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Best MacBook: Air, Pro, M1 and M2 compared

MacBook Air 2022
(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / iMore)

Apple has revealed two updated MacBooks in 2022, while a few more are expected to launch in the coming weeks. For now, we recommend the MacBook Air with M2 for most people. The latest MacBook Air checks all the boxes: price, features, design, and more. There are other MacBooks worth considering, however, depending on your needs. 

MacBook Air 2022 lifestyle photos

(Image credit: Karen S. Freeman / iMore)
The perfect Mac laptop for most people

Reasons to buy

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Most affordable MacBook
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Uses Apple's blazingly fast M2 SoC
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Long-lasting battery life
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Liquid Retina display with Touch ID
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Four color choices

Reasons to avoid

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Only two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports

The MacBook Air with M2 features Apple's M2 system-on-a-chip (SoC), which combines the CPU, GPU, RAM, and T2 into a single processor chip. The base model MacBook Air features an 8-core M2 chip with four performance cores and four efficiency cores and an all-new 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display with 2560 by 1664 pixels.

This year's MacBook Air has excellent battery life, with Apple promising at least 15 hours of web usage and 18 hours of video playback. Of course, your mileage will vary, but it's a significant improvement over previous Intel-based MacBook Airs.

Speaking of performance, the M2 chip is nothing to scoff at, that's for sure. And because it's so much more power-efficient, the MacBook Air doesn't even need fans — there are zero fans inside the machine, so it's going to be super quiet while being able to handle anything you throw at it.

New for 2022 is a 1080p FaceTime HD camera and the return of Apple's much-loved MagSafe charging port.

And even though the MacBook Air is the cheapest MacBook, you aren't missing out on any features. The MacBook Air with M2 still offers an incredible 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display with 2560 by 1664 pixels and Touch ID (for unlocking your computer and using Apple Pay online).

New for 2022 is a 1080p FaceTime HD camera and the return of Apple's much-loved MagSafe charging port. It also comes with two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack with advanced support for high-impedance headphones. The base model of the MacBook Air starts with a 256GB SSD, and you can configure it up to 2TB. The RAM on the M2 SoC begins at 8GB, but you can bump it up to 24GB if needed.

Did we mention the color choices? The MacBook Air (2022) comes in Midnight and Starlight for the first time, plus the more traditional Space Gray and Silver.

The MacBook Air has the perfect balance of features and affordability with the new M2 SoC, Liquid Retina display, and great software.

13-inch MacBook Pro (2022)

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / iMore)
Best for affordable and portable power

Reasons to buy

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Has Apple M2 SoC
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Touch Bar with Touch ID
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20-hour battery life

Reasons to avoid

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Smaller display than Air
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Only a 720p FaceTime HD camera
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No MagSafe

The MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) also received an update this year, but it wasn't significant compared to the previous model. Like this year's MacBook Air, it also features Apple's M2, and it starts with the 8-core M2 chip, which means four cores are for performance, and the rest are for power efficiency. In addition, its 13.3-inch display gives you a 2560x1600 resolution Retina display, up to 24GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage.

On the positive side, the key differences between the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are that the Pro has a Touch Bar with Touch ID, and battery life is around 20 hours (versus 18 hours with the Air). Unfortunately, for the cons, the Pro has a smaller display, a less robust camera system, and no MagSafe.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro offers Touch Bar with Touch ID and 20 hours of battery power. However, its display is smaller than the one found on the latest MacBook Air.

2021 Macbook Pro Hero Apple

(Image credit: Apple)
A pro laptop for the pro user

Reasons to buy

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Latest and greatest
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M1 Pro or M1 Max, you decide
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16GB to 64GB of unified memory
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512GB to 8TB of storage
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A Liquid Retina XDR display

Reasons to avoid

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Most expensive model
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Heavy (4.7 lbs)
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Likely to get replaced SOON

For the pro on the go, there's nothing better than the second-generation 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021), which is significantly improved over the first-generation model. Like the 2021 14-inch MacBook Pro (mentioned below), this model offers an M1 Pro or M1 Max SoC with up to 64GB of unified memory and 8TB of SSD storage. Altogether, you can get up to a 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU.

But there's oh-so-much more! The latest 16-inch MacBook Pro has an impressive Liquid Retina XDR display (3456 by 2234 pixels) with ProMotion technology for adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz. It's also packed with up to 21 hours of battery life between charges, a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, and an advanced image signal processor with computational video.

Do you want even more? The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook models (2021) also see the return of MagSafe, an HDMI port, and an SDXC card slot, besides its three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports.

If you're looking for any negatives, understand this is the heaviest MacBook Pro in many years (4.7 pounds). It's also costly, even at the base level. Additionally, Apple's likely to replace this model before the end of the year. So keep this in mind before making an immediate purchase. 

The 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro gives you the most power and performance, though mobility is limited, and the price tag is high.

14-inch MacBook Pro

(Image credit: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore)
Versatility at a lower price

Reasons to buy

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Portable
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Touch Bar
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Liquid Retina XDR display
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Same great features as the 16-inch model

Reasons to avoid

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Still expensive
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New model should be arriving very soon

This laptop is for you if you want everything on the 16-inch MacBook Pro except a smaller display. It offers the same configurations as the larger model for less. However, not that much less. It's still a costly laptop, even at the base level.

For those looking for a MacBook Pro on a budget, you might want to consider the 13-inch model instead. It offers a slightly smaller display, an older design, and no MagSafe. And yet, it still comes with Apple silicon. It also remains the final MacBook Pro to provide a Touch Bar.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro is nearly identical to the 16-inch model except for the smaller display and price. Like that model, this one could see an internal update in the coming weeks. 

The best for most is the MacBook Air with M2

The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is the best overall MacBook for most people. Thanks to Apple's M2 SoC, you are getting the blazing-fast performance of Apple silicon optimized for performance and efficiency.

Add in the fact that you get 18 hours of battery life and a sharp 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display with Touch ID, and the latest MacBook Air can go a very long way. It also features the return of the flexible MagSafe charging port.

If you've decided instead to purchase a desktop computer, check out our best Macs list.