On the face of it, there are so few differences between the M1 MacBook Air and the M1 MacBook Pro.

However – one is definitely right for you, and I’m going to help you decide (or, at the very least, give you something to mull over while you think about your own M1 Mac future).

You can watch my video guide, here:


The key differences

Starting with the price, there’s $300 in it. The baseline Air sits at $999, while the ‘cheapest’ M1 MacBook Pro you can buy will set you back $1,299.

That’s enough of a price differential to make this a tricky decision, rather than a no-brainer. It needs some thought.

I’ve scoured both model’s spec pages and can save you some time with the rest of the differences:

  • the base spec Air has one less graphics core (7 versus 8);
  • the Pro has a fan to actively cool the CPU, while the Air is completely fan-less;
  • no one knows what a nit is, but the Pro has 100 more to deliver a brighter screen;
  • the Air line offers a third colour – gold;
  • the Air delivers 15 hours battery life for web browsing, while the Pro gains an additional two hours;
  • the Touch Bar makes an appearance on the Pro but not the Air (although they both have Touch ID);
  • “studio quality” mic and speakers can be found in the Pro but not in the Air;
  • the Air’s design remains tapered but slightly thicker than the Pro at its thickest; and
  • the Air weighs in at 2.8 pounds versus the Pro’s 3 pounds.

Everything else, from the number of ports (yep, they both only have two on one side) to the configurable memory (both have a hard stop at 16GB), the storage options (a maximum of 2TB is available), FaceTime camera and keyboard are identical.

This makes the choice rather tricky. But it’s compounded by the fact that the M1 is such a powerful chip. In a recent test, I discovered that my baseline M1 MacBook Air was capable of beating my specced-out 16” MacBook Pro in a rendering test.

So, where do you go from here? Well, to work out which M1 MacBook you need, just ask yourself the following five questions.

1. What’s your workload like?

If you undertake sustained, heavy workflows, you’ll want to opt for the M1 MacBook Pro – it’s pretty simple.

What does a “heavy workflow” include? Here’s my non-exhaustive list:

  • 4K video editing
  • development work
  • music production

There are other examples of heavy workflows, but they’re not my wheelhouse, therefore I’ll avoid delving into the likes of computer science. However, by ‘sustained’, I simply mean work which causes your computer to work at its maximum speed for ten minutes or more.

Under such instances, the fan in the M1 MacBook Pro will ensure the CPU isn’t throttled quite as readily as the Air, and you’ll experience little to no slowdown or beach balls as a result.

2. Do you need (or want) the Touch Bar?

I use the Touch Bar for two things: volume and screen brightness. That’s it. For me, it’s largely useless.

It’s one of Apple’s most divisive inventions over the last few years and arrived at a time when the MacBook was struggling against a tidal wave of competition and performance inefficiencies.

But it remains in the M1 MacBook Pro. Therefore, if the Touch Bar is something you either need or want, you need to opt for that machine, because the Air doesn’t have it.

They both have Touch ID (which is legitimately great), but the Touch Bar is a Pro-only option. Whether it’s worth an additional $300 is up to you.

3. How mobile are you?

We’ve established that the M1 MacBook Pro benefits from two hours’ extra battery life over its tapered cousin. But the latter still has stellar battery life.

However, those two hours could come in handy if you’re particularly mobile. For instance, if you work almost solely out on the road and don’t want the hassle of continually searching for charging points, those additional two hours could represent a life raft for your productivity.

What if you were out and about and needed to finish a big report or piece of work for a client and your MacBook Air died? The Pro would have given you another two hours to get that work done.

How much is two hours of additional battery life worth in your line and style of work?

4. Do you work outside a lot?

I nearly didn’t include this question, but after some thought, it does have some merit.

Those extra 100 nits offered by the Pro’s display might prove useful if you happen to be lucky enough to live in a country where outdoors work is a regular thing. Don’t get me wrong – the Air has a fantastic, bright screen, but in direct sunlight, or particularly bright rooms, the Pro will deliver a better viewing experience.

I live in the UK, therefore this isn’t a consideration for me, but if you do a lot of fieldwork or simply spend most of your time working in your garden (I’m jealous) the Pro’s 500 nits screen might be a decent investment.

5. Do you just want a Pro (or an Air)?

Do you just want to be a MacBook Pro owner? Or are you hankering after being in the Air club?

That’s fine!

If I’m totally honest, I wanted a MacBook Pro so badly, I bought the base-level version of the redesign in 2016, which was a pretty dreadful computer. But I wanted a Pro because it had that cachet – that brand magnetism.

The same goes for the MacBook Air. It has a deeply loyal following; the kind who hold onto their laptops for years, cover them in stickers and care not a jot about any performance shortcomings.

If you want one of these M1 MacBooks based on their name and have the cash to spend – go for it. You’ll be getting a great computer either way and you’ll finally have the device you’ve always wanted.

Sometimes, that’s enough of a reason.


You’ll notice that I’ve not covered every difference between the two laptops in my five questions above, and that’s for a very good reason.

The mics, speakers, weight and colour choices are such negligible benefits or disadvantages. For me, they don’t offer any compelling reasons to spend more or less.

As always, I’ve focused on the stuff that will deliver a meaningful benefit, day-in, day-out. It might be in terms of productivity or the way in which the device makes you feel, but the choices you’ll make after answering the questions above will lead you to an M1 MacBook which lasts for many years.

Which one are you going for? Let me know in the comments!

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