MacBook Buying Companion M1 Laptop for Each Use Case

MacBook Buying Companion M1 Laptop: Over the once two times, Apple has completed an overhaul of its entire laptop lineup. That means it’s as good a time as any for people who have been holding out on upgrading an aged MacBook to dive in.

But which MacBook is the stylish one to pick up? That depends a lot on your specific use case, and that’s what we ’ll explore then moment.

Generally, buying attendants pick the diamonds out of the rough — the “ rough” being hundreds of crummy products. But when recommending a MacBook, it’s a simpler affair. There aren’t that numerous of them to pick from. But because they generally can not be upgraded, there are some consequential choices you ’ll need to make before buying.


So we won’t just punctuate the stylish MacBook to buy for a specific use — we ’ll also bandy configurations and other further grainy enterprises to consider when ordering a machine.

Ars Technica may earn compensation for deals from links on this post through chapter programs.

Macbook Buying Companion M1 Laptop
MacBook Buying Companion M1 Laptop

MacBook Air

Let’s cut straight to the chase The stylish Apple laptop for utmost people is the MacBook Air. It wasn’t so clean- cut when Mackintoshes had Intel processors and there were substantial differences between the Air and its more precious siblings in speed, addict noise, and heat for common diurnal situations, but the gap has closed for utmost peoples’ purposes.


That’s because Apple has transitioned the MacBook Air down from low- end Intel processors that offered poor plates performance, indeed while twiddling up noisy suckers. It now has Apple’s custom- designed M1 processor, which is honestly faster than utmost desktop PCs — indeed for plates, except for the loftiest- end desktop gaming and workstation cards.

Yes, the more precious MacBook Pro models double or triadic the plates performance over the Air with the M1 Pro and M1 Max processors, both briskly variants of the M1. But for the utmost part, only certain kinds of plates-heavy creative professionals and high-octane gamers will notice the difference.

Below Burst performance comparison marks between the MacBook Air with M1, the 14- inch MacBook Pro with M1 Pro, and the 16- inch MacBook Pro with M1 Max.


Unless you ’re regularly editing 8K videotape, doing complex 3D modeling, or playing competitive AAA videotape games, the M1 is aplenty presto.

And while you immolate some performance to pick up the Air rather of the Pro, you will also save at least$ 750 compared to the rearmost MacBook Pro design. It’s just not worth it for any but a select many. (We ’ll get into when it’s worth it latterly in this composition.)

The Air is also more movable than the new MacBook Pro design. It weighs just2.8 pounds (1.29 kg) compared to the 14- inch MacBook Pro’s3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) and the 16- inch MacBook Pro’s4.7 to4.8 pounds (2.1 to2.2 kg).


The MacBook Air comes in two base configurations. One starts at$ 999, and the other thresholds at$. The important differences are as follows

The dear bone has one fresh GPU core (eight, compared to seven)

The dear bone has doubly as important storehouse, at 512 GB compared to 256 GB

The GPU core difference is trivial for utmost people; yes, it’ll be hardly briskly in some games and well-optimized 3D or videotape operations, but you presumably wo n’t notice it unless you ’re the type of person more likely to buy the MacBook Pro rather.

The storehouse difference is more substantial. 256 GB will work great if you do utmost of your work in the pall and you calculate on streaming services for music, videotape, and games. But if you like to store tons of high- resolution prints, vids, or games, it’s worth spending further for the storehouse — especially since you can noway upgrade it, and operations and media lines generally get larger over the times, not lower.

The only thing you can configure beyond storehouse and that GPU core difference is RAM. Both dereliction configurations offer 8 GB of RAM, but you can upgrade that to 16 GB. Do you substantially just do light office or academy work in word processors or spreadsheet programs and the suchlike? Also do n’t bother with the$ 200 16 GB upgrade.

