M3 MacBook Air vs. M3 MacBook Pro: Which Mac is best for you?


It’s time for a good ol’ M3 MacBook Air vs. M3 MacBook Pro face-off in our versus ring.

With the new 15-inch MacBook Air being equipped with the M3 chip, the question is, how does it differ from the 14-inch MacBook Pro?

Don’t worry, dear reader. We’re going to dispel your confusion and help you make an informed about which M3 MacBook — Air or Pro — is right for you.

M3 MacBook Air vs. M3 MacBook Pro: Price

The M3 MacBook Air is the cheapest and it comes in two flavors: 13-inch and 15-inch models.

M3 MacBook Air line

The new M3 MacBook Air line
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

The 13-inch variant has a starting price of $1,099 and comes with the following specs:

  • 8-Core CPU

  • 8-Core GPU

  • 8GB of RAM

  • 256GB of SSD storage

I’d warn you, though, that 8GB of RAM is scant, particularly if you love juggling a lot of apps and Google Chrome tabs simultaneously. To be on the safe side, I’d recommend upgrading your memory to 16GB of RAM, which is an additional $200 for a total of $1,299.

The M3 MacBook Pro only comes in a 14-inch model. It has a starting price of $1,599 and features the following specs:

  • 8-Core CPU

  • 10-Core GPU

  • 8GB of RAM

  • 512GB of SSD storage

Again, the entry-level 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro only comes with 8GB of RAM, which isn’t ideal if you don’t want to stomach slowdowns while hopping between numerous apps and tabs. I suggest tacking on an extra $200 for 16GB of memory.

Winner: M3 MacBook Air

M3 MacBook Air vs. M3 MacBook Pro: Display

As mentioned, the M3 MacBook Air comes in two display sizes: 13.6 inches and 15.3 inches.

13-inch M3 MacBook Air on a table

13-inch M3 MacBook Air
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

The 15-inch display is the sweet spot: not too small (like the 13-inch model), but not to large. There’s a chance that the 13.6-inch model may be too cramped for you.

The M3-based MacBook Pro only comes in a 14-inch variant, but if you don’t mind spending the extra money, you can nab the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which comes with processor upgrades, too (e.g., the more powerful M3 Pro or M3 Max instead of the entry-level M3 chip).

Check out the resolution and brightness of each laptop across both the M3 MacBook Air and M3 MacBook Pro models:

  • 13-inch M3 MacBook Air: 2,560 x 1,664-pixel resolution, 500 nits of brightness

  • 15-inch M3 MacBook Air: 2,800 x 1,864-pixel resolution, 500 nits of brightness

  • 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro: 3,024 x 1,964-pixel resolution, up to 1,600 nits of brightness

To put it succinctly, if you want a bright display (a must if you use your laptop outdoors often) and a crisp, high-res screen (ideal for graphics and video editing), the 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro is your best bet.

Winner: M3 MacBook Pro

M3 MacBook Air vs. M3 MacBook Pro: Design

Design-wise, let’s start with what’s the same. If you’re not a fan of the notch (e.g., the webcam-housing, rectangular thingamajig that dips into the display), too bad! It’s a feature across both the Air and Pro models.

15-inch M3 Macbook Air on a table

15-inch M3 Macbook Air
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

Diving into the differences, the M3 MacBook Air offers the following colors, including Midnight Black, which is designed to fend off fingerprints better than the others:

The MacBook Pro line also features a colorway with a fingerprint-resistant seal; it’s called Space Black. However, there’s a catch. You can only get Space Black for MacBook Pro models with the M3 Pro or M3 Max chip. In other words, you’ll have to spend at least $2,000 (e.g., the 14-inch M3 Pro-based MacBook Pro variant) to get it.

That being said, the only colors you can get for the M3-based 14-inch MacBook Pro are the following:

A bit boring, I know. I’d opt for Silver, if I were you; fingerprints and scratches are less noticeable on it.

14-inch M3 MacBook Pro on a table

14-inch M3 MacBook Pro
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

I’d also add that, unsurprisingly, the 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro is the heaviest:

  • 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro: 3.4 pounds, 0.6 inches thick

  • 15-inch M3 MacBook Air: 3.3 pounds, 0.45 inches thick

  • 13-inch M3 MacBook Air: 2.7 pounds, 0.44 inches thick

If you need a travel companion that won’t put to much stress on your back and shoulders, the 13-inch M3 MacBook Air is ideal.

