MacBook Air M1 (2020) vs MacBook Pro M1 (2020): which is better to buy?

In November 2020, Apple revamped the popular 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lines, based on the release of Apple’s first M1 Silicon chip. Both products have become more similar to each other than ever – the same form factor, processor, keyboard. Users will reasonably ask the question: Will the performance of the new MacBook Air be enough for them, or should they add and buy a higher-end MacBook Pro? In this article, we will try to answer this difficult question.

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MacBook Pro M1 vs MacBook Air M1 comparison

The Macbook Air and MacBook Pro share a lot of features in common: processor, display size, and ports. Let’s briefly list the identical capabilities of the two devices:

  • 13.3-inch LED-backlit display with IPS technology, Wide Color (P3) and True Tone.
  • Octa-core M1 chip with octa-core GPU and 16-core Neural Engine.
  • Up to 16 GB of pooled RAM.
  • Up to 2TB internal storage.
  • Stereo sound and support for Dolby Atmos playback.
  • Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax).
  • Bluetooth 5.0.
  • Magic Keyboard.
  • Touch ID.
  • Two Thunderbolt / USB ports 4.
  • Colors: Silver and space gray.

Although the devices represent ideologically two different classes, it is clear that they have many of the same key functions. But there are some significant differences between the M1 MacBook Air and the M1 MacBook Pro worth highlighting: design, battery life, display brightness, and more.

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The main differences between MacBook Pro M1 (2020) and MacBook Air M1 (2020)

M1 MacBook Air M1 MacBook Pro
Slim, tapered design Thicker, even-thickness slab construction
Configurable with eight-core GPU Octa-core GPU as standard
Passive cooling (fanless) Active cooling
Screen brightness 400 nits Screen brightness 500 nits
Up to 18 hours of battery life Up to 20 hours of battery life
Stereo speakers High dynamic range stereo speakers
Array of three microphones with directional beamforming Three studio-quality microphones with directional beamforming
Weight 1.29 kgs Weight 1.4 kg
Colors: Silver, Space Gray, Gold Colors: silver and space gray
Touch Bar

Now let’s take a closer look at each of these parameters.

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Design MacBook Pro M1 (2020) and MacBook Air M1 (2020)

Both the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro retain the same design as their Intel-based predecessors. This means that the MacBook Air has the same iconic wedge-shaped design, while the MacBook Pro still has the standard, even-thickness slab-style design.

MacBook Air (2020, Intel) and MacBook Air (2020, M1) appearance

MacBook Air

Macbook Pro

MacBook Pro

MacBook Air

MacBook Air

MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro

And while the MacBook Air is actually thicker than the MacBook Pro at its thickest point, the wedge shape of the MacBook Air makes it look a lot thinner.

MacBook Air Dimensions

MacBook Air Dimensions

MacBook Pro Dimensions

MacBook Pro dimensions

The MacBook Air is also 100 grams lighter than its sibling and is available in gold color.

MacBook Air 2018 colors

MacBook Air colors

MacBook Pro 13 Colors 2020

MacBook Pro colors

If you travel frequently with your MacBook and prioritize portability, then the MacBook Air is the more suitable device. It’s worth noting, however, that the MacBook Pro is still slightly heavier and thicker than the MacBook Air, so both models are very similar in terms of portability.

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Performance MacBook Pro M1 (2020) and MacBook Air M1 (2020)

Apple's M1 processor

Both laptops use the same Apple Silicon M1 processor, but the key difference lies in the cooling systems. The MacBook Air certainly has more thermal limits than the MacBook Pro due to its passive cooling. There are no fans, therefore, there is no active ventilation in the case.

Cooling your MacBook Air

Unlike the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro has such a system and fans.

Cooling your MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro is expected to run slightly faster by overclocking the M1 and achieving better performance on the same chip. This will be achieved through an active cooling system.

The cooling systems of both machines clearly indicate that the MacBook Pro will perform better than the MacBook Air, but the specific difference will only be noticeable under very heavy loads. Because the two devices use the same M1 processor, MacBook Air can operate at roughly the same speeds for some tasks or tasks that don’t require a lot of processing power.

According to Geekbench benchmarks, both models performed almost identical in single-core and multi-core tests.

Single core test:

Performance MacBook Pro M1 (2020) and MacBook Air M1 (2020)

Multi-core test:

Performance MacBook Pro M1 (2020) and MacBook Air M1 (2020)

It should be noted that the base configuration of the $ 100,000 MacBook Air has a seven-core graphics processor. But there is also a configuration of a higher level MacBook Air for 125,000 rubles with an eight-core GPU. MacBook Pro ships with an eight-core graphics processor as standard. The difference between 7 and 8 cores is unlikely to be significant, but users who have a lot of graphics work should choose the MacBook Pro, since it costs only $ 5,000 more than the MacBook Air model with an eight-core GPU.

