“Should I buy a MacBook Air 2020 or a13-inch MacBook Pro made in 2016?” That’s the simple question an old friend asked me this week.

Although I do not lean toward Apple hardware in any way, my time spent testing, prodding and riding PC hardware, as well as monitoring all things related to computers, gives me a pretty strong position to answer this question, even if it is on the other side of the aisle.

Answering a question like this is always a little tough because most of the people asking aren’t technical enough to know which CPU, how large of an SSD or how much RAM the laptops have. That means the answer has to be somewhat dithered to fit a variable amount of hardware that could be used.

To form my advice, I looked at a “Late 2016” MacBook Pro which featured a 6th gen “Skylake” Core i5-6267U with Intel Iris 550 integrated graphics. Its chip is a dual-core CPU built on a 14nm process.

The rest of the laptop is built like most of Apple’s MacBook Pro models, with a very solid aluminum chassis and a 13.3-inch 2560×1600 resolution screen hitting 500 nits. It has Apple’s Touch Bar on the keyboard deck, Wi-Fi 5 and four Thunderbolt 3 ports.

The current 2020 MacBook Air has a 10th gen “Ice Lake” Core i5-1030NG7 CPU with Intel Iris Plus integrated graphics. The screen is 13.3-inches with a resolution of 2560×1600. It also has Wi-Fi 5, but only has two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Both laptops have about the same battery capacity, but the new MacBook Air should have the advantage in battery life over the older laptop.

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macbook pro 2016 touchbar IDG

Even Mac fans mostly think the Touch Bar is useless

The Zoom factor

Zoom—the video conferencing app that’s now in vogue thanks to the pandemic—has a fairly esoteric list of CPUs that can be used with its excellent virtual background feature. That’s the feature that people use to insert themselves into a picture or video instead of showing what’s actually behind them in a camera shot.



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