MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro Buyer’s Guide: 30+ Differences Compared

Apple recently updated the MacBook Air by adding the M3 chip, so how do the new machines compare to its latest MacBook Pro models?

Despite now being similar in appearance, the ‌MacBook Air‌ and the MacBook Pro are very different devices, so should you consider purchasing the 13- or 15-inch ‌MacBook Air‌, which start at $999, to save money, or do you need one of the higher-end 14- or 16-inch MacBook Pro models, which cost at least $600 more? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these two popular Apple silicon machines is best for you.

‌MacBook Air‌

MacBook Pro

M2: 13.6-inch display

M3: 13.6- or 15.3-inch display

14.2- or 16.2-inch display

LCD Liquid Retina display

Mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR display

60hz refresh rate

ProMotion for refresh rates up to 120Hz

500 nits brightness

Up to 1,000 nits sustained (full-screen) brightness and 1,600 nits peak brightness

Apple M2 or M3 chip

Apple M3, M3 Pro, or M3 Max chip

M2: Enhanced 5nm node (N5P) based on A15 Bionic chip from iPhone 13 (2021)

M3: 3nm node (N3B) based on A17 Pro chip from iPhone 15 Pro (2023)

‌3nm‌ node (N3B) based on A17 Pro chip from ‌iPhone 15 Pro‌ (2023)

M2: 3.49 GHz CPU clock speed

M3: 4.05 GHz CPU clock speed

4.05 GHz CPU clock speed

8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores

M3: 8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores

M3 Pro: Up to 12-core CPU with 6 performance cores and 6 efficiency cores

M3 Max: Up to 16-core CPU with 12 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores

Up to 10-core GPU

M3: 10-core GPU

M3 Pro: Up to 18-core GPU

M3 Max: Up to 40-core GPU

100GB/s memory bandwidth

M3: 100GB/s memory bandwidth

M3 Pro: 150GB/s memory bandwidth

M3 Max: 300GB/s or 400GB/s memory bandwidth

8GB, 16GB, or 24GB unified memory

M3: 8GB, 16GB, or 24GB unified memory

M3 Pro: 18GB or 36GB unified memory

M3 Max: 36GB, 48GB, 64GB, 96GB, 128GB unified memory

M3 models only:

New GPU architecture

Dynamic Caching

Hardware-accelerated ray tracing

Hardware-accelerated mesh shading

Support for AV1 decode

New GPU architecture

Dynamic Caching

Hardware-accelerated ray tracing

Hardware-accelerated mesh shading

Support for AV1 decode

M2: Neural Engine

M3: 15% faster Neural Engine

15% faster Neural Engine

256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB of storage

M3: 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB storage

M3 Pro or M3 Max: 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB storage

Passive cooling

Active cooling

M2: Wi-Fi 6

M3: Wi-Fi 6E

Wi-Fi 6E

Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports

M3: Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 (USB-C) ports

M3 Pro or M3 Max: Three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports

HDMI 2.1 port with support for multichannel audio output

SDXC card slot

13-Inch: Four-speaker sound system

15-Inch: Six-speaker sound system with force-canceling woofers

High-fidelity six-speaker sound system with force-cancelling woofers

Three-mic array with directional beamforming

Studio-quality three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming

M2: Support for one external display

M3: Support for up to two external displays when the lid is closed

M3: Support for up to two external displays when the lid is closed

M3 Pro: Support for up to two external displays

M3 Max: Support for up to four external displays

13-Inch: 52.6-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery

15-Inch: 66.5-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery

M3 14-Inch: 70-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery

M3 Pro or M3 Max 14-Inch: 72.4-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery

16-Inch: 100-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery

18-hour battery life

M3 14-Inch: 22-hour battery life

M3 Pro or M3 Max 14-Inch: 18-hour battery life

16-Inch: 22-hour battery life

30W, 35W, or 67W USB-C Power Adapter

67W, 96W, or 140W USB-C Power Adapter

Silver, Space Gray, Starlight, or Midnight color options

M3: Silver or Space Gray color options

M3 Pro or M3 Max: Silver or Space Black color options

M2 13-Inch: Starts at $999

M3 13-Inch: Starts at $1,099

M3 15-Inch: Starts at $1,299

M3 14-Inch: Starts at $1,599

M3 Pro 14-Inch: Starts at $1,999

M3 Pro 16-Inch: Starts at $2,499


Both the ‌MacBook Air‌ and MacBook Pro share the same basic design with a flat top and rounded edges on the bottom, but they do have several minor details that differ. For example, while both MacBooks have displays with a “notch” at the top to facilitate the built-in webcam, the MacBook Pro’s bezels are noticeably slimmer. The keyboard area of the high-end MacBook Pro is also all-black.