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Display MacBook Pro M1 (2020) and MacBook Air M1 (2020)

MacBook Pro 2020 display

MacBook Pro and MacBook Air share the same 13.3-inch LED-backlit display with IPS, True Tone and P3 Wide Color technology. Content and colors will look the same on both devices.

MacBook Air (2020, Intel) and MacBook Air (2020, M1) display

However, the MacBook Pro’s display can go up to 500 nits, while the MacBook Air’s 400 nits. This means that the first model can have a screen up to 25 percent brighter. This can very well be an important criterion for choosing a laptop, especially if you often use it outdoors. But the MacBook Air also has a bright screen that will not disappoint most users.

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Autonomy MacBook Pro M1 (2020) and MacBook Air M1 (2020)

Apple estimates the M1 MacBook Pro has two hours more battery life than the MacBook Air. This is due to the smaller batteries in the MacBook Air due to the thinner wedge profile of the case.

Both machines have excellent battery life – up to 20 hours on the MacBook Pro and up to 18 hours on the MacBook Air, all thanks to the energy efficient M1 chip. While battery life is impressive for both laptops, if long battery life away from a power source is your concern, the MacBook Pro is clearly the best option.

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Microphones and speakers in the MacBook Pro M1 (2020) and MacBook Air M1 (2020)

MacBook Air features stereo speakers and an array of three microphones with directional beamforming. MacBook Pro makes these features more professional. Stereo speakers support high dynamic range, and the array of three microphones with directional beamforming is “studio quality”. If you consume a lot of video content or music and use the built-in speakers, or often use the built-in microphones, for example, for video calls or podcasting, then the MacBook Pro will do better in these scenarios.

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Touch Bar on keyboard

While both laptops come with a Touch ID sensor, only the MacBook Pro has a Touch Bar. It replaces the traditional row of Multi-Touch function keys with a Retina-quality display.

The touchpad controls change with different applications. For example, the Touch Bar can display tabs and favorites in Safari, provide easy access to emoticons in Messages, and provide an easier way to edit images or page through videos.

Touch Bar on keyboard

If you like the Touch Bar, you’ll have to get the MacBook Pro. But not all users will appreciate this feature, because it does not clearly add any new features not available on the MacBook Air, but it looks, of course, impressive.

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MacBook Pro M1 (2020) vs. MacBook Air M1 (2020) Specifications

MacBook Pro M1 (2020) vs. MacBook Air M1 (2020) Specifications

MacBook Pro M1 (2020) and MacBook Air M1 (2020) pricing

Buy MacBook Air: (8-core M1, 7-core graphics, 256 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM) – 100,000 rubles;
Buy MacBook Air: (8-core M1, 8-core graphics, 512 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM) – 125,000 rubles.

Buy MacBook Pro: (8-core M1, 8-core graphics, 256 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM) – 130,000 rubles;
Buy MacBook Pro: (8-core M1, 8-core graphics, 512 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM) – 150,000 rubles;
Buy MacBook Pro: (8-core M1, 8-core graphics, 512 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM) – 170,000 rubles.

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The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro based on the Apple Silicon M1 are very similar in their specifications. Both devices come with the same M1 processor, 13.3-inch display, Touch ID and the same set of ports, as well as most other hardware features.

The main differences are display brightness, touchpad, microphone and speaker quality, two additional hours of battery life and an active cooling system, all of which are the strength of the MacBook Pro. It will be difficult to explain to users who do not delve into the details of the overpayment of 30,000 rubles for an upgrade to the MacBook Pro.

If you want maximum performance, battery life, display brightness, and speaker and microphone quality, the MacBook Pro is your best bet. This is the only laptop currently to get the most out of the Apple Silicon platform.

Likewise, users who plan on doing a lot of graphics should ditch the MacBook Air and buy a MacBook Pro. The fact is that the configuration of the MacBook Air with an eight-core graphics processor is only 5,000 rubles less than the MacBook Pro. But the comparison is appropriate if a 256 GB drive is enough for you. The MacBook Air model with an eight-core GPU gets a 512GB drive, but an upgrade from the base 256GB will significantly increase the price of the MacBook Pro.

The MacBook Air is probably the best option for most users. This model offers an attractive feature set and impressive performance at a more affordable £ 100,000.

The 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are the only Mac laptops based on the Apple Silicon chip. There is another Apple Silicon-based Mac, the Mac mini, but it’s a desktop computer. The larger laptop model, the 16-inch MacBook Pro, has yet to make its way to Apple Silicon. Apple continues to sell its older, high-performance 13- and 16-inch Intel-based MacBook Pros.

If you are a professional user and are unsure about the M1’s ability to deliver high performance, or are used to running Windows through Boot Camp on Macs or virtual machines, or using an external graphics card, then it might be better to buy an Intel-based MacBook until more are available. expensive Apple Silicon options.

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