MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Air: Which One Should You Buy?

Not too long ago, it was pretty obvious whether or not the MacBook Pro or the MacBook Air was the laptop to buy; one was a power user’s dream that carried a lot of speed and performance, and the other was a less powerful, albeit ultra-portable notebook that’s great for road warriors. However, times have changed, and the gap between the two different laptop models are closer than ever.

Thanks to the introduction of the Retina-equipped MacBook Pro, power users can now have a laptop that’s significantly lighter and thinner than the MacBook Pro has ever been, making it a tempting buy over a MacBook Air. However, the MacBook Air has improved over the years as well, and its performance is quite admirable for such a thin and light device. This makes it difficult to decide which model to buy, but there are still some differences between the Pro and Air that consumers should know, and they can be the deciding factor as far as which MacBook model you purchase.

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MacBook Air Is Lighter, but Not by Much

The 13-inch MacBook Air weighs just three pounds, but the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display follows closely behind with just 3.5 pounds. Of course, a half of a pound can be quite significant (it’s the weight of approximately two iPhones), but compared to the old MacBook Pro, which weighed in at 4.5 pounds, the newer versions are about as close to the MacBook Air as Apple can get without sacrificing performance.

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

I’ve been toting around a Retina MacBook Pro for a couple of months now, and I’m not so sure that I’d want to sacrifice the power I have just to save a half pound on weight; the MacBook Pro is already extremely thin and light, and it can make potential MacBook Air buyers just as happy for the most part.

MacBook Pro Is the Power User’s Dream

If you’re looking for a laptop that can do more than just browse the web and check email, you’ll probably want a MacBook Pro. Granted, the MacBook Air has the performance to run photo editing software and do some light video editing, but if you need a portable machine that can do this without much hiccuping, the MacBook Pro is the only obvious choice.

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The base model of the MacBook Pro comes with a 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with 4GB of RAM, while the base model of the MacBook Air comes with just a 1.3GHz dual-core Core i5 and 4GB of RAM. The MacBook Pro also has a bit more graphical power, with Intel Iris integrated graphics (Intel 5100), while the MacBook Air settles at Intel 5000 integrated graphics.

MacBook Air Gets Better Battery Life

One big difference you’ll see between the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air is battery life. You’ll get an impressive 13 hours with the MacBook Air compared to 10 hours with the MacBook Pro. 10 hours isn’t anything to scoff at by any means — that’s still incredibly impressive — but if you absolutely need the best battery life you can get with a laptop, the MacBook Air wins it, hands down.

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MacBook Pro Has a Retina Display

A big feature with the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the beautiful Retina display that packs a 2560×1600 resolution, compared to the MacBook Air’s 1440×900 resolution. Granted, Apple recommends setting the MacBook Pro at a 1280×800 resolution, giving it less screen real estate than the MacBook Air, but you can also set it to 1440×900 without a problem.

Read: 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina Review (Late 2013)

The big benefit either way is that you’ll get a better-looking display with way more detail than you would on the MacBook Air. Of course, we feel a Retina-quality display is really only for certain users and definitely a feature that you don’t need necessarily, so this is something to keep in mind when deciding which MacBook model to get.

MacBook Air Is Cheaper

Price is the one thing that’s the deciding factor for a lot of users. The 13-inch MacBook Air starts at $1,100 while the 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,300. You can boost the MacBook Air with a 1.7GHz Core i5 for $1,250, but you might as well just go for the MacBook Pro for $50 extra, especially since you get a 2.4GHz processor with that.

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You can also get an 11-inch MacBook Air for just $1,000, but at that level, you get a tiny display that really isn’t worth saving $100 over. Overall, a $200 difference in price for something that you’re going to pay over $1,000 for is negligible, but we don’t blame those that want to save as many pennies as they can by not buying features that they don’t really need or want.

Which One Should You Buy?

It’s a though decision to make, especially since whatever model you choose will be the laptop that you’ll stick with for at least a few years. However, it really just comes down to power and battery life. By saving $200, you’ll get better battery life, but a slower laptop. You won’t get the beautiful Retina display or the extra power that comes with a MacBook Pro. So here’s what we’ve come up with:

If you’re primarily looking for a laptop that’s as portable and lightweight as they come, and has the best battery life of any laptop, go with a MacBook Air. If you need power and a faster processor for intense computing tasks, go with a MacBook Pro. Differences in portability between the Pro and Air are minimal, but many Air users says there’s a night-and-day difference. However, if you ended up going with a MacBook Pro, we can say that you’ll still get many of the portability benefits that also come with the Air, so you won’t be losing out that much.

There are also smaller features here and there that you get or don’t get with a certain MacBook model (including more ports on the MacBook Pro), but it ultimately comes down to power and battery life when deciding on which one to purchase. Choose wisely!

Comments

  1. Jaffasoft says

    Will the air handle basic editting, such that I maintain a web site could use Photoshop, or and sometimes design in Google sketchup. Mainly hobby stuff in my spare time. Some video editing for YouTube etc and playing around? Thanks for the write up it helpfull.

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