Finally, another striking difference between Air and Pro is the presence of speaker grilles that flank the keyboard on the latter. As you’ll see in the next section, the Pro is unmatched when it comes to delivering ear-soothing sounds.

Winner: M3 MacBook Air

M3 MacBook Air vs. M3 MacBook Pro: Audio

There’s no contest. Not only does the MacBook Pro have better audio than the MacBook Air, but it arguably has the best speaker system on the market.

  • 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro: 6-speaker sound system

  • 13-inch, 15-inch M3 MacBook Air: 4-speaker sound system

Don’t get me wrong; the M3 MacBook Air’s audio is still divine.

15-inch M3 MacBook Air on a table

15-inch M3 MacBook Air
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

Whether you choose the 13-inch or 15-inch variant, it comes with a four-speaker sound system that is crisp, loud, and smooth. However, when you play music on the MacBook Pro’s six-speaker sound system, equipped with force-cancelling woofers, it sounds absolutely angelic.

It’s worth noting that both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro have a three-mic array, but Apple boasts that the latter has a “studio-quality” setup.

M3 MacBook Air vs. M3 MacBook Pro: Ports

If you’re a content creator, I’d recommend grabbing the Pro model. The problem with the Air is that it only features the following I/O options:

The M3 MacBook Pro, on the other hand, adds two more ports: HDMI, SDXC card slot.

Winner: M3 MacBook Pro

M3 MacBook Air vs. M3 MacBook Pro: External display support

The M3 MacBook Air, unlike its predecessor, supports two external displays. However, the catch is that you can only use those displays while the lid is closed. In other words, no, you can’t use the panel on the laptop – just the two external monitors.

15-inch M3 MacBook Air

14-inch M3 MacBook Air
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

This means you’ll have to rely on peripherals like the Magic KeyboardMagic Trackpad, and Magic Mouse to enjoy the multi-screen experience.

Apple recently announced that the 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro, like the new M3 MacBook Air, will support the same external display function (including the exclusion of the laptop panel while using multiple screens) in the near future.

Winner: Draw

M3 MacBook Air vs. M3 MacBook Pro: Performance

Yes, the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in this versus have the same chip – the M3 – but there are some differences that affect the performance of both models.

14-inch M3 MacBook Pro on a table

14-inch M3 MacBook Pro
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

Before we get into that, allow us to share our scores from Geekbench 6, which tested the 8-core CPUs inside our M3 MacBook Air and M3 MacBook Pro review units.

  • 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro: 11,998

  • 15-inch M3 MacBook Air: 12,057

Again, both models we tested on Geekbench 6 have the same 8-core CPU, so the processing prowess is quite similar. As such, the delta between the two scores are too negligible to be significant.

However, the 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro offers more graphics oomph with its base model, thanks to its 10-core GPU (as opposed to 8-core GPU configuration the Air line starts with). If you want to upgrade your Air to a 10-Core GPU, you’ll have to shell out an extra $100.

In other words, configurations with the 10-Core GPU should offer a slight edge for anyone who is interested in video and photo editing — or macOS gaming.

14-inch M3 MacBook Pro on a table

14-inch M3 MacBook Pro
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

It’s also worth noting that the M3 MacBook Pro, thanks to being packed with fans (the M3 MacBook Air has a fanless design), can sustain workloads that stress the CPU and GPU better than the Air model.

If you do any serious, intensive work with graphics, opt for the Pro.

Winner: M3 MacBook Pro

M3 MacBook Air vs. M3 MacBook Pro: Battery life

According to Apple, both the 13-inch and 15-inch M3 MacBook Air models are rated for up to 18 hours of battery life. The 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro, on the other hand, lasts for up to 22 hours on a charge.

Winner: M3 MacBook Air

If you absolutely, positively need a ultra-bright, high-res display, an SDXC card slot, and an industry-leading laptop sound system, grab the M3 MacBook Pro.

However, consider that the M3 MacBook Air isn’t too much of a downgrade from the M3 MacBook Pro. Plus, with the M3 MacBook Air, you can snag the Midnight Black colorway, which is designed to reduce fingerprint smudges — a perk the M3 MacBook Pro doesn’t offer.





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