MacBook Air M1 vs MacBook Pro M1, is it necessary to pay more? — 2022

The first laptops with Apple Silicon monopolized all eyes, criticism and analysis. This also means that, even today, doubts come to the indecisive buyer who does not know which of the two to opt for. At first, the 'Pro' seems the best option for features and the 'Air' for price, but there is much more to tell. Below we compare the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro with M1 chip in case you are in this group of doubters and want to decide.

Spec Highlights

As we have anticipated at the beginning, we will analyze several interesting points of these computers, since in the end seeing benefits on paper is not always a clear and real indication. However, we believe it is convenient to know first what these MacBooks offer us.



CharacteristicMacBook Air M1 (2020)MacBook Pro M1 (2020)
Colors-Silver
-Space Gray
-Prayed
-Silver
-Space Gray
Dimensions-Height: 0.41 cm (closed) and 1.61 cm (open)
- Width: 12'
-Bottom: 21.24 cm
-Height: 1.56cm
- Width: 12'
-Bottom: 21.24 cm
Weight1,29 kg1,4 kg
Screen13.3-inch LED-backlit IPS Retina13.3-inch LED-backlit IPS Retina
Resolution2,560 x 1,600 with 400 nits brightness2,560 x 1,600 with 500 nits brightness
ProcessorApple M1 (CPU 8 cores, GPU 7/8 cores and Neural Engine 16 cores)Apple M1 (8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine)
RAM-8GB of built-in memory
-16GB of built-in memory
-8GB of built-in memory
-16GB of built-in memory
Internal storage-SSD 256 GB
-SSD 512 GB
-SSD 1 TB
-SSD 2 TB
-SSD 256 GB
-SSD 512 GB
-SSD 1 TB
-SSD 2 TB
Sound-2 stereo speakers compatible with Dolby Atmos
-3 directional beamforming microphones
-3.5mm headphone jack
-2 stereo speakers compatible with Dolby Atmos
-3 microphones with studio quality and directional beamforming technology
-3.5mm headphone jack
connectivity-WiFi 802.11ac 6th generation
-Bluetooth 5.0
-WiFi 802.11ac 6th generation
-Bluetooth 5.0
ports2 USB-C / Thunderbolt ports2 USB-C / Thunderbolt ports
Battery-49.9 watt/hour lithium polymer battery
-Internet browsing: 15 hours
-Video playback: 18 hours
-58.2 watt/hour lithium polymer battery
-Internet browsing: 17 hours
-Video playback: 20 hours
Others-Magic Keyboard retroiluminado
-Touch ID
-Magic Keyboard retroiluminado
-Touch ID
-Touch Bar
Base operating systemmacOS 11 Big SurmacOS 11 Big Sur
Release dateNovember 2020November 2020
Price-Minimum: 1,129 euros
-Maximum: 2,648.98 euros
-Minimum: 1,449 euros
-Maximum: 3,158.98 euros

At first and as a preview of what we are going to analyze next, we find the following notable differences:

    GPU cores:the MacBook Air has a basic version that starts with 7 GPU cores, although you can choose a version that has 8 as the 'Pro'. Dimensions:Although aesthetically they look similar, the MacBook Pro is slightly taller. Weight:the 'Pro' model has a weight that is 0.11 kilograms higher. Brightness of the screen:although it is a slight difference, the MacBook Air reaches 400 nits of maximum brightness and the 'Pro' reaches up to 500. Autonomy:On paper, the MacBook Pro offers longer battery life and longer charging times than the 'Air' model. Touch Bar:this touch element is only available on MacBook Pros. Price:if we look at the cheapest, the MacBook Air takes the prize. In its most basic versions, both computers are separated by 320 euros.

Design and comfort of both

There really is little to assess as far as aesthetic line is concerned, since in the end this is a point that is considered tremendously subjective. There will be those who like one more than the other, those who see both as computers related to their tastes and those who directly do not feel appreciation for either of them. However, there are aspects to consider as we will see below.

Screens that are almost identical

Although they are called 13 inches, these computers are actually exactly 13.3 inches diagonal. If you are lazy to do the conversion, we will tell you: 33,782 centimeters . They have LED-backlit IPS technology and although they are not the highest quality and resolution screens on the market, the truth is that this is not one of the weak aspects of any of them.

