inch Pro. Only the Pro model has the more advanced screen (Apple calls it Liquid Retina XDR). Funny marketing name aside, the screen is much better than the one on the Air (which is of very good quality).

MacBook Air
  • Available in Midnight, Starlight, Silver and Space Gray.

  • 1080p webcam.

  • 2 Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports, MagSafe 3.

  • 13 inches: 2.7 pounds

    15 inches: 3.3 pounds

MacBook Pro
  • Available in space gray, space black, and silver.

  • 1080p webcam.

  • Up to 3 Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports, MagSafe 3, HDMI, SDXC card slot.

  • 14 inches: 3.4 pounds

    16 inches: 4.7 pounds

The previous design made the difference even more obvious, as the MacBook Air has maintained its overall wedge shape since 2008. However, for the 2024 model year, the Air could be considered a baby Pro, and when placed next to a MacBook Pro, it was never considered a Pro baby. What's even more obvious is that these computers all come from the same family.

Based on the specs alone, you wouldn't think there's a huge difference, but there's a wow factor when you pick up the Air after using the Pro. The Air is just a little thinner, but you can definitely feel it. Also, boo Apple for not offering more colors for the Pro.

MacBook Air
  • 13 inches: 2560 x 1664

  • 15":2880-1864

MacBook Pro
  • 14": 3024-1964

  • 16 inches: 3456 x 2234

Both the Air and Pro feature what Apple calls a Retina display (a marketing term used to describe displays that Apple believes have enough pixel density to make individual pixels indistinguishable).

The Air's maximum brightness is 500 nits, while the Pro starts at 600 nits and goes up to 1,600 nits. The Pro display's refresh rate (up to 120Hz) is also much better than the Air's (60Hz). It makes scrolling much smoother, and you'll definitely see the difference once you return to the Air.

MacBook Air
  • The M2 has plenty of power for all your daily tasks.

  • Battery life is up to 18 hours.

MacBook Pro
  • The M3 Pro is a fast chip, while the M3 Max is a blazingly fast laptop chip.

  • Battery life is up to 22 hours.

For most people, the MacBook Air will be as fast as, or probably faster than, they need. The MacBook Pro will better suit the needs of people who work with large images and handle lots of audio and video, but the Air can handle the same tasks, albeit at a slower pace.

The base model M2 Air is so good that we think only those who can't afford to wait for a computer should consider buying a MacBook Pro. Or maybe your pocket is burning a hole. Or you just want one.

MacBook Air
  • 13 inches: $999-$1,499

  • 15 inches: $1,299-$1,699

MacBook Pro
  • 14-inch: $1,599-$3,199

  • 16-inch: $2,499-$3,999

Macs have a reputation for being significantly more expensive than the competition, but we often find that comparison to be a bit unfair. When you buy a Mac, you also get an operating system and exceptional attention to detail that no other brand can offer.

But the price difference between the Air and Pro is huge. The Air is smaller, lighter and cheaper.

When you upgrade to Pro, you get more: more initial RAM (and a higher RAM cap), more SSD space (and a higher SSD cap), and more processing power, not to mention The Pro has an excellent screen.

Here are the side-by-side specs for the current 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air lineup, as well as the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro.

product name MacBook Air 13-inch (M2, 2022) MacBook Air 15-inch (M3, 2024) Macbook Pro 14-inch (M3 Pro/Max, 2023) MacBook Pro 16-inch (M3 Pro/Max, 2023)
starting price $999.00 $1,299 $1,599 $2,499 USD
weight 2.7 lbs. 3.3 lbs. 3.4 lbs. 4.7 lbs.
aspect 11.97 x 8.46 x 0.44 inches 13.4 x 9.35 x 0.45 inches 12.31 x 8.71 x 0.61 inches 14.01 x 9.77 x 0.66 inches
Warranty 1 year (limited) 1 year (limited) 1 year (limited) 1 year (limited)
platform macOS Sonoma macOS Sonoma macOS Sonoma macOS Sonoma
processor Up to Apple M3 with 8-core CPU and 16-core neural engine Apple M3 with 8-core CPU, 16-core neural engine Up to Apple M3 Max, with 14-core CPU, 16-core neural engine Up to Apple M3 Max, equipped with 16-core CPU and 16-core neural engine
graphics M2 8-core or 10-core GPU, or M3 10-core GPU M3 10-core GPU M3 10-core GPU to M3 Max 30-core GPU M3 18-core GPU to M3 Max 40-core GPU
storage 256GB to 2TB 256GB to 2TB 512GB to 8TB 512GB to 8TB
memory 8GB, 16GB, 24GB 8GB, 16GB, 24GB 8GB to 96GB 18GB to 128GB
port 2 Thunderbolt/USB4/MagSafe 3 2 Thunderbolt/USB4/MagSafe 3 Up to 3 Thunderbolt/USB4/HDMI/SDXC/MagSafe 3 3 Thunderbolt/USB4/HDMI/SDXC/MagSafe 3
Safety Touch ID Touch ID Touch ID Touch ID
vocal 4-speaker system with spatial audio and Dolby Atmos, 3-microphone array 6-speaker system with spatial audio and Dolby Atmos, 3-mic array High-fidelity 6-speaker system with spatial audio and Dolby Atmos, 3-microphone array High-fidelity 6-speaker system with spatial audio and Dolby Atmos, 3-microphone array
color Starlight, Midnight, Silver, Space Gray Starlight, Midnight, Silver, Space Gray M3: space gray, silver; M3 Pro/Max: space black, silver Space black, silver

If you're wondering what to buy, buy a MacBook Air with as much memory as possible. If you're wondering "Do I need a MacBook Pro?" then you don't. If you're working with huge files that require a lot of power to process, you'll know this. If that's you, then maybe you need a MacBook Pro.

  • Generally speaking, the MacBook Air is the cheaper option and can handle email, web browsing, and large reports that are due on Monday. However, if you're studying a major such as computer coding, photography, or television production, you may want a more powerful MacBook Pro to handle more resource-intensive tasks, such as photo and video processing. Don’t forget to check out the student discounts offered by third-party retailers like Apple and Best Buy.

  • Shut down your MacBook, then hold down Command+R at startup to reboot it into recovery mode. Then, open Disk Utility and select View > Show All Devices . Select the drive you want to reformat, then select Erase , close Disk Utility, and select Reinstall MacOS .

  • You can capture the entire screen using the keyboard shortcut Shift+Command+3 . If you only want to capture a portion of the screen, use the shortcut Shift+Command+4 and drag the crosshairs that appear to select the area of ​​the screen you want to record.

  • Open the Apple menu and select System Preferences > Software Update > Update Now .