13-inch MacBook Pro Retina vs. 13-inch MacBook Air (2013)

In a quest for performance and long battery life most Apple shoppers will ultimately start to compare the 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina Late 2013 model and the MacBook Air Mid-2013 model which Apple introduced this summer.

Both of these new Apple notebooks use the latest Intel 4th Generation Haswell processors which combine with OS X Mavericks to deliver very long battery life. With Apple ratings of more than 8 hours, both MacBooks offer all-day battery life while also offering a lot of performance and portability.

There are many differences between these two Apple notebooks which users should consider and compare before buying one. The specs are different from previous years and the new 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina is thinner and lighter, which makes the comparison even more important.

13-inch-MacBook-Pro-Retina-vs.-13-inch-MacBook-Air mid-2013

The starting price for the MacBook Air mid-2013 edition is $1,099 and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display late 2013 model is $200 more at $1,299. For $200 users get more performance, more connectivity options and a higher resolution display, but sacrifice battery life and the lighter weight of the MacBook Air.

Read: 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina vs. 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina (Late 2013)

Here’s what’s the same about these two Apple notebooks. While they don’t share as much as the two MacBook Pro Retina models.

  • 13.3-inch display
  • SDXC Card slot
  • Two USB 3.0 Ports
  • 802.11ac WiFi
  • FaceTime HD Camera
  • Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless

Here’s a look at how the 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina compares to the 13-inch MacBook Air using Haswell processors.



One of the biggest differences between the new MacBook Pro Retina 13-inch model and the 13-inch MacBook Air is that the display on the Pro is a much higher resolution. Apple introduced the Retina Display last year, and now many apps are designed to look good on this super-high resolution notebook display. Here is the display spec comparison

  • 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina (late 2013) – 2,560 x 1,600 / 227 pixels per inch
  • 13-inch MacBook Air (mid 2013) – 1,440 x 900 / 127 pixels per inch

The difference of nearly double the pixels per inch doesn’t necessarily allow user to put twice as many apps on the screen at once, as this would make things incredibly small. Instead, the MacBook Pro Retina’s effective resolution is 1280 x 800, which packs four times as many pixels into place as a 13-inch MacBook Pro without a Retina display. The result is incredibly sharp text, but not as much room to put apps on the display.

Users can increase the resolution to 1,440 x 900, just like the MacBook Air, to use more on the screen and users will still enjoy sharper text, but it is not at a Retina setting. Here’s a look at how to change these settings.

There is no matte option, but when comparing the MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro Retina, the Air may be a better option.

There is no matte option, but when comparing the MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro Retina, the Air may be a better option.

It’s important top bring up the ability to change these settings, because many users like the MacBook Air 13-inch version because it makes using several windows on-screen at the same time.

Apple claims the MacBook Pro Retina is 75% less glossy than the non retina model, which is important for some users as the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro Retina only come with glossy displays. When it comes down to working outdoors, both notebooks will work, but Xavier Lanier of Gotta Be Mobile prefers the MacBook Air.


While the larger MacBook Pro Retina requires more commitment to carry everywhere, the new MacBook Pro Retina with a 13-inch display is lighter than the earlier model and slightly thinner as well.

MacBook Air mid-2013 more portable

Here’s a quick look at the MacBook Pro Retina vs. MacBook Air dimensions and weight, and it’s not surprising to see that the machines are very close.

  • 13-inch MBPr – 0.71″ x 12.35″ x 8.62″ – 3.46 pounds
  • 13-inch MBA – 0.11-0.68″ x 12.8″ x 8.94″ – 2.96 pounds

The MacBook Pro Retina is slightly smaller in width than the MacBook Air, but the 13-inch MacBook Air is still thinner. That said, the thickest point is a microscopic .03-inch difference. The front edge of the MacBook Pro Retina is thicker than the MacBook Air.

The weight difference is sure to be of concern for mobile users, and this difference is just a half a pound. For perspective that’s like adding 40 quarters to your backpack, which is not much over an average day commuting. Simply put, the size and weight difference between the 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina and the MacBook Air will not likely make a difference.

Battery Life

The big differentiator here is the battery life of the 13-inch MacBook Air, which Apple benchmarks at 12 hours. Apple’s new MacBook Pro Retina Late 2013 battery life is listed at 9 hours for the 13-inch model.

While both of these can deliver all day battery life, there is no question that the MacBook Air with Haswell can deliver longer battery life than the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Haswell.

In our testing the 13-inch MacBook Air mid-2013 is capable of delivering 13 hours or more of battery life in a real world setting.  The MacBook Pro Retina battery life with Haswell should deliver at least 10 hours based on tests on the 15-inch MBPr, which exceeds Apple’s promise by more than an hour in multiple tests.


The MacBook Pro Retina and MacBook Air 2013 editions both deliver good performance, and while not in line with the power the 15-inch MacBook pro retina can deliver with a Core i7 processor and a dedicated GPU it is enough for many users. As the benchmarks show, the new Intel Haswell powered MacBook Pro Retina and MacBook Air are close in terms of performance.

The chart below shows GeekBench scores for these two models, using the entry-level models. If you want to see the MacBook Pro Retina vs. MacBook Air Haswell benchmarks, here’s what you want.

13-inch MacBook Pro Retina Late 2013 vs 13-inch MacBook Air Mid 2013 Benchmarks for Intel Haswell.

13-inch MacBook Pro Retina Late 2013 vs 13-inch MacBook Air Mid 2013 Benchmarks for Intel Haswell.

Users who need to do video editing and more photo editing should consider the MacBook Pro Retina, and will want to investigate the higher end options which will yield more performance.

The MacBook Pro Retina comes with Thunderbolt 2 connectivity, which means faster transfer rates to compatible accessories, and offers two ports instead of one. It also includes a HDMI out which is absent on the MacBook Air.


MacBook Pro Retina vs Macbook Air 2013There is a $200 price difference between the MacBook Pro Retina and the MacBook Air, which is enough for some shoppers to immediately pick the MacBook Air, but there is a reason for the higher price.

The MacBook Pro Retina Late 2013 model delivers faster performance thanks to the more powerful Haswell processor, better Iris integrated graphics and it comes with a higher-resolution display. While not a gaming machine, users will find more power on the MacBook Pro.

The MacBook Air is cheaper and offers more than enough performance for the average user who wants a thin and light notebook that can deliver super battery life for surfing the web, editing home videos and photos and using many other apps.

The base MacBook Pro Retina late 2013 13-inch model and the base MacBook Air late 2013 13-inch both come with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Adding $200 to the price doubles the storage on the MacBook Air and doubles storage and RAM on the MacBook Pro. This is a worthwhile upgrade for many users as Apple does not let users upgrade later.