But if you plan to have dozens of Chrome tabs full of rich media websites open at all times or you anticipate to work with large lines in performance-ferocious apps like Final Cut or Adobe Photoshop, the redundant$ 200 is worth the upgrade.

A note on new models

There’s one more important thing to note before you buy Apple is likely to introduce a new MacBook Air with a visual overhaul and a briskly new chip called the M2 eventually latterly this time. We ’re not suggesting that you stay if you need a laptop now — the current MacBook Air is an excellent steal that will last you times anyhow of whatever updates come in the near future.

But if you absolutely must have the most cutting- edge machine you can find for as long as possible, you might want to stay. There’s a possibility the new Air will arrive in June, but we ’d place our bets on October or thereabouts. So staying isn’t our recommendation if you have a current need. The current model is aplenty.

The good

Much more Movable than the MacBook Pro

Cheaper by anything from$ 750 to thousands of bones, depending on configuration

Veritably strong performance for anultra-light computer — better than any other machine this movable

The bad

Ca n’t match the high- end plates performance in the MacBook Pro

Can only drive one external display

Slightly worse battery life than its bigger lines

For software inventors, masterminds, and experimenters

– inch MacBook Pro

The MacBook Air offers plenitude for utmost druggies, but the MacBook Pro gives further for people who aren’t just answering emails, editing spreadsheets, browsing social media, or watching vids.

The most notable difference is that the MacBook Pro can be configured with either the M1 Pro or M1 Max, mainly briskly relatives to the MacBook Air’s M1 chip. You wo n’t notice any difference in CPU performance for single- threaded workflows, but if you look atmulti-core CPU and plates performance, the earnings are real.

Below As seen preliminarily, these are performance comparison marks between the MacBook Air with M1, the 14- inch MacBook Pro with M1 Pro, and the 16- inch MacBook Pro with M1 Max.

There are other gratuities that come with the MacBook Pro, too. A better thermal system allows the machine to stay presto for longer than the Air, and Apple claims the 14- inch MacBook Pro gets up to 15 hours of battery life for wireless web browsing, compared to the MacBook Air’s 11 hours.

You also get further anchorages — three Thunderbolt anchorages and a separate power connector compared to the Air’s two Thunderbolt anchorages, one of which will frequently be taken up by your power appendage. Plus, the MacBook Pro has an HDMI harborage and an SD card niche — two effects you wo n’t find in the Air. You also get a bit further screen real estate, but it’s the 16- inch Pro (not the 14- inch) that provides the utmost earnings there.

Apple M2 Ultra 2022
Apple M2 Ultra 2022

Why 14 Elevation?

In our experience, there are two main downsides to the 14- inch MacBook Pro compared to the 16- inch. One only applies to a certain configuration — if you buy it with the M1 Max chip rather of the lower- performance M1 Pro.

The 14- inch MacBook Pro running on the M1 Max can get noisy. To be clear, it’s not loud by the norms of utmost performance- acquainted laptops on the request. The suckers generally produce a low hum that won’t be conspicuous if you ’re in a noisy office or harkening to music.

But whereas the also specced 16- inch MacBook Pro stays dead silent utmost of the time, the M1 Max- equipped 14- inch model spins those suckers up any time it’s working hard. (It generally doesn’t be when you ’re doing low- intensity tasks like browsing the web or watching vids, however.)

The other disadvantage of the 14- inch laptop is its comparatively limited screen real estate. It’s better than the Air on that front, but you ’ll still find yourself full- webbing apps alot. However, the 16- inch model is the way to go, If you need a lot of room.


Both dereliction configurations of the 14- inch MacBook Pro in Apple’s online store point the M1 Pro, but they actually have two different variants.

