Both of Apple’s latest laptops — the M2 MacBook Air and the M2 MacBook Pro — run on the same powerful new chip. With only a $100 difference between the two, what exactly sets them apart? Does the new MacBook Pro live up to its “pro” name, or is the Air the better buy?
Here’s a look at the differences between the two new Mac laptops unveiled during Monday’s WWDC22 keynote.
M2 MacBook Air vs. M2 MacBook Pro
Apple’s bestselling laptop, the MacBook Air always costs less and offers fewer features than the Pro models. However, it’s lighter and thus more portable for people who don’t need certain advanced features.
And with Apple silicon powering the last two versions of Apple’s entry-level laptop, the Air proves remarkably capable. For some users, it’s the best choice.
Design: One’s new, one’s getting old
Compared with its predecessor, the 2022 MacBook Air is a radical departure in the design department. Its blocky new design language aligns with that of the 2021 MacBook Pro.
Despite this, the new M2 MacBook Air comes in at just 0.44 inches thick and weighs just 2.7 pounds. Apple claims a 20% reduction in volume compared to the M1 MacBook Air from 2020, making it more portable and easier to carry.
Other design improvements include the addition of MagSafe 3 with fast-charging support. Plus, the redesigned Air’s bigger, brighter 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display houses an upgraded 1080p FaceTime HD camera inside a notch. It comes with a backlit Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and 12 full-height function keys. There’s no Touch Bar here, thankfully.
The 2022 13-inch MacBook Pro, on the other hand, retains the same design as the Intel and M1-based Pro models. That’s puzzling, since Apple continues to update the laptop’s internals. This also means it is thicker and heavier than the new MacBook Air. It measures 0.61 inches thick and weighs 3 pounds.
The Pro model’s 13.3-inch Retina display and 720p FaceTime HD camera remain unchanged as well, so thick bezels surround its display. (On the bright side, you won’t have to put up with a notch.)
Colors options, MagSafe 3 charging and Touch Bar
Apart from the 2022 MacBook Air’s new design, Apple produced the laptop in four colors: space gray, silver, starlight and midnight. The new Pro model comes only in the same old space gray and silver shades.
For some strange reason, the new entry-level MacBook Pro misses out on MagSafe 3 for charging. It continues to feature a pair of USB 4 ports for charging, data transfer and connecting external accessories. This is an unusual decision from Apple, since all other MacBooks now use MagSafe for topping up the battery.
The M2 MacBook Pro also hangs on to the Touch Bar, making it the only MacBook with the customizable OLED strip that never quite caught on with most users. (Some people still love the Touch Bar, though.)
Same M2 chip but with a difference
The new MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro are the same in the specs department. They are powered by the same M2 chip featuring an 8-core CPU and an 8- or 10-core GPU. The newest Apple silicon packs a 16-core Neural Engine, and a media engine with hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC and ProRes encoder/decoder.
Both machines can be configured with up to 24GB of unified memory and 2TB of storage.
Fanless vs. active cooling
Where the two MacBooks differ internally is in the cooling solution employed. The 2022 MacBook Air’s fanless design means no active cooling. The 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro packs a small internal fan to cool the M2 chip.
Despite the efficiency of Apple’s M2 chip, the lack of an active cooling solution means the new MacBook Air won’t be able to sustain heavy workloads for an extended period. That gives the 2022 13-inch MacBook Pro an advantage in such scenarios. Its built-in fan will ensure higher sustained performance under load.
Despite the more powerful GPU on the M2 chip, both of the new MacBooks only support one external monitor. Workarounds could change that. But if your workload demands using multiple external displays, you should consider buying the 2021 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Battery life and charging
The thicker chassis of the 13-inch MacBook Pro means there’s more room for a battery. With a 58.2-watt-hour battery, Apple says the M2 MacBook Pro can offer up to 17 hours of web browsing or 20 hours of movie playback in the Apple TV app. The M2 MacBook Air houses a smaller 52.6-watt-hour battery that will last 15 hours while web browsing, Apple says.
Both MacBooks offer great battery life that will be enough to last a day of heavy use. The M2 MacBook Air does have two advantages. Firstly, the addition of MagSafe means the two USB-C ports will remain free while the laptop charges. Secondly, when charged with a 67-watt USB-C power adapter, the Air can be topped up to 50% in 30 minutes.
2022 MacBook Pro is $100 more expensive, but is it better than the Air?
With prices starting at $1,199, the new M2 MacBook Air costs $200 more than the M1 mode. Given the substantial upgrades it packs over the previous-gen model — faster chip, new design, better screen and FaceTime HD camera, MagSafe charging, etc. — the price hike seems somewhat justified.
The 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro will start at $1,299, making the base model just $100 more expensive than the new M2 MacBook Air. For that additional $100, the Pro offers only one truly significant advantage over the Air: higher sustained performance under load.
Some might like the slightly better battery life and what might be the last chance to get a laptop with a Touch Bar. Otherwise, it seems hard to justify the price of the 2022 MacBook Pro. It misses out on many great advances found in the Air, including MagSafe 3, a better display and that upgraded FaceTime HD camera.
Unless you know your workload requires higher sustained performance, it makes more sense to save your money and go for the M2 MacBook Air. The 2022 entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro feels out of place in the current Mac lineup.