Tuesday, April 13, 2021

M1 MacBook Air vs Pro: What to buy and why to spend extra on RAM and storage

The first Mac laptops with Apple silicon have changed the game. But now that the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models have nearly identical M1 processors, choosing which model to buy isn’t as easy as it used to be. That’s why we’re here to break it all down and take away the guesswork.


Neither the 13-inch MacBook Pro nor the MacBook Air is any different than the models they replace. They both measure the same 8.36 inches by 11.97 inches, and the Air still has a tapered edge that extends from 0.16 inches to 0.63 inches while the Pro has a fixed 0.61-inch height. And the Air is lighter at 2.8 pounds versus just 3 pounds on the Pro.

IDG/Willis Lai

The design of the new MacBooks is identical to the old ones.

The inside is the same as well. Both feature a Magic Keyboard flanked with a pair of vertical speakers along with family sizable bezels around the display. A big Force Touch trackpad is centered below the keyboard and they come in the same colors: silver and space gray for the Pro and silver, space gray, and gold for the Air.

Our take: It’s a bit of a bummer that the design is so similar to last year, especially since Apple obviously had to do quite a bit of re-engineering to configure the old MacBook body for the new chip. But the design of both machines is very nice and shouldn’t sway your decision one way or the other.l


While both laptops already featured 13.3-inch displays, the Pro had a bit of an advantage with support for the DCI-P3 gamut for greater color saturation. Now the MacBook Air has that spec too, so the displays are nearly identical:

  • 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit IPS
  • 2560 by 1600 pixels
  • Wide color (P3)
  • True Tone

The only difference between them now is one most people aren’t likely to notice. On the MacBook Pro, the max brightness is 500 nits while the Air only reaches 400 nits. But both are brighter than your eyes can handle for an extended period of time.

Our take: Both of these computers have fantastic displays, but we’d still like to see some improvements with the next generation: mini-LED, edge-to-edge designs, rounded corners, anything to make it feel just a little more modern. Like the design, the display shouldn’t be a factor in your decision.

Keyboard, ports, and camera

The Air and Pro have the same Magic Keyboard that launched last year, so you don’t need to worry about loud, sticky keys. Apple’s newest keyboard is a huge improvement over the old one and will feel great to type on. Both feature backlighting with an ambient light sensor as well as a Touch ID sensor for unlocking, authentication, and Apple Pay purchases.

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