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M1 MacBook Air and Pro: What to buy and why you need to spend extra on RAM and storage

The first Mac laptops using Apple chips changed the rules of the game. However, because MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models have almost the same M1 processor, choosing which model to buy is not as easy as before. This is why we break it down here and eliminate guesswork.


Both the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are no different from the models they replace. The size of the two is the same, 8.36 inches x 11.97 inches, the edge of the Air still extends from 0.16 inches to 0.63 inches, while the height of the Pro is fixed at 0.61 inches. Air is lighter at only 2.8 pounds, while Pro is only 3 pounds.

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The design of the new MacBook is the same as the old MacBook.

The same goes for the inside. Both have a Magic Keyboard with a pair of vertical speakers on either side, and a home adjustable bezel around the display. The large Force Touch trackpad is located in the center below the keyboard and has the same colors: silver and space gray for Pro, silver for Air, space gray and gold.

Our view: The design is very similar to last year, which is really regrettable, especially because Apple obviously has to do a lot of redesign to configure the old MacBook body with the new chip. But both machines are very well designed, so you should not influence your decision in either way. l

Show off

Although both laptops are already equipped with 13.3-inch displays, Pro has some advantages in supporting DCI-P3 color gamut to achieve greater color saturation. Now MacBook Air also has this specification, so the display is almost the same:

  • 13.3 inches (diagonal) LED backlit IPS
  • 2560 x 1600 pixels
  • Color (P3)
  • True tones

The only difference between them now is that most people are unlikely to notice. On the MacBook Pro, the maximum brightness is 500 nits, while the Air only reaches 400 nits. But both are brighter than your eyes can bear for a longer period of time.

Our view: Both computers have excellent displays, but we still want to see next-generation improvements: mini LEDs, edge-to-edge designs, rounded corners, anything that makes it feel more modern. Like design, display should not be a factor in your decision.

Keyboard, port and camera

Air and Pro have the same Magic Keyboard that was introduced last year, so you don’t need to worry about loud, sticky keys. Apple’s latest keyboard is a huge improvement over the old keyboard, and it feels great when typing. Both have a backlight, an ambient light sensor and a Touch ID sensor for unlocking, authentication and Apple Pay purchases.

13-inch Macbook Pro 2020 keyboard Li Wei/IDG

The keyboard on the new MacBook is excellent.

The difference lies in the function keys. Like previous generations, MacBook Pro is equipped with a Touch Bar, which is a thin OLED screen above the number row, while MacBook Air has a set of standard function keys, including dedicated for Spotlight (f4) and dictation (F5) key. ), and do not disturb for the first time (F6).

In terms of ports, both models have a pair of USB-C/Thunderbolt ports on the left and a pair of headphone jacks on the right. That’s it. Apple does offer a more expensive 13-inch MacBook Pro with four ports, but it uses an Intel processor, so you may need to invest in a hub or at least one dongle or two.

Regrettably, both new MacBooks use the same old 720p FaceTime camera, although Apple said it should improve the image with the new chip. Apple is using a custom image signal processor and the face detection function in the M1’s neural engine, saying it will bring “clearer and clearer images”, as well as more shadow and highlight details and “more natural skin tones” “.

Our view: If you only choose the keyboard between MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, that is your preference. We still don’t see the point of the Touch Bar, but we don’t hate it as we did before. Both models of Touch ID are excellent. We like that the Touch Bar has a dedicated Escape key on the right side of the Touch Bar. However, we are completely dissatisfied with the ports-two just cannot be used on “professional” machines. And don’t let us start using the camera.

Processor and graphics

Now, you have been waiting. Apple’s two new laptops both use the new M1 processor, which Apple calls “the world’s fastest CPU core on low-power silicon.”

M1 System on Chip apple

The new M1 is expected to significantly increase its speed over the previous generation.

