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Apple MacBook Pro (M2 Pro, 2023) vs MacBook Air (M2, 2022): What’s the difference?

  • 6 min read
  • Jan 22, 2023
macbook pro m2

Apple announced its latest MacBook Pro models in the form of the MacBook Pro 14-inch and the MacBook Pro 16-inch, both of which are available with either the M2 Pro chip or the M2 Max chip.

The two new models succeed the MacBook Pro 14-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch from 2021 that feature the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, but they sit alongside the MacBook Pro 13-inch model with the M2 chip and the MacBook Air with M2 chip, both of which launched in 2022.

Having reviewed the excellent MacBook Air (M2, 2022), we struggle to see a reason why you would buy the M2 MacBook Pro over it unless you really want an older design, the Touch Bar and a fan.

With that in mind, for this feature we’ve therefore decided to compare the MacBook Pro (2023, M2 Pro) models against the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) to help you work out what the differences are and which of the latest MacBooks is the best one for you and your needs.

Price

The MacBook Pro models start at $1999 in the US and £2149 in the UK. As you might expect though, these prices increase substantially depending on your configuration.

The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) starts at $1199 in the US and £1249 in the UK. Again, prices increase depending on the GPU, memory and storage options you select, but it’s of course cheaper than the MacBook Pro models regardless, as you would expect.

Design

  • MacBook Pro (M2 Pro/Max, 2023): Aluminium, 1.6kg, two colours
  • MacBook Air (M2, 2022): Aluminium, 1.24kg, four colours

The 2023 MacBook Pro comes in a 14.2-inch model and a 16.2-inch model, while the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is only available with a 13.6-inch display. If you want a larger MacBook therefore, you’ll need to be looking at the MacBook Pro 16-inch model.

The design is similar across the MacBook Pro models and the MacBook Air, however. They all come with a flat aluminium chassis, with rounded edges and a notch at the top of the display.

The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) comes in Space Grey, Silver, Starlight and Midnight colour options, while the MacBook Pro (M2 Pro, M2 Max, 2023) models come in Space Grey and Silver only so they are a little more serious – which their pricing also suggests.

The MacBook Pro models are also thicker and heavier than the MacBook Air, as you would expect. It’s not called Air for fun. The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) measures 113 x 304.1 x 215mm and weighs 1.24kg, while the MacBook Pro (M2 Pro/Max, 2023) 14-inch model measures 155 x 312.6 x 221.1mm and weights 1.6kg.

Both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models come with Touch ID in the top right of the keyboard and they both offer the same back-lit Magic Keyboard with Force Touch trackpad below, so there will be no differences in terms of usage in this department. That means if you’re just using your MacBook for typing, the MacBook Air model is probably more than sufficient.

Display

  • MacBook Pro (M2 Pro/Max, 2023): 14.2in and 16.2in options, Liquid Retina XDR, ProMotion, up to 1600nits brightness
  • MacBook Air (M2, 2022): 13.6in, Liquid Retina, 500nits brightness

The MacBook Pro (M2 Pro/Max, 2023) models come with Liquid Retina XDR displays compared to the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) Liquid Retina display.

As mentioned, the MacBook Pro is available in 16.2-inch, which has a 3456 x 2234 pixel resolution, or 14.2-inch, which has a 3024 x 1964 pixel resolution. The MacBook Air meanwhile has a 13.6-inch screen size with a 2560 x 1664 pixel resolution.

All models come with True Tone technology and a P3 wide colour gamut, but the MacBook Pro models offer Apple’s ProMotion technology too, allowing for adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz.

The Pro models also offer XDR brightness with 1000nits sustained brightness at full screen and 1600nits peak brightness for HDR content, while the MacBook Air offers a standard 500nits. That means the MacBook Pro models will be better at cutting out reflections, as well as working on the move and outdoors. That said, we’ve been using the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) since it launched and we’ve never encountered issues here.

2022 Apple MacBook Air Laptop mit M2 Chip: 13,6″ Liquid Retina Display, 8GB RAM, 256 GB SSD Speicher, beleuchtete Tastatur, 1080p FaceTime HD Kamera. Kompatibel mit iPhone/iPad; Space Grau

Power and memory

  • MacBook Pro (M2 Pro/Max, 2023): M2 Pro or M2 Max chip, up to 38-core GPU, up to 96GB memory, up to 8TB SSD
  • MacBook Air (M2, 2022): M2 chip, up to 10-core GPU, up to 24GB memory, up to 2TB SSD

It’s power and hardware where you’ll notice the difference between these models though.

