Maxed out MacBook Air & MacBook Pro – what you get for the money


It isn’t always worthwhile to max out specs on a MacBook





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Maxing out a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro can be pricey, but we’ve compared these high-end configurations with their respective base models to determine if it’s worth the cost.

Apple offers a wide variety of MacBooks priced from $999 to $6,499 that can meet nearly any computing need. The entire MacBook lineup has moved to the M2 processor line, so speccing these products out will depend mostly on RAM and processor CPU needs.

Speccing out a Mac has become much less complicated in recent years thanks to Apple Silicon. Users only need to choose their display size, processor version, RAM, and storage before checking out. Before, Intel complicated things with various processor generations and clock speeds that were insurmountable for most customers.

We’ve configured each of Apple’s MacBooks with the maximum available upgrades and compared them to their respective base models to determine if the upgrades are worthwhile.

MacBook Air

Apple’s most popular laptop holds that title for a good reason — it’s also the cheapest. However, that low price tag can easily match the base 16-inch MacBook Pro with only a couple of clicks.

The cheapest M2 MacBook Air has an 8-core CPU and an 8-core GPU with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It is priced at $1,199, though there is an even cheaper option for $999 with an M1 and an old design.

Other than low storage, the base M2 MacBook Air should be plenty for most users

Other than low storage, the base M2 MacBook Air should be plenty for most users

Those modest specs will cover most consumer-focused use cases, including basic video and photo editing. The M2 is even good enough to play some games, but the battery will run out within a few hours.

Maxing out the M2 MacBook Air won’t give the user much additional performance. Going up to the 10-core GPU will mean better graphics performance, and 24GB of RAM is nothing to sneeze at, but those specs just translate to more parallel tasks and improved gaming, not more processing power.

The price for this maxed-out budget model reaches $2,499 with a $300 increase for the 10-core GPU M2, $400 for 24GB of RAM, and $600 for 2TB of storage.

This machine would be great for someone who wants the most out of a compact laptop. However, a specced-up 14-inch MacBook Pro could match this price and offer a better processor, a vastly better display, and a larger battery.

It’s tough to imagine who would max out a MacBook Air when the price places them firmly in the MacBook Pro range. However, the added performance, better display, and variety of ports won’t always entice customers to leave the thin and light form factor.

13-inch MacBook Pro

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is an anomaly in Apple’s lineup that seems to exist only to satisfy businesses. It uses the same M2 processor found in the MacBook Air but offers active cooling, which can extend peak performance.

The base model has an 8-core CPU and a 10-core GPU with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It is priced at $1,299, which is $100 more expensive than the MacBook Air, but it does gain those two GPU cores.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro sits at an awkward place in Apple's lineup

The 13-inch MacBook Pro sits at an awkward place in Apple’s lineup

It isn’t clear why someone would choose the 13-inch MacBook Pro over the M2 MacBook Air, especially when the one with a redesigned chassis is cheaper. The specs will provide enough performance for any consumer-focused task.

Maxing out the 13-inch MacBook Pro works out similarly to the MacBook Air too. Since it’ll have the same M2 core configuration, only the added RAM will affect performance.

The price for this maxed-out budget model reaches $2,499, $400 for 24GB of RAM, and $800 for 2TB of storage.

There isn’t much reason for customers to consider the 13-inch MacBook Pro and even less reason for speccing it out. Unless they’re really attached to having a Touch Bar, they should stick to the MacBook Air at the low end or jump to the 14-inch MacBook Pro.

16-inch MacBook Pro

Apple’s most performant and expensive laptop has a lot of space between its base and maxed-out price. That’s partially because there are two processor types available for this model — the M2 Pro and M2 Max.

The base model 16-inch MacBook Pro has an M2 Pro with a 12-core CPU and a 19-core GPU with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. It costs $2,499.

While the 512GB of storage might not be ideal for professional developers or videographers, the base 16-inch model packs plenty of punch. The M2 Pro processor and 16GB of RAM are more than enough for most tasks.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is a powerhouse regardless of how it is configured

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is a powerhouse regardless of how it is configured

Maxing out the 16-inch MacBook Pro very nearly triples the price, but not for the reason you might think. Solid-state storage gets incredibly expensive at Apple’s required specs, so going up to 8TB adds $2,400 on its own.

Increase the RAM to 96GB for $1,200 and get the M2 Max processor with a 12-core CPU and 38-Core GPU for $400. That brings the grand total to $6,499 for a maxed-out MacBook Pro.

This machine would be a development powerhouse or an incredible mobile movie production studio. The M2 Max doubles the number of GPU cores and Media Engine components for massively improved graphics and media workflows.

The RAM and storage at that level are also unparalleled for a MacBook. While it is much more expensive, you’re getting what you paid for. However, customers might be better off cutting that storage to 1TB and using an external drive to save $2,200.

We didn’t include the 14-inch MacBook Pro because it is identical to the 16-inch MacBook Pro except for the size. So, the prices would be lower by $200, but everything else is the same.



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