MacBook Pro or Air M2, which Apple ultraportable to choose?

On June 6, Apple unveiled the first two MacBooks equipped with its new M2 processor. The first, the MacBook Air, was given a complete overhaul of its design, refined, lightened, and in line with what the most recent 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros offer. The second, precisely, is a MacBook Pro. But this is the 13 inch model. He is not entitled to a new design, and therefore does not benefit from an effect wow, linked to a new appearance.

Therefore, and even before having tested one and the other, one can wonder if, when buying a MacBook, the entry-level Pro model has the cards in hand to win the membership. . Does the MacBook Air have it all, beyond a new design? Small review of details and technical sheet.

Design, compactness and weight: light as Air

For this round, the MacBook Pro probably hesitated to enter the ring. Its 2016 design is obviously not unpleasant, but it has neither the freshness of novelty nor the relative compactness that the arrival of the Apple Silicon chip allows.
Paradoxically, by adopting a design that maintains the same thickness over the entire depth of its chassis, the MacBook Air 2022 gains a greater impression of finesse. With almost half a centimeter less than the MacBook Pro (0.43 cm to be precise), the difference is obvious both to the eye and in the hand. It’s all the more pleasant as the recycled aluminum case, always perfectly finished, ensures reassuring rigidity in the event of a fall or stay in a mishandled backpack.
The weight difference is also noticeably felt. The MacBook Air deserves even more than before its name, and is lighter. He loses 160 g, all the same!

Nothing to say, for this round the featherweight wins the point. Not to mention the two very successful new finishes: Starlight and Midnight. We clearly have a preference for this color, which, depending on the light, oscillates between deep blue and black.

Connectivity – Touch Bar, ports, and webcam: Air of nothing

After passing them on the scales and under the measuring board, let’s take a quick tour of the case. The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 2022 are strictly identical from a connection point of view. They are as good or bad as each other. Not jealous. Both ensure the minimum.
Apple offers two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, and you’ll still have to juggle dongles if you want to connect a USB-A key, or an SDXC card reader.

We appreciated that Apple is integrating a new card reader on the high-end Pro models: the general public and the pros, who seek mobility more than power, do not seem to take photos with a dedicated device or a camera . Too bad for them.

On the wireless connection side, there is Bluetooth (5.0, not 5.2) and Wi-Fi 802.11ax, in other words Wi-Fi 6, and not 6E, as on the most recent devices on the market. by competition. In this case, we do not really know if it is a defect, knowing that all the manufacturers of network products are forcing the pace to offer Wi-Fi 7 modules from the end of the year.

The difference in the field of connectors and accessories is made in two places.
Let’s start with the Webcam, a long-neglected point, but which the pandemic has brought back to the center of our attention. The MacBook Pro stubbornly offers a 720p camera. In a machine premium, in 2022, we cannot explain it. Especially since the MacBook Air, like its recent big brothers, is entitled to a 1080p FaceTime HD camera.

Apple

Let’s continue with the keyboard, the central part that made the reputation of Macs, despite the setbacks of the excellent but failing butterfly keyboards. The Magic keyboard is part of both laptops, but the MacBook Air offers 79 keys in all, compared to 66 (only) for the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Why ? How ? Simply because the small Pro model is the last to make room for the Touch Bar. The small OLED screen, which displays keys or shortcuts depending on the program used, is always there. It’s a historical oddity.

This gives us the opportunity, probably for the last time, to regret that Apple did not succeed in imposing a form of uniformity in the use of this ergonomic find, which could have been much more practical and useful, if it hadn’t been implemented so differently in different applications. Without rules and without benchmarks, there is no habit, and therefore no success…

Nevertheless, some users, individuals or professionals, like this Touch Bar. This could therefore be a reason to opt for the 13-inch MacBook Pro. For others, those who love function keys and a large, easy-to-find Esc key, you know where to go. The MacBook Air reaches out to you…

Since we’re talking about fingers, let’s finish with the Touch ID reader. Apple hasn’t integrated a Face ID camera on its MacBook Air, despite its new design. The fingerprint reader is therefore always the way to avoid entering your password to identify yourself all the time.