MacBook Pro M1

The only difference between the two we find it in relation to brightness, as we have seen previously. The 400 and 500 nits maximum of the 'Air' and 'Pro' respectively are almost negligible on a day-to-day basis. Both have panels that look really good in any type of ambient light circumstance and although it is true that the difference from the 'Pro' model is noticeable, it is not a highly appreciable difference and that the balance between one and the other must tip. In addition, it is something that is very striking because for many years we have seen how Apple gave the Pro range of laptops the privilege of having a better screen, focused above all on the professional use of this device. However, this element is again really similar as we have mentioned, continuing the trend that the differences between these two devices are becoming scarcer , at least in models with Chip M1.

Touch Bar, a difference that is remarkable

Although the Touch Bar was finally eliminated with the 2021 MacBook Pro, in this 'Pro' model with M1 it is still present, although not in the 'Air'. While it is true that there is a lot of polarization with this element, because either you love it or you hate it, the truth is that in the end it is a difference to take into account between these two laptops that we are comparing.

And it is that this small touch screen located at the top of the keyboard replaces the function keys that the 'Air' does have and offers additional functions such as having the emojis more at hand, finding keyboard shortcuts with a single touch or being able to scroll through the timeline in music or video editing apps. On a functional level, it doesn't offer anything that can't be achieved on the MacBook Air, but it does make it faster.

Clarifying whether it is a fundamental difference to unbalance the balance is already something more personal, since it is a matter of customs and methods of doing things and that is where each one has their own experience. To highlight something, we must say that in the end the reason that Apple has ended up getting rid of it responds a lot to the lack of use by developers. However, in this aspect you also have to take into account if you have previously been using the Touch Bar, since it is possible that if you come from a MacBook Pro from previous years, you have gotten used to using this element and, when considering giving the jump to an M1 model, this difference is key when it comes to having an experience more similar to the one you've had before.

A breath of fresh 'Air' in portability

Go ahead our apologies for this bad joke at the head of this section, but it is a way of showing that the MacBook Air wins whole in users what prioritize mobility with the Mac. It is not that there is a huge difference in weight and dimensions between these laptops, but it is probably something to consider for those who do not have a fixed place of work and often carry the computer with them to work in cafeterias or public transport .

Review MacBook Air M1 Apple Silicon

The MacBook Pro does not become excessively heavy and in the end it does not stop being a very compact laptop in size and also ideal for mobility, but that plus that the 'Air' represents is very remarkable. We especially focus on how thin the latter becomes when it is closed, with a thickness that decreases from the top to the bottom forming a kind of wedge that also looks very good aesthetically, although the latter is ultimately an opinion. staff.

In any case, both are in the end very light portables that can be comfortably carried anywhere and even used on the knees while sitting on a sofa, in bed and even on public transport. There are also plenty of compatible cases and covers that don't add too much weight and don't take up too much space if you have a small workspace. Actually, the experience offered by both the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro in terms of portability is very similar, especially in these two models that have the same screen size.

Similarities and differences in hardware

The guts of these computers are very similar if we look only at the M1 chip, although there are differences in some configurations and in other components that integrate them. Next we will see how the performance of these teams is and how they differ, especially in day-to-day uses, whether daily or more demanding.

M1 chip and core difference

Yes, both computers have the Apple M1 chip integrated with identical differences except for the GPU cores. Both have 8 cores , but 1 of them is inactive on the MacBook Air, so for all practical purposes it is said to have 7 cores . Why does this happen?

As it was known, the manufacturing processes of components as extremely small as these processors require pinpoint precision that is not always achieved. Despite the fact that the structuring of these chips is carried out in closed laboratories, with extreme cleanliness, it is inevitable that in some cases a tiny speck of dust or any other trace of dirt that leaves one of the dormant nuclei. Although the manufacturer does not cause this on purpose, they have calculated the number of chips that come out with an unusable core and these are the ones destined for the 'Air' model, while the complete ones are incorporated into the 'Pro'.

