Space gray vs. silver MacBook [Buyer’s guide]

By

2024 MacBook Air
The dark side ... or the light?
Image: Apple

After you’ve settled on a model and the specs you need, there’s still one more crucial decision to make before you buy a MacBook Pro: silver vs. space gray. And with the MacBook Air, you have two more options (starlight and midnight).

If you want an attractive and cohesive setup, the color of your Mac is the centerpiece of the whole look.

Which color is best? I always go with silver — but here are some things to consider before you make your decision.

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Space gray vs. silver MacBook: Which is better?

2024 MacBook Air M3 with dual-monitor support
Silver looks great in brighter rooms.
Photo: Apple

Neither is objectively better than the other — context is always important. What color are the other devices and peripherals on your desk? What color is the room and furniture it’ll primarily stay around?

Silver is the color I most closely associate with Apple laptops, starting with the titanium PowerBook G4 from 2001. Just as black is associated with IBM’s ThinkPads, so silver calls to mind Apple laptops. Silver is classic. It’s timeless. It looks professional, high-end and high-tech.

Silver is also a chameleon. It pairs very well with both white and black. Its light, reflective finish looks great next to a pair of white AirPods or headphones. Matched with my black display, silver and black keyboard and black RAID disk; my silver Mac mini has strong contrast.

Pick your color, perfect your setup

M3 MacBook Pro setup
In a darker room, a space gray or space black MacBook ties the whole look together.
Photo: Diesel_Formula@Reddit.com

Apple has also made lots of dark-colored laptops, of course, including early PowerBooks. The space gray MacBook Pro is classy and cool — but it could also be mistaken at a distance for a generic PC laptop. Also, space gray doesn’t blend in as well with lighter, colorful peripherals.

But with other blacks and dark grays, space gray can look cooler, moodier and more modern. As if Batman worked on a Mac.

Silver, a more natural-looking finish, looks great on a light wooden desk or nestled inside a leather bag — other natural materials. In a bright room, silver reflects the colors around it and blends in.

On the other hand, in a modern office with other solid, neutral colors, space gray would blend in seamlessly. A black laptop on a black desk (especially one with a glass surface) will look really cool. A space gray MacBook sitting on a light wooden table would stand out like a black void — but that could also be the look you’re going for if you want your Mac to be the visual focal point of the room.

MacBook Pro silver vs. space gray: Key considerations

space gray iPad, MacBook and AirPods Max (all three are different shades of gray) sitting on a white bed sheet (not gray at all).
Many shades of gray have taken the name “space gray” in its long history.
Photo: SuaveLlave/reddit

When picking a color for your MacBook, you should consider what other devices you have and which colors you lean toward. Nearly every Apple device comes in at least silver and space gray, but space gray isn’t consistent in brightness:

  • On the MacBook Air and 14-inch MacBook Pro, space gray is a medium 50% gray.
  • The 16-inch MacBook Pro comes in space black, which is much darker.
  • The black iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro look very dark; the iPhone 15 Pro in natural titanium is comparable in brightness to space gray but has a prominent gold hue that might clash.
  • Apple Watch comes in midnight (a very dark gray with a hint of blue) and graphite (a reflective black finish).
  • Space gray AirPods Max fall somewhere between the MacBook shades of space gray and space black.

Does space gray MacBook scratch easily? What about fingerprints?

All of Apple’s MacBooks rely on aluminum anodizing for their finishes. Anodized aluminum is generally durable and resistant to scuffs and scratches. Nonetheless, aluminum is a relatively soft metal and can get scratched over time. Small scratches and scuffs tend not to show as clearly on silver-finished laptops, and are more prominent on darker finishes like space gray.

Saying that, space gray MacBooks don’t scratch any more easily than other colors. It’s just that scratches tend to show more easily. Scuffs and scratches typically occur around the computer’s ports and the palm rests surrounding the trackpad. To protect their MacBooks, some owners buy USB-C magnetic adapters — kind of a poor man’s MagSafe — as well as rubber port protectors.

Fingerprints, too, can prove problematic. Space gray, and other darker finishes like midnight and space black, often show fingerprints much more prominently than silver. While fingerprint marks are easily wiped away with a microfiber cloth (or our very own CultCloth), they are far less visible on the lighter silver finish.

I have very oily hands — I leave fingerprints on just about every surface. Silver minimizes it as much as possible.

MacBook silver vs. space gray: Cost difference

The 15-inch MacBook Air comes in four colors: midnight, starlight, space gray and silver.
Four finishes come at one price.
Photo: Apple

If you’re buying a MacBook new from Apple, all the colors cost the same, and all colors are available on every configuration. On the MacBook Air, silver costs the same as space gray, midnight and starlight. With the MacBook Pro, silver costs the same as space gray and space black.

On the secondhand market or the Apple refurbished store, seeking out a specific color might yield fewer results. You might end up paying more if you’re dead set on one of the less-popular options.

You can have your pick of older and newer iMacs.
The iMac is the most colorful Mac.
Photo: Apple

On desktop Macs, your color options are more limited. It doesn’t cost anything to pick a color. However, the entry-level iMac only comes in blue, green, pink and silver. Only the higher-end configurations with upgraded memory or storage add options for yellow, orange and purple. The Mac mini, Mac Studio and Mac Pro only come in silver.

MacBook Pro space gray vs. silver: My pick

Mac mini with external hard drive, keyboard, trackpad and display sitting on the floor (isometric perspective)
Silver and black: A timeless classic.
Photo: D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

Personally, I always buy a silver Mac. I switched from PC to Mac in the heyday of the Intel era, and silver aluminum and black glass became the iconic Apple look in my mind.

I also like to keep my office brightly lit, with near-white walls and a light wooden pine desk (not too dissimilar to an Apple Store). In that environment, I think silver looks more fitting.

Silver is also consistent. Whereas every new Apple product in space gray is a slightly different shade, silver aluminum is always the same and always looks great.

MacBook space gray vs. silver: Closing thoughts

Silver is more versatile and works with all kinds of peripherals and styles. Space gray, if you have a more modern office with a lot of similarly colored peripherals, can look really cool and aesthetic.

Most Apple products come in some variation of these two colors, so you can coordinate your devices to look like they all belong together. Ultimately, I think there’s no wrong answer.

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