This year, Apple made a mess with the newly launched machines M2 MacBook Pro and the M2 MacBook Air. It is very confusing to choose one of them. If you are also confused about choosing a suitable machine from both, here is a detailed comparison of the M2 MacBook Air vs M2 MacBook Pro.
If we compare the previous models, we have two very capable laptops, but when we look at the pricing and the features. There are no steadfast reasons for picking an M2 MacBook Pro instead of an M2 MacBook Air. Maybe with two exceptions.
We tested both powerful laptops for more than a month and made a detailed and unbiased comparison between both laptops.
So both the laptops come with 8GB of Unified Memory (RAM) and two SSD storage options 256GB and 512GB. The M2 MacBook Air starts at $1,200 while the MacBook Pro starts at $1,300. So we have a $100 difference between the two laptops. The price difference is not insignificant but not a lot of separation there.
But if we compare it with the previous M1 model, there was a $300 difference between the two base models and the more expensive MacBook Pro had some better features also. But this year, it's not quite that simple. So let's take a look at both of these from the perspective of an everyday user and I'll also add some context for more demanding users.
Now, both the laptops come with the latest and more powerful M2 chips, but there are slight differences that you need to be aware of these.
CPU and GPU
The MacBook Air comes with an eight-core CPU and an eight-core GPU and can be upgradable to a 10-core GPU for an additional $100, which would put it at the same price as the MacBook Pro. With the M2 MacBook Pro, you're always getting a 10-core GPU, so the only upgrades are unified memory and storage.
For most users, the difference between 8 and 10 GPU cores won't be very significant, but if your specific workflow includes GPU and tons of tasks, then I think that upgrade makes sense in the long run.
Furthermore, we will show you some interesting benchmarks here in this article as we wanted to see the consistent performance and SSD speed of the different storage options.
Whether you buy the Air or the Pro, you can go up to 24 gigabytes of unified memory and up to two terabytes of storage.
So whatever you choose now is what you'll have for the life of the device.
Now, being able to upgrade these to 24 gigabytes is a big deal. With older M1 devices, you can pretty easily use up the 16 gigabytes that you have, so this 50% increase is super welcomed but again, keep in mind that you can do that with both laptops, so it doesn't really give on the edge over the other.
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In terms of performance, the one notable difference is that the MacBook Pro has a cooling fan whereas the MacBook Air does not.
This means that when you push both of them to the limit, the MacBook Air will, at some point, throttle back performance to cool down. While the MacBook Pro will precisely be able to turn the fan on and continue to chug along.
Design and Form Factor
When we look at the form factor, we come across some important differences between the two. But they seem to be leaning in favour of the less expensive MacBook Air. We're getting approximately the same width and depth but the Air's 0.17 inches or 4.3 millimetres thinner.
This might not sound like much as both are quite thin but it is worth noting, and at the same time, I also want to mention that the Air is 0.3 pounds or 0.16 kg lighter. It's not enough to make a major difference as far as portability goes but it is worth mentioning.
And we're also no longer seeing that tapered wedge design on the MacBook Air and the M2 version kind of looks like a thin 14-inch MacBook Pro.
I actually really like the wedge design on the M1 model because it was super comfortable to type on but the M2 Air is really thin. So it doesn't really dig into your wrist as the MacBook Pros do.
As for the ports, both the laptops get two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports and in both cases, the ports are on the left side.
Now, I really wish that they were split, one on each side so that it'd be more convenient to connect accessories or to charge the laptops from either direction.
And speaking of charging, we're seeing another advantage with the MacBook Air, which now comes with the MagSafe 3 charging port.
This means you can charge the MacBook Air and still have both Thunderbolt ports available for accessories, whereas on the Pro, you'll need to use the Thunderbolt ports for charging.
I also wish that these were Thunderbolt 4 ports and they had the ability to connect multiple external displays.
Now, I know that the Air is targeted at a more basic user but dual display setups are becoming more and more common, and both of these laptops are definitely powerful enough for work, and even for more demanding users.
Even if Apple doesn't want to do this with the MacBook Air, it would have been a real opportunity to differentiate the Pro.
As it stands, if you want native support for multiple monitors, you'll need to look at 14 or 16-inch MacBook Pro models.
Lastly, both the Air and Pro have a 3.5-millimetre headphone jack with advanced support for high-impedance headphones and neither of them comes with an HDMI port or a micro-SD card slot. Both of them are available in 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Now, moving on to the display, this is another area where the MacBook M2 Pro versus the MacBook M2 Air doesn't make a lot of sense because the Air has a bigger and better display.
We're looking at a 13.6-inch Liquid Retina Display on the Air versus a 13.3 Retina on the Pro. A slightly higher resolution on the Air, the same 500 nits peak brightness.
Both are P3 displays, which have a wide collar gamut for more accurate colour reproduction and both offer True Tone.
So they can detect the colour of the light in the room and then make adjustments so that white always looks white, rather than yellow or blue.
Now, ultimately, the Air has smaller bezels and a notch versus a larger forehead on the Pro and having used both, I prefer the Air.