It could have ended in a draw, but the MacBook Air wins this round in our opinion. A case of Webcam, and Touch Bar not so essential…

Screen: Air sees bigger…

Crucial point of computers, the screen must be the object of a lot of attention. After all, why inflict a bad or barely good slab on yourself when you know you’re going to spend hours watching it?
In this case, we cannot say the MacBook Air and Pro are a priori disappointing in this case. However, without sticking to the best of the latest Apple laptops, the MacBook Air is moving upmarket. It displays up to a billion colors – better in theory than what the MacBook Pro offers – and gains in brightness compared to the M1 model. The two machines are now equal on this point with 500 cd/m2 announced.
However, the MacBook Air takes a slight ascendancy. Thanks to its new design (and the use of a notch), its useful surface increases a little. The diagonal is now 13.6 inches, compared to 13.3 inches previously on the MacBook Air M1, and on the MacBook Pro M2.
This small difference allows the Air to grab a few more pixels for its definition. Nothing really dazzling, but the visual effect is nevertheless pleasant. Slim bezels and menu bar integration on either side of the notch free up space for your programs.

Without being able to speak of a knockout, the MacBook Air nevertheless won this round, on points.

Configuration: perfect equality?

Let us now turn to the hard, the configuration. This is where, as in 2020, Apple plays the card of the most perfect equality.

Both laptops feature the same M2 chip, with eight CPU cores and ten GPU cores. They both offer the same amount of memory (8 GB) and storage (256 GB) by default. The options to increase the amount of RAM to 16 or 24 GB of DDR5 cost the same for both devices, respectively 230 and 460 euros. For storage, it will take 230 euros for 512 GB, 460 euros for 1 TB, and 920 euros for 2 TB for both configurations, which bend to the same maximum.

Moreover, a priori, as has been the case for several years, it is better to plan for a large purchase from the outset so as not to regret it later, the two laptops not being known for their ability to be upgraded. day afterwards.
It is in this case, on paper, a draw, a perfect equality. However, the MacBook Pro has, in theory, a slight advantage for those who are going to push Apple’s configuration to its limits. Its active cooling system (fans) should allow it to maintain a constant level of performance longer than the MacBook Air.

This, according to Apple, should make the difference if you plan to edit 4K videos on this configuration, or launch 3D or other greedy calculations. Long compilations could possibly also benefit from it, even if we ask to see anyway. Will the mere presence of a fan make it possible to differentiate the two machines by use? Let’s wait for our tests. Until then, we want to give the advantage to the MacBook Pro for this round.

Autonomy: the Pro takes control

Let’s end our little technical sheet duel with an essential point, too, autonomy. We have obviously not yet tested these two machines, so we rely on the figures provided by Apple.
On the previous generation, powered by the M1s, we did not obtain the same results as those given by the American giant, however, the orders of magnitude and differences were respected. The MacBook Pro M1 largely dominated the MacBook Air M1 in the two tests that we subject all laptops that pass through our hands.
At the end of 2020, Apple communicated the same autonomy for its MacBook Air and Pro as for this new generation, respectively 18 and 20 hours in video, and 15 and 17 in web surfing. The trend should therefore be identical with these Macs powered by the M2.
To put it into perspective, our video streaming tests resulted in giving the MacBook Air 11:36 a.m. and the MacBook Pro 2:06 p.m., while our versatile autonomy test (simulation of various daily uses) rewarded the 13-inch MacBook Pro with a record 4:57 p.m. , then the MacBook Air surrendered at 1:46 p.m.

Barring a big surprise, the 13-inch MacBook Pro should therefore remain Apple’s ultraportable with the most endurance. If you need to be able to work a very long day away from an electrical outlet, you know which machine to choose. Even if, in fact, it is difficult to say that the MacBook Air demerits and offers an autonomy that disqualifies it.

The price, one last point not to be overlooked…

Before concluding this “theoretical” duel, it is obviously necessary to take an interest in one last element: the price. And, in the end, it is undoubtedly the ultimate element that will tip the scales in one camp or the other.
The first observation is that prices have soared. More 450 euros between the entry-level MacBook Pro M1 and its M2 equivalent, and “only” more 150 euros on the top model of the MacBook Pro. But, hang in there, it’s the MacBook Air that hits the hardest. Count 370 euros more between the two entry-level models of the MacBook Air M1 and M2, and more 450 euros on the high-end model.
For the lightest of Apple’s ultraportables, this significant increase can be explained quite simply by a repositioning in the range, since the model equipped with an M1 remains on sale, at any entry level, at 1,199 euros, or 70 euros more… for the same machine…
The most surprising thing – and we’ve checked more than once – is that the top-of-the-range MacBook Air M2 model is 20 euros more expensive than its equivalent for the MacBook Pro M2…

For this last round, the MacBook Pro is finally doing quite well. Not necessarily enough to seduce. But these observations suggest, however, that the new design of the MacBook Air comes at a high price… It will obviously be necessary to wait until you have tested these two Macs to definitively settle the debate.

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