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15″ MacBook Air vs 16″ MacBook Pro: Which Apple Laptop Wins?

15" MacBook Air vs 16" MacBook Pro comparison image.

15″ MacBook Air vs 16″ MacBook Pro: Which Apple Laptop Wins?

Key Points

  • The 15″ MacBook Air starts at $1,299, while the 16″ MacBook Pro starts at $2,499, making the Pro more than twice as expensive.
  • The 15″ Air has the M2 chip, while the 16″ Pro has the more powerful M2 Pro or M2 Max chip.
  • The 16″ MacBook Pro offers a 12-core CPU with a 19-core or 38-core GPU, while the 15″ MacBook Air has an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU.
  • The 16″ MacBook Pro has a Liquid Retina XDR display with up to 1600 nits brightness, making it more than three times brighter than the Air.
  • The 16″ MacBook Pro has more ports, including an HDMI port and an SDXC card slot, compared to the Air’s two Thunderbolt 4 ports.
  • The 16″ MacBook Pro is heavier, weighing nearly five pounds, while the 15″ MacBook Air weighs 3.3 pounds.

In the market for a new MacBook, but unsure which direction to choose? The 15″ MacBook Air and 16″ MacBook Pro represent the latest and greatest in MacBook technology. But which one of these two is best for you? Both offer their fair share of impressive features, but they exist to cater to very different needs. This leaves you with a very important choice to make: The portability of the Air or the power of the Pro? Let’s break down the key differences between these two MacBooks to help you make your decision.

15″ MacBook Air vs 16″ MacBook Pro: Side By Side Comparison

Aspect15″ MacBook Air16″ MacBook Pro
Latest ReleaseJune 2023January 2023
Starting Price$1,299$2,499
ColorsSilver, Starlight, Space Gray, MidnightSilver, Space Gray
ChipM2M2 Pro, M2 Max
CPU8-core12-core
GPU10-core19-core, 38-core
Unified Memory8GB16GB, 32GB
Storage256GB SSD, 512GB SSD512GB SSD, 1TB SSD
DisplayLiquid Retina displayLiquid Retina XDR display
Weight3.3 pounds4.7 pounds
Ports2 Thunderbolt 4 ports, a headphone jack, and a MagSafe 3 charging port3 Thunderbolt 4 ports, a HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, a headphone jack, and a MagSafe 3 port
Incredible Battery Life
Apple 2023 MacBook Pro Laptop M2 Pro Chip
$2,299.99
  • Storage: 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD
  • Battery life: 22hrs
  • Display: 16.2 inches, Liquid retina type display, Brightness: 1,000 nits
  • Sound system: 6-speaker system that features spacial audio
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/24/2024 02:47 pm GMT

15″ MacBook Air vs 16″ MacBook Pro: Key Differences

There’s plenty that sets the 15″ MacBook Air and 16″ MacBook Pro apart beyond size, weight, and finishes. These are the most obvious distinctions, but hardly the most important. As a matter of fact, there couldn’t be more that differentiates these two MacBook models. From the price you’ll pay to the chipsets inside, the processing power you get to the memory and storage you’ll have, the 15″ Air and 16″ Pro are two very different MacBooks indeed.

Cost

Perhaps the largest distinction between the 15″ MacBook Air and the 16″ MacBook Pro — apart from those obvious distinctions mentioned above — is price. The 15″ MacBook Air starts at $1,299 for the base model laptop and increases from there. By comparison, the 16″ MacBook Pro starts at $2,499 and only goes up from that point. The Pro is the far more expensive option compared to the Air, more than doubling the price you’ll have to pay to bring one home.

Chipset

Another huge difference between these two Apple laptops? The chipset that’s included inside. Apple silicon makes headlines with each new upgrade. Ever since the tech giant brought this technology in-house, it has made significant strides in this department. For this reason, it’s very much worth noting that the 15″ Air has the M2 chip (unveiled in 2022) while the 16″ Pro has the M2 Pro or M2 Max (unveiled in 2023). The Pro is much more powerful as a result.

