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MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro: Which has better battery life?

Battery efficiency has improved dramatically with the arrival of the first Apple silicon Macbooks. Of these, the 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020) offers the best battery life, although two other options might better match your needs. Here’s a look at the best MacBook for battery life for the year. Which one is the choice for you?

Best Solution: 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020)

There are two 13-inch MacBook Pro models currently on the market, an Apple M1 version and one with Intel inside. The former offers the best life in the history of the MacBook. With an integrated 58.2-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery, the M1 MacBook Pro version offers up to 17 hours of wireless web and up to 20 hours of Apple TV app movie playback between charges. This, in comparison, of up to 10 hours promised in the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Intel model.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020) includes a System on Chip (SoC) Apple M1 chip that consists of an 8-core CPU with 4 performance cores, 4 efficiency cores, 8-core GPU, and a 16-core Neural Engine. You can get up to 2TB of storage and 16GB of unified memory. The Intel-based 13-inch MacBook Pro looks identical to the M1 version. On the inside, however, you’ll find up to a 4-core Intel Core i7 processor, 32GB of memory, and 4TB of storage.

The Intel-based 13-inch MacBook Pro looks identical to the M1 version. On the inside, however, you’ll find up to a 4-core Intel Core i7 processor, 32GB of memory, and 4TB of storage.

If you’re purchasing a 13-inch MacBook Pro solely on battery life, choose the M1 model. If, however, memory and storage are most important, consider the Intel-based version.

Pros:

  • It’s much cheaper than the 16-inch model
  • Includes Touch Bar

Cons:

  • Price can rise quickly as you add components

Best Solution

13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020)

Best battery life — ever

This laptop will take you through up to 20 hours on a single charge. We repeat: 20 hours.

Alternative: MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Unlike the MacBook Pro lineup, the MacBook Air has gone all-in on Apple silicon. There’s no longer an Intel-based option available on Apple’s lightest laptop. For this, you’ll get up to 15 hours of wireless web and up to 18 hours of Apple TV app movie playback thanks to its integrated 49.9-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery.

The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) has a 13-inch display and features the same SoC Apple M1 chip found on the 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020). You can also get up to 2TB of storage and 16GB of unified memory.

Buying the least expensive MacBook Air will save you $300 over the least expensive 13-inch MacBook Pro. The savings come with key drawbacks, however. First is the difference in battery life. Instead of a Touch Bar, you’ll only find Touch ID on the Air. The Pro model also offers slightly more screen brightest and better speakers.

Pros:

  • Least expensive MacBook
  • Apple M1

Cons:

  • Is 13-inch enough for your needs?
  • Better internals are available on MBP

Alternative

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Forget the charging cable longer

The best all-around option for most users, the MacBook Air is a great looking device that will provide you with years of fun and productivity.

Larger display option: 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019)

The 16-inch MacBook Pro isn’t currently offered with an Apple silicon SoC. Because of this, battery life isn’t nearly as good. Apple promises up to 11 hours of wireless web and 11 hours of movie playback between charges.

Besides the largest display currently available on an Apple laptop, the 16-inch model packs a punch. At the minimum, you’ll receive a 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz. The base 16-inch MacBook Pro also comes with 16GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory, 512GB SSD storage, and four Thunderbolt 3 ports. The model comes standard with an AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory graphics processor and can be upgraded to AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 (for an extra $100) or AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 ($200) for better performance.

On the apparent downside, this is an expensive laptop. It’s also likely a new model is coming in the next few months. And that one will almost certainly include Apple silicon — and the much better battery life that comes with it.

Pros:

  • Most prominent MacBook Pro display to date
  • Still a powerful beast

Cons:

  • Much less battery life than M1 models
  • A 2021 refresh is likely with Apple silicon

Larger display option

16-inch MacBook Pro (2019)

Largest display

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is an excellent choice when the size of the screen matters the most.

Three choices

The best MacBook based on battery life is the 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020), which provides up to 17 hours of wireless web and up to 20 hours of Apple TV app movie playback between charges. For this, and our alternative choice, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020), you’ll experience the first Apple silicon product, the Apple M1. This SoC chip consists of an 8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores, 8-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine.

If you’re looking for a bigger display, your only choice is the 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019). Intel-based, this model offers much less battery life between charges compared to the Apple silicon models. And yet, it still packs a lot, including more storage and memory.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Bryan M. Wolfe is a dad who loves technology, especially anything new from Apple. Penn State (go Nittany Lions) graduate here, also a huge fan of the New England Patriots. Thanks for reading. @bryanmwolfe

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