MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro: Which Mac Should You Buy in 2021?

MacBook Air (m1, 2020)

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

A 13-inch MacBook Air, as well as 13-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, are among Apple’s laptops. However, deciding which MacBook to buy can be difficult, especially since Apple offers some models with M1 processors and others with Intel processors. Then there’s the possibility of new models arriving soon, which may cause you to reconsider.

We’ll compare price, features, performance, battery life, and more to help you decide which laptop is worth your money among the MacBook Air, two 13-inch MacBook Pro models, and the 16-inch MacBook Pro. By the end of this guide, you should have a good idea of which laptop to buy — or whether you should wait for the next version to come out. That’s where our guide to the MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro comes in handy.

On that note, Apple is expected to introduce new products.

16-inch MacBook Pro and 14-inch MacBook Pro This will set them apart from the current M1-powered MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, two less expensive models that currently outperform their more expensive Intel-powered counterparts. Models with a supercharged M-series chip (possibly the M1X) with 12 cores are rumored.

If you want to get a feel for life with a MacBook before purchasing one, read our review of the MacBook. macOS Big SurYou’re not sure if a Mac is right for you? Consider donating to our cause. , Apple’s most recent desktop operating laptops Take a look at the rankings to see all of the other great options on the market.

Which MacBook is best?

It’s an odd time to be in the market for a MacBook. Apple’s laptops have only partially switched to the new ARM-based M1 chip, with some models still using Intel processors.

We recommend purchasing a MacBook with Apple’s new M1 chip based on our testing. So far, what have you got? The 13-inch MacBook Pro with two Thunderbolt 3 ports and the new MacBook Air with M1.

Apple is rumored to be releasing a 16-inch MacBook Pro with a faster processor. more powerful M1X chip The rumored 14-inch MacBook Pro with four Thunderbolt 3 ports, which is expected to replace the current premium 13-inch MacBook Pro option, is expected to be similar. in the coming months, so hold off on purchasing the larger, more expensive option.

The chip gives the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro unrivaled performance and endurance, making them the laptops to beat in their respective categories. They also run iOS and iPadOS apps and, in the case of the MacBook Air, don’t require a fan to keep cool. In a nutshell, because there aren’t any other products like them on the market. So, why do we suggest MacBooks with an M1 processor?

All you have to do now is decide whether you want to buy them now or wait for Apple to update them with custom chips and more features. Because of its incredible speakers, modern design, and long battery life, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is particularly appealing. That isn’t to say that the 16-inch MacBook Pro and 13-inch MacBook Pro (both with four Thunderbolt ports) aren’t excellent laptops.

MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro: Specs compared

Best for Most

Most Speed for $

Mid-tier with more ports

For Power Users

MacBook Air

MacBook Pro 13 (Entry Level)
MacBook Pro 13 (Advanced) MacBook Pro 16-inch
Price $999 $1,299 $1,799 $2,399
CPU M1 M1 10th Gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7 2.6-GHz 9th gen Core i7
RAM Up to 16GB up to 16GB Up to 32GB up to 64GB
Display 13.3 inches (2560 x 1600) 13.3 inches (2560 x 1600) 13.3 inches (2560 x 1600) 16 inches (3072 x 1920)
Ports 2 Thunderbolt 3, headphone 2 Thunderbolt 3, headphone 4 Thunderbolt 3, headphone 4 Thunderbolt 3, headphone
Touch Bar No No Yes Yes
Graphics M1 M1 Intel Iris Plus AMD Radeon Pro 5300M (4GB)
Storage up to 2TB up to 2TB Up to 4TB up to 10TB
Battery Life (hrs) 14:41 (tested) 16:32 (tested) 10 hours (rated) 10:55
Size 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches The dimensions are 14.1 x 9.7 x 0.6 inches.
Weight 2.8 pounds 3.1 pounds 3.1 pounds 4.3 pounds

MacBook Air (M1, 2020): Best for most people 

Pros: The new MacBook AirThanks to its M1 chip, which enables record-setting performance and battery life, it offers almost everything you could want in an Apple laptop. In our battery test, the MacBook Air lasted 14 hours and 41 minutes, making it one of the longest-lasting laptops available.