Apple Macbook Pro 13.3-Inch Core I5-2.0Ghz, 16Gb Ram, 1Tb Ssd
Apple MacBook Pro 13.3-Inch Core i5-2.0GHz, 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD

The cheapest 14- inch MacBook Pro costs$ and includes an M1 Pro with an eight- core CPU and a 14- core GPU. Add$ 500 for the coming league up, and you get a 10- core CPU and 16- core GPU. The lower- end configuration is aplenty for utmost software inventors, but consider going up to the advanced- end M1 Pro if you do CAD work, 3D modeling, or 4K or 8K videotape editing.

More yet, for those operations, we recommend getting a custom configuration of the 14- inch MacBook Pro that includes the M1 Max, which delivers mainly briskly plates performance with either a 24- core GPU ($ 200 further than the M1 Pro with the 16- core GPU) or indeed 32 cores ($ 400 further than the 16- core bone.)

Just note that in our experience, the M1 Max makes the 14- inch laptop get noticeably hotter and louder under cargo more regularly than the M1 Pro.

The other difference between the two dereliction configurations is storehouse. The$ model comes with 512 GB, while the$ one offers doubly as much, at 1TB.However, you can indeed upgrade to 2 TB, 4 TB, If you have deep pockets.

1 TB will be enough for utmost of the people this machine is erected for, but we recommend splurging for at least that much since it can noway be streamlined — in other words, stay clear of 512 GB unless you will not be working with rich media lines or any virtual machines.

Incipiently, there’s RAM. Both dereliction configs start at 16 GB, but you can noway upgrade the RAM, and this machine will be supported for at least four to five times to come, so most inventors and masterminds should invest in the 32 GB option, especially if multiple VMs are part of their planned workflow.

The M1 Max configs also voluntarily come with 64 GB for$ 400 further than the 32 GB config. Utmost people wo n’t need that, but if you do, you presumably formerly know who you are.

The good

Provides enough CPU and GPU performance to satisfy just about any inventor or mastermind, with headroom to grow into

It’s still surprisingly movable, given the performance it offers

Ample harborage selection suitable to a wide variety of setups

Offers storehouse and RAM configurations suitable for druggies who run a lot of virtual machines or who work with large lines, albeit at a decoration price

The bad

Screen real estate is cramped for heavy- duty workflows

Gets a bit warm and noisy if you configure it with the high- performance M1 Max chip

Drastically more precious than the MacBook Air

For contrivers, artists, and other visual creatives

– inch MacBook Pro

The larger of the two MacBook Pro designs offers the same storehouse, RAM, and CPU/ GPU options as the 14- inch model, so why recommend this bone for contrivers, artists, and other creatives?

Substantially because of screen real estate. For all the praise we gave the 14- inch MacBook Pro over, it has a critical excrescence for people who are working with 4K or 8K videotape, large Photoshop or Illustrator images, and the suchlike The screen is just too small.

Screen real estate

By dereliction, the 14- inch MacBook Pro’s 1440 × 900 display offers just a bit more space than a typical Windows laptop, but with the sharpness and clarity of the 14- inch MacBook Pro’s 3024 × 1964 native resolution.

You can acclimate the display scaling setting in System Preferences to get commodity roughly near to a Windows laptop’s 1680 × 1050, but at this screen size, you ’ll be doing some squinting unless you have veritably youthful eyes.

By discrepancy, the 16- inch model defaults to desktop space not far out from 1680 × 1050 right out of the box, and you can acclimate that scaling setting to get it to commodity like 1920 × 1080. The factual native resolution is 3456 × 2234. But at 16 elevation, that advanced desktop space setting will be comprehendible for utmost people.

That means you have further room to work with visual means and the capability to work with multiple windows on the same virtual desktop without having to switch spaces a lot. This obviously matters a great deal for visual creatives, professional or else.

Other advantages over the 14- inch

Also, the 16- inch MacBook Pro offers up to 14 hours of wireless web browsing, according to Apple’s figures. That’s compared to 11 hours on the 14- inch MacBook Pro, so it’s also a better choice for, say, videotape directors who have to do some of their work on position.

