Compared: 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro versus 2020 MacBook Air

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 2020
Before Monday's 13-inch MacBook Pro update, the choice between the 2019 model and the 2020 MacBook Air was very clear. It is less clear today -- but we can help.

The 2020 MacBook Air (left) compares well with the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro (right)
The 2020 MacBook Air (left) compares well with the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro (right)


On Monday, Apple refreshed the 13-inch MacBook Pro. While it wasn't the 14-inch revamp some were expecting, the new models still pack a solid update on the popular and smaller-bodied MacBook Pro.

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro has made Apple notebook buying decisions a bit more complicated. With that in mind, here's how the new 13-inch MacBook Pro models stack up against the existing MacBook Air -- and which model you should buy for your own needs.

2020 13-inch MacBook Pro versus 2020 MacBook Air - specifications

MacBook Air (2020)13-inch MacBook Pro (2020), Two Thunderbolt Ports13-inch MacBook Pro (2020), Four Thunderbolt Ports
Price$999
Lowest MacBook Air prices
$1,299
Lowest 13" MacBook Pro prices
$1,799
Best deals on 10th Gen models
Dimensions (inches)0.16-0.64 x 11.97 x 8.360.61 x 11.97 x 8.36 0.61 x 11.97 x 8.36
Weight (pounds)2.83.13.1
Processor10th-Gen 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3
10th-Gen 1.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i510th-Gen 1.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
8th-generation 1.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5
8th-generation 1.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
10th-generation 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i5
10th-generation 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
GraphicsIntel Iris Plus GraphicsIntel Iris Plus Graphics 645Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM8GB or 16GB8GB or 16GB16GB or 32GB
Networking802.11ac Wi-F
Bluetooth 5.0
802.11ac Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 5.0
802.11ac Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 5.0
Storage256GB, 512GB, 1TB or 2TB SSD512GB, 1TB or 2TB512GB, 1TB, 2TB or 4TB
Display type13.3-inch LCD with IPS
400 nits brightness
Full standard color
13.3-inch LCD with IPS
500 nits brightness
Wide Color (P3)
13.3-inch LCD with IPS
500 nits brightness
Wide Color (P3)
PortsTwo Thunderbolt 3 ports
3.5mm headphone jack
Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
3.5mm headphone jack
Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
3.5mm headphone jack
BiometricsTouch IDTouch IDTouch ID
Touch BarNoYesYes
Battery SizeUp to 11 hours of web browsingUp to 10 hours of web browsing Up to 10 hours of web browsing
ColorsSpace Gray, Gold, SilverSpace Gray, SilverSpace Gray, Silver



Performance

The 13-inch MacBook Pro sits right between the consumer-aimed MacBook Air and the beefy 16-inch MacBook Pro. While Apple's 2020 13-inch models can be configured with 10th-generation Intel chips, only the higher-end variants get them.

Apple's MacBook Pro models with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, which start at $1,299, are still equipped with older 8th-generation Intel Core processors and embedded Intel Iris Plus 645 Graphics.

With the company's 2020 MacBook Air refresh, Apple's most affordable $999 notebook is much more similarly matched with the Pro models. The notebook now packs updated Intel Iris Plus Graphics and can be upgraded to a quad-core, 10th-generation Intel Core processors.

Keep in mind, however, that the MacBook Air has lower-wattage Y-series chips, which are optimized for productivity tasks and energy efficiency. The low-end MacBook Pros are equipped with faster U-series Intel processors.

In performance testing, the low-end entry-level dual-core i3 MacBook Air earned a 1074 and a 2412 in Geekbench 5.1.1 single and multi-core tests. The spec'd out quad-core 1.2Ghz i7 earned a 1294 and a 3514 respectively.

The new 2020 MacBook Pro starts out with a 1.4Ghz quad-core i5 processor and earns a 948 and a 4015 on the same benchmarks. It outperforms the entry-level by a large margin due to being a quad-core machine rather than a dual-core, but even the max i7 model of the Air can't match the multi-core performance of the 2020 13-inch Pro.