Our MacBook Air with 16GB of RAMThe XPS 13 (5,319, Core i7-1165G7) with an 11th Gen (Tiger lake) Intel Core scored a resounding 5,962 on the Geekbench 5.2 overall performance test, crushing the XPS 13 (5,319, Core i7-1165G7) with an 11th Gen (Tiger lake) Intel Core. The Surface Laptop 3 (4,791), which used Intel’s 10th generation processors, fell further behind, but it still outperformed the category average (4,178).

The Magic Keyboard, which is far more comfortable and reliable than the previous Butterfly keyboard, is also included with the MacBook Air. These were compared. two keyboards side-by-side Due to the new version’s bouncier keys and improved layout, the group unanimously voted in favor of it.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

With a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels, the screen is also sharp. The latest version of the Air supports the P3 color range for more vibrant tones, as well as True Tone, which adjusts the display’s color temperature based on ambient lighting conditions.

Touch ID is another feature that makes it simple to unlock the system, make secure payments, and change passwords. The M1 chip also improved the 720p webcam on the new MacBook Air, and the system now supports iOS and iPadOS apps, though few are optimized for laptops.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The MacBook Air is larger than the Dell XPS 13 (11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches, 2.8 pounds) but smaller than the MacBook Pro (12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches, 2.8 pounds).13.5-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 3(2.9 pounds, 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches).

Cons: The laptop also lacks an IR camera (for facial recognition login) and USB Type-A ports, necessitating the use of an adapter for legacy devices. In addition, the MacBook Air isn’t the smallest or lightest 13-inch laptop on the market, and the display bezels are too thick for 2021. Most people will need to use a dongle because two USB-C ports aren’t enough.

See our full

MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review

MacBook Pro 13-inch (two Thunderbolt 3): For power users on a budget, this is the best option.

Pros: Yes, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has the same M1 chip as the MacBook Air, but it has a fan inside to keep things cool, so it can run demanding tasks for longer. With its new M1 chip, the 13-inch MacBook Pro crams a lot of power into a slim and lightweight (3-pound) chassis — and it even has a good keyboard.

In terms of numbers, the MacBook Pro scored 5,882 on the Geekbench 5 test, outperforming the 4,215 average for premium laptops. ‘The’ XPS 13 The Asus ZenBook and the MacBook Pro came the closest to matching each other, while the Asus ZenBook and the MacBook Pro HP Spectre x360 13 weren’t anywhere near as powerful. 

I’d like to emphasize the MacBook Pro’s battery life: in our tests, it lasted for 16 hours and 32 minutes. That’s just ludicrous, and it puts the MacBook Pro in a different league than its rivals. This laptop is slightly heavier than the MacBook Air, but it has the same M1 processor and lasts longer.

(Image credit: Future)

The MacBook Pro now has a Touch Bar as well as a Touch ID sensor, thanks to Apple. A new 720p webcam, a blisteringly fast SSD, and a sleek design round out the 13-inch MacBook Pro’s features. What more could you want?

Cons:Oh, and Apple needs to get rid of those unsightly display bezels, too. Unfortunately, the base MacBook Pro only has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, compared to four on the more expensive MacBook Pro 13-inch.

See our full

13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020) review

If you require additional ports, 13-inch MacBook Pro with 4 Thunderbolt ports:

Pros:The MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020) packs a 10th Gen Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage for $1,799, making it one of the fastest laptops in its class. However, newer PCs with Intel’s 11th Generation processor or AMD’s In our tests, the MacBook Pro blew away most Windows laptops on the Geekbench 5 benchmark and, in particular, our SSD benchmark. AMD Ryzen 5000 chips will outperform the Macbook Pro. 

This model also has a bright and colorful True Tone display that changes color depending on ambient lighting, and it has a long battery life of 10 hours and 21 minutes.

