Which MacBook Should You Buy? MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro

MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro. Apple’s laptop lineup is more streamlined than ever, now comprised of a 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. But it can still be tough deciding what MacBook to buy.

That’s where our MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro guide comes in. Between the MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro, we’ll help you decide which laptop is worth your money by comparing price, features, performance, battery life and more.The new 16-inch MacBook Pro has the scissor keyboard we’ve all been waiting for, but its starting price is steep. The new MacBook Air 2020 also gets the new Magic Keyboard and now starts at just $999, which is cheaper than the previous versions. We strongly suspect the 13-inch MacBook Pro will be getting the new keyboard sometime this year, so you might want to hold off on buying now.

MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro pics: Specs compared

Best for MostMost Speed for $For MultitaskingFor Power Users
MacBook AirMacBook Pro 13 (Entry Level)MacBook Pro 13 (Premium)MacBook Pro 16
Price$1,099$1,299$1,799$2,399
CPU1.2-GHz 10th Gen Core i71.4-GHz 8th gen Intel Core i52.4-GHz 8th gen Core i5 quad-core2.6-GHz 9th gen Core i7 6-core
RAMUp to 16GBup to 16GBup to 16GBup to 64GB
Display13.3 inches (2560 x 1600)13 inches (2560 x 1600)13 inches (2560 x 1600)16 inches (3072 x 1920)
Ports2 Thunderbolt 32 Thunderbolt 34 Thunderbolt 34 Thunderbolt 3
Touch BarNoYesYesYes
GraphicsIntel Iris PlusIntel Iris 645Intel Iris Plus 655AMD Radeon Pro 5300M (4GB)
Storageup to 2TBup to 2TBup to 2TBup to 10TB
Battery Life (hrs)11 hours (rated)10:488:4110:50 (rated)
Weight2.8 pounds3 pounds3 pounds4.3 pounds

*Starting configurations listed.

Best Value: New MacBook Air ($999, $899 for students)

Pros: The new MacBook Air delivers almost everything you could want in an Apple laptop. Although the new MacBook Air 2020 hasn’t changed, it’s still light and thin and the display bezels are relatively thin.

The best addition to the MacBook Air 2020 is the best Magic Keyboard, which should be more comfortable and reliable to use than the previous butterfly keyboard. We were impressed by the new scissor keys when we reviewed the 16-inch MacBook Pro, so let’s hope the same ones are coming to the MacBook Air.

new macbook air 2018

The screen is sharp, too, with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels. The latest version of the Air also has True Tone, which adjusts the color temperature on the display based on ambient lighting conditions.

Another feature is Touch ID, which makes it easy to unlock the system, make secure payments and replace passwords.

Powered by a Y-series 10th-gen Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, the base specs for the new MacBook Air should provide enough oomph for everyday computing tasks. We’re especially happy to see storage doubled from 128GB, although the Core i3 CPU is a step down from the Core i5 in the previous base model.

The battery life is rated at 11 hours, which would make it one of the longest-lasting laptops around if those numbers hold up. There are two Thunderbolt 3 ports onboard.

Cons: The Y Series Intel processor isn’t sluggish, but other Windows laptops come with Intel’s more powerful U series chips. You’ll want to step up to the entry-level, 13-inch MacBook Pro if you want more speed.

See our full MacBook Air 2020 preview

The Best MacBook for Most People: MacBook Pro 13-inch (from $1,299)

Pros: The 13-inch MacBook Pro crams a lot of power into a slim and light 3-pound chassis. This machine is only a bit heavier as the MacBook Air, but you get a faster 8th-generation Core i5 U series processor and more powerful Intel Iris graphics. For a round-by-round breakdown of which 13-inch MacBook is best, check out our MacBook Pro vs Air (2019) face-off.

MacBookPro2019

Apple has also brought its Touch Bar to the entry-level MacBook Pro, as well as a Touch ID sensor. The 13-inch MacBook Pro also offers a brighter display than the MacBook Air along with powerful speakers.

