MacBook Pro & MacBook Air: Buy or Wait?

A question that everyone seems to have about every Apple product is whether or not they should buy something now, or wait until there’s a hardware refresh. It’s a very common question, but one that definitely deserves an answer, especially since Apple is notorious for updating its product line every single year (or a couple times a year in some cases).

This question gets even more important when you’re pondering a big purchase, like a new MacBook. Apple regularly updates its MacBook lineup, and it’s common for the company to update it twice a year sometimes. However, as we look into 2014, does it makes sense to buy a new MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, or wait until there’s a refresh?

We thought today would be a good time to answer this question since we’re roughly around the halfway point of the MacBook Pro’s yearly update, and we’re also approaching Apple’s WWDC conference that will take place in June, where it’s rumored that the Cupertino-based company will launch a new MacBook Air.

MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro was refreshed back in October, and it was a major performance overhaul with the introduction of Intel Haswell processors, which improve CPU performance, as well as boost the battery life significantly. In fact, Apple’s own estimates say that you’ll get around nine hours of battery life out of the new MacBook Pros, compared to the non-Retina model that only gets seven hours.

MacBook-Pro

The latest MacBook Pro with Retina display obviously sports a thinner and lighter design than the non-Retina MacBook Pro, but the late-2013 model is also just a tad thinner and lighter than the 2012 Retina model, by about 0.03 inches and 0.1 lbs. It’s certainly not a huge difference, but every bit helps.

Frankly, now is the time to buy a new MacBook Pro if you’ve been eyeing them recently. I’ve been keeping an eye on all of the MacBook Pro refreshes over the last couple of years and none of them were really a big step forward until this latest refresh back in October.

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Read: MacBook Pro Retina Review: 6 Months In

It’s possible that Apple could refresh the lineup again as their “early-2014″ MacBook Pro models, but I’m 99% sure that it would just be a very minor update, which probably wouldn’t be worth the wait anyway, as Apple is unlikely to lower the prices or make any significant changes to the MacBook Pro line at WWDC in June.

MacBook Air

The MacBook Air is Apple’s thinnest and lightest lineup of laptops, and it’s the machine that most road warriors buy, considering those two attributes. The MacBook Air was last updated in June of last year at WWDC, so it would make sense if Apple refreshed the thin-n-light laptop at the same place and time that it was updated last year: WWDC 2014 on June 2.

UPDATE: Apple just recently updated the MacBook Air with faster processors and a cheaper price overall. It’s not quite the refresh we’d been hoping for, but it’s at least something.

New-Macbook-air-2014

Last year’s MacBook Air refresh was a big one, with the inclusion of Intel Haswell processors, which boosts the battery life of the 11-inch model to nine hours and the 13-inch model to an impressive 12 hours.

However, it’s been almost a year since the MacBook Air was last upgraded before recently, and that’s a long time in computer years. However, this new refresh means that now is a perfect time to by a MacBook Air. Granted, it’s not a huge refresh and we wouldn’t be surprised if Apple refreshed the lineup yet again later this year in the fall, but we’d rather buy one now than take those chances.

Read: 5 Reasons Buyers Need to Wait for the New MacBook Air Release

It’s been rumored that this year’s refresh of the MacBook Air would be the first time that the lineup would get Retina displays, which is Apple’s buzzword for high-resolution screens that make for an incredibly sharp and detailed image.

Plus, we also expected faster processors, better battery life, and maybe even a thinner and lighter form factor this time around, although we’re not sure just how thin the MacBook Air can go before it reaches its pinnacle.

Which One Should You Buy?

We answered this very question late last year, but we figure this is a good spot to include it again. Whether you should buy the MacBook Pro or the MacBook Air depends entirely on how you would use it and what kind of work you would do on it.

The MacBook Air is lighter, but not by much, so if you can handle an extra 8 ounces, then we’d recommend getting the MacBook Pro, which is capable of much more performance-wise. However, if battery life is the most important feature, go with the MacBook Air, as it can get 12 hours of battery life, compared to the MacBook Pro’s nine hour limit.

13-inch Macbook Pro Retina Haswell Video

It’s a tough decision to make, though, 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.

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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. Kevin R. Whitley says

    I run a late 2011 Air (i7, fully upgraded) and never found it lacking performance wise. I’m a power user that usually runs Photoshop, Chrome (with too many tabs), a code editor and one or more virtual servers or local server services. Never so much as a hiccup by some miracle, given the lowly 4GB RAM (max at the time).

    Likewise, I’ve heard of struggles in the smaller MBP Retina models given the weak GPU for such a high res demand. I’d love for the higher color-accuracy and detail of a retina to be added to the Air, but not at a significant performance and battery hit.

    Till then, my recommendation is always to go for the i7 Air. It’s a featherweight powerhouse I can hold in 3 fingers without breaking my wrist.

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