The MacBook Pro only goes up from there in terms of performance, especially with the 10th-gen chips on the upper-end units.

If you care only about performance, the MacBook Pro is absolutely the way to go. You have to upgrade to the $1,449 machine to get even similar performance to the $1,299 MacBook Pro.

Apple's Butterfly keyboard versus the Magic Keyboard




The 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro refresh has completed Apple's transition over to the Magic Keyboard from the much-maligned butterfly keyboard. The company now no longer sells a MacBook with the butterfly switch.

That means you'll see longer key travel and likely fewer instances of keyboard malfunction as compared to the 2018 and earlier revisions. Apple's new Magic Keyboards are also quieter than the clicky butterfly keyboard, especially the earlier models.

The Magic Keyboards on the MacBook Air and the new MacBook Pros are going to be similar, if not identical. Like the 16-inch model, the new 13-inch MacBook Pros also feature a dedicated Escape key, a discrete Touch ID sensor and inverted-T arrow keys.

Really the only significant difference between the Air and the Pro in this area is the OLED Touch Bar. The MacBook Air still has physical Function keys, while all MacBook Pro models come with the Touch Bar.

Display, ports and battery life

The 13-inch MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air both have essentially the same display, which measures 13.3 inches on the diagonal and comes with IPS technology. Even the resolution is the same, though the MacBook Pro models sport Wide Color (P3) support and are slightly brighter.

The port situation differs depending on the configuration. The MacBook Airs are only ever going to come with two ports, just like the lower-end 13-inch MacBook Pros. The higher-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, which starts at $1,799, has four Thunderbolt 3 ports.

When it comes to power, the MacBook Air has a smaller battery but longer battery life thanks to its energy-efficient processor. It's rated for up to 11 hours of wireless web browsing or up to 12 hours of Apple TV app movie playback, according to Apple.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro models are rated for up to 10 hours of wireless web browsing and 10 hours of Apple TV app movie playback. The Pros also come with a larger power adapter -- 61-watt versus the MacBook Air's 30-watts.

Configurations




Apple has added more options configuration options to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, including variants that support up to 32GB of RAM and 4TB of SSD storage.

At the base level, the two-port 13-inch MacBook Pro is equipped with a 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM. That's exactly the same as the base model MacBook Air, which is around $300 cheaper.

Something else to keep in mind is that the base model 13-inch MacBook Pro, which starts at $1,299, is equipped with slower LPDDR3 memory. The MacBook Air and the $1,799 MacBook Pro are equipped with LPDDR4X memory.

If you wanted to max out your Apple notebook, keep in mind that only the higher-end 13-inch MacBook Pro can be configured with up to 4TB of SSD storage and 32GB of RAM.

Which one you should buy

The latest iterations of the MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro are now much more similar than they have been in the past, which could make choosing between them somewhat difficult.

In general, you're going to get better performance with the higher-end MacBook Pro models, making it well-suited for professional or creative tasks. While not quite as beefy as its 16-inch counterpart, the 13-inch MacBook Pro packs a lot of power into a smaller and more portable form factor.

The outlier here is the lower-end MacBook Pro with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, which lags behind in terms of CPU and graphics. We'd recommend skipping it for the MacBook Air unless you absolutely need an OLED Touch Bar, Wide Color support or another 100 nits of brightness.

The MacBook Air is much cheaper and is probably the best choice for the everyday consumer who doesn't fire up Logic or FinalCut Pro often (or at all). Apple's cheapest notebook is still fast enough to handle all the web browsing, video watching and email checking you can throw at it.

Again, if you need faster performance and have deeper pockets, opt for the 13-inch MacBook Pro that starts at $1,799. For everyone else, the $999 MacBook Air is likely to be the better and much more affordable choice.

Price comparison shopping

Deals are in effect on both the 2020 MacBook Air and 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro, with the latest discounts available 24/7 in the AppleInsider Apple Price Guide.

