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15 inch MacBook Air vs 16 inch MacBook Pro

We compare the 2023 variants of the 16 inch MacBook Pro vs 15 inch MacBook Air

Updated: Jun 30, 2023 1:46 pm
15 inch MacBook Air vs 16 inch MacBook Pro

The 15 inch MacBook Air vs 16 inch MacBook Pro – which is better? Or, more accurately, which is the better option for your needs?

Ahead of the imminent 15 inch MacBook Air release date, and following its official announcement at WWDC 2023, we’re going to take a look at the specs of this device compared to the MacBook Pro, and discuss what these details mean below to help you device between them

15 inch MacBook Air vs 16 inch MacBook Pro specs comparison

Apple MacBook Air 15 (2023)Apple MacBook Pro 16 (2023)
screen size & resolution15.3-inch 16:10 (2880 x 1864, 224ppi)16.2-inch (3456 x 2234, 254ppi)
display60Hz, Liquid Retina IPS (500nits)60Hz/120Hz ProMotion, Liquid Retina XDR (500nits SDR / 1000nits XDR / 1600nits HDR content)
chipsetApple M2 (8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine)Apple M2 Pro (12-core CPU, 19-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine) / M2 Max (12-core CPU, 38-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine)
RAM8GB / 16GB / 24GB unified memory16GB / 32GB / 64GB (M2 Max only) / 128GB (M2 Max only)
storage256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB SSD512GB/1TB/2TB/4TB/8TB SSD
I/O ports2x USB-C (Thunderbolt 4), 1x 3.5mm headphone jack3x USB-C (Thunderbolt 4), 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x HDMI, 1x SDXC card slot
battery66.5 watt-hour100 watt-hour
chargerMagSafe 3 charging port: either 35W Dual USB-C Port Compact Power Adapter or 70W USB-C Power AdapterMagSafe 3 charging port
weight3.3lbs4.7lbs (M2 Pro) / 4.8lbs (M2 Max)
dimensions0.45″ x 13.4″ x 9.35″0.66″ x 14.01″ x 9.77″
colorssilver, space gray, starlight, midnightsilver, space gray
misc1080p webcam, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.31080p webcam, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3

15 inch MacBook Air display vs 16 inch MacBook display

Although both laptops come with Liquid Retina displays, the 2023 MacBook Pro 16 comes with the XDR variant that is capable of much higher peak brightness, particularly when viewing HDR content. It also has ProMotion tech that effectively boosts the maximum refresh rate to 120Hz.

In terms of resolution, the MacBook Pro also has a higher pixel per inch (ppi count) than the 15-inch MacBook Air.

15 inch MacBook Air chipset vs 16 inch MacBook chipset

The Apple M2 Pro and M2 Max chipsets in the latest MacBook Pro 16 are substantially more powerful than the regular Apple M2 chip in the 15 inch MacBook Air (even if it is more powerful than that in the 13 inch MacBook Air), however this level of power is beyond what you’d need for casual general use.

The M2 Pro is best for those with moderately demanding editing workloads (be they photo/video/audio) whereas the M2 Max is only for really strenuous workloads, or many running simultaneously, heavy CAD rendering or the like.

The M2 chip in the MacBook Air is certainly adequate for general use and light creative workloads however.

15 inch MacBook Air vs 16 inch MacBook Pro battery life

The MacBook Air 15 inch model comes with a smaller 66.5 watt-hour battery than the larger 100 watt-hour one in the MacBook Pro, but it has a less powerful (and therefore less power-hungry) chipset.

We’ll have to wait for third party testing to know how the 15 inch MacBook Air battery life performs in different real-world scenarios, but based on the specs provided by Apple, it’s claimed that both laptops should be able to manage ‘up to 15 hours wireless web browsing’, although the MacBook Pro can apparently manage up to 22 hours of Apple TV app movie playback, whereas the Air can only manage 18.

15 inch MacBook Air vs 16 inch MacBook Pro price

The 15 inch MacBook Air price starts at $1,299 for the lowest storage and RAM loadout, with upgrades in either of these areas costing more.

The MacBook Pro 16 (2023) price begins at $2,299 for the M2 Pro version, and $3,199 for the M2 Max.

15 inch MacBook Air vs 16 inch MacBook Pro : Final Word

So, to sum up, the 15 inch MacBook Air vs 16 inch MacBook Pro – which should you pick? Well the two devices are ultimately aimed at different users, with different needs and different budgets. The lighter, thinner, and much more affordable MacBook Air is a much better choice for the average general user, looking for a quality machine for the office, studying, or light creative use.

The MacBook Pro however (as the name suggests) is more geared towards creative professionals doing more demanding tasks, with a need for greater processing power, storage, RAM, and an HDR capable screen, for whom the steep asking price is worth the money.

You may want to also consider some Windows laptops on our best MacBook Pro alternatives guide.

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