Suppose you would like to have a laptop that runs macOS or are following a course that requires it, then you end up with an Apple laptop. Quite a lot has changed at Apple lately, which has everything to do with the fact that the manufacturer has started making its own processors. However, Apple also sells laptops with Intel processors. Which CPU is the best to buy? Is it better to go for a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro, or better wait?
Intel of Apple
Apple introduced its first proprietary ‘laptop processor’ at the end of 2020, the Apple M1, after years of purchasing processors from Intel. “Laptop processor” is in quotes, because the chip, which debuted in the Mac Mini, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13, is now also in the iMac and iPad. It is therefore a versatile processor, which is used in tablets, laptops and desktops. He is also fast; the eight cores put in an impressive performance in our review from the end of 2020, especially when you consider that the chip is not actively cooled in the MacBook Air and the fan of the MacBook Pro barely starts either. The CPU is also economical. You can see that in the battery life of the MacBook Pro, which comes out at about seventeen hours during web browsing.
Apple MacBook Pro
However, Apple also still sells a MacBook Pro with Intel processor. Should you always ignore that model? Actually yes; the M1 processor is built on the arm architecture, while Intel processors are built on the x86 architecture. Apple is developing its operating system for the new chips, and that was apparent when we first took a look at macOS Monterey. The operating system will be released this fall and will be a free update for most recent macs. However, the operating system will already include some things that don’t run on Intel macs. Those are still small things like blurring the background on FaceTime calls, but you will probably miss more things in the future as an Intel user. Ultimately, that architecture is no longer supported at all.
In our opinion, the only reasons for buying another Intel Mac are that you want to be able to run specific x86 software that the M1 Macs can’t emulate, or that you want to run Windows alongside MacOS. On the M1 systems, that is native namely not possible. Finally, it may be that the screen size, the maximum amount of RAM or the SSD capacity of the M1 macs are not enough and you will therefore have to switch to the 16″ MacBook Pro. successor, so if the need is not too great, it is best to wait a little longer.
M1: Pro and Air
|MacBook Air||MacBook Pro|
|Cpu||M1, 8 cores, passive cooling||M1, 8 cores, active cooling|
|Gpu||7 of 8 gpu-cores||8 gpu-cores|
|Screen||13,3″, 2560×1600, max 400cd/m²||13,3″, 2560×1600, max 500cd/m²|
|Price||€ 1130,-||€ 1450,-|
If you opt for an Apple laptop with an M1 processor, you can still choose from the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. The models mainly resemble each other on the inside, but there are also differences. The MacBook Air is the thinner of the two and therefore also has a somewhat smaller battery. The Air does not have a Touch Bar; that is the touch-sensitive oled strip that replaces the function keys above the keyboard. We wouldn’t pass up the Air for that; the Touch Bar can add useful shortcuts in certain software, but we don’t think it’s indispensable.
Another difference is that the MacBook Air’s M1 processor is passively cooled, while the Pro has active cooling. In our benchmarks, that passive cooling proved to be sufficient and we didn’t see the Air slowing down because it couldn’t get rid of its heat. There are of course situations to consider, such as with hour-long renders, where a fan makes a difference, and then it is better to choose the MacBook Pro.
Apple MacBook Air
Screen and battery life
Apple generally supplies the MacBook laptops with good displays with a high resolution and a good calibration. MacBook screens always have a glossy coating, a matte option has not been available for about ten years. In addition, the MacBook screens have a wide color gamut; they can display the P3 gamut, which is wider than the common sRGB gamut.
Apple has lost the lead with high resolutions and brightness in the meantime, because more and more manufacturers are releasing laptops with resolutions higher than 1920×1080. For example, take a look at the thin&lights in this Best Buy Guide. That doesn’t mean the MacBook screens are bad, though; they are still of excellent quality. Apple has made a distinction between the good and the best panels. The brightness of the MacBook Air panel is nothing to be ashamed of at 400cd/m², but the MacBook Pro goes a step further with about 500cd/m². The contrast of the MacBook Air screen is disappointing, 1000:1 is the minimum that we expect from an IPS panel and that is just achieved. The contrast of the new MacBook Pro is much better.
If you look at the battery life, then the M1 chip is also a big improvement in that area. The MacBook Pro battery hasn’t grown in capacity, but the M1 laptop uses that energy more efficiently and has a battery life that is eight hours longer than that of its Intel predecessor. The MacBook Air with M1 processor has a smaller battery than the MacBook Pro M1 and is empty after more than fourteen hours in our browsing test.
If you are looking for an Apple laptop, we would currently opt for a model with an M1 processor. Those models have been released the most recently, and laptops with Apple’s own processor are likely to receive updates longer than those with Intel hardware. In addition, with an Intel Mac in the future you will miss functionality in the operating system that was developed exclusively for Apple’s own chips.
Will it be a Pro or an Air? As we wrote before; they have a lot of similar hardware on board, but the Pro has a slightly better screen and a longer battery life. You don’t have to let the passively cooled processor in the Air hold you back; he knows how to hold his own. We spent a few hours gaming on it (Civilization VI) and intensively editing photos with Lightroom and Photoshop. The laptop does get warm, but not noticeably slower. If you want to be sure that the CPU stays cool, you can opt for the MacBook Pro.
The next question is which configuration is best to purchase and that will differ from user to user. If you want to put the laptop to work with heavy software, we would go for the version with 16GB of RAM instead of the standard 8GB. The working memory cannot be expanded afterwards. This also applies to the SSD, but the shortage of space can still be compensated with the help of an external SSD.