Key Takeaways

  • The MacBook Air, with improved M3 chips, offers fast performance and affordability compared to the Pro.
  • The MacBook Air can handle daily tasks easily, making it a great all-around laptop, even for older models.
  • For most users, the MacBook Air is more than sufficient, saving money compared to the overkill MacBook Pro.

If you’re searching for a new laptop, you probably have many questions about the MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro and which model is right for you. More importantly, do you even need to spend extra on a shiny new MacBook Pro?

We all want the latest and greatest model with the best specs and biggest display, but that also means a huge price tag that’s often hard to justify. So, here are the pros and cons and what you’ll get by saving money and buying a MacBook Air instead.

The MacBook Air Is Fast, Lightweight, and Affordable

MacBook Air M2 keyboard and trackpad.
Marcus Mears III / How-To Geek

Between the integration of Apple’s custom silicon, such as the M1, M2, and M3 chips, and Apple’s continued efforts to streamline its offering, we now have machines that are more similar than expected. The Air is no longer too small, underpowered, or outmatched. The MacBook Air is known for being fast, lightweight, and more affordable than the Pro, but it’s still highly competent. Plus, it comes in an optional 15-inch model, further blurring the lines, sitting right between the two more expensive Pro variants.

Apple’s latest MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models include M3 chips, which are more efficient and capable than the M2 or Intel processors. Since both models have an M3 option, you’re not missing out on tons of performance by choosing the budget-friendly Air. It employs faster CPU and GPU performance and a faster SSD, making it easy to get any job done.

This isn’t a mid-range laptop with drastically lower specs that will underperform. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The MacBook Air is almost as good in multiple metrics, especially for typical daily tasks.

Any recent Air model has a fast processor, plenty of RAM, and optional storage upgrades and will be a great all-around laptop. Even the older M2 MacBook Air from 2022-23 is more than enough for most. Apple still sells an optional upgrade for the 10-core M2 over the base model 8-core. I’d argue that it’s plenty for most buyers’ needs. As a result, skip the Pro and just get the MacBook Air, even a previous-generation Air.

MacBook Pro Is Typically More Powerful

MacBook sitting on a ledge.
Zarif Ali / How-To Geek

Apple’s MacBook “Pro” certainly has more to offer and is the better, more powerful machine. However, the differences aren’t that big, especially for those who don’t need extra performance for hardcore video editing or other professional tools.

So, what are some of the most significant differences? With the MacBook Pro, you have a 14-inch or 16-inch display, active cooling, more ports, and additional upgrade paths to make one beastly machine. Sure, Apple’s MacBook Pro comes with optional upgrades to the M3 Pro and M3 Max, and you can upgrade to anywhere from 36GB of RAM to a wild 128GB of Unified RAM and several terabytes of storage. But that also means you could spend upwards of $6,500 on a laptop, which is wild.

Then again, the MacBook Air now comes with a 13-inch or 15-inch screen and the M3 chip, meaning unless you genuinely need the larger display or insane specs, there’s a highly capable 15-inch Air that’ll suffice. Remember that the Air only offers passive cooling, and performance might throttle during intense tasks, plus the battery is a little smaller.

But again, this brings me back to my original point. Unless you have specific needs for which the Pro makes sense, stick with the Air and save hundreds of dollars.

More Than Enough Power and Battery Life

MacBook Air M2 left side connections.
Marcus Mears III / How-To Geek

If you watch videos on YouTube or TV on streaming services, browse the web, partake in social media, and occasionally pay bills or manage spreadsheets and documents for work, get the Air. Even light photo and video editing is a breeze for the MacBook Air. That also applies to the last few generations.

The latest MacBook Air with the M3 chip has a battery that lasts up to 18 hours (compared to around 22 hours on the Pro), can handle ProRes video, and comes with 8/16/24GB of RAM configurations. You don’t get to enjoy the mini-LED backlit display of the Pro, and its 6-speaker array and triple microphone setup aren’t “studio quality” like the Pro. But again, do you need that? I want a MacBook Pro, but I don’t need one.

The MacBook Pro Is Probably Overkill

The back of a MacBook Pro.
Sergio Rodriguez / How-To Geek

How much MacBook is enough MacBook? Apple does an excellent job of upselling customers to get more storage, extra RAM, or maybe a bigger display. By that point, the price is so high that you might as well get the MacBook Pro. It’s all part of the plan, and it’s easy to fall victim to that trap.

However, for most users, a middle-of-the-road MacBook Air is extremely capable and more than enough. The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are similar overall when performing daily tasks for the vast majority of users. Aside from specific use cases, intensive projects and workflows, or enthusiasts who want the latest and greatest, the Air is all you’ll really need.

The M3 MacBook Air (2024 model) with a 13-inch display starts at $1,099, while the 15-inch variant is $1,299. At the same time, the cheapest M3 MacBook Pro 14-inch is $1,600, and jumping to the 16-inch model puts you at $2,499. That’s a giant leap; even those who want a base model are spending a pretty penny to get a Pro.

I don’t know about you, but that 15-inch MacBook Air for $1,299 looks like the perfect middle ground.

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