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The new Macbook Air with M1 Macbook Pro with M1 where launched at the same time and with basically the same specs that one would have a hard time determine which one to get. So the TLDR version is, the get MacBook Pro if you want a longer battery life, you need the Touch Bar, and if you are doing a lot of sustained heavy loads (like making a lot of music videos on 4K or color correcting thousand of 50MP photos after an event).
If you want more power, just wait for the higher-end MacBook Pro 13″ or 16″ which will be in the pipeline sometime in 2021.
Portability and Styling
The MacBook Air is slightly lighter than the MacBook Pro. The difference is around 100g. The MacBook Air has that wedge shape profile that make it looks more sleeker. The MacBook Pro has that industrial slab look that makes it look it means business.
The Air will feel lighter because of the wedge shape. Most of the weight will be near the air vents making it a fulcrum, while the Pro is more evenly distributed. The Pro will feel like a slab.
The Air has the Gold color option while both have the business like Silver and Space Grey color option.
They are basically the same screen except the Pro is slightly brighter. The product dimensions is identical so it might seems that the screen is basically the same assembly line. Both cannot display HDR content although the M1 can do HDR with an external display.
The Pro comes in with a bigger battery (58.2W vs 49.9W) and a larger charger (61W vs 30W). So the Pro can go on longer than the Air and charges back faster so you can be on the road sooner.
Both the Pro and the Air has the same M1 chips that have 4 high-efficiency cores and 4 high-performance cores. In normal mode, both laptops will have identical performance. However, if you running something heavy (video / photo editing) for a long time, the Air will throttle down and throttle down the high-performance cores. It has been reported that the cut off time is around 10 minutes, so if you are doing sometime intensive for more than 10 minutes at a time, better get that Pro. It not known what is the cool down time for the Air before the high-performance core is available again.
The Pro has the “studio” quality mic. This is a factor is you are constantly making conference calls (which is a trend in 2020) or need a make a podcast in a pinch. Here is Youtuber Jonathan Morrison conducting an interview with Apple’s Phil Schiller using the MacBook Pro 16″ as the mic. That same mic array is in the 13″ MacBook Pro 13″ with M1.
The Pro also has better speakers than the Air. Not as good as the 16″ one because of space constraints but should sound better than the Air.
The Pro comes with the Touch Bar. Now I find that the Touch Bar is convenient, but it’s not really a must have item. It is sometime nice to have but I would not worry to much.
Basically the MacBook Air is the default laptop. If you require more sustained performance, the Pro will provide that performance. If you can wait, the higher end 13″ Pro and 16″ pro should be in the pipe line by 2021.
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