Processors

Going hand in hand with this previous point is processing power. The 15″ MacBook Air’s base model offers an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU. Users can increase the number of cores with customizations and added fees, but this is the default build. Alternatively, the 16″ MacBook Pro comes with a 12-core CPU with either a 19-core or 38-core GPU. The gap between the two processors is astounding. Therefore, the Pro has far more processing power.

Memory and Storage

After considering the differences in internal chipsets and processors, it’s worth doing the same for memory and storage. After all, these specs all work harmoniously to keep the Air and Pro humming along nicely. The 15″ MacBook Air offers 8GB of Unified Memory and 256GB of SSD storage in its base model. The 16″ MacBook Pro provides 16GB of Unified Memory and 512GB of SSD storage in its base model. Both models can add additional memory and storage, but the Pro offers more.

Display

Another key difference between the 15″ MacBook Air and the 16″ MacBook Pro concerns their displays. (And no, this isn’t strictly limited to the additional inch of size with the Pro’s screen.) You see, the 15″ Air has a standard Liquid Retina display with 500 nits brightness. The 16″ Pro, on the other hand, has a Liquid Retina XDR display with up to 1600 nits brightness. This effectively makes the Pro more than three times brighter than the Air.

Ports

Lastly, let’s see how the 15″ MacBook Air’s ports compare to that of the 16″ MacBook Pro. This factor directly impacts the number of accessories your device can support. The Air comes with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a headphone jack, and a MagSafe 3 charging port. The Pro comes with three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, a headphone jack, and a MagSafe 3 port. Once again, the Pro triumphs over the Air.

Travelers' Favorite
Apple 2023 MacBook Air Laptop with M2 chip
$1,359.55
  • Storage: 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD
  • Screen: 15.3 inches, Liquid retina type display, Brightness: 500 nits
  • Features a completely fanless design for silent operation
  • Sound: 6 speakers that support spacial audio
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/24/2024 02:58 pm GMT

The History of the MacBook

The release of the 15” MacBook Air in June 2023 and the 16” MacBook Pro in January 2023 marked the latest developments in the storied history of the Apple laptop. It all began in 2006 when Apple introduced the first MacBook. In the beginning, it was really nothing more than a replacement for the iBook and PowerBook laptop lines. It featured Intel processors and a sleek design but was not exactly the most impressive piece of equipment compared to a desktop.

The MacBook Air debuted in 2008. This was the first major development in the history of the MacBook. Users and critics praised it for its ultra-thin profile and lightweight build, immediately setting it apart from other laptops on the market. In 2012, another huge development emerged: the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. This super-powered Apple laptop boasted a stunning high-resolution screen and set a new standard for display quality in laptops.

Today, the Air and Pro continue to butt heads under the Apple umbrella. From their performance specs to their battery life, their colorful finishes to their competitive weights, the Macbook Air and Pro will likely always be debated to no end. This has never been more true than with the 15″ MacBook Air and 16″ MacBook Pro. Which new release is the stronger candidate? From our key differences reviewed below to the pros and cons to come, we’ll soon be able to pin down an answer.

Best for Professionals
Apple MacBook Pro 16.2″ M2 Max Chip 2023
  • 16.2" Liquid Retina XDR display
  • M2 Max chip
  • 12-core CPU, 30-core GPU
  • 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD
  • Battery life: 18hrs
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15″ MacBook Air vs 16″ MacBook Pro: Pros and Cons