Price Guides
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41
    samrodsamrod Posts: 45unconfirmed, member
    I wish Apple applied what it learned from the 16" MBP and to both its 13" MacBooks: bump the 13" MBP to 14" while nearly preserving the total size. And keep the Air's 13" screen while shrinking the bezels and overall size accordingly. This would provide additional differentiation between them and return the Air to its original identity as a sub notebook. The 12" MacBook was a great form factor but underpowered and the beloved 11" Air is missed.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 41
    pulseimagespulseimages Posts: 437member
    I wish Apple would put discrete graphics into it’s smaller MBP, it is a Pro model after all! 
  • Reply 3 of 41
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 568member
    MacBook Air: 9 Watts
    Two TB3 MBP: 15 Watts
    Four TB3 MBP: 28 Watts

    The two TB3 MBP will get better sustained processor performance than the MacBook Air.

    The two TB3 MBP also has a faster SSD with four chips rather than the MacBook Air's two.

    Also, while the MacBook Air's GPU is listed as "Iris Plus", its processor options do not appear to have the on-package DRAM (called eDRAM; works as VRAM and L4 cache) all the Pro models have. This shouldn't have a huge effect on performance, but it should mean the integrated GPU digs a little less into main memory.

    Edited to add: I just noticed the new two TB3 MBP can't drive a 6K display. The MBA and the four TB4 MBP both can. Weird!
    edited May 2020 caladanianwatto_cobradysamoria
  • Reply 4 of 41
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,200member
    I don’t understand why Apple bothered updating the MBP13 and still put an 8th gen chip in some of them.  Because as AI says
    The outlier here is the lower-end MacBook Pro with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, which lags behind in terms of CPU and graphics. We'd recommend skipping it for the MacBook Air unless you absolutely need an OLED Touch Bar, Wide Color support or another 100 nits of brightness.

    The only reason Apple gimped the low end MBP with a two gen old chip is probably marketing purposes, a price point product while maintaining high margins.

    dysamoriachemengin1
  • Reply 5 of 41
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,200member
    I wish Apple would put discrete graphics into it’s smaller MBP, it is a Pro model after all! 
    Probably too many thermal and battery issues. Now, if they put an AMD Ryzen in there that might expand the Possibilities.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 6 of 41
    caladaniancaladanian Posts: 316member
    Don't forget the fan noise of the Air!
  • Reply 7 of 41
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,200member
    As recently as late last year, once you had upped both the MBA and the base MBP (twoports) to 256GB SSDs I would have pointed to the MBP as the better option to buy for non power users, if mainly for the quad core of the MBP for the extra flexibility. With the recent updates I would recommend the MBA as the dollar difference is now more important.
    edited May 2020 mwhiteronn
  • Reply 8 of 41
    Toho72Toho72 Posts: 1member
    So, I am here to seek guidance on purchase for my teen daughter (first Mac ever), unfortunately I cannot wait. She has to do minor video editing (Iphone footage). 

    Hope anyone can help or guide me to a side to a side to aske below question:

    Question:  I wonder if we should go for MBA and upgrade to I7 + 16 GB to get decent performance? The price tag gets close to the MBP (In Denmark). But is this a duable road to take? or too odd ?  
    Thanks
    edited May 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 41
    mwhitemwhite Posts: 275member
    Don't forget the fan noise of the Air!

    I have the i5 Air and love it and haven't heard the fan yet and have opened 6 video's had it up to 170° had to put my ear to the bottom of the case to hear the fan run. I traded in a 2015 Pro and that one the fan ran all the time. So for me I take this on any day.....

    ronn
  • Reply 10 of 41
    mwhitemwhite Posts: 275member
    Toho72 said:
    So, I am here to seek guidance on purchase for my teen daughter (first Mac ever), unfortunately I cannot wait. She has to do minor video editing (Iphone footage). 