Spec-for-spec, it does n’t perform better in either CPU or GPU tasks than the 14- inch MacBook Pro utmost of the time. But its larger lattice affords it better heat operation, meaning it’ll eventually overrun the 14- inch if you ’re pushing it for hours on end — and it’ll go briskly or loud less frequently, too, especially with the M1 Max, which can make the 14- inch get a little noisier.


The 16- inch MacBook Pro has three dereliction configs. The cheapest costs$ and comes with a 10- core CPU/ 16- core GPU M1 Pro chip, as well as 16 GB of memory and 512 GB of storehouse. The M1 Pro will be enough for a lot of the target druggies of this machine, and 16 GB might be enough for some, but the 512 GB of storehouse is going to be a problem for anyone working with large media lines.

Going up to$, you ’ll get the same chip and RAM, but you ’ll double the storehouse. This is an essential upgrade in our view — if you ’re the kind of person who needs a 16- inch MacBook Pro, you ’ll presumably also want that redundant storehouse.

The third configuration makes a big price jump all the way to$, and you ’re paying for performance then. It goes from 16 GB to 32 GB of RAM (which will be useful for numerous people) and replaces the M1 Pro with a 10- core CPU, 32- core GPU M1 Max.

We do n’t believe that any of Apple’s three dereliction configs is ideal for the maturity of people. Numerous 16- inch MacBook Pro druggies will need 1 TB of storehouse, which axes the entry- position config, but some will surely want 32 GB of RAM — especially given that, again, you can noway upgrade it after your purchase — but they might not need the M1 Max.

For that reason, we believe the stylish configuration for utmost druggies is the$ configuration with the M1 Pro and 1 TB of storehouse — but with an upgrade to 32 GB of RAM for an fresh$ 400.

As with the 14- inch MacBook Pro, you can go up to 64 GB of RAM rather of 16 or 32 GB if you configure your machine with the M1 Max rather of the M1 Pro, but veritably many people will need 64 GB. Those people live, but they presumably formerly know exactly what theyneed. However, you presumably do n’t need it, If you ’re not sure.

There’s also an M1 Max variant with eight smaller GPU cores than the one seen in theultra-high-end dereliction config. It costs$ 200 further than the M1 Pro and$ 200 lower than the mesomorphic M1 Max. Since CPU performance is relatively analogous between the available chips, it’s entirely a question of how important plates power you need.

Eventually, you can configure your laptop at purchase with 2 TB, 4 TB, or 8 TB of storehouse, but the cost is substantial. Using 1 TB as the birth, going to 2 TB costs an fresh$ 400, 4 TB$, and 8 TB$.

1 TB is likely to be the sweet spot for numerous, but the 2 TB upgrade could be worth it for some. 4 TB and 8 TB are for veritably technical workflows. As with the 64 GB RAM option, if you need it, you know it.

The good

All the benefits of the 14- inch MacBook Pro, with drastically better screen real estate

The stylish battery life you can get in an Apple laptop

Outstanding performance, indeed with sustained workloads

Stays silent and cool utmost of the time

The bad

It’s relatively big, so don’t buy this one if you need to haul it around a lot

It’s veritably precious, and utmost people just don’t need to spend this important on a laptop

Notable mentions

13- inch MacBook Pro Apple also makes a 13- inch MacBook Pro in an old design with an M1 chip analogous to the one plant in the 13- inch MacBook Air. It’s a bit largish than the Air and is likely to offer slightly better performance for sustained workloads — and the screen is a bit nicer too. But all told, we feel it’s in an awkward spot between the Air and the 14- inch model, which are all better for their target druggies.

iPad Pro The iPad Pro is equipped with Apple’s M1 chip, and for a tablet, it can do some amazing effects. Apple is working hard to make its software competitive with a laptop for heavy- duty productivity, but grounded on our recent iPadOS reviews, we believe Apple still has a ways to go, so most druggies will be better served by a MacBook.

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