(Image credit: Future)

In comparison to the $1,299 model and the MacBook Air, this version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro has two more Thunderbolt ports.

Cons:We’d also like to see Apple lighten up the design while reducing the screen bezels. Furthermore, the Touch Bar is divisive, and Apple would be better off sticking to traditional shortcut keys. The 13-inch MacBook Pro in this model is quite expensive.

But what is the most serious problem? Because the MacBook Pro uses Intel chips rather than Apple silicon, it performs and lasts less than the lower-tier Pro models, and it lacks iOS and iPadOS app support. What is our recommendation? Wait until the 2021 refresh, when a 14-inch MacBook Pro may be released.

See our full

MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020) review

MacBook Pro 16-inch: Best for power users

Pros: The new keys are not only more comfortable to use, but they also have a soft, clicky feel to them. Starting with this machine, Apple ditched the Butterfly-style keyboard in favor of a more traditional scissor mechanism. The keyboard is where it all begins.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro, like the 15-inch model it replaces, delivers exceptional performance whether you’re editing RAW photos, working on 4K video editing projects, or compiling code. The laptop is available with one of three 9th Gen Intel H-series CPUs: a 6-core Core i7 (2.6GHz), an 8-core Core i9 (2.3GHz), or an 8-core Core i9 (2.4GHz) processor.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The MacBook Pro, like its predecessor, has four Thunderbolt 3 ports onboard for connecting peripherals. The base configuration comes with an AMD Radeon Pro 5300M graphics card (4GB VRAM), which can be upgraded to a Radeon Pro 5500M GPU (4GB or 8GB VRAM).

Apple’s Retina displays are always stunning, but the 16-inch, 3072 x 1920-resolution panel on the new MacBook Pro is the best yet, and not just because it’s big. The screen is clear, vibrant, and bright, and it is surrounded by thin bezels.

Another advantage is the 6-speaker system with force-canceling woofers, which provides excellent sound quality (arguably the best of any laptop). In our battery test, the 16-inch MacBook Pro lasted 10 hours and 55 minutes, which is a fantastic result considering its performance.

Cons: There are also no full-size USB ports. Photographers may be irritated by the fact that they won’t be able to use an SD card; instead, they’ll have to use a card reader and plug it into one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports.

While the base model 16-inch MacBook Pro has more storage — 512GB — for the same price as its predecessor, a starting price of $2,399 is difficult to overlook.

The machine is also heavier and thicker than the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and it lacks Face ID, which uses facial recognition to unlock the device. Of course, we’re still waiting for an Apple Silicon edition, so if you can, you should probably hold off until the next model.

See our full

16-inch MacBook Pro review

Read our in-depth article to learn more about how long Apple will keep your MacBook in good shape.

Apple Warranty Check


How we test MacBook laptops

From speed and battery life to display brightness, speaker volume, and system heat, we test everything. Before our reviewers get their hands on a MacBook, we put it through extensive benchmark testing, both synthetic and real-world.

The brightness and sRGB color gamut of a laptop’s display are measured using a Klein K10 colorimeter. We put the laptop through a slew of tests, including Geekbench 5.0 and 3DMark professional graphics tests, to see how well it performs.

We put the laptop through its paces by converting a 4K video to 1080p resolution and duplicating a 25GB multimedia file. The Dirt 3 benchmark with medium settings and 1080p resolution is our real-world graphics test.

We also perform heat tests by playing a 15-minute full-screen video, and our battery test involves continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. Anything above the category average (8 hours and 36 minutes) is considered a good result. These tests are, of course, supplemented by our reviewers’ hands-on testing.

He covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity while there, writing reviews for a variety of gadgets. Phillip Tracy works as an assistant managing editor at Laptop Mag, where he reviews laptops, phones, and other gadgets as well as reporting on industry news. Prior to that, he covered 5G and IoT for RCR Wireless News. Phillip can be found playing video games, reading, traveling, or watching soccer when he’s not tinkering with gadgets. Phillip joined the Daily Dot as a tech reporter after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a journalism degree.