The keyboard on the M2 Pro is the same as what we had on the M1 model. And it still features Touch ID for biometric authentication.
I know that that touch bar is quite polarizing. I like it but I know a lot of you don't. And if it is something that you like, this may be your last opportunity to get one, at least for a few years until Apple inevitably brings it back. The M2 Air got an upgrade.
So now we have a full height row of function keys at the top and a larger touch ID button. In both cases, Touch ID has been great and you can use it for unlocking the device to complete purchases and to access secure documents or system settings, all without needing to enter a password.
As far as typing, these are both fantastic keyboards. And again, I'll give the edge to the Air here because the lower profile body means that the edge is not hitting my wrist and it's more comfortable to type on.
But in either case, these are right up there at the top as far as laptop keyboards go. Now, the trackpad was also expanded on the Air and it's now essentially the same size as the Pro, and this is an upgrade from the previous model.
I definitely appreciate the larger trackpad on the Air now and Apple probably makes my favourite trackpad on any laptop.
Camera & Speakers
When we talked about the display, I mentioned the notch on the MacBook Air, and it's there, of course, to house the new camera system.
This is another area where the Air is better with the new 1080p camera versus a 720p camera on the Pro.
When it comes to speakers, both are very good for a laptop but once again, the Air gets the win with a four-speaker system.
Overall, the Air is a little louder, the mids and highs are slightly brighter and the audio sounds fuller and less tinny.
Battery & Charging
One advantage that remains with the MacBook Pro is battery life. Now, we're getting a 52.6 Watt-hour battery on the Air versus 58.2 Watt-hour on the Pro and overall, the Pro is rated for 20 hours of movie playback versus 18 hours on the Air. Then 17 hours of wireless web versus 15 on the Air.
One other potentially difference has to do with charging where the MacBook Pro comes with a 67-watt power adaptor.
The base model of the MacBook Air comes with a 30-watt power adaptor and then for 20 bucks, you can upgrade to a 35-watt dual USB-C adaptor or the 67-watt adaptor.
Personally, the two extra hours of battery life on the MacBook Pro haven't proven to be a significant difference maker for me because both of these last so long.
Unless I'm doing really heavy work, I don't even get close to running out of battery with either of these in a single day. If I'm doing something like editing and rendering videos, then I'm gonna need to charge both.
But having said that, battery life goes to the MacBook Pro, so if that's your top priority, this is the way to go.
Next, I wanted to test CPU, GPU and SSD performance.
Now, since we're getting the same CPU cores with both models, short-term single and multi-core performance is virtually identical but when we look at GPU performance, we can see a major difference between the eight and 10-core MacBook Air models.
Another interesting result came from Cinebench, whereas you would expect, single-core performance to be the same but look at the difference between the 10-minute multi-core test.
When I ran the 30-minute test, then we can see that the Pro was able to maintain performance and then both the 10 and the 8-core options of the MacBook Air had to throttle back performance to keep the chip cool.
Now, I want to make sure I put these in context because I think it's interesting to see benchmarks and may provide some insight.
But unless you're buying a laptop specifically just to run benchmarks, then you should be more interested in real-life use, and in that context, all three models have been great.
Most of the everyday tasks that we perform are single-core. So for the majority of things, you're not going to notice a difference.
If you're editing video, working with motion graphics, 3D or visual effects, then you are likely to appreciate things like sustained performance, additional RAM and additional GPU cores.
Also, if these types of things are the primary reason why you're getting this laptop, I would highly recommend that you check out the 14-inch MacBook Pro.
Now, SSD speeds have been another hot topic and check out the difference between the base model with 256 gigabytes of storage, the 512 gigabytes and the one terabyte model.
We know that the 256-gigabyte models are running two separate 128-gigabyte chips, which lead to slower read and write speeds.
But we're also seeing that the one-terabyte M2 MacBook Air was faster than the 512-gigabyte M2 Pro.
Now, whether this speed will be meaningful in your day-to-day work depends on what you plan on doing.
If there's going to be a difference between the speeds of the storage options, I think it should be listed below.
I think it's reasonable to say that the majority of shoppers are going to assume that the only difference is gonna be the actual amount of storage.
And they aren't going to expect there to be such a drastic delta in performance.
Now, while that may or may not impact your buying decision, it would at least allow them to make an informed one.
Conclusion of M2 MacBook Air VS M2 MacBook Pro 2022
The M2 MacBook Pro is slightly more expensive. It has better battery life, a touch bar and it has an active cooling system for sustained performance. So if those are a priority for you, it may still be a good option.
The M2 MacBook Air gives you the option of getting the same chip. It has a larger and better display and outstanding battery life.
It's lighter and thinner. It's more comfortable to type on. Has a better camera and a better speaker system, and it comes in two new colours: Starlight and Midnight.
I think that the MacBook Air is a better option for most users and those who truly need additional performance would most likely benefit by skipping the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro and looking at the 14-inch one.
Hopefully, this article was helpful.
Good luck and see you soon.