    Hope anyone can help or guide me to a side to a side to aske below question:

    Question:  I wonder if we should go for MBA and upgrade to I7 + 16 GB to get decent performance? The price tag gets close to the MBP (In Denmark). But is this a duable road to take? or too odd ?  
    Thanks

    I purchased the i5 with 16 gig ram and it is very fast I did a geekbench test and the i5 ran twice as fast as my old 2015 i5 Pro did, I don't do video so to that point I can't help you.

    ronn
  • Reply 11 of 41
    commentzillacommentzilla Posts: 629member
    Still waiting for an actual hands on review with benchmarks.
  • Reply 12 of 41
    banditobbanditob Posts: 10member
    Is it just me or is there no video in this article comparing the MBP to the MB Air?
  • Reply 13 of 41
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,678member

    The MacBook Air is much cheaper and is probably the best choice for the everyday consumer who doesn't fire up Logic or FinalCut Pro often (or at all). Apple's cheapest notebook is still fast enough to handle all the web browsing, video watching and email checking you can throw at it.
    I think the distinction between consumer and professional is silly and just confuses the issue. Why not say 'user'. I use my mbp 99% for professional purposes but I never use FCP or Logic. I frequently use Photoshop but for small easy jobs that I probably could use another app for had it not been for the fact that I am very familiar with PS. I love my 2019 MBP but if I was going to buy one today I'd choose the MBA hands down. I actually love the touch bar but I wouldn't miss it much. The Touch ID has become indispensable, however. :smile: For me Air is plenty powerful and I like the lighter weight and prefer the form factor. The extra ports on the MBP have never been required. In fact I have never used more than one. At work I plug into a monitor which acts as a hub for the connections and devices  I need (and are permanently plugged in). At home and when I move around I never plug anything in. 

    mwhitethtdewme
  • Reply 14 of 41
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,582member
    Let me fix this sentense in article. While it wasn't the 14-inch revamp MOST were expecting, the new models... Main differentiator for the new 13" MBP from 13" MBA was thought to be 14" screen. And why Apple don't put atleast one port on right side for MBA and low end 13" MBP ?
    It would be good to compare performance benchmark for the following configuration. Than, ask question, is it worth extra $200 for MBP, not much loved touchbar and extra weight ?
    Macbook Air($1299) - 10th-Gen 1.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, 8GB,512GB
    Macbook Pro($1499) - 8th-generation 1.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, 8GB,512GB

    With $100 education discount, above config Macbook Air at $1199 is no brainer.

    edited May 2020
  • Reply 15 of 41
    KITAKITA Posts: 382member
    entropys said:
    I wish Apple would put discrete graphics into it’s smaller MBP, it is a Pro model after all! 
    Probably too many thermal and battery issues. Now, if they put an AMD Ryzen in there that might expand the Possibilities.
    Razer did a pretty good job putting a GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q in a 3 lbs 13" laptop, and lesser dGPUs like the MX250/MX350 could also work.

    Ryzen 4000 U would have made a big difference.

    Here's a budget $650 Acer laptop that beats out even the most powerful MBP 13". It's using Ryzen 7 4700U. It has 8 cores / 8 threads + Vega 7 graphics.

      
  • Reply 16 of 41
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 568member
    Toho72 said:
    So, I am here to seek guidance on purchase for my teen daughter (first Mac ever), unfortunately I cannot wait. She has to do minor video editing (Iphone footage). 

    Hope anyone can help or guide me to a side to a side to aske below question:

    Question:  I wonder if we should go for MBA and upgrade to I7 + 16 GB to get decent performance? The price tag gets close to the MBP (In Denmark). But is this a duable road to take? or too odd ?  
    Thanks
    Definitely go for the 16 GB of RAM, but I wouldn't bother with the i7. Due to the way Intel's processors work, an i7 is very rarely worth the upgrade over an i5 in the same machine. Intel's processors adjust their clocks dynamically based on their temperature and how many things they are doing. That is the Turbo Boost speed listed on the spec sheets. The catch is they can only maintain this speed while they have enough cooling. As they get close to their thermal limits, they slow down to avoid overheating.

