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Apple @ Work: MacBook Air vs 14″ MacBook Pro – Which is best for business users?

Apple @ Work: MacBook Air vs 14″ MacBook Pro – Which is best for business users? thumbnail

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Although we’re still waiting on the Apple Silicon Mac Pro and possibly upgraded Pro models of the Mac Mini and iMac, we now have complete visibility into Apple’s plans for the laptop lineup. The question people are now asking: Which is the better laptop for business customers: MacBook Air or MacBook Pro?

About Apple @ Work: Bradley Chambers managed an enterprise IT network from 2009 to 2021. Through his experience deploying and managing firewalls, switches, a mobile device management system, enterprise-grade Wi-Fi, 100s of Macs, and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple IT managers deploy Apple devices, build networks to support them, train users, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for IT departments.


A look back at Pro vs. Air

Back on the Intel lineup, many users without demanding needs opted for the Pro laptops to have more ports than the Air, higher screen resolution, or a bit more power. I was in this camp for many years. I am not a developer, designer, or video editor of any kind, so I don’t have “Pro” needs, but I opted for the MacBook Pro time and time again.

Current computing setup

When Apple released the 2020 MacBook Air model with the M1 chip, I immediately sold my current laptop and ordered it. Truthfully, I’ve never been happier with a computer in my life. Of course, we should always feel that way if we’re upgrading to a new model, but that wasn’t always the case, especially with concerns about the Butterfly keyboards in previous models.

I’ve truly enjoyed using the MacBook Air daily for work, fun, and everything in between for the past year. However, with the release of the 2021 14″ MacBook Pro and the 16″ MacBook Pro with an upgraded processor, I took a hard look at my daily needs as well as what ports I would like to have on my daily driver.

Streamlined computing life

One of my goals for this year was to streamline my computing life. I work from home, so I am not always in the exact same location each day. Some days, I am at the desk in my bedroom. Others, I’ll be in the kitchen. Finally, one or two days a week, I’ll get out of the house at a coffee shop.

As part of this goal, I got rid of my external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. I wanted to make my laptop the only computing device, so I needed to adjust my workflow to that reality. During that process, I realized that I was OK with only two ports on my computer. I primarily use it for charging my laptop and charging my phone when I am away from home. I plug in a USB hard drive once a month to run a Time Machine backup, but otherwise, I don’t use many accessories.

Enough power

When I compared the MacBook Pro power to that of the MacBook Air, I was a little jealous, but when I looked at my computing workflows, I realized the Air has enough power for my needs for the next few years. Sure, the Pro would be excellent, but I also really love the form factor of the Air.

MacBook Air vs. Pro: Which is best for business?

When I look at which computers are best for business customers, I look at scale and volume purchasing. For example, if your company usually would purchase MacBook Pros for 100 employees and you looked at moving 75% of them to Airs on your next lease – how much money would you save?

For this exercise, I am considering the stock MacBook Air vs. the stock 14″ MacBook Pro.

If you purchased 75 MacBooks Air at $999, you’d be at $74,925 before taxes. The additional 25 14″ MacBook Pros would be $49,975. So the total purchase would be $124,900 before MDM licensing, taxes, AppleCare, etc.

If you run the same exercise with all 14“ MacBook Pros, you’d be at $199,900. That is a big jump in price. When looking at the ROI on the Pro purchase in the enterprise, it just doesn’t make sense. Are the 14” and 16″ Pros amazing computers? Absolutely, but the MacBook Air is fantastic for the power to price ratio.

I love what Apple has done with the MacBook lineup. It’s driven down the power to price ratio on the low end while having compelling options on the high end. I would dare say that the stock MacBook Air would suffice for business uses for almost everyone outside of developers, video editors, photographers, etc. So when you look at Macs for work, go Air unless there is a reason to go Pro. With an extremely compelling low-cost Mac, Apple has made it easier to justify purchasing Macs in the enterprise.

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