Pros of 15″ MacBook AirCons of 15″ MacBook Air
The 15″ MacBook Air is significantly lighter than the 16″ Pro.The M2 chip is not as powerful as the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips.
Its starting price of $1,299 makes it one of the more affordable Apple laptops.The 15″ Air’s processing cores, while customizable, leave much to be desired.
Buyers have four different finishes to choose from.The Liquid Retina display is not as bright as the Pro’s HDR screen.
The 15″ Air is newer than the 16″ Pro.There are fewer available ports on the Air than on the Pro.
Pros of 16″ MacBook ProCons of 16″ MacBook Pro
The 16″ Pro comes with a choice between an M2 Pro or M2 Max chip.At $2,499 to start, this latest Pro is almost twice as expensive as the base model 15″ Air.
This Apple laptop has an additional inch of screen space and a much higher brightness.The 16″ Pro weighs nearly five pounds.
Offers an HDMI port and an SDXC card slot, neither of which are included with the Air.Only two finishes are offered for the 16″ Pro.
The 16″ MacBook Pro has more powerful processors than the 15″ MacBook Air.The 16″ MacBook Pro is six months older than the 15″ MacBook Air.

15″ MacBook Air vs 16″ MacBook Pro: Which One Is Best?

In the 15″ MacBook Air vs 16″ MacBook Pro debate, we’re picking the Pro model. With its raw computing power, its brilliant display, and its ability to handle demanding tasks with ease, the 16″ MacBook Pro is the top choice by a significant margin. Whether it be its larger screen, its robust performance, or its more powerful graphics, the 16″ Pro is a true powerhouse for creative professionals, gamers, and casual laptop users alike. While the 15″ MacBook Air has its strengths (not to mention the lower price point), the 16″ MacBook Pro remains unmatched.

  1. Apple 2023 MacBook Pro Laptop M2 Pro Chip
    $2,299.99
    • Storage: 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD
    • Battery life: 22hrs
    • Display: 16.2 inches, Liquid retina type display, Brightness: 1,000 nits
    • Sound system: 6-speaker system that features spacial audio
    Buy on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    02/24/2024 02:47 pm GMT
  2. Apple 2023 MacBook Air Laptop with M2 chip
    $1,359.55
    • Storage: 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD
    • Screen: 15.3 inches, Liquid retina type display, Brightness: 500 nits
    • Features a completely fanless design for silent operation
    • Sound: 6 speakers that support spacial audio
    Buy on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    02/24/2024 02:58 pm GMT
  3. Apple MacBook Pro 16.2″ M2 Max Chip 2023
    • 16.2" Liquid Retina XDR display
    • M2 Max chip
    • 12-core CPU, 30-core GPU
    • 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD
    • Battery life: 18hrs
    Buy on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

The MacBook Pro is designed for users who need higher performance specs. It’s the best choice for tasks like video editing, 3D rendering, and running high-powered software. It’s equipped with more powerful processors, dedicated graphics, and a larger display. By comparison, the MacBook Air is better known for its slim and lightweight design. It’s highly portable and ideal for everyday tasks like browsing or emailing. The Air sacrifices some processing power and features in order to achieve a lighter, slimmer build.

Can I upgrade my MacBook’s RAM?

Because most recent MacBook models come with soldered RAM, it’s difficult or impossible to upgrade. This means the memory is integrated into the motherboard and cannot be upgraded or replaced by the user after they buy the laptop. However, you can choose from a variety of different memory amounts when initially configuring your MacBook.

What’s better for gaming, the MacBook Air or the MacBook Pro?

While neither the MacBook Air nor the MacBook Pro are designed as a gaming laptop, the higher-end Pro models that are equipped with dedicated graphics cards can handle gaming quite well. They offer sufficient performance to run many popular games smoothly and without lag. The Air is not able to properly handle the demands of modern games.

Is the MacBook Pro good for video editing?

Yes, the MacBook Pro is an excellent choice for video editing. Its robust processors, ample RAM options, and high-resolution Liquid Retina display make it a favorite among video editors. The latest 16″ MacBook Pro is especially adept at editing. It can handle demanding video editing software and tasks with ease, ensuring smooth playback and efficient rendering of videos.

What's better for graphic design, the MacBook Air or the MacBook Pro?

While the MacBook Air can handle some basic creative tasks, professional graphic designers with heavy-duty design software may benefit from the more powerful hardware (not to mention larger display) of the MacBook Pro instead. For occasional or lighter creative work, the MacBook Air can still be a fine option. However, the Pro is better.

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