Is it noticeable for practical purposes? The truth is that no. If precise tests are carried out, the differences can be noticed, after all, they exist, but they are not abysmal. A normal user might never notice this difference in processing, and even the most demanding might not either. This makes, and we repeat, that the differences that have historically existed between these two models of Apple laptops continue to be reduced. Obviously, the MacBook Pro is a device that has more capacity than the MacBook Air, and with which you can do more things, or at least do them faster and without performance problems. However, surely those types of tasks, if you are considering purchasing a MacBook Air instead of a Pro, you are not the type of user who performs them, being in that case the smartest purchase .

A word about RAM

In any computer and also in MacBooks with Intel we are used to seeing different RAM configurations in which more than 16 GB is always offered in the case of the 'Pro', but in these M1 we do not have the possibility of adding an amount that are not 8 GB or 16 GB. At first, this may seem shocking and even somewhat absurd, since it could be understood that Apple is capping the power of its computers by setting this limit. However, there is an explanation.

For years we have seen how the iPhone and iPad incorporated Apple's own chips that, together with their software, were capable of moving the tasks carried out by the devices with great fluidity. This is so to the point of offering less RAM than competing devices whose components and software are not always designed by the same company. This optimization of Apple's mobile devices has now reached Macs with Apple Silicon and with only 8 or 16 GB of RAM levels are reached that are much higher than previously seen in those amounts.

MacBook Air 2020 Keyboard

This does not mean that 16 GB is equivalent to 32 GB or more on a Mac with Intel, since it is not really comparable, but for practical purposes, there is a certain similarity in terms of performance. However, it is very possible that despite everything, Apple will add more configurations of this memory in future computers focused on getting even greater performance.

Fan yes or fan no?

One fan from the MacBook Pro M1 vs none from the MacBook Air. It is true that the latter is not focused at first on very demanding tasks and that due to its dimensions due to the compact style it represents, it is not very given to having a very large ventilation system either. However, many raised their hands to their heads when Apple announced that this 'Air' did not have any fans. It seemed that they were crazy and more seeing the heating problems that the brand's laptops had been dragging in recent years.

MacBook Air M1 Teardown

However, after exhaustive tests we have been able to verify in the first person how the MacBook Air performs like a charm. without overheating . The temperature control of this device is amazing, despite the fact that it only has a heatsink that replaces the fan of previous generations. Even in heavy tasks such as video editing in Final Cut, it has held up, although you should know that when it gets too hot, the performance drops in the end. And all this with the always valued silence provided by not having the ventilation system, which in a way reminded us of working with an iPad.

In the 'Pro' model three quarters of the same, but better. This one does have a fan, but it has hardly been heard even in the most arduous processing. In this case we do notice that the temperature is even lower than in the 'Air', something evident.

Battery galore for both MacBooks

The M1 chip goes like a shot in every way at the level of moving processes and this obviously generates doubts regarding consumption. Well, we have to tell you to stay calm in this regard, because the data that Apple offers and that we have added to the specifications table is positively false. What do we mean by positively false? Well, in reality, at least in our tests, we have achieved even more autonomy.

In a full day of work, either with the 'Air' or with the 'Pro' we have been able to verify how the battery sometimes did not drop below 40-30%, which we believe is quite a feat on the part of the company of Cupertino. Although it is true that the battery will end up suffering over time, it does not hurt to have autonomy like this first so that in the long term it will take longer to need a replacement.

Let's talk about software, same functions?

The software is in the end one of the keys to Apple and the main claim of many buyers. Both have macOS Big Sur to start with, although will continue to receive updates for several years and therefore this will not be the only operating system that they mount. In the tests carried out on this version of the system, we can find more similarities than differences,

Application performance

Note in this section is that on both computers we found the same performance. Keep in mind that the M1 is a processor with ARM architecture never seen before on a Mac, so developers have had to adapt their respective applications to this new architecture. All Apple apps are optimized , from the simplest like Finder or Photos to the most complex like Final Cut or Logic Pro.

Rosetta

The case of the third party applications is different, because while many are being adapted now, the rest can be opened thanks to Rosetta 2. This is a code translator that allows you to open applications based on Intel chips with ease. Although not all of them work using this system and some give an error, most of them do it well and many times we don't even realize that Rosetta 2 is working in the background. There is no clear standard that defines these in loading times and others, since in the end it is a bit random. There is a tab in Activity Monitor that allows you to see if an application is running natively on the M1 or if it does so through Rosetta 2, which is detected if it says Intel in the architecture column.

