MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air: How to decide which Apple laptop to buy

A close-up shot of the 16-inch MacBook Pro's keyboard.

June Wan/ZDNET

This year has been an eventful one for MacBooks. In January, new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro configurations appeared on the scene. Over the summer, Apple released the largest MacBook Air, and in October, the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models upgraded to new M3 chipsets. 

If you’re in the market for a new MacBook, you might wonder if it makes more sense to buy a MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air. With Apple announcing five MacBook configurations and officially retiring three laptops in one year, the buying confusion is especially warranted.

Also: Apple’s M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chipsets: Everything you need to know

When buying a MacBook, you’ll want to consider the computer’s display size, storage capacity, computing power, and price. For example, the 2022 13-inch and 2023 15-inch MacBook Air models are equipped with Apple’s M2 chip, which gives them increased performance, greater efficiency, and longer battery life compared to MacBooks with an M1 or Intel chip.

The most recent MacBook Pro models debuted with Apple’s M3 chips, which are even more efficient and capable than the M2 chips.

In this situation, think of yourself as being like Goldilocks; you’re confronted with four different MacBook models, but you need to find the one that’s just right for you. So, before you decide which one to buy, let’s cover the main differences between the Pro and Air.

What’s the difference between the MacBook Pro and Air?

Believe it or not, there are a multitude of differences between the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. The biggest differences between the two are pricing and computing power. The most affordable MacBook Pro with an M2 chip will cost more than the most affordable Air with an M2 chip. However, the Pro is more powerful, thanks to the upgraded internals under the hood.

Review: Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro (M2 Max, 2023): A content creator’s dream machine

The M3 MacBook Pro models have more unified memory, longer battery life, more ports (including HDMI and SD card), and, generally, a more sophisticated GPU and CPU than their Air counterparts. There are two MacBook Pro display sizes: 14-inch and 16-inch.

The M3 MacBook Pro has improved internal computing parts for greater efficiency and performance. There are three chips in the M3 family: M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max. The M3 models have improved media engines to better handle video playback. The M3…