The ‌MacBook Air‌ and M3 version of the MacBook Pro are available in Silver and Space Gray, but the ‌MacBook Air‌ is also offered in Starlight and Midnight color options, so if you are looking for a particular aesthetic with one of these finishes, you will need to get the ‌MacBook Air‌. Space Black is exclusive to the MacBook Pro with the M3 Pro and M3 Max chips.

‌MacBook Air‌ (13-Inch)

‌MacBook Air‌ (15-Inch)

MacBook Pro (14-Inch)

MacBook Pro (16-Inch)


0.44 inches (1.13 cm)

0.45 inch (1.15 cm)

0.61 inches (1.55 cm)

0.66 inch (1.68 cm)


11.97 inches (30.41 cm)

13.40 inches (34.04 cm)

12.31 inches (31.26 cm)

14.01 inches (35.57 cm)


8.46 inches (21.5 cm)

9.35 inches (23.76 cm)

8.71 inches (22.12 cm)

9.77 inches (24.81 cm)


2.7 pounds (1.24 kg)

3.3 pounds (1.51 kg)

3.5 pounds (1.61 kg)

4.8 pounds (2.15 kg)

Dimensions are also a key area of difference between the ‌MacBook Air‌ and MacBook Pro. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is considerably larger and heavier than the 15-inch ‌MacBook Air‌, but it is important to not understate the difference between the 14-inch MacBook Pro and the 13-inch ‌MacBook Air‌. While the 14-inch MacBook Pro offers a larger display than the ‌MacBook Air‌, its marginally larger footprint, added thickness, and an additional 0.8 pounds of weight do make for a noticeably less portable machine if you prefer to travel light.

Even so, the 14-inch MacBook Pro offers a very good balance of portability and performance, so if you need its added capabilities, its size and weight should not hold you back. The 15-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ also provides a good balance of portability and display area, but users wary of its size should opt for the 13-inch model.

Ports and Connectivity

The selection of ports is an area of major difference between the two machines. The ‌MacBook Air‌ features just two Thunderbolt ports, while the M3 version of the MacBook Pro adds an HDMI 2.1 port and SDXC card slot. When configured with the M3 Pro or M3 Max, the MacBook Pro has a total of three Thunderbolt 4 ports, in addition to its HDMI 2.1 port and SDXC card slot. Both machines feature a 3.5mm headphone jack with support for high-impedance headphones.

All in all, the MacBook Pro is much more versatile in terms of physical connectivity, offering useful features for professionals who use SDXC cards from digital cameras or even simply more USB peripherals.

Display Size

The smaller ‌MacBook Air‌’s display is 13.6 inches in size, which is a little smaller than the 14.2-inch MacBook Pro, and markedly smaller than the 16.2-inch MacBook Pro. 13.6 inches is still bigger than the largest iPad Pro model, which comes in at 12.9 inches, and even all of the previous ‌MacBook Air‌ and smaller MacBook Pro models, meaning that it should be adequate for most users. The 14.2-inch MacBook Pro simply offers a little bit more screen real estate to those who need high-end capabilities.

The 15.3-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ and 16.2-inch MacBook Pro’s displays will be better replacements for a desktop machine and provide much more screen space to arrange multiple windows and use professional applications that benefit from additional display area.

Display Technology

The display technologies of both machines are significantly different. Like most MacBooks in recent years, the ‌MacBook Air‌ has an LCD panel, but owing to its slim bezels and rounded corners, Apple calls it a Liquid Retina display. The 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models feature Apple’s more advanced mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR technology for deeper blacks, better dynamic range, and improved color accuracy.

The XDR display can get much brighter, reaching as high as 1,600 nits of brightness at its peak when showing HDR content. The 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models also have ProMotion displays, allowing them to vary their refresh rate up to 120Hz. The ‌MacBook Air‌ does not have a display with a variable refresh rate.

It will be worth getting the high-end MacBook Pro models for viewing and editing HDR content, as well as watching high-framerate video such as sports. The display of the ‌MacBook Air‌ is sufficient for most users and some may not even notice a drastic difference. The MacBook Pro’s deeper blacks and smoother on-screen motion simply offer a slightly better experience.


The ‌MacBook Air‌ contains the ‌M2‌ or M3 chip, while MacBook Pro customers can choose between the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips. The M3 Pro and M3 Max are scaled-up versions of the M3 chip that offer additional CPU and GPU cores. See the ‌M2‌, M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max’s Geekbench 5 Benchmark scores below:



M3 Pro

M3 Max











Metal (Graphics)





The M3 Pro and M3 Max provide CPUs with up to eight additional cores and GPUs with up to 30 additional cores. The entry-level ‌MacBook Air‌’s ‌M2‌ chip is only slightly less powerful than the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max in single-core tasks, but the M3 chips, and particularly the Pro and Max versions, are considerably better in multi-core and graphics tasks.