No Windows on either

Very much in line with the previous section, it should be noted that Windows is not yet optimized for the Apple processor. For this reason, neither the MacBook Air nor the MacBook Pro with M1 allow you to install it to a partition through Boot Camp Assistant. Yes, you will see this application installed, but when you open it it will tell you that it is not possible to use it. Apple is optimistic about this issue and hopes that Microsoft ends up adapting Windows as soon as possible to this type of architecture in order to give its users one of the most attractive functions, and that is being able to have the two most popular operating systems in the world in one team alone is quite an advantage.

Variant prices according to configuration

As in every Apple computer, we can change component configurations and add software to it. This entails an increase in price, with these prices finally being established for this series of components.

MacBook Air M1 from 1,129 euros

  • M1 processor with 16-core Neural Engine, 8-core CPU and 7-core GPU.
  • RAM:
    • 8 GB
    • 16 GB: +230 euros
  • SSD storage capacity:
    • 256 GB
    • 512 GB: +230 euros
    • 1 TB: +460 euros
    • 2 TB: +920 euros
  • Final Cut Pro: +329.99 euros
  • Logic Pro: €229.99

MacBook Air M1 from 1,399 euros

  • M1 processor with 16-core Neural Engine, 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU.
  • RAM:
    • 8 GB
    • 16 GB: +230 euros
  • SSD storage capacity:
    • 512 GB
    • 1 TB: +230 euros
    • 2 TB: +690 euros
  • Final Cut Pro: +329.99 euros
  • Logic Pro: €229.99

MacBook Pro M1 from 1,499 euros

  • M1 processor with 16-core Neural Engine, 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU.
  • RAM:
    • 8 GB
    • 16 GB: +230 euros
  • SSD storage capacity:
    • 256 GB
    • 512 GB: +230 euros
    • 1 TB: +460 euros
    • 2 TB: +920 euros
  • Final Cut Pro: +329.99 euros
  • Logic Pro: €229.99

It should be noted that Apple has another version of MacBook Pro from 1,679 euros, which really is as if the base 512 GB were added to the previous one, since there is no other difference and the price of this is in the end the same as if the above is configured. On the other hand, the company also offers 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, but they have the same chip, so they are focused on more demanding audiences.

MacBook Air M1 review

Conclusion, which one should you buy?

At this point, you may already have a clear idea about which of these two teams is the most suitable for you. But, if this is not the case, do not worry because we are going to give you a series of keys through which you should already clarify all the doubts.

Choose the MacBook Air if…

This device is focused on vast majority of the public , since it has very powerful hardware to satisfy most of the daily needs. From consumption of multimedia content, use of office apps to somewhat heavier processes such as photo or video editing. Of course, in the latter case as long as it is very sporadically and it can withstand them, but it is not the most suitable for it.

Precisely the fact of not having a fan is what 'layers' this device. As we told you in a previous section, when the computer heats up, the chip tends to lower performance and therefore tasks are executed more slowly. And no, it is not that the Mac becomes slow or unusable, since it is not, but for this reason it is not the most suitable if heavy processes are to be carried out on a very regular basis.

Go for the MacBook Pro when…

Now we are at the antipodes of what was discussed above. If the MacBook Air is an off-roader because it is valid for many audiences, it would not be less in this case. Everything that the MacBook Air is capable of doing makes it better, but it is not the most suitable for that. If your use is going to be very basic or sporadic, it may not be worth it, since the Touch Bar alone seems an insufficient difference.

Now, it is the most suitable if you are going to do a intensive and demanding use with video, image or audio editing tools, as well as programming and others. The M1 is no longer Apple's most powerful chip, but it is still more than valid, in fact many professionals in the field of programming or video editing continue to work at full capacity with the MacBook Pro M1, so, Despite the fact that there are more powerful options, this Apple laptop is still a more than valid alternative for professional use if you do not want to spend so much money on one of the new ones with the M1 Pro or M1 Max Chip. And the fact of having a fan means that the temperature can be managed perfectly without the need to lower the performance, so you will get better rendering times than with the MacBook Air.