Which Apple Silicon Mac Should You Buy?

There is a subtle difference between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro that may affect performance and it’s not the Touch Bar, battery, or M1 chip.

Apple has announced two laptops powered by the new M1 chip, the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. In the past, the distinction between the Air and the Pro levels was quite clear, with higher clock rates, as well as improved graphics and display quality. With these new MacBook systems, the changes are more subtle and choosing between them a bit more difficult.

The M1 system on a chip (SoC) is the reason for the great similarity between the new Apple laptops. It appears that there are only two varieties of M1 in the new computers. The MacBook Air with the least storage lists a seven-core GPU, while the same machine with more storage shows the same eight-core GPU as the MacBook Pro. While it remains unclear why exactly there are seven and eight-core versions, this appears to be the only difference listed between the SoCs, which include the CPU, GPU, and Neural core.

Related: Apple M1 Vs. Intel: Best MacBook Pro To Buy In 2020?

Since the M1 chip used in the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro is pretty much the same, some may wonder what makes the Pro model worth $300 more? The answer is a bit complicated, but some of the additions are apparent. The MacBook Pro has the Touch Bar, a touch-sensitive OLED strip at the top of the keyboard that’s available to app developers to customize with helpful functions. In other words, it’s a row of function keys that can change appearance. Not quite as nice as having a touch-screen display, but it is still very useful. The screens are each 13.3 inches and both now feature a wide color gamut, called P3, that shows 25-percent more colors than the previous generation MacBook Air’s sRGB display could. For reference, the Pro had P3 color since 2016. The MacBook Pro has a 25-percent brighter screen, though the lesser model’s 400 nits is still plenty good. Another difference between is that the Pro’s battery is estimated to last two hours longer than the up to 18-hour battery included with the Air.

The Subtle MacBook Pro & Air Difference

Apple MacBook Pro Vs MacBook Air size and taper

There is also a subtle difference between the $999 MacBook Air and $1,299 MacBook Pro that could have an impact on performance. There are two reasons a laptop is designed with lower performance than a desktop computer, to improve battery life and to stay within the constraints of the thermal design. The MacBook Pro includes a battery with 17-percent greater capacity, allowing the system to be built for higher performance without hurting run-time. However, the cooling system is the true secret to the higher performance potential of the MacBook Pro. A larger device naturally distributes the heat from the processor better, meaning better cooling. Also, a larger device has more room for fans and ventilation pathways.

The MacBook Air has an iconic wedge shape, with the front tapering to only 4-millimeters at the edge. At the back, it is half a millimeter thicker at 1.61-centimeters (0.63-inch), but the overall volume is much less. While quite a striking look, the smaller enclosure allows less room for a fan and more potential for heat to build up. The MacBook Air actually uses passive cooling, which means no fan. The MacBook Pro has active cooling, with a fan to help to remove excess heat that may be generated when the M1 processor is handling a heavy workload. The bottom line is that while the MacBook Pro looks quite like the MacBook Air and the two laptops share many of the same features, the more expensive model really is worth another $300 for those that regularly perform processor-intensive tasks.

Next: M1 MacBook Air Vs. Intel MacBook Air: How Apple Silicon Compares

Source: Apple

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Updated: November 12, 2020 — 11:48 am

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