It was a bit strange that Apple was selling both a 13-inch MacBook Air and a 13-inch MacBook Pro at the same time, but maybe never more than they do today – because Apple’s new $ 999 and $ 1,299 laptops seem almost identical if you look beyond the differently curved laptops, be frames. They share the same M1 processor, memory and storage options, ports, and very similar screens.
I’m not kidding when I say the biggest difference is a fan.
This fan, exclusive to the MacBook Pro:
I mean yes it is a little Somewhat funny is the MacBook Air now a laptop that doesn’t blow air, just as it’s amusing that the Air is still technically one dicker Laptop than the 13 inch pro. (I think it’s been a long time since manila envelopes were a thing.)
But you shouldn’t knock that fan, because here’s a little-known fact about today’s CPUs: They can almost all run much faster if you cool them better. The thermal design performance (TDP) of a CPU in watts is a better predictor of performance than its gigahertz clock rate, as some of the weakest laptop and phone chips today can “boost” up to several gigahertz … until they warm up. In a small, fanless chassis you have to throttle quickly, but in a larger or better cooled chassis you can run longer.
This is exactly what happens in the new MacBook Air with the Apple M1, MacBook Pro and Mac mini, as Apple has confirmed The edge. Every computer has the same exact processor (with a wrinkle I’ll fix in a second) that can theoretically run at the same speed. However, the fan on the MacBook Pro and Mac mini allows you to keep peak performance longer.
Apple, of course, is trying both ways: during its presentation, it first praised the MacBook Air for being fanless, and then talked about the “active cooling solution” (aka the fan you’ve had for years) in the MacBook Pro. We’ll have to see in our upcoming reviews which design is actually better.
While the fan may be the most significant difference, it’s not that just one. Do you remember the wrinkles I told you about? Here it is and more:
- For $ 999, the MacBook Air ships with seven GPU cores instead of eight, as Apple saves some weaker chips (a common process known as binning) by disabling a core.
- At $ 1,249, the MacBook Air has the same eight CPU and eight GPU cores as the 13-inch MacBook Pro for $ 1,299.
- The 13-inch MacBook Pro has a slightly larger battery (58.2 Wh versus 49.9 Wh) and offers two additional hours of battery life compared to the MacBook Air.
- The screen of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is at most a little brighter (500 nits compared to 400 nits).
- The 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with the Touch Bar instead of the physical function keys, although both have a Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
You might also be interested to know that both laptops have 16GB of RAM. This is a current limitation of Apple’s M1 processor. Here’s Apple’s own spec comparison if you want to take a closer look.
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