Does the New MacBook Air Outshine the 2020 MacBook Pro?

Apple’s iconic MacBook lineup has always been famously straightforward. Even as the range has grown, there’s consistently been a clear distinction between models in terms of size, performance, functionality, and price.
Various incarnations of MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro have now come and gone. Even for those largely unfamiliar with the Apple ecosystem, getting to grips with what each of these had to offer was simple. Ultimately, this was always an entry-level laptop, a super-skinny ultrabook and a high-end device tailored more toward business users and creative professionals.
Now, though, the lines have been blurred. These come as Apple continues to replace the Intel chips that have been a staple in its MacBooks since 2006 with its proprietary M1 CPU. As a result, performance figures across the range have been somewhat turned on their heads.
In effect, this means that the brand’s latest MacBook Air has now seemingly outshone its big brother—Apple’s existing Intel based MacBook Pro—in a rather spectacular fashion.
This is especially surprising when you realize that Apple’s super-skinny 13-inch ultrabook offering maintains its $999 starting price, even in M1 guise. Meanwhile, the comparable 13-inch MacBook Pro in question is still powered by the outgoing i5 chip from Intel. As of April 2021, it still retails at $1,799.
That’s an $800 savings for what is now, on paper at least, a superior laptop. But is that really the case? Let’s take a closer look at each device’s technical specification.

Intel MacBook Pro

Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro, priced at $1,799, boasts some impressive specs:
  • Intel-powered a 2.0GHz quad-core 10th-generation i5 processor
  • 16GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X memory
  • 512GB SSD storage
  • Touch Bar and Touch ID functionality
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Retina display
All told, it’s a healthy spec, not unfitting of its large price tag. However, upgrading to Intel’s i7 chip, boosting its memory to 32GB and storage to 4TB, will now set you back a rather more eye-watering $3,599.
So, how does this compare to what the latest MacBook Air has to offer?

M1 MacBook Air

Apple’s all-new MacBook Air is powered by the company’s recently unveiled and wholly proprietary M1 chip. This sees the device furnished with an 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine.
All of this means that the Air is now up to 2.8x faster overall than the i5-powered Pro. Purely in terms of GPU speeds, this sees the Air outperform the Pro by around twice that amount again as far as integrated graphics, in particular, are concerned. In the simplest terms, this is because the ‌M1‌ chip operates at 3.2GHz frequency – well ahead of the Pro’s 2.0GHz.
According to MacRumors, the M1 chip in the new MacBook Air even outperforms the 10th-generation i9 chip in the much more expensive and larger 16-inch MacBook Pro. (It’s an ultra-high-end laptop with a staggering fully-loaded price of $6,699.)
Add into the mix the new MacBook Air’s identical backlit keyboard, display, and Touch ID functionality, and it feels like a very capable device. Factor the price in at $999, and it sounds even better.
It should be noted that if buyers want to match the M1 Air’s big brother’s default 512GB storage capacity, there’s another $250 to pay, making it $1,249. Its standard 256GB SSD is likely to be adequate for most people, though.

M1 Air vs. Intel MacBook Pro Verdict

Purely based on their technical specs, Apple’s new M1-powered Air feels like a no-brainer when pitted against the $550-$800 more expensive Pro. To throw a spanner in the works, though, there’s another important consideration: The M1 chip is, of course, also coming to the next-generation MacBook Pro.
Set to be priced from just $1,299, this will see the new 512GB 13-inch MacBook flagship squarely up against the comparable M1 MacBook Air. On that basis, it’ll likely come down to which form factor customers prefer. The controversial Touch Bar also remains exclusive to the MacBook Pro, for those to whom that’s important.
Want your MacBook in Apple’s divisive gold finish? That, on the other hand, continues to be an Air-exclusive option. Decisions, decisions…

AppleCare and Extended Warranty Protection

With all of the above said, one fact that does remain is the importance of protecting your new MacBook with the best extended warranty. AppleCare is, of course, comprehensive. It’s also extremely expensive.
Upsie, at the same time, offers a comparable or superior level of cover but saves customers up to 70% by cutting out the middleman. Upsie’s extended laptop warranties also provide extra coverage against drops and spills – something that a standard warranty will never include.
Further benefits of an Upsie warranty include competitive deductibles, coverage for both new, used or refurbished laptops, and a choice of two- or three-year terms. What’s more, MacBook-owning Upsie customers also receive full access to Genius Bar repairs.
Already bought your new MacBook? Don’t worry. You can still secure complete protection with Upsie for up to 60 days following the purchase of your device.

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* This article is over 6 months old and may or may not be updated.