Cons: Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay an extra $200 for 256GB of storage; 128GB is skimpy at a $1,299 starting price. You’ll also have to live with two ThunderBolt 3 ports, versus 4 ports on the pricier MacBook Pro 13-inch. You’ll also get less power and less storage compared to the pricier Pro.

See our full 13-inch MacBook Pro (2019) review

Best for Multitaskers: MacBook Pro 13-inch with 4 Thunderbolt ports ($1,799)

Pros: If you’re willing to spend $1,799, the MacBook Pro 13-inch with Touch Bar (2019) is the fastest laptop in its class, packing a blazing 8th-gen, quad-core Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. In our testing, this MacBook Pro wiped the floor with Windows laptops on both the Geekbench 4 benchmark and especially our SSD benchmarking.

This model also offers a bright and colorful True Tone display that adjusts its color based on ambient lighting, and more important, a keyboard with a new mechanism that’s designed to prevent reliability issues.

MacBook Pro 13-inch Touch Bar

The Touch Bar screen above the keyboard provides all sorts of contextually relevant buttons and controls as you use various apps, but it’s not as good as having a full touchscreen.

This version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro also offers two more Thunderbolt ports than the $1,299 model, as well as faster Intel Iris graphics.

Cons: This version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is pricey. The battery life, at 8 hours and 41 minutes, is decent; however, other ultraportables last longer on a charge. We’d also like to see Apple make the design a bit lighter while trimming down the screen bezels.

See our full MacBook Pro 13-inch with Touch Bar (2019) review

Best for Power Users: MacBook Pro 16-inch ($2,399)

Pros: It all starts with the new keyboard. Yes, Apple finally ditched the Butterfly-style keyboard in favor of a more traditional scissor mechanism. The new keys not only offer better travel but they also feel soft yet clicky. Apple will likely update other models with the new keyboard, but, so far, only the 16-inch MacBook Pro sports the new keys.

Like the 15-inch model (which this version replaces), the 16-inch MacBook Pro should provide exceptional performance whether you’re editing gobs of RAW photos, tackling 4K video editing projects or compiling code. The laptop comes equipped with your choice of three 9th Gen Intel CPUs: a 6-core Core i7 (2.6Ghz), an 8-core Core i9 (2.3GHz) or an 8-core Core i9 (2.4GHz) chip.

The base configuration packs an AMD Radeon Pro 5300M graphics card (with 4GB of VRAM), which can be upgraded to a Radeon Pro 5500M GPU with either 4GB or 8GB of memory. Similar to its predecessor, the MacBook Pro has four Thunderbolt 3 ports onboard for plugging in peripherals.

Apple’s Retina displays are consistently beautiful but the new MacBook Pro’s 16-inch, 3072 x 1920-resolution panel could be the best yet. We’ll run benchmarks for our full review, but the display impressed with bright colors and impressive brightness (500 nits) during our hands-on time with the laptop. We were drawn to that gorgeous image thanks to the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s slim bezels, which makes content feel more immersive.

Another perk is a 6-speaker system with force-canceling woofers that offers incredible sound quality, perhaps the best of any laptop. We haven’t tested the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s battery life but, with a rating of 11 hours, the laptop should last longer on a charge than its predecessor.

apple macbook pro 16-inch
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Cons: Photographers might be miffed that they can’t plug in an SD card; instead, they’ll have to use a card reader and plug it into one of the four Thunderbolt 3 ports. You also don’t get full-size USB ports.

While the base model 16-inch MacBook Pro comes with more storage — 512GB — for the same price as its predecessor, a $2,399 starting price is still hard to ignore.

The machine is also heavier and thicker than the 15-inch MacBook Pro and there is no Face ID for unlocking the device using facial recognition.

See our full 16-inch MacBook Pro hands-on review

To find out more about how much longer Apple will keep your MacBook healthy, read our comprehensive Apple Warranty Check guide.

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