The Macbook Air and the Macbook Pro 16” are two of Apple’s best portable computers bar non. The both bring similar capabilities and strengths to the table yet they both boast their own unique powers.
First, these omputers are both from Apple so from a design point of view you are getting the best. Apple portables have always been great to both use and look at plus be seen with. They are top notch in terms of design and use. They look great and operate extremely well.
Further, Apple computers have the software now. This is where the good stuff happens. At one time you had to have a Windows machine to have great software. This is no longer the case. The exciting software now happens on a Mac. The software tends to be available for not only the Mac but IOS and if it is really exciting that of Android too.
So both computers run the Operating System Catalina and with that have all the benefits of what is considered the best OS on the market. No one should ever overlook that at the core of Catalina is Unix in the BSD variant one of the best versions of Unix. Apple has been able to do great things with the OS over the years.
The Differences in the form of Price and Functionality
The sixteen inch Macbook Pro is Apple’s most expensive portable and also its most powerful. The computer can be configured with up to 8 Terabytes of Storage and Intel’s most advanced x86 architected CPU the 9th gen. This processor supports 8 cores and can speed boost to 5 ghz. This proves both a blessing but for those that need a very distraction free environments (generally writers fall into this fold) it can be noisy when the fans kick in full throttle and they do. The processor can run very hot and it is the fans that prevent a serious meltdown.
On the price front there is a significant difference wherein the Macbook Air can be had for as low as $1099 USD while the Macbook Pro 16” can be had for $2,399 USD. However, the 16” Macbook Pro can be configured with such various items bringing its top price to around $7000. In the article “Apple’s highest-end MacBook Pro now costs $7,459 in Canada” this is not an inexpensive computer but for a person that requires as much power as possible it may be necessary.
On the other hand, the Macbook Air’s top end price in Canada is $2,439.00 quite the difference. Yet, with these computers there is somewhat of a crossover of function and functionality. Certain people can work with either an Air or a Pro and accomplish what they need to. A writer for example who includes images, video and the written word in what they produce might be able to do their work entirely on an Air.
Portability vs Power
It cannot be overstated but the Air is a powerful machine. Against the Pro though it would be viewed as a modestly powered computer. Much of this has to do with what you are comparing it to.
The Pro has two outstanding features that puts it heads and tails above the competition. One feature is the keyboard. Apple’s butterfly keyboard that was used from 2016 till today had issues. Apple used this keyboard to keep the computer thinner but at great cost to the user.
The butterfly keyboard is was prone to a high level of failure as debris could collect below the keys. Secondly, for the touch typist the keyboard has an unnatural feel due to the key travel. Thus, this keyboard was highly criticized and it was one thing Apple fixed on the 16”.
The other major differentiator was a redesign of the computers thermals. The Intel processors of the x86 variant run very hot. When Apple was reaching out for a redesign, one thing they put out there was a redesign of the thermals to keep the processor cooler and prevent throttling and the over use of the fans to cool the beast.
Thus the 16 inch is a powerful computer that looks good, runs cooler and is nicer to work with. The keyboard now has travel again so is a delight to work with. However, the computer is 4.25 pounds and although it can be toted around it is not nearly as portable as the Air at 2.75 pounds. When comparing the two computers there is much more to consider than power vs portability.
What Needs to be Done as a Determinant of Device
When assessing these two computers, they represent the best in their class. I would like to suggest though that the Air is perfect for its intent but the Pro 16” is not. The pro 16” is better than the 15” it replaces but there is a lot to be desired.
There are two significant downsides to the Macbook Pro 16”. If you push the computer, the chip will attempt to step up to the task at hand. As it does, the CPU gets very hot. As this happens, the fans kick in to cool the machine and the fans can sound quite robust in their operation. I often feel I’m standing behind a jet plane sitting on the run way getting ready and starting to throttle up to take off. The fan noise can be very distracting and if you are doing something which requires your focus, the noise will interfere with that. In time, it gets so annoying that all you want to do is get rid of that noise and thus the computer.
Secondly, the device is designed to be operated on a desk and not your lap. If it is on your lap and it gets so hot it seems almost hot enough to do some damage. It is also not that portable and the weight adds to discomfort if it is on your lap.
Let’s say you might have chosen the device to just get away from your space and do some work down the street at a coffee shop or what have you. Due to the computers weight it simply is not that comfortable to tote around. The Air on the other hand, as the name suggests, is easily carried around due to its weight. Using an Air if you‘re a student or as a writer who might find themselves moving around a lot with their computer is highly doable.
The Macbook Air is Probably Apple’s Best Computer
The MacBook Air as a function of price and performance is probably Apple’s best laptop. The Air is both a fast and powerful computer not of the likes of the MacBook Pro 16″ however, in a time relative sense it is significantly more powerful than devices from the past. One has to ask what you want to do with your computer and it is likely the Air can handle the task.
If you’re doing a lot of CPU intensive tasks, it might be essential to use the MacBook Pro 16″. Yet, considering the heat, throttling and noise situation, this might not be the best solution. Let’s say your work is CPU intensive at times, this is where you might want a desktop to handle the load combined with a notebook so you can keep working in a portable mode.
iMacs are very configurable and depending on what you’re doing and your budget you might get a desktop to fit the need and a MacBook Air for portability. If you do find you need to max out your iMac to fill the bill I would suggest looking at the iMac Pro as it can handle tremendous loads with its Xeon processors and the device will likely never produce fan noise as the processors never gets that hot. The iMac Pro is also extremely configurable in that range and it might prove surprising how configurable it is and the range it can cover.
Avoidance of distracting things is generally essential when one is working. The avoidance of fan noise is potentially far more critical than you might realize. Using an iMac Pro with a Macbook Air may not be as far fetched as it at first appears. It would not be a cheap solution but it would be a solution that would meet your needs for a good length of time.
Further, Apple computers tend to hold their resale value. If there was a need to sell the machine down the road I’m sure you could do so without loosing much money. Regardless, for these annoyances, Apple is stepping up to the plate again and they are not only just listening but are actually doing things in such a way that they are pleasing the customer. This is nice to see.
In Rene Ritchie’s video included above he discusses numerous aspects of this debate with a sound conclusion.