Both MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13-inch offer Apple’s 2022 headline chip, the M2 processor, and both laptops are now available – but which is best for your needs or is it a no-brainer choice?
I’ve reviewed both laptops, having lived with each for a week plus at a time, so can bring you not only the specification but my experience of difference in living with each to bring you my verdict about which M2 machine is king in the battle for best MacBooks you can buy.
M2 MacBook Air vs Pro: Design
This part’s pretty simple: the MacBook Pro M2 13-inch keeps the older design format, complete with Touch Bar interface (a touch-sensitive strip instead of the F-keys), and doesn’t look as fresh as even 2021’s 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models.
By comparison the MacBook Air M2 is an all-new design for the series, giving it a fresh new look that’s slightly smaller and lighter than the outgoing 2020 M1 MacBook Air model (though not by loads).
M2 MacBook Air vs. Pro: Display
The MacBook Pro M2 13-inch has a 13.3-inch display, measured on the diagonal, while the MacBook Air M2 has a 13.6-inch display.
The latter squeezes in more screen real-estate on account of its notch around the camera, which you might see as disruptive to view (the Pro model has no notch, but its top bezel is larger overall).
In terms of brightness, however, the two panels deliver the same 500 nits maximum output. I’ve used both and know they’re plenty bright enough. Apple does describe the Air’s screen as Liquid Retina compared to the Pro’s Retina, but other than a negligible resolution difference (on account of physical size) the quality is, to my eyes, one and the same.
M2 MacBook Air vs Pro: Power
Both the MacBook Air and Pro come with M2 so they’re the same, right? Wrong! The entry-level Air features an 8 core CPU and 8 core GPU, whereas the entry-level Pro features an 8 core CPU and 10 core GPU.
The Air is also fanless, so the cooling system is less practical (it definitely gets hotter, I’ve felt it), whilst the Pro maintains a fan as part of its cooling system (fortunately it’s not noisy, however, in case you’ re worried).
It’s also worth noting that you can upgrade the Air’s M2 to incorporate the 10 core GPU, a jumping point that also ups the internal storage and provides a dual-USB-C charging plug too (which is marginally faster than the stock plug).
In my benchmark tests of both 10 core GPU setups it was, oddly enough, the M2 Air that took the win in pure numerical terms (both tested with 16GB unified memory) on Geekbench, but I wouldn’t read into that too much as it’s similar (and decent) all-round performance.
When it comes to memory, both Air and Pro with M2 start with 8GB unified memory, which you can pay to upgrade to 16GB or 24GB instead – but it’ll certainly cost you extra!
M2 MacBook Air vs. Pro: Battery
Apple doesn’t release the watt-hour ratings of the batteries in the M2 Air and Pro models, but it does report on what kind of runtime you can expect from each: up to 18 hours from the Air and up to 20 hours from the Pro.
That seems like a lot, and I think you’d be stretched to get that far with either, but I have been able to squeeze 14-15 hours of use out of both machines with no qualms whatsoever. The larger size of the Pro and the fan cooling system should, in theory, give it the upper hand in lasting that little longer.
As I mentioned above, there are also multiple plug types. The Air comes with a 30W charger in the box as standard, and uses USB-C-to-MagSafe for charging. The Pro comes with a 67W charger in the box as standard, using USB-C-to-C instead. I much prefer the faster-charging and USB system of the Pro.
However, you can upgrade your plug should you buy an Air: the 67W charger is also compatible, albeit sold separately, should you want to benefit from the ‘50% battery in 30mins’ charging speed (otherwise it’s more than double that).
M2 MacBook Air vs Pro: Price and verdict
Perhaps what will sway your decision most is the price. The Air M2 starts at £1,249/$1,199/AUD$1,899, while the Pro M2 starts at £1,349/$1,299/AUD$1,899.
In summary that means you get less power in the Air vs Pro (8 core vs 10 core GPU, respectively), while only the Pro provides fan cooling, which means a little extra battery.
However, the Air features a much more up-to-date-design, meaning it ditches the Touch Bar (the Pro keeps that though), is slimmer and lighter, but also adds a notch to its (admittedly larger, at 13.6-vs 13.3-inch) display.
From my point of view, the M2 MacBook Pro 13-inch is rather niche all in all, as you’d only really want it for its Touch Bar. And I think the appeal of that is small for most.
By comparison the M2 MacBook Air seems destined for what Apple’s M2 chip is all about. It’s the better looking, if you can forgive the notch, a little cheaper (although pricier than the outgoing Air M1) and, for me, it is the best laptop I’ve used in quite some time.