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MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro for College Students

Learn more about the different features between the MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro to decide which is perfect for your college experience.

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What's Inside

The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro: both provide an exceptional online and offline experience  as well as similar capabilities, but which is the right fit for the typical college student? The goal by the end of this article is to figure out which MacBook model is the best fit for your needs.

MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro: Side-By-Side Comparison

MacBook Air MacBook Pro
Display 13.3” 13”, 14”, & 16”
Display Resolution 2560 by 1600 Pixels 2560 x 1600
3024 x 1964
3456 x 2234
Price $999 $1299-$2499
Battery Life Up to 18 Hours Up to 21 Hours
Weight 2.84 lbs. 3.09 lbs. – 4.63 lbs.
Chip M1 M1 & M1 Pro
RAM Up to 16GB Up to 64GB
Storage Up to 2TB Up to 8TB
Cooling System Internal Cooling System Fan
Ports Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 Three Thunderbolt 4 USB-C
SDXC card Slot

What is the MacBook Air with M1 Chip?

The M1 chip is the powerhouse of the MacBook Air, integrating the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, I/O and more into a single chip. It’s Apple’s most powerful chip to date, now featured within the MacBook Air. It offers: 

  • 16 Billion Transistors 
  • 8 Core CPU
  • 7 Core GPU
  • 16 GB Unified Memory

The M1 chip provides the MacBook Air with heavy processing power and the ability to take on a vast number of tasks while using less power. This makes the MacBook perfect for students who need to have multiple tabs open, while typing up their research papers or completing online homework. 

What is the MacBook Pro with M1 Chip?

The M1 Pro chip powers the MacBook Pro. It’s one of Apple’s most powerful chips and allows the MacBook Pro to perform similar tasks on the same level as an iMac desktop.

  • 33.7 billion transistors
  • 10 core CPU
  • 16 core GPU
  • 32 GB unified memory 

The M1 Pro chip gives the MacBook Pro the ability to perform tasks at a rapid speed, while using 70% percent less power than the previous chip. The processing speed, storage, and display resolution make this the perfect laptop for students whose course plan requires heavy film editing, design within Photoshop and compiling code.  

What is the MacBook Pro with M1 Max Chip?

In addition to the M1 Pro chip, the MacBook Pro in the 14” and 16” screen widths are available to purchase with the M1 Max chip installed.  This is Apple’s most powerful chip, providing revolutionary power and speed while using 40% less power. 

  • 57 billon transistors 
  • 10 core CPU
  • 32 core GPU
  • 64 GB unified memory

The M1 Max chip delivers the fastest and most efficient performance from a mobile Apple device to date. With its enhanced media engine, the chip allows the MacBook Pro to video encode up to 2x faster than the M1 Pro. It also can transcode ProRes video up to 10x faster. The chip makes the MacBook Pro perfect for students who are media majors who must do heavy film editing. 


Fanless vs. Fan: What’s the Difference?

The MacBook Air is known to be the lighter of the two MacBook models. This is because the MacBook Air uses its aluminum Apple unibody chassis technology to diffuse the heat from its CPU. The M1 chip is designed to make this possible for all MacBook Air models. Users can process several requests and avoid the annoyance of the fan noise.

As for the MacBook Pro, this model does use a fan to cool down its M1 chip. With a fan, users can push the limits of their MacBook Pro a little farther than the Air. Although, you won’t be doing this in silence: the fan in the MacBook Pro does produce an inevitable “airplane sound” while using it for a certain amount of time. 

MacBook Color Accuracy

Both MacBook models use the color profile P3, which has one billion colors. This is 25% more colors than the sRGB, which is the standard color profile for most laptops. In addition, both also have built in true tone technology. This means that the color temperature of your MacBook will adjust based on the natural lighting of your surrounding environment.

The MacBook Pros liquid retina display can withstand up to 1600 nits of brightness. The MacBook Airs LED backlit display withstand up to only 400 nits of brightness. Both provide exceptional color accuracy to users, but those who are design majors would appreciate the color accuracy of the MacBook Pro more. 

The Display Sizes of the MacBook Pro M1

There are few differences between the different sizes of the MacBook Pros. The first is the MacBook Pro 13” is the only one that includes a touch bar. Since the 14” and 16” have full sized keyboards they do not have a touch bar. Next, the 13” is only available with the M1 chip. The 14” and 16” are available with both the M1 Pro and M1 Max chip. All three are great laptops, but it will come down to which fits your needs best. 

Your Major: Why Does it Matter?

College students are required to stay on track of their four-year plan, which is made up of specific courses that are tailored to their major. Each course plan will look different based on a student’s established major. This is important because this impacts how a college student will use their laptop and how much they will use their laptop.

One student may not need to use their laptop as often because their coursework doesn’t require it. Another student may need to use software that requires heavy processing power. These details will be the main factor in which MacBook is the right fit for a college. Both MacBooks provide an exceptional user experience, but in different ways. The important part is factoring in which features best fit your needs as a student.

The Final Decision

The main factor to consider when deciding between a MacBook Pro and MacBook Air is your type of coursework. If you will mostly be writing papers, completing online homework and doing research then the MacBook Air will fit those needs. And if you’re film editing, Photoshopping or designing then the MacBook Pro will help you accomplish that. They’re both fantastic laptops, so there is no wrong choice. Pick the laptop that will make your college experience easier for you.