The MacBook Pro models are offered with either the M2 Pro or the M2 Max chip. The base model of the M2 Pro chip has a 12-core CPU with 8 performance cores and four efficiency cores, a 19-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine and a 200GB/s memory bandwidth.

The base model of the M2 Max chip also has a 12-core GPU with 8 performance cores and four efficiency cores, as well as a 16-core Neural Engine, but it is configurable up to a 38-core GPU, and there’s 400GB/s memory bandwidth. Both the M2 Pro and M2 Max chip models come with a Media engine that incorporates a video decode engine, video encode engine, ProRes encode and decode engine, as well as H.264, HEVC, ProRes and ProRes RAW.

By comparison, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) has an 8-core CPU with 4 performance cores, 4 efficiency cores, up to 10-core GPU and a 16-core Neural Engine. It also has half the memory bandwidth of the M2 Pro chip at 100GB/s. The same media engine is on board as the Pro models though.

Elsewhere, memory options for the MacBook Pro models run from 16GB to a huge 96GB on the M2 Max models with 38-core GPU. Storage options start at 512SSD on the MacBook Pro models to 8TB.

The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) starts at 8GB memory, with options up to 24GB, while storage starts at 256GB SSD with options up to 2TB SSD.

Hardware

  • MacBook Pro (M2 Pro/Max, 2023): Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, six speaker array, 3x Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C), 1x HDMI, 1x SDXC card slot
  • MacBook Air (M2, 2022): Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5, four speaker array, 2x Thunderbolt (USB 4) ports

There are a couple of differences when it comes to ports and audio capabilities between these models too, as well as connectivity.

The MacBook Pro models support Wi-Fi 6E – the first MacBook’s to do so – and Bluetooth 5.3, while the MacBook Air support Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

In terms of audio, the MacBook Pro models come with a six-speaker sound system with force-cancelling woofers, while the MacBook Air has a four-speaker array that offers wide stereo sound. It’s likely the MacBook Pro models will be better as this was one of the few areas the MacBook Air didn’t excel in.

Both the MacBook Pro models and the MacBook Air have support for Spatial Audio while playing music or video with Dolby Atmos on the built-in speakers though, and they also offer support for Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking when using compatible AirPods.

In terms of ports, the MacBook Pro models have three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports, a HDMI port and a SDXC card slot. The MacBook Air meanwhile only has two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports. Both the MacBook Pro models and the MacBook Air have a 3.5mm audio port.

Both the MacBook Pro models and the MacBook Air have a 1080p FaceTime camera.

Battery

  • MacBook Pro (M2 Pro/Max, 2023): 14in – up to 12 hours, 16in – up to 15 hours
  • MacBook Air (M2, 2022): Up to 12 hours

Last but not least on the differences: battery. Apple has claimed the MacBook Pro models have the longest battery life of any Mac, which is great if true as the battery life on the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is nothing short of exceptional.

When you break that down though, it’s the 16-inch model the company is talking about, with up to 15 hours of web browsing – the same as what is promised for the MacBook Air, compared to the 14-inch MacBook Pro model’s 12 hours.

All models use a MagSafe charger, though you get different power adapters in the box, depending on the model you choose. The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) comes with 30W USB-C Power Adapter as standard, or a 35W Dual USB‑C Port Compact Power Adapter with the 10-core GPU and 512GB storage model. It is fast-charge capable with a 67W USB‑C Power Adapter available, but that’s sold separately.

The MacBook Pro 14-inch comes with a 67W USB-C Power Adapter as standard, though a 96W adapter is included with M2 Pro with 12-core CPU or M2 Max models. The MacBook Pro 16-inch model meanwhile, comes with a 140W USB-C Power Adapter as standard.

Conclusion

On paper – and unsurprisingly – the MacBook Pro models are the more powerful models compared to the MacBook Air, and you’ll also get display enhancements, more ports, better connectivity and better audio capabilities. They will no doubt be the MacBook of choice for content creators and those who need a laptop that can handle more demanding tasks, like video editing.

That said, you may not need all the power and features offered by the MacBook Pro models, or you maybe can’t justify the price they come with. The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is a fantastic laptop. It has a similar, but lighter design compared to the MacBook Pro models, an excellent battery life, and it is more than capable of handling the majority of everyday tasks, as well as a few extras.

Naturally, the MacBook Pro models will no doubt be the better option for those who need the power, but for the everyday user, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is well worth considering. We will update this feature once we have reviewed the MacBook Pro models in case there are any surprises.

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