With significantly more transistors, performance CPU cores, and GPU cores, the M3 Pro and M3 Max are powerful chips designed for professionals with demanding workflows. The ‌M2‌ and M3, on the other hand, are more consumer-oriented chips focused on delivering surprisingly impressive performance and excellent efficiency to keep temperatures down and prolong battery life.

It is also worth noting that the ‌MacBook Air‌ is passively cooled and contains no fan, which can slightly constrain peak performance compared to the MacBook Pro, since the high-end machines have large fans to actively cool the system and push the chips harder.

The ‌M2‌ ‌MacBook Air‌ only supports a single external display. The limitations of the M3 also mean that ‌MacBook Air‌ and MacBook Pro devices configured with this chip support up to two external displays when the lid is closed, whereas M3 Pro and M3 Max machines support up to two and four external displays, respectively.

Memory and Storage

The ‌MacBook Air‌ can be configured with up to 24GB of unified memory and up to 2TB of storage, which should be more than enough for the vast majority of users. For those who need even more memory and storage, the MacBook Pro can be configured with significantly more memory and storage than the top-spec ‌MacBook Air‌.

The M3 Pro and M3 Max chips in the MacBook Pro also provide up to 150GB/s and 400GB/s memory bandwidth respectively – an enormous increase over the 100GB/s memory bandwidth with the ‌M2‌ and M3 models.

Buyers should also be aware that the 256GB ‌MacBook Air‌ base models have up to 50 percent slower SSDs than configurations with more storage. This is because the base models only have a single SSD module inside, whereas models with larger amounts of storage have two SSD chips, significantly increasing the overall speed of the machine’s storage.

Speakers and Microphones

The 13-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ has a four-speaker sound system that is surprisingly full and balanced for such a small, slim device. The 15-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ and all of the MacBook Pro models take things to the next level with a six-speaker sound system with force-cancelling woofers for dramatically bigger and deeper audio. Apple also describes the MacBook Pro’s speaker system as “high-fidelity,” which may be invaluable to users who work in professional audio production or simply listen to a lot of music out-loud.

The ‌MacBook Air‌ has a three-mic array with directional beamforming that is perfect for activities like video calls and voice notes. The MacBook Pro has what Apple calls a “studio-quality” three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming. While they are not as good as a dedicated microphone, the MacBook Pro’s microphones are impressive and, at a push, are suitable for production purposes like podcasting.

Battery Life

The ‌MacBook Air‌ has an 18-hour battery life, offering the same battery life as the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M3 Pro or M3 Max chips, and four hours less than the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M3 chip and the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the ‌MacBook Air‌ is the best option for casual users, offering an excellent balance of features and performance in a highly portable design. The ‌MacBook Air‌’s $999 starting price is much more affordable compared to the MacBook Pro, and with an education discount or an offer from our Apple Deals Roundup, it is possible to get that price down by at least $100. The additional $600 to get the MacBook Pro likely is not worth it for most ordinary users, and on the contrary, many will prefer the slimmer, lighter design of the ‌MacBook Air‌ and perhaps even its additional color options.

Professionals who require larger and more accurate displays, additional ports, more memory and storage, and a very high level of performance should look to the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro with the M3 Pro and M3 Max chips, and the higher price points of these machines reflects this. The high-end MacBook Pro models are not targeted at everyday consumers, being clearly tailored to creatives and professionals who rely heavily on the capabilities of their machines. As such, these high-end models should only be a go-to option if you are a power-user or professional who can make use of its advanced features. The 16-inch MacBook Pro, in particular, is also potentially a good desktop replacement machine due to its large display.

M2 vs. M3 MacBook Air Buyer’s Guide: All Differences Compared

13-Inch vs. 15-Inch MacBook Air Buyer’s Guide

Late 2023 MacBook Pro Buyer’s Guide: 14-Inch and 16-Inch Models Compared

Alternatively, if you are considering the $1,299 15-inch ‌MacBook Air‌, it may be worth paying more to get the M3 MacBook Pro. For just $200 more, the M3 MacBook Pro offers a considerably better Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion, a more powerful chip with active cooling, four extra hours of battery life, better speakers and microphones, an HDMI port and SDXC card slot, and more. In fact, if you configure the 15-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ with 512GB of storage to match the M3 MacBook Pro, there is only a $100 between the two machines, so in this instance it is almost always worth getting the more powerful machine, unless maximizing screen size is your only priority.

Related Forums: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro

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