Choosing a new MacBook isn’t as easy as it used to be. While Apple eventually removed the 13-inch MacBook Pro that didn’t match the line’s modern design, it introduced a new 14-inch MacBook Pro with the entry-level M3 processor. If you prefer a larger screen or more performance, you may want to consider two attractive options: the 15-inch MacBook Air and the 14-inch MacBook Pro.
After extensively reviewing and using both laptops, I’m here to tell you everything. Here’s the difference between the two machines and how to easily determine which machine is right for you.
The easy way to know what to buy
I promised you an easy way to know which MacBook you should buy, and it’s really just based on answering one question: What do you want to do with your new MacBook? If you’re someone who spends more than half your day in front of Premiere, Final Cut, Pro Tools, or Lightroom, don’t mess with the 15-inch MacBook Air. It’s fanless, and it can’t complete tasks as fast as you’d like. The MacBook Pro 14 with an M3 processor will be faster, but it remains to be seen whether it’s fast enough for creative workflows. I know for sure that the M3 Pro and M3 Max processors available in the MacBook Pro 14″ will deliver the performance that demanding creators want – and then some.
If you like to use some of those apps occasionally, but spend most of your time in the browser or Word – the 15-inch MacBook Air is the better choice. It’s cheap, thin and light, and also offers a quality display, speakers, webcam and keyboard.
My only caveat is that if you’re someone who needs to connect two or more displays to your MacBook, the 15-inch MacBook Air probably isn’t a good choice. The same applies to MacBook Pro 14″ with M3 (non-Pro and non-Max) CPUs. Both natively support only one external monitor, and although you can overcome that limitation, it will require some final effort.
If you don’t have a clear answer to this alone, check out the detailed comparison below for more practical information from our own testing.
Specifications and configuration
|apple macbook air 15||apple macbook pro 14|
|DIMENSIONS||13.40 inches x 9.35 inches x 0.45 inches||12.31 inches x 8.71 inches x 0.60 inches|
|weight||3.3 pounds||3.5 pounds|
|processor||Apple M2 (8 Core)||Apple M3 (8-core)|
Apple M3 Pro (11-core, 12-core)
Apple M2 Max (14-core, 16-core)
|GRAPHICS||10-core GPU||M3: 10-core|
M3 Pro: 14-core, 18-core
M3 Max: 30-core, 40-core
|to hit||8 GB|
|M3: 8GB to 24GB|
M3 Pro: 18GB to 128GB
M3 Max: 36GB to 128GB
|Display||15.3-inch 16:10 Liquid Retina IPS 2880 x 1864||14.2-inch 16:10 Liquid Retina XDR 3024 x 1964|
|ports||2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4|
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
|3 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4|
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
sd card reader
|wireless||Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.3||Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3|
|Operating System||macos monterey||macos monterey|
|Battery||66.5 watt-hour||70 watt-hour|
Price is a major difference between these two laptops, and the 15-inch MacBook Air is cheaper. Its price starts at $1,299 and it comes with an 8-core CPU/10-core GPU M2 processor. At that price you also get 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. Of course, you can configure it with 24GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD for up to $2,400.
The 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3 processor has a starting price of $1,599 with 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. The base M3 Pro model costs $1,999, but has up to 18GB of RAM (up from 16GB) and 512GB of storage. Interestingly, if you fully configure the MacBook Pro 14 M3 with 24GB of RAM and a 2TB SSD, you will spend $2,599. It’s only $100 more than the MacBook Air 15. With the base MacBook Pro 14 now being only $300 more expensive, the decision becomes more complicated.
On the other hand, the MacBook Pro 14 with M3 Pro starts at $1,999 with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD. The fully upgraded, M3 Max version costs $6,899 with 128GB of RAM and an 8TB SSD. But if you want to spend that kind of money, you are a professional creator and the MacBook Air 15 won’t suffice.
Keep in mind that you’ll get better performance and slightly better audio with the MacBook Pro 14 with better resolution until the MacBook Air 15 gets an M3 processor. It’s complicated, but keep that in mind as we explore each aspect of these laptops next.
The MacBook Air 15-inch uses the same design as the 13-inch MacBook Air. It’s not that different from the 14-inch MacBook Pro, but the design is different in a few key ways. The most significant difference is in size. An inch difference in screen size doesn’t seem like much, but the 15-inch MacBook Air also has slightly thicker bezels, increasing the device’s overall footprint even more. When you put these laptops side by side, the 15-inch MacBook Air takes up more space on the table. Width is the most dramatic dimension, giving you what feels like a lot of screen real estate to work with. This is actually the primary selling point of the 15-inch MacBook Air, and the reason why you’re choosing it.
Thickness and weight are the other main points of difference in terms of size. The MacBook Air 15-inch is just 0.45 inches, compared to the MacBook Pro 14-inch’s 0.6 inches. The MacBook Air is actually the thinnest 15-inch laptop you can buy right now — and it actually looks sleek next to the MacBook Pro. The two laptops are close in weight, although the MacBook Air is still lighter at 3.3 pounds compared to the MacBook Pro’s 3.5 pounds.
