Video Comparison: M3 MacBook Air vs. M3 MacBook Pro

With the refresh of the MacBook Air models in March, Apple now has M3 versions of the 13-inch ‌MacBook Air‌, 14-inch MacBook Pro, and 15-inch ‌MacBook Air‌, all with the same chip inside. For those trying to decide between the MacBook Pro and the ‌MacBook Air‌, we did a comparison video to highlight what you're getting with each machine.


While the ‌MacBook Air‌ and the 14-inch MacBook Pro have the same M3 chip, there is a difference with the low-end ‌MacBook Air‌. At the entry-level $1,099 price, the 13-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ has an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU. The more expensive $1,299 13-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ has an 8-core CPU and upgraded 10-core GPU, with all 15-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ and 14-inch MacBook Pro models also starting with the upgraded 10-core GPU.

So you can get a ‌MacBook Air‌ for as little as $1,099, but at that price point, the GPU is downgraded. That won't matter for general day-to-day use, but it's something to keep in mind. The 15-inch ‌MacBook Air‌ is priced starting at $1,299, and the 14-inch MacBook Pro is priced starting at $1,599, so there is a major price difference.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro is priced higher because it starts with a 512GB SSD instead of 256GB like the ‌MacBook Air‌, and because it has a better display. Apple uses a mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR display that has ProMotion with refresh rates up to 120Hz and up to 1,600 nits peak brightness. The ‌MacBook Air‌ has an LCD display with up to 500 nits brightness, so the real notable difference between the machines is the display quality.

Mini-LED offers deeper blacks, more vivid colors, and it overall just looks better, especially for work where color is important like photo editing and for watching movies or other HDR content. There are no fans inside the ‌MacBook Air‌, while the MacBook Pro has fans for active cooling. In theory, you could see better performance out of the M3 with the active cooling when using very system intensive tasks. Ports are another difference, with the MacBook Pro featuring an HDMI 2.1 port and an SDXC card slot in addition to two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports. The ‌MacBook Air‌ doesn't have the extra ports, and is limited to the two Thunderbolt ports.

Both versions of the ‌MacBook Air‌ are thinner and lighter than the 14-inch MacBook Pro, so the ‌MacBook Air‌ wins out when it comes to portability, but the MacBook Pro has longer battery life (18 hours for the ‌MacBook Air‌ vs. 22 hours for the MacBook Pro. Other specs are largely the same, though there are some differences in speaker and microphone quality.

Basically, the 14-inch MacBook Pro is more expensive but has better display quality, while the ‌MacBook Air‌ wins out when it comes to portability and price. Choosing one will depend on workload, but the ‌MacBook Air‌ is the computer that we recommend for most people. You'll want to go with the MacBook Pro if display quality is important or if there are specific ports you need.

Make sure to watch our video up above for a full comparison of the two machines, and we also have a comparison guide that includes the M3 Pro and M3 Max chips.

Related Forums: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro

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Top Rated Comments

BB1970 Avatar
19 weeks ago

I don't know who this base M3 Pro is for.
Me. I want the Air in theory, but would prefer to have an SD card slot and nicer screen. My creative needs (light videos and mostly audio) doesn’t need much but I like the assurance of a fanned device
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Fuzzball84 Avatar
19 weeks ago

TLDR:

Get a MACBOOK AIR 8GB model if you make generic long winded videos like these
Get a MACBOOK PRO 16GB model if you work for a real living. Not make these generic long winded videos all the time.

Your MBAir will throttle when you actually perform real life tasks like compiling long code, blender work, and or frequent ffmpeg related tasks.
Those "real life" tasks are just for a minority of users..... most real life tasks are office productivity, safari web browsing and on company portals, teams calls, email etc

The graphic/design/video brigade are a very very small subset of users. Indeed users that Apple likes to target... as some consumers will do a tiny bit now and again and you can engineer CPU to fly through encoding tasks. But most people do mostly boring undemanding stuff.

MacBook Air is a fine choice for the vast majority of Apples customers. Not all will buy it, as some like to go with. Pro... but do they really need it? probably not.

It's like when they demo video editing on iPad... very very few will use it for that... the port selection, file management and desktop space (and window system) just isn't there. Most people use iPad to stream shows, read an e-book, surf the web and maybe make a few notes and reply to email.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CalMin Avatar
19 weeks ago
I don't know who this base M3 Pro is for. It seems it's for Apple's fiendishly clever pricing ladder more than to meet the needs of any specific user. The way they price things is that there is always something better for just another $100-200 more than you wanted to spend. It's the devil's work, I tell you.

In terms of actually being a good choice for anyone, I literally can't think of anyone who would be better served with this over a MacBook Air. The folks who need 'Pro' level power know that and won't shop an 8GB machine for 'Pro' work.

Very strange Apple. Very strange...
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
coffeemilktea Avatar
19 weeks ago

There are no fans inside the MacBook Air, while the MacBook Pro has fans for active cooling. In theory, you could see better performance out of the M3 with the active cooling when using very system intensive tasks.
I have to say, I'm really impressed with how well the MacBook Air performs with no fans and only throttling to help with the heat buildup. Even a lot of things that normally required a beefy setup in the past — like video editing — work just fine on the Air without issues. ?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Realityck Avatar
19 weeks ago

Basically, the 14-inch MacBook Pro is more expensive but has better display quality, while the MacBook Air wins out when it comes to portability and price. Choosing one will depend on workload, but the MacBook Air is the computer that we recommend for most people. You'll want to go with the MacBook Pro if display quality is important or if there are specific ports you need.
The MBP display would be more important to me then saving a few dollars. But people have good choices now between MBA line and MBP line offering more performance which is good. :)
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
goji99 Avatar
19 weeks ago
The way I see it - if someone is questioning if they need a Pro, they most likely don't need it. I have a 1TB/18GB M3 Pro for music production, but if I weren't doing that, an 8GB MacBook Air would be more than enough to get my college work done and I highly doubt it'd ever thermal throttle with normal tasks. Even with 8GB they're still powerful machines that'll last for years, despite what tech influencers say.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)