If you want to join the Apple family, the question is, do you opt for the MacBook Air, or the MacBook Pro? The answer, in very simple terms, is this:
- Want an all-rounder for general office and home use? Get the MacBook Air
- Need a (just about affordable) laptop for heavy duty graphic work and complex editing? Get the 13-inch MacBook Pro
- Need the best laptop possible as an investment for your career in design? Get the 16-inch MacBook Pro
There’s some nuance to this – including which of the MacBook Pro variants to choose between. The most important thing is to understand what your own needs are ahead of picking up a MacBook. If you’re keen to invest in an Apple laptop, it’s now a decision that boils down to the MacBook Pro or the MacBook Air, as Apple ditched the 12-inch MacBook in 2019.
Known for their premium design, and a mainstay of coffee shops everywhere, MacBooks have a reputation as speedy, capable laptops that are a joy to use. You’re unlikely to meet a MacBook user with much negative to say about their laptop of choice. Whether you end up with the Air or the Pro, we’re confident you’ll be over the moon with it, and join the legions of MacBook owners who speak so lovingly about their laptops.
In this guide:
- MacBook Air or MacBook Pro: Which is Best?
- MacBook Air: Highlights, Pros and Cons
- MacBook Pro: Highlights, Pros and Cons
- Best All Rounder: MacBook Air
- Best for Value: MacBook Air
- Best for Power Users: MacBook Pro
- Best for Portability: MacBook Air
- Best for Screen Quality: MacBook Pro
- Best MacBook for Working From Home
- MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro for College
MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro: Head to Head
Below, we compare the key specs of the MacBook Air and the various MacBook Pro models to help you decide which is best. The good news? There’s no such thing as “a bad MacBook”. The most important thing is not choosing a model that’s overkill for your own needs – as the prices get very steep, very fast.
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Measured diagonally across.
In pixels - the higher the number, the greater the screen detail.
As claimed by the manufacturer – actual performance will vary depending on daily tasks.
The built in storage space for files, programs, apps and the operating system
More RAM tends to help a computer to run quickly and multitask
For MacBooks, this is the newer style of keyboard, replacing the unpopular Butterfly keyboard
Runs along the top of the keyboard, lets you give certain commands depending on the program running
For secure login by fingerprint recognition
BEST EVERYDAY MAC
BEST VALUE PRO
MOST POWERFUL MACBOOK
MacBook Pro 13
MacBook Pro 16
The go-to MacBook for anyone but the most demanding users. Perfect for daily browsing and work, it's slim, light and runs like a dream
Lots of power, a brilliant screen and an improved keyboard make this the perfect MacBook for demanding users, though the Air is cheaper
The absolute pinnacle of MacBooks, and everything a design professional could want – but at an eye-watering price
2560 x 1600
2560 x 1600
3072 x 1920
Apple M1 chip
- Cheapest MacBook
- 15 hour battery
- Light and easy to carry
- Not suited to graphics-heavy tasks
Buy on Amazon
- Magic Keyboard
- Touch Bar
- Apple M1 or Intel Processor
- Price bump from Air
- Largest MacBook screen yet
- Stuffed with killer specs
- Future-proof for many, many years
- 16-inch screen could be overkill for some
Buy on Amazon
Best MacBook for Working from Home
The ongoing pandemic has seen many of us swapping our desks and coffeeshops for the kitchen counter and couch. Ironically, one of the MacBook's biggest strength, it's battery life, is somewhat moot for many of us working from home, although it is nice to know you can move from room to room without restraint.
As for the best model for home working, realistically, any of them will do you proud, although designers and anyone with the need for beefy processor power will need a Pro – and we'd suggest that the 16-inch model will give the benefit of comfort as you're spending all day looking at a screen, thanks to those extra 3-inches.
Don't forget to consider how you want your MacBook to fit into your home set up. A second monitor, keyboard and mouse can really make a big difference for little outlay, and it's easy to set up the MacBook this way (though you'll probably need to invest in a Thunderbolt to HDMI convertor, depending on your second display).
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Choosing between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro really comes down to two major factors – Budget and Need. If you go for the Pro, you’re getting a high spec machine that comes with a premium price tag, so make sure you’ll actually get the use out of it before investing. Consider it like a sports car. Yes, it looks great, and it goes fast, but if you’re only using it to drive into town a few days a week, you’re not going to feel the benefit of all those dollars.