From a design perspective, other differences include the keyboard, which doesn’t have the luxurious black backdrop like the MacBook Pro. There is also no on-deck speaker grill cutout.
Finally, you also get a few more color options with the MacBook Air, including Starlight, Midnight, Silver, and Space Gray. The MacBook Pro is limited to only silver and space grey.
The MacBook Air 15 has less connectivity than the MacBook Pro 14, with only two Thunderbolt 4 ports and an audio jack (like the MacBook Air 13-inch). The MacBook Pro 14 M3 only comes with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, but adds an HDMI port and a full-size SD card reader. The M3 Pro and Max models come with three Thunderbolt 4 ports. This makes the MacBook Pro 14 more expandable. However, both use a MagSafe 3 charger, saving the Thunderbolt 4 port for external use. The Apple website lists Wi-Fi 6 for the MacBook Air 15 instead of the new Wi-Fi 6E listed for the MacBook Pro 14, and both have Bluetooth 5.3 support.
Since the MacBook Air uses the base M2 CPU, it is limited to only one external display with 6K resolution at 60Hz. Again, same is the case with the MacBook Pro 14 M3. The MacBook Pro 14 with M3 Pro and Max can handle two external displays, one over a Thunderbolt 4 port at 6K/60Hz and one at 6K/60Hz combined with 4K resolution at 144Hz if the HDMI port is used for a second display. Is. The faster models can also handle four external displays, three at 6K/60Hz via Thunderbolt 4 and one at 4K/144Hz over HDMI. If you limit it to three displays, the HDMI port can drive monitors up to 4K/240Hz.
If you need more than just an external display then the MacBook Pro 14 Pro or Max is the laptop for you.
We haven’t benchmarked the base M3 processor yet, but we’re sure it will deliver slightly better performance than the M2 in the 15-inch MacBook Air. Most likely, performance in most tasks using only one CPU core will be close enough that it won’t influence your decision one way or the other.
But when it comes to applications that can benefit from additional CPU and GPU cores, there are some big differences in terms of performance as the MacBook Air is limited to only the standard M2 with 8 CPU cores and 10 GPU cores.
On the other hand, the 14-inch MacBook Pro can be configured with up to M3 Max with 16 CPU cores and 40 GPU cores. As you can see below, this gives a huge boost to video encoding and exporting. However, it should be noted that the scores you see are for the most powerful version of the 14-inch MacBook Pro. The $1,599 base configuration uses an 8-core CPU/10-core GPU M3 processor which will give you very little time to work with.
|macbook air 15 m2|
|macbook pro 14 m3|
(M3 Max 16/40)
Both laptops have incredible battery life. It’s surprising, but the extra performance of the 14-inch MacBook Pro doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice battery life. According to our own testing, both machines are right in line, offering up to 18 hours of battery life. Obviously, you’re more likely to run heavy applications on the MacBook Pro 14-inch, which will drain the battery more quickly.
But if you’re new to Apple silicon MacBooks, you’ll be shocked to see how long these laptops last.
Display and Speaker
Another benefit of the MacBook Pro 14 is its 14.2-inch Mini-LED Liquid Retina display that runs at a 3024 x 1924 (254 ppi) resolution, which offers better sharpness, brightness, color and contrast compared to the standard IPS Liquid Retina display on the MacBook Air. Provides contrast. Line. This includes the MacBook Air 15, which features a 15.3-inch IPS Liquid Retina display at 2880 x 1864 (228 ppi).
Both displays should present similar colors in terms of both gamut and accuracy. But the Mini-LED panel on the MacBook Pro 14 will get brighter, especially for high dynamic range (HDR) content where it can reach 1,600 nits. It also has incredibly deep contrast delivering inky blacks.
The MacBook Air 15’s display is also excellent, but the MacBook Pro 14 truly offers a premium experience, especially with the 120Hz dynamic refresh rate.
|macbook air 15|
|macbook pro 14|
(Delta, lower is better)
Both laptops feature six-speaker sound systems with force-canceling woofers. They also support the same technologies, which means you’re likely to get the same excellent sound from both which is some of the best you’ll find in a modern laptop.
While the 15-inch MacBook Air is surprisingly competitive, the 14-inch MacBook Pro offers more bass, and a more robust sound profile. But really, both look amazing.
Leave the MacBook Pro to the professionals
With both of these laptops you can count on branding exclusivity here. Leave the MacBook Pro for creative professionals who rely on extra performance to get their work done. Everyone else will be pleased with the experience with the 15-inch MacBook Air.
But if you leave this whole comparison and are still unsure which direction to go, let me suggest one more thing.
If you’re excited about the added performance of the 14-inch MacBook Pro, but worried about the price, I’d recommend taking a look at the prices of the last generation machines. There are refurbished versions available that are as cheap as the 15-inch MacBook Air but will offer far better performance. These laptops are identical to the current generation MacBook Pro in almost every way, minus the boost from M1 to M3.
Also, I would recommend visiting an Apple Store to see both machines side by side. The difference in screen size and overall dimensions can help you get a better idea of which one you’ll be more comfortable with.