“If you’re spending that much money on an M2 MacBook Air, you might as well just get the 14-inch MacBook Pro.”

I’ve heard that so many times over the last few weeks.

Sometimes, it’s great advice. Other times, it’s really rather ignorant. When it comes to the latter, and like so many things on the internet, it’s yet another frustrating example of people being unable to see past their own noses.

Apple has indeed muddied the water somewhat with the increased pricing of their new MacBook Air; it does come perilously close to the big daddy MacBook once you start bolting stuff on.

But that’s not the point, and it isn’t always a clear choice when based solely on price. The battle of M2 MacBook Air versus 14-inch MacBook Pro is an entirely legitimate one for a great many buyers.

Today, we’ll figure out which one is right for you.

A question of pricing

Let’s consider two scenarios: the base model 14-inch MacBook Pro versus the closest iteration of the M2 MacBook Air and a fully decked out M2 MacBook Air versus the closest iteration of the 14-inch MacBook Pro. Both examples will be based on achieving the closest possible price and spec options.

To make my life simpler, I’m going to quote UK prices, but please keep in mind that US prices are remarkably similar.

Base model 14-inch MacBook Pro vs closest M2 MacBook Air

This is how close an M2 MacBook Air can get to the base model 14-inch MacBook Pro.

Base model MacBook Pro:

  • M1 Pro chip with 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU
  • 16GB of unified memory
  • 512GB storage
  • Price: £1,899

Closest M2 MacBook Air

  • M2 chip with 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU
  • 16GB of unified memory
  • 512GB storage
  • Price: £1,749

So, for just £150 more, you can bag yourself the latest MacBook Pro over a fairly moderately specced M2 MacBook Air. Interesting.

Decked-out M2 MacBook Air vs closest 14-inch MacBook Pro

What if you go all out on the M2 MacBook Air? What could that net you in MacBook Pro Land?

Decked-out M2 MacBook Air:

  • M2 chip with 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU
  • 24GB of unified memory
  • 2TB storage
  • Price: £2,549

Closest 14-inch MacBook Pro:

  • M1 Pro chip with 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU
  • 32GB of unified memory
  • 2TB storage
  • Price: £2,899

Due to the multitude of spec options for the 14-inch MacBook Pro, there are several ways to reach a price similar to that of a decked-out M2 MacBook Air. For this comparison, I opted for increased memory over any M1 Pro chip upgrades.

Regardless, for £350 more, your fully loaded M2 MacBook Air can quite easily be replaced by a beast of a MacBook Pro.

So, what are the real-world differences between these two laptops, and who on earth is each one for?

Differences between the M2 MacBook Air and 14-Inch MacBook Pro

If you know me, you know that I’m not going to dive into benchmark tests for this section of the guide. Instead, I’m going to look at some of the key practical differences between the two laptops.

You can do this yourself via Apple’s brilliant Mac comparison tool, but these are my observations.

Right from the off, the M2 MacBook Air comes in more colours. They’re still dour and a bit boring, but if you’re the sort of person who just wants a (nearly) black MacBook, that’s the one to go for.

Both laptops have notches on their screen. This has absolutely zero impact on your everyday use and enjoyment of the device, so there’s no need to worry there. But the MacBook Pro’s screen does benefit from nearly one additional inch in diameter.

There’s more storage on offer with the MacBook Pro (up to 8TB if you fancy it), but the pricing is typically ‘Apple’ and does take that machine well beyond the price of an M2 MacBook Air the more terabytes you add.

The M2 MacBook Air actually beats its big brother in the battery life stakes by one hour (18 versus 17). This may in part be due to the latter’s better display, which is higher resolution, brighter (by quite a margin), capable of providing an XDR workflow, and ProMotion-enabled.

The MacBook Pro also offers ’studio quality’ mics, and two additional speakers (the benefits on offer here over the MacBook Air are questionable). Both laptops include the rather handy 3.5mm headphone jack for high-impedance headphones.

Chip-wise, the M1 Pro is a much more capable performer than the M2. Those additional cores and an extra 100GB/s of memory bandwidth make the 14-inch MacBook Pro a considerably quicker machine during intensive workloads such as video editing, audio production, and coding (it has active cooling, too).

Oh, and let’s not forget ports. While both laptops have ushered in the triumphant return of MagSafe, the MacBook Pro gains one additional Thunderbolt 4 pro, an HDMI input, and an SD card slot. The MacBook Pro can also drive two external displays, versus the MacBook Air’s one.

So, we have a bunch of similarities, some marginal gains, and one or two significant horsepower differences. But we still need to get to the bottom of who these laptops are for, don’t we?

Thankfully, all this decision needs is a hefty dollop of common sense.

Who is the M2 MacBook Air for?

If you just really want an M2 MacBook Air and have the budget to spec it up as much as you need to, the 14-inch MacBook Pro probably isn’t even on your radar. That’s why it’s so teeth-itchingly annoying when someone spoils the party by stumbling through the door at the last moment claiming, “at that price, mate, you might as well just buy the 14-inch MacBook Pro!”.

However. They’re not you. They don’t have that same desire for a MacBook Air that you possess. You’ve wanted one for ages, and for you, that’s enough. Stick to your guns – it’s your laptop, not theirs!

The 14-inch MacBook Pro is far more capable than an M2 MacBook Air, but that doesn’t make it a better choice, regardless of how close the two prices get. It’s also bigger, and heavier, and if that power is never going to be touched by the user, it’s an utter waste of money.

If you want an M2 MacBook Air and have no interest whatsoever in the 14-inch MacBook Pro – go with your gut instinct and ignore everyone else. It’s that simple.

This doesn’t mean that the M2 MacBook Air is for the unadventurous – it’s for the people who already know they want one.

Who is the 14-inch MacBook Pro for?

I’ve spent a fair bit of time with the 14-inch MacBook Pro and it is a wonderful laptop. If I didn’t yearn for the bigger display of the 16-inch model I’d have bagged one myself. But it is such a different laptop when compared to the M2 MacBook Air. That additional heft, screen size, and performance result in a device which really needs to be put through its paces if you’re to extract maximum value from your investment.

I firmly believe that if you know you need a MacBook Pro, you know you need a MacBook Pro. In fact, if you sit in that camp, you’re probably not even considering the M2 MacBook Air to begin with!

If the M2 MacBook Air is your starting point but the proximity of your chosen spec feels too close to the 14-inch MacBook Pro, you need to ask yourself one question: how tempted are you by the latter? Does it feel like something you could live with, given your intended use case for the laptop? Will it be too heavy? Does the idea of having more power than you need seem a bit silly?

Equally, is it enough to just tempt you into owning a MacBook Pro instead?

Only you can answer those questions.

Final thought

The pricing of these two laptops gets alarmingly close depending on your spec choices, but value really is in the eye of the beholder.

It’s often said that an expensive bottle of Prosecco is better than a cheap bottle of champagne and that’s how a lot of people will feel about the M2 MacBook Air versus 14-inch MacBook Pro debate.

The key takeaway today is that you’ve really got to want the additional power and utility afforded by the 14-inch MacBook Pro. If you don’t, the pricing of the M2 MacBook Air you’re buying is irrelevant – as is any question that it might be a little too close to a similarly priced MacBook Pro.

Just choose the machine that feels right – only you can be the judge of that.