    The MBA's cooling system has significantly less capacity than the two TB3 MBP's. While the tenth generation processors are a bit more efficient, it's not a big enough difference to make up for that big a change in the cooling system. Going from the i5 MBA to the i5 MBP will provide a bigger speed boost than going from the i5 MBA to the i7 MBA or the i5 MBP to the i7 MBP.

    Both the MBA and the MBP have Apple's T2, which handles hardware-accelerated AVC and HEVC encoding and decoding. They will both be great for basic video editing for the foreseeable future.
    mwhitedysamoriaJustaguide
  • Reply 17 of 41
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,624member
    If you use Logic or FinalCut Pro buy the 16-inch with discrete graphics.  The vast majority of other users should go with the MacBook Air with 16GB RAM, and add storage as needed (probably external).

    The MacBook Pro is a good machine, but for the price the other options are better.  Not having discrete graphics on the Pro makes it the odd man out...
  • Reply 18 of 41
    2old4fun2old4fun Posts: 236member
    Toho72 said:
    So, I am here to seek guidance on purchase for my teen daughter (first Mac ever), unfortunately I cannot wait. She has to do minor video editing (Iphone footage). 

    Hope anyone can help or guide me to a side to a side to aske below question:

    Question:  I wonder if we should go for MBA and upgrade to I7 + 16 GB to get decent performance? The price tag gets close to the MBP (In Denmark). But is this a duable road to take? or too odd ?  
    Thanks
    I bought my granddaughter the iPad Pro 12.9” with the Magic Keyboard as a replacement for her old MacBook Air and she loves it. She says it is so much faster and she finds it easier to use as she was doing her video work on an iPhone.
  • Reply 19 of 41
    commentzillacommentzilla Posts: 629member
    KITA said:
    entropys said:
    I wish Apple would put discrete graphics into it’s smaller MBP, it is a Pro model after all! 
    Probably too many thermal and battery issues. Now, if they put an AMD Ryzen in there that might expand the Possibilities.
    Razer did a pretty good job putting a GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q in a 3 lbs 13" laptop, and lesser dGPUs like the MX250/MX350 could also work.

    Ryzen 4000 U would have made a big difference.

    Here's a budget $650 Acer laptop that beats out even the most powerful MBP 13". It's using Ryzen 7 4700U. It has 8 cores / 8 threads + Vega 7 graphics.

      
    1065G7 is not the most powerful processor in the 13" MBP 2020. The most powerful is the i7 1068NG7 28W  chip with the Intel Iris Plus. It may still not be as fast but it will be able to sustain a higher speeds with 28W vs the 15W in the Ryzen. The MBP also has something that Acer does not, a T-2 chip which handles encoding/decoding and encryption.
    edited May 2020 mwhiteJustaguide
  • Reply 20 of 41
    KITAKITA Posts: 382member
    KITA said:
    entropys said:
    I wish Apple would put discrete graphics into it’s smaller MBP, it is a Pro model after all! 
    Probably too many thermal and battery issues. Now, if they put an AMD Ryzen in there that might expand the Possibilities.
    Razer did a pretty good job putting a GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q in a 3 lbs 13" laptop, and lesser dGPUs like the MX250/MX350 could also work.

    Ryzen 4000 U would have made a big difference.

    Here's a budget $650 Acer laptop that beats out even the most powerful MBP 13". It's using Ryzen 7 4700U. It has 8 cores / 8 threads + Vega 7 graphics.

      
    1065G7 is not the most powerful processor in the 13" MBP 2020. The most powerful is the i7 1068NG7 28W  chip with the Intel Iris Plus. It may still not be as fast but it will be able to sustain a higher speeds with 28W vs the 15W in the Ryzen.
    The MBP with the 28W i5 only scored ~1700 points. The i7 is not going to come anything close to the Ryzen 4700U in that test.

    mbp
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tb1W_Zbg-FQ

    EDIT:

    I'd also mention that the 27W Ryzen 7 4800U (8 cores / 16 threads + Vega 8) scores almost 3600:


    edited May 2020
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