However, like the iPhone, Apple did not provide exact data on these claims. But in our test, both are very fast, their Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R23 scores are very similar:

Geekbench 5 (single/multiple)

MacBook Air: 1730/7454
MacBook Pro: 1724/7569

Cinebench R23 (single/multiple)

MacBook Air: 1496/6838
MacBook Pro: 1513/7778

The slight difference in score is due to the lack of GPU power in the MacBook Air we tested. The following is how the model decomposes:

MacBook Air (256GB)

8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores
7-core GPU
16-core neural engine

MacBook Air (512GB)

8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores
8-core GPU
16-core neural engine

MacBook Pro (256GB / 512GB)

8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores
8-core GPU
16-core neural engine

The additional GPU cores with MacBook Pro and higher MacBook Air configurations are slightly different, but unless you are going to encode video for a long time, it won’t be noticed. Fan noise may be noticeable. The MacBook Air doesn’t, and the Pro doesn’t, so you might hear that it starts at a higher speed. However, this also means that Pro can maintain high-speed operation for a long time without throttling due to overheating.

Our view: If you need speed, please upgrade to MacBook Pro, otherwise, 512GB MacBook Air is the best choice for performance, storage and price.


When it comes to battery life, you can’t go wrong with any model. Even according to Apple’s rating, the battery life has been greatly improved. The M1 Air’s rated battery life is 15 hours (originally 11 hours), while the Pro’s battery life is estimated to be 17 hours, which is more than the previous 10 hours. A great improvement. This is the same as the integrated 49.9 watt-hour battery in the Air and the 58.2 watt-hour battery in the Pro. Therefore, Apple’s new chip is extremely efficient.

In our test, the MacBook Pro has a longer service life than the Air, but both are very efficient, nearly 40% higher than the previous Intel model:

MacBook Pro: 17.9 hours
MacBook Air: 16.2 hours

Our view: No matter which model you buy, you are crazy to get good battery life, but if you want the longest-running MacBook ever, the Pro is the way to go.

Storage and RAM

All four M1 Macbook models come with 8GB of “unified” DDR4 memory, which can be upgraded to 16GB, as well as 256GB of storage space and 512GB, 1TB and 2TB upgrade options. Apple said that the new solid-state drives are twice as fast as all previous products, but recent evidence suggests that their shelf life may be shorter than expected.

Through routine checks on the operation of the SSD, some developers on Twitter noticed that after only a few months of use, the amount of wear exceeded expectations. Apple did not respond, so we don’t know how or whether this will affect the life of the new MacBook, so we have two suggestions: run smartmontools health checks every few months and buy as much RAM and storage devices as possible . . First, a 512GB drive will naturally last longer than a 256GB drive, while for the other, the problem seems to be more serious in a computer with 8GB RAM, compared to 16GB.

Our view: This is not the case, but until we are sure, you might as well cover up your foundation and get more storage and RAM. Even if the worry about SSD becomes unfounded, you will be satisfied with the extra space and memory. After all, no one said: and also There is a lot of storage space in this laptop. “


Apple sells two standard configurations of each model at similar prices as before:

MacBook Air (256GB): $ 999
MacBook Air (512GB): $ 1,249
MacBook Pro (256GB): $ 1,299
MacBook Pro (512GB): $ 1,499

You can upgrade to 16GB of RAM for $200, and each storage tier (512GB or 1TB) also costs $200, while Apple charges $400 from 1TB to 2TB.

Apple M1 graphics apple

Our view: As mentioned above, we recommend that you get the best affordable machine at the time of purchase, because you will not be able to upgrade. However, if you need to choose, we will upgrade the RAM before storing.

Our buying advice

The M1 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air have a fast chip, excellent battery life, 13-inch display and a pair of USB-C ports, and have many similarities. With so much, we think that most people have no reason to deviate from the cheapest model and spend the money saved on upgrades. We recommend using a MacBook Air with a 7-core GPU and adding 16GB RAM and 512GB storage space for a total price of $1,399.

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